Just two days after the Buttigieg Town Hall, on Sunday, February 16, I attended the Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren Town Hall in Reno, Nevada. It was held in the cafeteria at Reno High School, and it was a bit on the small side, with not great optics. I was there shooting as freelance for Shutterstock, using my usual Nikon D750s bodies with my Nikon Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 and Tamron 24-70 f/2.8.
Compared to the other town hall, this one was much more challenging. The lights were yellow and very hot. Spectators crammed the end of each aisle, so you were either “in” and “out.” After the first five minutes or so of Senator Warren arriving to the stage, they took us out of the immediate buffer area. This meant we could either shoot from the rotating still spot on the back media risers (reserved for video), or around the room behind the other spectators.
I’d brought my “turtle” (one foot stepstool), so I got a little elevation, but it was pretty tough to get anything decent from around the room. I ended up shooting on pretty high ISO (no flash, of course, allowed), and had to deal with a lot of grain. Ick. Warren wore a peach sweater (not her signature purple), and that just made the images that much more orange-y.
Anyway, enough complaining. As you can see from the images, they set up the stage “in the round.” They made sure all ADA folks got chairs, and then filled in the empty seats. My wife De was lucky enough to get one in the front row! They did not hand out campaign signs, and it was inside, so there wasn’t a whole lot of loud cheering and sign-waving. The crowd was subdued standing in line and entering the building. Warren obviously does not have the same kind of momentum Buttigieg does right now, so the mood seemed to reflect the “Nevertheless, she persisted” slogan of the campaign.
The large American and Nevada State flags were on display, as well as the big Warren banner, where she made her entrance. No sharpshooters in sight, but I’m sure security must have been there somewhere. The stage was nothing more than a stool with a glass of water.
Natha Anderson, a long-time educator and the current President of the Washoe Education Association (WEA) briefly introduced Elizabeth after the raffle tickets had been drawn for folks to ask question. Elizabeth emerged waving from the side door and took her time to look at all four sides of the room to “greet” everyone
Once the crowd settled down (they had leaped to their feet) a very bizarre thing happened. Senator Warren started speaking… and you could barely hear her. She was REALLY sick with a terrible case of laryngitis. She said that after over 1,000 selfies, she’d actually finally caught a bug from someone. The crowd was super silent, pin-droppingly so, and listened as Warren said she would do things a little differently. She’d tell us a little about her life and her journey to this day and then answer questions. From where I crouched, she looked thin and tired, but still had an amazing amount of energy. This woman’s skin is phenomenal, and she has beautiful blue eyes!
She started speaking about her aunt helping her with childcare when she needed it the most, and the lack of a comprehensive safety net in our country in various ways. Pretty much her signature campaign issues (with her self-deprecating, “You won’t be surprised, but I have a plan for that!” adding a little humor), but it is a bit of a blur for me as I ran around the room trying to figure out how to get some decent shots.
Before long Senator Warren was listening intently to people’s questions, and answering with a mix of policy and personal bits with her soft and now raspy Oklahoma accent. What continued to strike me about Senator Warren is her sense of kindness and strength. She does seem to have genuine dogged persistence to her, and I like how thoughtful and mature her responses are to the many struggles I believe we have in this country. Her experience has obviously prepared her well for this campaign and by the end of it and the huge line of people waiting to do selfies, I don’t know how she was still standing, as sick as she was.
The event took about an hour. I spoke with a number of supporters there, who said that while they admired and like Buttigieg and some of the other candidates, they really seemed to trust Warren. They trusted her experience, her intelligence, and her maturity, and they believed in her platform for Medicare-for-all and other issues. I have to say that I agree!