Democratic Sen. Cory Booker highlighted his family's ties to Las Vegas while delivering a Sunday sermon casting his presidential campaign as a movement to bridge American divides through social justice.
The New Jersey senator, speaking to about 500 people at a North Las Vegas job training center, was visiting Nevada as a presidential candidate for the first time. The state's early caucus is seen as the first test of a candidate's viability with a diverse population with politically powerful unions that have been credited with turning the swing state blue in recent election cycles.
Before discussing politics, Booker introduced his mother, one of several family members living in Las Vegas.
Booker has tried to distinguish himself from the crowded 2020 Democratic field by de-emphasizing the need to run a campaign attacking President Donald Trump. Instead, he pushed for what he called Sunday a "revival of civic grace," noting that Americans throughout history have come together to push against injustice and bigotry.
"We cannot do great things if we're ripping each other apart, if we fail to see the dignity of all Americans," he said.
Booker urged quick and aggressive action on climate change, though he didn't bring up the specifics of the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan backed by some Democratic lawmakers.
In answering a question about the foreclosure industry that devastated Las Vegas a decade ago, Booker said bad actors in the mortgage industry still need to be held accountable somehow through U.S. courts.
Throughout his hourlong talk, Booker wove in anecdotes about his upbringing and used buzzy slogans like "leadership is not a title" and "the power of the people is greater than the people in power." He also had a playful back-and-forth with members of the audience. At one point, he stopped halfway through answering crowd questions to record a video message on one man's cellphone for his daughter serving overseas with the U.S. Navy.
Renae Eze, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said Booker's visit gives Nevadans "a glimpse at the disastrous policies Cory Booker supports including government-run health care, sky-high taxes and the socialist wish-list known as the Green New Deal."
Pamela Lambey, a 48-year-old Democrat from North Las Vegas who took home a Booker campaign sign, said she was impressed with his message of love.
"I know the president poo-poos it, you know, acts as if it's a joke, but I think that's exactly where we need to be right now." ''I think it's heartfelt on his part."
Lambey said she's leaning toward supporting Booker but is also excited to hear from Sen. Kamala Harris, the California senator seeking the presidency. Harris was expected in Nevada on Friday.