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OPINION: Which Democrats are running in 2020?

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Opinion writer Madeline Kramer discusses the “who’s who” in the Democratic party who are considering a presidential run.

Many prominent Democrats are celebrating the new year by announcing their intent to run for president. As of Jan. 14, five democrats have announced they are launching their run for president. These candidates range from high profile politicians like Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, to lesser-known names such as Tulsi Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii.

The sheer amount of candidates can be overwhelming and confusing. It is important to understand the key issues that set the candidates apart. While it is still early in the campaign season, it is important to be educated from the beginning.

Elizabeth Warren

One of the first candidates to announce was Senator Elizabeth Warren. Sen. Warren announced she was forming an “exploratory committee for the 2020 presidential race” on December 31st.

Warren posted a 4 minute video to her website explaining who she was and why she was running for president. The video covers the fact that Warren was a Harvard Law professor, and also that she came from humble beginnings, growing up in a small Oklahoma town with a mother working minimum wage retail.

The message Sen. Warren sends in her video is one of hope for all Americans, as she repeatedly states “we can make our democracy work for all of us”.

Historically, Sen. Warren has been a top name in the Democratic party because she is loud about the issues. Sen. Warren’s views are that commonly associated with the Democratic party, such as that she is pro-choice, supports LGBT rights such as the right to marry and right to be protected from discrimination, and advocates extending the federal assault weapons ban. However, Sen. Warren mostly focuses on financial equality and ensuring the middle and working class can live on the income they bring in.

Julian Castro  

Julian Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama Administration and former mayor of San Antonio, another prominent Democrat, announced his run for the presidency. Castro, a Mexican-American, announced his candidacy in a speech that was delivered in both English and Spanish in an ode to his heritage but also a hope to mobilize the Latino community. Castro focused on immigration and his immigrant background.

Castro comes from a family of activists. His twin brother, Joaquin, is also involved in politics in the national and state level. His mother, Rosie, campaigned for better job and housing opportunities for Mexican Americans in the 1970’s. His grandmother was a Mexican immigrant.

Policy-wise, Castro is very involved in LGBTQ rights. He was the first San Antonio mayor to participate in the city’s Pride Parade both in 2009 and 2011, and signed the “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” petition in 2012. Castro also focuses on creating educational opportunities for young adults to create businesses to invest back in their city, as well as expanding and updating the pre-kindergarten programs in San Antonio.

Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard, a representative from Hawaii and Iraq War veteran, made a formal announcement during a CNN interview with commentator Van Jones on Jan. 12. Rep. Gabbard is the first Hindu and American Samoan member of Congress. During this interview, Rep. Gabbard discussed policies of interest such as criminal justice reform, addressing climate change, and access to healthcare.

Rep. Gabbard also has an interesting resume entering the campaign. In 2015 she was the vice-chairwoman for the Democratic National Committee and currently sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In the 2016 presidential primaries, she was a strong supporter of then-candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.

However, Rep. Gabbard has a complicated past. When she was 21, Gabbard worked for her father’s anti-LGBTQ organization, The Alliance for Traditional Marriage. While she did apologize, she was very aggressive in her comments against the LGBT community in the early 2000’s. While serving in the state legislature, Gabbard accused those calling for legal civil unions of being “homosexual extremists”.

Gabbard apologized in 2012 while running for Congress. However, Democratic voters should take this with a grain of salt. These comments against the LGBTQ community were targeted and hateful.

It doesn’t stop there. Rep. Gabbard voted for the Safe Act in 2015, which would put immigration restrictions on Syrian refugees. This act was criticized by many Democrats as playing into ISIS’s agenda.

She tweeted in 2015 commending Putin’s bombing of Syria, tweeting that it is “mind-boggling that we protest Russia’s bombing of these terrorists.” This has earned her praise from many conservatives, such as KKK grand wizard David Duke, famous white supremacist Richard Spencer, and Steve Bannon, former Trump adviser.

Many people can see past Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s conservative views of the early 2000s and feel that she has changed her tune. However, there is no denying that she is a more conservative Democrat.

John Delaney

John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, threw his hat in the presidential ring in July 2017. A businessman with law school and finance background, Delaney focused on bipartisan efforts while in Congress. He believes his work in the private sector before working in politics has helped him negotiate and continue to be bipartisan. This is something he hopes to continue if he is elected president.

Delaney’s policy interests range from universal health care to battling climate change, as well as investing in infrastructure and social security. For bipartisan causes, Delaney cites criminal justice and immigration reform. Because of this emphasis on bipartisanship, Delaney sets himself apart from other democratic candidates.

Richard Ojeda

Richard Ojeda, a former West Virginia State senator and tattooed army veteran, announced his run shortly after losing his race for Congress. Ojeda feels that the Democratic party could do more for the working class, and that is what he aims to do.

In the Senate, he advocated for West Virginia’s teachers before they went on strike in early 2018. Ojeda also has the support of the local coal miners and other unions because of his opposition to right to work laws. While he is not very well known, Ojeda is popular in West Virginia.

It is not even a month yet into 2019 and the list of candidates is still growing. Many changes can still happen, but it is important to keep track and research all candidates. The primary season will be upon us faster than we will expect.

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