Janet Huddleston arrived at Central Oregon Community College on Thursday at 9 a.m. with a folding chair and a Lee Child book on tape, ready to wait a few hours in line for the chance to see Bill Clinton.
The 65-year-old was raised a Democrat — “a liberal, union, progressive Democrat” — and likes Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Mostly, she dislikes Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee as of this week.
“I just think this Trump deal is ridiculous and I don’t think there’s any way he’ll win,” said Huddleston, of Bend . “He’s not gonna win.”
Central Oregon’s first major political event this primary season may have featured the former president stumping for his wife, but in a reliably Republican part of the state the candidate was less important. In the crowd were the committed Clinton voters, the Sanders fans, the undecideds, the could-go-either-ways. Their uniting factor: Stop Trump.
Down the line, Bonnie Ruby, 73, of Bend, wore a Hillary-for-President T-shirt and a big smile.
“I think it’s time for a woman to be president, and it’d be thrilling to have that happen in my lifetime,” she said.
Next to her, Nancy Crocker, 60, had on a Sanders button.
“I listen to everything. It’s really important, I want to know what’s going on,” said Crocker, who plans to vote for Sanders in the May 17 Oregon primary. Would she vote for Clinton in the general election? “I’d have to think about it. I’m not sure what other options there would be.”
Stephen Frank, 63, of Bend, said he was lukewarm on Clinton but thinks Sanders doesn’t have much of chance. Shalet Abraham of Bend, who brought her 12- and 16-year-old daughters to hear Clinton, said she is a Democrat and would vote for the party’s nominee, whomever that is.
Sabina Lane, 59, and her husband, Gordon, are from Canada and moved to Bend 10 months ago. They’ll say they’ll move back if Trump wins.
“Our Canadian friends are just taken aback by how far Trump has gotten,” she said.
About a dozen Sanders supporters set up across the street with a banner that read “No more … business as usual.” They waved signs and cheered when cars honked in support.
“Who are we here for? Bernie Sanders. Who is he here for? Us,” they chanted.
“Democrats unite, progressives unite,” Rick Reynolds, of Portland, shouted from his place in line.
Reynolds said he likes Sanders, but he’ll be voting for Clinton in the primary. He figures she’d be more electable in the fall and fare better in key states like Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
“Bernie is great, but he’s just too much of a wild card and we can’t risk Trump,” he said. “(Clinton is) infinitely better than Trump, than any one of the Republicans.”
Alissa Waring, 54, of Bend, took time off work to see Clinton and brought her 13-year-old son, Dylan. She is concerned about national security and rising health care costs.
“And equality for women, equal pay in the workplace is huge,” she said.
Waring likes Clinton’s experience. She does not like the tone of the race, the bullying and rhetoric back and forth.
“I think the words Trump is saying — I would be appalled if he spoke that way or his friends spoke that way,” she said of Dylan.
In front of her was Kaitlin Campbell, 18, of Bend. She is studying psychology at COCC and came more out of curiosity.
“I wanted to meet somebody famous,” she said. “I think we have no good options for president at this point … I’m going to have to vote Republican, and that means Trump, and I don’t want to say that out loud.”
Up and down the line, Matt Paine hawked homemade campaign buttons by his wife, Delia. Her Obama buttons were a sensation in 2008 and ended up in a Smithsonian collection on American politics.
This year she made Hillary and Sanders buttons. Paine, who lives in Bend, said he and his wife are split on the candidates, though he wouldn’t say who is for whom.
Then there’s Sara Yellich.
She declined to say whom she is voting for, a trait she learned from her father. It’s nobody’s business, she said, and besides, you learn more by listening. She won’t even tell her husband whom she’s planning to vote for.
“It’s a really contentious topic at our kitchen table,” said Yellich, 41, of Bend. “He wants to talk all the time, and I am mute.”
A groan went out among those still in line when it was announced the venue was just about full. The line was still 500 feet long.
Inside, Clinton got huge applause for lines about his wife’s chance to be the first female president, for supporting education and small businesses, for controlling student debt and the cost of health care.
Going in, Dixie Boggs of Bend, was still deciding between Hillary and Sanders, but she liked what Clinton had to say about his wife’s foreign policy experience as secretary of state and her willingness to work with Republicans.
“I’m just going to let this sink in … I’m leaning more toward Hillary,” she said after the event.
Campbell, the COCC student who is leaning toward Trump, said Clinton’s speech didn’t change her mind. But she made it to the front of the crowd and got to shake the former president’s hand.
“It was really cool,” she said. “It was really cool.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7837,