surrogate forum
Edmond Democratic Women's Club Board President Gwen Shaw asks questions of surrogates for 2020 Oklahoma Democratic primary presidential candidates Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, in Edmond, Oklahoma. (Matt Patterson)

The contrasts in approach came at the end of the Edmond Democratic Women‘s 2020 presidential candidate surrogate forum Monday night.

About 250 people attended the event at the Edmond community center ahead of Oklahoma’s March 3 presidential primary. Audience members heard from surrogates advocating for former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Former Oklahoma Gov. David Walters, a Democratic National Committee member, moderated the surrogate forum.

Businessman Tom Steyer and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar were not represented by surrogates, but brief videos of the candidates were shown following the forum.

It’s the economy, health care and climate change

Topics for Monday’s forum included the economy, health care and climate change. But it was former state Rep. Scott Inman — representing Biden — who drew a strong contrast between his preferred candidate and the others during closing remarks.

Inman alluded to Warren’s abundance of plans before taking on Sanders, Bloomberg and Buttigieg.

“This contest isn’t just about plans,” Inman said. “It’s about two things. Who has the broad, diverse coalition we need to beat Trump, and who has the experience to bring us together afterward to fix Trump’s mess and get big things done.”

Inman said Biden should be the party’s nominee because he is the most electable.

“We have to ask ourselves, who is the best to beat Trump?” Inman said. “Who helps Democrats win across the board? A Democratic socialist? A former mayor of a town literally smaller than Broken Arrow? Electability isn’t about who can win a caucus in Iowa, it’s about who can win battleground states we need to beat Trump.”

Inman also said Bloomberg’s wealth is propelling his rise in polls. The mayor has already spent more than $300 million on his campaign so far.

“Bloomberg is using his personal fortune to run unopposed in states where the rest of the field isn’t even competing yet,” he said. “Personally, Joe doesn’t feel like it’s right to buy an election.”

The money and staff at Bloomberg’s disposal was on display Monday night. His campaign was the only one that used a full-time paid staffer, Amanda Finney, as a surrogate. Finney runs the campaign’s women’s outreach efforts.

Finney said Bloomberg has 23 paid staffers in Oklahoma, with offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Lawton.

Finney cited Bloomberg’s philanthropy and activism as reasons he should be president.

“Bloomberg is self-funding, and he’s really putting his money where his mouth is,” Finney said. “We are on the ground in so many states when a lot of candidates are only worried about the first four.”

Finney said Bloomberg has shown the ability to unite, citing his history as both a Republican and a Democrat.

“I think he’s the best person to beat Trump because he’s bipartisan,” Finney said. “He can cross the aisles. He united New York after Sept. 11 when it was a time of turmoil. He’s done it before, and he’s got the resources to do it again.”

Polls show a tight race in Oklahoma

Bloomberg’s campaign has taken off recently in national polls. Beginning with single digit support, he’s moved into double digits in some recent national polls. He’s currently in third place with about 14 percent support, according to the average on Real Clear Politics, a website that aggregates state and national polls.

In Oklahoma, Sanders won the 2016 primary beating eventual party nominee Hillary Clinton, but he may be in for a dogfight this time.

A poll from Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates conducted between Feb. 10 and Feb. 13 among 242 likely Democratic primary voters found Bloomberg with 18 percent support, one percent ahead of Sanders. Biden had 11 percent. In that poll (embedded below), Buttigieg and Warren received 9 and 8 percent, respectively.

surrogate forum
Edmond Democratic Women’s Club Board President Gwen Shaw introduces surrogates for 2020 Oklahoma Democratic primary presidential candidates Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, in Edmond, Oklahoma. (Matt Patterson)

Hamon makes case for Sanders

OKC Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon represented Sanders. She said the Vermont senator gives Americans fighting to make ends meet the best chance at an improved life.

Hamon said Sanders has a history of fighting for minimum wage increases, unions and climate change through a proposed Green New Deal. She said those issues make him the right choice for working Americans, particularly in rust belt states across the upper Midwest that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.

“There were so many voters in those key states that felt like the current system was not serving them,” Hamon said. “That people with power and access were promising them something, and once they got elected they were disappearing from those communities.”

Hamon said the time is right for Sanders’ bold ideas. In his campaign, Sanders has advocated a Medicare For All health care system that would establish a single payer model for all citizens regardless of income.

“The working class can’t afford half measures and small acts,” Hamon said. “We have to dream big and make sure we bring along all the folks that are disenfranchised and need someone to believe in. That’s Bernie’s vision — and track record — and that’s why he can beat Trump in November.”

Warren, Buttigieg represented at surrogate forum

Oklahoma County District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert represented Warren. Blumert cited Warren’s creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as an example of her ability to get things done. In the forum’s portion about health care, Blumert said Warren’s goal is to provide broad access to health care without raising taxes on the middle class. Sanders has said his Medicare For All plan would likely require a tax increase for middle earners.

“Sen. Warren is a woman with a plan,” Blumert said before pausing. “Scratch that. A lot of plans. It seems like every week she comes up with a new effective and thoughtful plan with stakeholders to address issues in our country today. She knows real change happens when you have a plan and grass roots support. She knows fear and complacency doesn’t win, but hope and courage does win. Those are huge trademarks of her campaign.”

Attorney Leslie Batchelor spoke on behalf of Buttigieg. She said the South Bend mayor’s plans for both climate change and addressing health care access were more realistic than most of the other candidates. Rather than Medicare For All, Buttigieg advocates a Medicare For All Who Want It policy that would allow those who want to remain on their current insurance plan the ability to do so.

She said Buttigieg, who turned 38 recently, is an example of the type of candidate Democrats have won with in past presidential elections.

“Democrats win when we run a young, idealistic candidate on a platform of hope, change and values that Americans share,” Batchelor said. “Pete is running that campaign. His message is one that resonates with people. He’s running an inclusive campaign. We have several candidates who claim to be able to build a coalition, but Pete proved in Iowa and New Hampshire that he can do that. He combines the idealism of (Barack) Obama with a kind of hard-headed pragmatism about the problems we face now.”

Sooner Survey polling numbers

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