Supporters say Hillary Rodham Clinton gives ‘substantive’ talk at Holyoke fundraiser

Last modified: Friday, October 02, 2015

HOLYOKE — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton met with donors at a closed-door event at Delaney House on Thursday where she touched on the issues of education, care-giving, small business and America’s role in global conflicts.

The event was hosted by Congressman Richard Neal, D-Springfield, Massachusetts Democratic State Committee Treasurer Nicole LaChapelle of Easthampton and local Democratic organizer Thomas Lesser, who has a law office in Northampton.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey also attended the event, which was one of two Clinton appearances in Massachusetts on Thursday. The second event, a forum on substance abuse, took place in Boston with Healey and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

Massachusetts is one of a dozen states that will hold primaries or caucuses for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations on March 1, or “Super Tuesday” — the day with the largest number of delegates up for grabs. Clinton is the national frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, but consistently trails U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the early primary voting state of New Hampshire.

Sarah Buttenwieser of Northampton was among those who attended the event in Holyoke — where attendance required a minimum donation of $500 — and said she was impressed with Clinton’s talk.

“She did a great job,” Buttenwieser said. “I think she’s going to be a wonderful advocate for everyone in the country.”

Buttenwieser said Clinton spoke about the need to invest in infrastructure, education and mental health — all issues which Buttenwieser said have the potential to bring the country down if not addressed. Clinton also spoke about the United States being a partner in making the world better and not being an aggressor or shutting off conversations with other nations, Buttenwieser said.

Buttenwieser added that she believes Clinton can beat her Democratic rivals to become the nominee and eventually president. “Absolutely,” Buttenwieser said. “No question.”

Outside the event, two women joined journalists and photographers in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Clinton as she walked in the door, but police and security details kept everyone far from the entrance as Clinton’s motorcade arrived.

The women declined to give their names, but one said she is 83 years old and that this was the first time she had tried to see a presidential candidate. Both left disappointed when police informed them that Clinton was already inside.

Issues on the agenda

Attendees at Thursday’s Holyoke event dismissed Clinton’s opposition on both the Democrat and Republican sides, and minimized the issue of her using a private email address to conduct government business as Secretary of State — a decision for which she has apologized.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse attended the event and said he is endorsing Clinton for president.

“Holyoke is very much a great example of the challenges that the country is facing as a whole,” he said, citing “issues around unemployment for those families that need good paying jobs, access to affordable health care” and drug addiction.

Morse said he supports Clinton’s values of creating opportunities for middle-class Americans and believes that she is poised to win the presidency.

“I think she needs to continue in showing leadership on big issues,” he said. “I think it’s been a great debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. I enjoy the fact that there are multiple candidates running for the nomination and I agree with many things that both candidates say.”

Cheryl Zaccaro of Pittsfield said following the event that she could not understand why the Democratic Party was not more unified behind Clinton.

“We are so lucky to have her as a candidate; we’re so lucky to have someone of that quality to represent us,” Zaccaro said. “She’s wonderful.”

She called Clinton “true to her beliefs” and said that everything the candidate supports is for the well-being of the majority of people.

One issue Zaccaro hoped Clinton would discuss in greater detail is how to reintegrate prisoners into society — many of whom, she said, were incarcerated because of overly aggressive laws for minor offenses.

“All they do is talk about how we’ve been imprisoning too many people and we’re going to change that,” Zaccaro said. “Now what are we going to do with these people that are coming out of prison?” She said the prison reintegration programs she has heard about are all underfunded.

Pittsfield attorney Sherwood Guernsey, a former state representative during the 1980s, said he was impressed that Clinton gave such a substantive talk.

“I’ve gone to a lot of these events and so many of them are so general that you come away saying, ‘Well that was nice but what did she say?’ ” he said. “This was full of substance from one issue to the other.”

Guernsey said Clinton spoke about her support of equal pay for women and of the women’s health organization Planned Parenthood, and that she addressed a range of issues that he believes would support the rise of the middle class. He added that Clinton has experience and knows how to get things done.

“She has the gravitas to be president,” he said. “She is the kind of person that literally has ‘been there; done that’ so that she can be in charge and solve our problems.”

Guernsey criticized the media for portraying Clinton as uptight, and said he found her relaxed and humorous — and said he was glad to hear her talk a bit about her family.

“She talked about her grandchild, emphasizing how important it was what she’s doing for the next generation,” he said. “That’s why she’s in this fight.”

Betsy Gaberman of Longmeadow said she has been a longtime Clinton supporter, since she heard her speak in Beijing in the 1990s.

“She was the most awesome speaker,” Gaberman said of the Beijing speech, which she said was about early childhood education.

That issue, along with affordable health care and the reduction of debt under Democratic presidents, were the topics of Clinton’s talk Thursday that stuck with Gaberman.

“In everything she said, she cared about people,” Gaberman said.

Sanders, Clinton’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination, will appear in Springfield on Saturday at a free event open to the public at the MassMutual Center at 2 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz will also speak in Massachusetts this week, headlining a Marlborough City Republican Committee fundraiser at the Union Club in Boston on Friday at 12:30 p.m. Like Clinton’s event, the Cruz event will be closed to the public.

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at


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