RENO, Nev.—They were snapping a selfie outside Hillary Clinton’s rally in Reno when a stranger offered the two 19-year-olds an unexpected invitation.
Keibi Mejia, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, and Jem Cayanan, who recently became an American citizen after her Filipino family made Nevada their home, were asked to sit on stage during the Democratic presidential nominee’s speech Thursday.
“I was shaking,” Cayanan told AMI Newswire.
“I didn’t want to say anything dumb.”
The photo op with Cayanan, a molecular microbiology and immunology student, and Mejia, an international affairs and political science major, was central to Clinton's message during her campus visit at Truckee Meadows Community College.
Clinton lambasted her Republican opponent Donald Trump on a host of social issues, linking him with fringe conspiracy theorists and white supremacists.
Supporters cheered and chanted as the first woman presidential nominee from a major party assailed Trump over his handling of racial issues, both as a businessman and a candidate.
“Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters,” Clinton told the crowd of about 800.
For many, Clinton's blistering attack on the
“alt-right” was their introduction to this movement that is criticized by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its opposition to political correctness and social-justice activists.
Trump's campaign reacted to Clinton's fiery speech by pointing out her own recent woes.
“Hillary Clinton’s attempt to delete the single worst week of her political career isn’t going to work,” D.C.-based Trump advisor Jason Miller wrote in a prepared statement.
Clinton has been dogged by revelations in the Associated Press of the high levels of access she provided to big Clinton Foundation donors when she was secretary of state. Of the 154 private people who met with Clinton, 85 had donated a combined $156 million to the troubled foundation, AP’s investigation showed.
In a guest commentary published this week in the Reno Gazette Journal, Nevada’s Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt criticized Clinton for failing to put up a wall between the foundation and the State Department.
“Instead of a wall, she built a bridge — a toll bridge, with the Clintons pocketing millions for themselves from foreign governments and others seeking favors from our State Department,” Laxalt wrote. “This is influence-peddling on an unfathomable scale.”
Clinton, who calls the AP article
“absurd,” reminded her supporters of Trump’s past missteps in racially sensitive situations. The Republican has been facing criticism after appearing to soften his strong stance on deporting immigrants and other issues.
Clinton’s campaign has been investing in Nevada, a 2016 battleground state, since April of 2015. She has offices in Reno, Henderson, Carson City, Pahrump and East Las Vegas.
Clinton shelled out $1.1 million in Clark County, the home of Las Vegas, from April 1, 2015 to July 31, Federal Election Commission filings show. During the same time period, Trump spent $250,038 in Nevada. His campaign has offices in Las Vegas and Reno.
Clinton's ardent allies dominated the Reno rally.
“I love her because everything she says is true,” said Eddie Perrell, who designs and sells pro-Clinton t-shirts. “She said everything I want to say and more.”
Perrell, who lives in Las Vegas, has written and recorded a song he calls, “Hillary for President.” It’s on his label Plum Good Records. He hawked his merchandise to fired-up Clinton supporters as they left the rally.
Cayanan, the science student and new U.S. citizen, considers herself a Republican. She said Trump does not represent her values. Her friend Mejia said Trump’s divisive rhetoric has driven her to participate in the election. Both students will cast ballots for the first time on Nov. 8.
“I have a lot at stake. My parents are immigrants and I’m a person of color myself,” Mejia said. “Trump is a bigot and a racist. He’s never experienced life at the bottom.”