Clinton urges students to vote at San Jose State

By: Joe Garofoli/Chronicle Staff Writer

At a Sunday night rally for the California Democratic ticket at San Jose State University,former President Bill Clinton urged young people to vote or risk paying more to repay their student loans.

While Clinton was there to stump for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and lieutenant governor hopeful Gavin Newsom,he aimed much of his 30-minute message at a national audience, particularly young people and people of color. Insiders are worried about low turnout for both groups, which were a major part of the 1.1 million Californians who voted for the first time in the 2008 presidential election for President Obama.

Clinton said if Republicans take Congress in the Nov. 2 midterm elections, their priorities will include a move that could increase the cost of federal student loans by rescinding a provision in the program.

But Republicans won’t take the House if “you show up,” Clinton told the audience in the two-thirds-filled 6,000-capacity Event Center at San Jose State. He urged students to get on their social networks to contact friends around the country and tell them to vote for Democrats. “And if they don’t, ask them,’What planet are you living on?’ ”

It was the last lap on a three-day barnstorming tour through California for Clinton, which started with an outdoor rally Friday in Los Angeles with Brown and Newsom. It concluded Sunday with an afternoon rally in Napa for Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson and the 8:15 p.m. appearance in San Jose.

Clinton, Brown and Newsom all talked up how Democrats would be the ones to keep California at the forefront of green jobs growth domestically. And Brown took digs at his GOP opponent,Meg Whitman,the billionaire former eBay CEO,who has invested more than $141 million of her own money in the race.

“We’ve found out a billion is not enough if that’s all you got,” Brown said.

Sunday’s event could have made for one of the more awkward onstage political hugs in recent memory as Newsom,Brown and Clinton haven’t always been on the best of terms. Clinton and Brown exchanged caustic barbs when they ran against each other for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination.

That feud resurfaced several weeks ago when Whitman’s campaign began running a commercial showing Clinton tearing into Brown during a 1992 debate – an ad that contained erroneous information about Brown’s record on taxes as governor. Brown retorted with an offhand remark about Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Before the dustup got too intense, Clinton endorsed Brown and made plans for the California visit.

Clinton endorsed Newsom over Brown last fall, a payback for Newsom endorsing Hillary Rodham Clinton over Obama in the 2008 presidential primary. At the time,campaign operatives for Brown and Newsom were trading punches almost daily – until Newsom dropped out of the race nearly a year ago.

But Clinton wrapped a bear hug around Brown after the California attorney general introduced him.

“He took a lot of crap from a lot people,” Brown said of Clinton. “Yeah, I gave him a little of it myself. But remember,this is the guy who really persevered in the face of the most outrageous Republican opposition.”

A spokesperson for Whitman’s campaign,Andrea Jones Rivera, scoffed at Clinton’s appearance.

“If it weren’t for his party affiliation, Bill Clinton wouldn’t have anything to do with Jerry Brown. This entire appearance is about party politics,” said Rivera.

Nicole Gomez, a San Jose State student at her first political rally,was undecided about how to vote on Proposition 23, which would gut California’s landmark climate change law. But after hearing Newsom talk about how damaging it could be, she will now oppose it and support Newsom and Brown. “I’m definitely not voting for Meg Whitman,” she said.