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Warren blasts billionaires as 2020 candidates ring in the new year

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren marked one year of running for president on Tuesday by slamming billionaires from both parties who she says put corporate interests above the needs of the rest of the country, as many top Democrats looking to unseat President Donald Trump spent the last day of 2019 rallying core supporters.

Warren addressed a raucous hometown crowd at Boston’s Old South Meeting House, a Congregational church famous for being the organizing point for the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is holding a “Big New Year’s Bash” featuring “Prince’s longtime backing band” in Des Moines, the capital of Iowa, which holds its lead-off caucuses on Feb. 3. Also campaigning in Iowa is New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Businessman Andrew Yang invited supporters to mark midnight at a party in New Hampshire, which is set to hold the first primary, on Feb. 11. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is also in New Hampshire, while Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet plans to headline a house party in the state timed to begin one minute after midnight and billed as 2020’s first such gathering.

The crush of events reflects how little time there is to spare before voting begins. Even though campaigning ground to a near halt for Christmas Eve and Christmas, candidates are betting voters will be more amenable to their messages on the final day of the year.

“You’ve got to use every minute,” said Kelly Dietrich, founder and CEO of the National Democratic Training Committee, which trains candidates and staff all over the country.

Warren said the coming of a new year is “normally a moment for optimism. But let’s face it: This year in America has been anything but normal.”

In a nod to the president’s impending impeachment trial, Warren said congressional Republicans “have turned into fawning, spineless defenders of his crimes.” She spoke to hundreds who filled the historic wooden pews painted in a deep, creamy white on the church’s polished wooden ground floor and stately balcony.

The senator also decried the “chaos and ugliness of the past three years” under Trump but didn’t miss a chance to swipe at other Democratic presidential hopefuls who argue that her support for a “wealth tax,” universal health care and proposals to overhaul the political and economic system are too radical for moderate and swing voters in a general election battle against Trump.

“One year into this campaign, you’ve never found me behind closed doors with corporate executives or spending hours on the phone sucking up to rich donors to fund my campaign,” said Warren, who first announced forming a presidential exploratory committee on Dec. 31, 2018.

Warren didn’t name any fellow Democrat on Tuesday, but has for months has slammed South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden for relying too heavily on fundraisers with big, powerful donors.

She’s also accused ex-New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg of trying to buy the election.

Warren told the Boston crowd: “The billionaires know which candidates for president are on their side.”

“Many corporate executives and career politicians and billionaires on both sides of the aisle want to keep their influence and their wealth. And they are already deep in the fight to do so,” Warren said, arguing that Washington is too controlled by lobbyists and fossil fuel companies that have a “death grip on our planet.”

She also evoked the story of Phillis Wheatley, who was born in West Africa but shipped to New England by slave traders in 1761. Wheatley was a poet who eventually inspired George Washington and once sat in the pews of the Old South Meeting House. Warren quoted from a Wheatley poem to help acknowledge the struggles of modern society’s inherent biases that she said Africans Americans and women still face.

“Imagine an America where the lived experience of women is reflected in committee rooms and corner offices,” Warren said, “And yes, even that really nice oval-shaped office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

That prompted one of several standing ovations and chants of “Warren! Warren! Warren!”

Not everyone is getting into the New Year’s Eve action. Biden campaigned Monday in New Hampshire but had scheduled no public events Tuesday. Buttigieg’s New Year’s Eve calendar is similarly clear of rallies.

Most of the candidates also don’t have New Year’s Day event s scheduled, though former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is planning to attend services at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine African American churchgoers were shot to death in 2015.

Dietrich, who trains Democratic candidates, said that activities like door-knocking can be more effective for candidates during the holidays since many people are home from work. They can also use times of traditional parties, like New Year’s Eve, to rally volunteers and others who have helped with campaigning over the long haul.

“You can’t take time off when you’re running for president,” Dietrich said. “Your vacation happens the day after the general election.”

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