Hillary Clinton addresses a crowd of about 400 at King Middle School in Portland Friday.

Hillary Clinton addresses a crowd of about 400 at King Middle School in Portland Friday.

PORTLAND — On Friday, presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton made a campaign stop in Portland, where she spoke on a wide range of topics and the goals of her potential White House residency.

About 400 people packed King Middle School’s gymnasium for what the Clinton campaign called a “grassroots organizing meeting.” The former first lady and secretary of state delivered remarks on both domestic and foreign issues before mingling with audience members at the lateafternoon event, which was open to the public.

During her approximately one-hour speech, Clinton called raising American workers’ incomes “the single most important issue” facing the country, adding that as president she would fight for raising the minimum wage. “People have to feel that their hard work is being rewarded,” she said.

Hillary Clinton, center, chats with her supporters after speaking at King Middle School in Portland Friday.

Hillary Clinton, center, chats with her supporters after speaking at King Middle School in Portland Friday.

Similarly, Clinton also spoke of helping young Americans become more successful by starting apprenticeship programs like ones in European countries and lowering student loan debt.

Clinton also discussed climate change and the environment, outlining a plan to install 500 million solar panels in the U.S. by the end of her first term and to have “enough clean energy to power every single home in America” by the end of her second. She recommended moving financial and tax incentives away from fossil fuels and toward wind, solar and other clean energy sources to achieve this goal.

“This is within our reach if we organize ourselves in the right way,” she said of growing clean energy in America.

Although she said she was against drilling for oil in the Arctic, Clinton did not discuss the Keystone XL oil pipeline – a contentious issue she has avoided addressing in her campaign. Although at one point she told a group of protesters holding signs that read “I’m ready for Hillary to say no KXL” to move to the back of the gym. The group had been standing among the seated crowd.

Throughout her speech, Clinton, who was wearing a powder-blue shirt and black pants, stressed several times her belief that the country cannot afford to elect a Republican president in 2016.

“Their economic policies put us into a ditch in the first place,” she said of the GOP.

At the same time, she lauded President Barack Obama for the way he handled the economic recession that hit just before he was elected president. “I don’t think President Obama gets the credit he deserves for preventing us from falling further down,” she said.

Clinton also took jabs specifically at the Republicans running against her for president. At one point, she alluded to recent comments they have made about the nonprofit women’s health organization Planned Parenthood, calling their words indifferent, insensitive and oblivious.

Seconds before, Clinton incited what was perhaps the longest and most raucous applause of the afternoon by saying, “I will defend our civil rights and human rights, starting with a woman’s right to choose.”

When discussing health care in general, Clinton told the crowd that as president she would work to “defend but also improve” the Affordable Care Act. She also discussed the need to strengthen health care treatment options for those with mental health problems, drug addiction, and long-term diseases or disorders such as Alzheimer’s and autism.

On foreign issues, Clinton mostly spoke of her experience as secretary of state, saying that as president she would continue to stress diplomacy; as hard and time-consuming as diplomacy can be, she said there is no substitute for it.

Among the crowd at Friday’s event was state Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, who said he supports Clinton because of her experience, platform and ability to forge relationships across party lines.

“The fact that she talked about opioids and drug abuse, I don’t think I’ve heard any other candidate talk about those issues, and I really think that she’s coming out swinging on issues that really matter to people and are affecting all sorts of families, whether it be income inequality or opioid addition or student-loan debt,” said Fecteau. “At the end of the day, the reason why I’m supporting Hillary is because we need a coalition builder … somebody that can work across the proverbial aisle.”

Clinton’s visit to Maine’s largest city reflects her efforts to build support outside of the early primary states.

While Clinton currently leads the polls for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has been gaining on her in recent months. In July, Sanders drew a crowd of more than 5,000 as he spoke at Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena.

Although the numbers may be more impressive, Fecteau said Clinton’s King Middle School visit was “a lot more intimate.”

Clinton last visited Maine in October, when she spoke at Scarborough High School in support of U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat who lost the state’s gubernatorial race to Republican Gov. Paul LePage in November.

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

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