Chelsea Clinton took questions from a friendly Lexington crowd Friday as she opened a campaign office for her mother, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“I think this is the most important presidential election of my lifetime,” Clinton, 36, told the crowd packed into a warm room in Eastland Shopping Center. Kentucky’s Democratic presidential primary is May 17.
“Everything I care most about is at risk,” she said. “If I think about health care or education or the economy or women’s rights, I worry that all of that is currently under threat.
“It matters to me that my mom has been making progress and standing up for and advancing our values for literally longer than I’ve been alive. And I think what someone has been able to do is a good indication of what they will be able to do in the future. ... I think we need someone who is a problem-solver.”
Clinton fielded questions from the audience, including how her mother would tackle the heroin epidemic that has many addicts across Kentucky and the country in its grip.
“We need to be investing in both prevention and treatment,” Clinton said. “We have to build on what works. Sometimes that’s programs through churches and religious institutions, sometimes it’s programs through community centers, sometimes it’s programs through local hospitals. ... We need a massive injection of funding and hiring of social workers, treatment counselors and nurses, because we know that recovery requires a real team-based approach.”
Clinton did not address energy issues, or more particularly, coal. Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Tres Watson said in a statement: “I hope Chelsea Clinton enjoys her stay in the Commonwealth and takes time to speak with some of the thousands of coal miners President Obama has sent to the unemployment lines and the thousands more her mother Hillary has promised to put out of work. Kentuckians cannot afford another four years of the same failed policies.”
Meanwhile, Clinton took a swipe at Bernie Sanders, her mother’s Democratic opponent, who has advocated free public higher education.
That would “significantly rely on states collectively coming up with billions of dollars from day one,” she said. “As I understand it, your state government has been going in the opposite direction.” That was a reference to colleges and universities imposing furloughs and layoffs and enacting hiring freezes in the wake of state cuts.
Clinton is expecting a second child this summer, so she sat on a stool while addressing the crowd.
“Please forgive me for sitting down,” Clinton said. “Please know that I’m sitting down because I hear my doctor’s voice in the back of my head telling me not to stand for very long. It’s not at all a reflection on my enthusiasm for this campaign.”
“I didn’t know I could care any more about politics until my husband and I were blessed to welcome our daughter Charlotte into the world 19 months ago,” she said. “And yet, becoming a parent has made everything feel more intensely personal to me. The things that I already care so much about — equal rights, women’s rights — I found I could care even more about. ... I know whomever we elect will play a profound role in shaping the country, the world, the future and the values of my children and their generation.”
Supporters said afterward that they liked what they heard.
Brian Hultz, 28, of Lexington, said, “Chelsea is just like a chip off the old block. She’s just as informed and intelligent as her mother. I think it shows just how lacking all the other candidates are in the race.”
Sarah Katzenmaier, 62, of Lexington, said she thought Chelsea Clinton should run for president.
“She knows the issues. She knew about Kentucky. She answered every question amazingly well,” Katzenmaier said. “She could be in a debate.”