Hillary Clinton running mate Tim Kaine headlined an early voting rally at North Carolina Central University on Oct. 20 that included appearances from North Carolina politicians and a Durham basketball legend.
Dozens of police cars sat at the ready as NCCU’s campus was overtaken by local law enforcement and secret service.
Hundreds, including scores of NCCU students, filtered in through security checkpoints at the Library Bowl as music blasted before the start of the rally. American flags and “Stronger Together” banners were on display behind the podium.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, Durham Mayor Bill Bell took the stage.
Bell said he remembered a time when 500 votes from NCCU students helped him win a tightly contested election race. He told the crowd that “the stakes are too high” in this election.
“We have to go out and vote,” Bell said. “Our future depends on you.”
Next up was G.K. Butterfield, U.S. Congressman and Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Butterfield, a self-proclaimed “double alumni” of NCCU, spent his undergraduate years on ‘the verdant green’ and graduated from the NCCU School of Law.
Butterfield said he had a much different voting experience during his college years.
“We started early voting today; the lines were wrapped around the building, he said. “As a student years ago, we could not register to vote until we were 21 years old. Yes, we had those days; there was no early voting.”
The congressman offered his support for the Clinton Kaine ticket.
“Hillary and Tim’s vision is about bringing people together. It’s about breaking down barriers,” Butterfield said. “As chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Hillary and Tim pass our test.”
Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Deborah Ross, who took the stage next, condemned Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome of the election, calling it “un-American.”
Trump said during the Oct. 19 presidential debate that he would leave the nation in “suspense” on the issue. At a campaign rally in Ohio the next day, Trump said he would “totally accept the results of this great election- if I win.”
“Donald Trump is a bully,” Ross said. When the crowd booed, she responded: “don’t boo- vote!”
After Ross, Kaine took to the stage accompanied by Grant Hill, former Duke Basketball player and seven-time NBA all-star.
“Many of you know I went to Duke University, but I spent a lot of time here on this campus,” Hill said.
Hill drew an emphatic response from the crowd when he asked whether students still called the W.G. Pearson Cafeteria “the Caf” and whether Fish Friday was still a thing.
“You have to do everything possible to make sure your voice is heard. Hillary Clinton has our voice,” said Hill, whose mother, Janet Hill, was roommates with Clinton during college. “She will fight for us.”
Hill capped off his brief speech with the usual awkward clasped-hands-raised-in-victory pose with Kaine, before the tennis shoe-wearing vice presidential candidate took to the podium.
Kaine called North Carolina “a checkmate state,” telling the crowd that North Carolina could “make or break” the presidential election.
“You’ve got this right in your hands,” he said.
The Virginia Senator and former governor said that local North Carolina political races create an “upward draft of energy.”
“It helps us at the top,” he said.
Kaine listed four points of his and Clinton’s economic plan, including investing in infrastructure such as roads and bridges, investing in the workforce through debt free college, ensuring a fair economy with a minimum wage and equal pay for women, and growing small businesses.
Kaine said that education was “a way for our economy to get stronger” and that we need a president “who’s going protect HBCUs.”
Like speakers before him, Kaine criticized Trump. He said that the billionaire’s recent claims of the election process being “rigged” were evidence of his desperation.
“He knows he’s losing,” Kaine said. ““He says it’s rigged; If we have a big margin of victory, nobody will believe him.”
Kaine also criticized Trump’s denial of President Obama’s American citizenship.
“We had to fight a civil war to make sure African Americans could be citizens of this country,” he said. “How dare he?”
Toward the end of the rally, Kaine shared his hope for automatic registration, “so that as soon as you turn 18, you’re registered to vote.”
Political science sophomore Tyler Walker said he has been “following the election pretty closely.” After the rally, he said that he feels many Americans are voting for the wrong reasons, without considering the candidates closely.
“Half of the country just wants to get rid of Obama, and they’re making a mistake,” Walker said. “North Carolina is an important state; if she wins, we win.”
Former NCCU Mr. Freshman and Mr. Sophomore Nicholas Hedgpeth said he encouraged students to come to the event.
“I know the importance of voting and staying informed,” the business administration junior said. “I invited my friends.”
He said his “first voting rally” was “more energetic” than he had imagined and hopes to use that same energy in his future career.
Kaine’s closing remarks were in regards to the “divisiveness” of the 2016 election process.
“When has it ever done one bit of good?”