MANCHESTER — Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts brought her 2020 Democratic presidential exploratory campaign to the first-in-the-nation primary state Saturday, vowing to talk more about her policy plans for the future than to fire back taunts at President Donald Trump.
“I think we need to talk about our beliefs, our values. People know I am a fighter,” Warren, 69, told reporters.
“I’m focused on, ‘How do we build an America that works for everybody?’ ”
Before her town hall-style meeting at Manchester Community College, two other Democrats announced their own plans to run in 2020 — Julian Castro and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.
Warren in her hourlong appearance mixed in the story of her hardscrabble upbringing in Oklahoma with the broad outline of plans for improving life for middle-class families.
Warren made little of growing up in that red state when she first ran and won her Senate seat in the very blue state of Massachusetts back in 2012.
“I think people want to know how you started as a person,” Warren said.
She has opened up every speaking event here and in Iowa talking about her mother having to take a minimum wage job at Sears after her father had a debilitating heart attack that threatened to bankrupt the family.
“If you want to know who I am that is the story that is etched on my heart,” Warren said.
“It’s a story about a lot of people who reach down and do what has to be done to take care of the people they love.”
Warren attracted a solid crowd of several hundred to the college campus, but she shared the national media’s attention this weekend as two other Democrats declared they were entering the race.
Castro, President Barack Obama’s former secretary of housing and urban development, made his announcement in his hometown of San Antonio where he served as mayor.
“I am not a front-runner in this race, but I have not been a front-runner at any time in my life,” Castro, 44, said of his own family’s struggles in which his ancestors died during the Mexican Revolution before his grandmother came to this country.
He added: “My family’s story is a testament to what is possible when this country gets it right.”
Castro brings his campaign to New Hampshire this week and will speak at the Politics & Eggs forum Wednesday at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on the campus of Saint Anselm College.
On Friday, combat veteran Gabbard said she was getting in and would make a formal announcement in the coming days.
“There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace,” Gabbard, 37, told CNN during an interview. “I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement.”
For her part, Warren said she wasn’t troubled by the ever-growing field of 2020 rivals; more than two dozen Democrats have said they are considering a campaign.
“I think it’s exciting for Democrats with so many candidates and so many more interested in running,” Warren said.
After her stump speech, Warren took questions on open democracy, education, criminal justice reform, the environment and mental health care.
Warren also used this forum to promote her plan to build 3.2 million affordable housing units and said candidates need to come up with ways to pay for their policies and not simply add to an exploding federal deficit and debt.
“You don’t come to New Hampshire and talk about great ideas unless you have a way to pay for it, right?” Warren said.
She says she’d finance her housing bill by reinstating the federal estate tax on the wealthy that was repealed in the early 1990s under former President George H.W. Bush’s tax cuts.
“You could pay for every single one of those 3.2 million housing units without costing one middle-class family in America one thin dime,” Warren said.
A Republican National Committee spokesman panned Warren’s maiden campaign trip here.
“Elizabeth Warren and her series of misfires will find nothing but an uninterested audience in New Hampshire. Whether it’s obstructing important progress in the Senate, advocating for higher taxes and government-run health care, or siding with the far-left fringes of her party, it’s clear Warren is focused more on her own political ambitions than helping hard-working families,” said Mandi Merritt.
“Granite State voters will see through today’s dog-and-pony show for what Elizabeth Warren really is — a phony who has repeatedly fumbled delivery on the national stage.”
Brendan Goodrich of Hinsdale said he just moved to the state and that this was the first of many events he plans to attend to judge the candidates.
“She had a lot of substance, really offered a lot of specifics on issues that went beyond the rhetoric, and I really liked that about her,” Goodrich said.
Adam Green is co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee that has dubbed itself as promoting the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of the Democratic Party.
“We haven’t endorsed anyone yet, and she’s not a formal candidate, but we’ve been associated with her for years and think she would be an excellent choice,” Green said.
“She meets our criteria of support as someone willing to challenge powerful interests.”
Green said Warren will emerge in this race as someone who not only holds progressive views but has shown an ability to form consensus on Capitol Hill, which contrasts with the style of 2016 candidate and New Hampshire primary winner Bernie Sanders.
“Her plan of action is to build a coalition and public support behind an issue bringing it to fruition while Bernie’s approach is to toss a grenade and then run into the fray,” Green said.
“They can both be effective but they’re different.”
After the forum, Warren attended a house party at the Concord home of former Senate President Sylvia Larsen.