Bill Clinton: California has been good to my family

Former President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in Los Angeles on April 3.

Former President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in Los Angeles on April 3.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Campaigning for his wife ahead of California’s Democratic primary, former President Bill Clinton rallied supporters Sunday in downtown Los Angeles, saying his family has special ties to the state.

“California has been uncommonly good to my family,” he told more than 1,000 people in a courtyard at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.

Clinton recalled clinching the Democratic nomination in California’s 1992 primary on his way to winning his first term in the White House. Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in the hard-fought 2008 primary, but she ultimately lost the nomination.

“I always felt at home here because every time I looked at a crowd, especially one having anything to do with a community college, I could see the future and feel good about it,” he said.


Clinton praised California policies as a model for the nation, highlighting the $15-per-hour minimum wage bill that Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is scheduled to sign on Monday.

“God bless you for passing that minimum wage law,” Clinton said. “You should be proud. That’s what we’ve got to do for the country.”

During his visit, the former president also raised money for his wife’s campaign and met privately with elected leaders and labor chiefs.

Hillary Clinton has a large lead in delegates over her rival, Bernie Sanders, in their battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. Recent polls show Sanders up slightly in Wisconsin, which holds its primary Tuesday, while Clinton leads in New York and other states that vote later this month.

But neither may win enough to secure the Democratic nomination before the California primary, among the last state contests held June 7 before the party convention in Philadelphia on July 25.

California also will play an outsize role in the Republican race. It could decide whether front-runner Donald Trump gets enough delegates to win his party’s nomination, or whether the GOP race will go to a brokered convention in Cleveland.

During the L.A. rally, Clinton praised his wife and did not mention Sanders by name. But he highlighted what he said were their differences on immigration reform and gun control, and in their proposals to improve healthcare and make college more affordable.

Hillary Clinton’s approach is pragmatic, he said, and her record proves she would be able to accomplish her goals despite the political polarization that has paralyzed Congress.


“Of all the people I’ve ever worked with, she’s the biggest change-maker I’ve ever known,” Clinton said. He added that they met 45 years ago last month.

The former president has been criticized for recent remarks that were perceived as critical of President Obama’s stewardship of the economy over the last eight years.

On Sunday, he repeatedly said that Obama doesn’t get the credit he deserves for stopping the nation from falling into a depression after the financial collapse just before the 2008 election.

Now, Clinton argued, the nation is again on a precipice.


“I believe we are just this close -- just this close to being able to rise together again,” he said, holding his thumb and index finger together.

“Let’s face it, the reason there’s been so much intensity... is a lot of people despair and don’t believe.… They think things are so rigged against them that we cannot do it.”

A woman in the crowd yelled in Spanish, “Si, se puede.”

“Si, se puede -- yes we can,” Clinton said.


“Forget about who I’m married to,” he added. “Remember, I was president the last time we all rose together.”

For the latest 2016 campaign news, follow @LATSeema on Twitter.