Politics & Government

Hillary Clinton sets rally in Fresno

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton will be in Fresno on Monday for political meetings and a planned rally at Fresno High School.

Luis Vizcaino, a spokesman for Clinton's California campaign, would only confirm that the New York senator will be in town, but a campaign e-mail and multiple political activists in town list the events.

Clinton is scheduled to be in Fresno for about two hours. She will attend political meetings first and follow those up with the Fresno High rally. There won't be a fundraiser.

"Hillary is committed to visiting different parts of the Golden State," Vizcaino said, "visiting with voters about the issues that matter most to them."

Clinton's visit is the second to the Valley by a Democratic presidential hopeful.

In March, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards met with United Farm Workers, including UFW President Arturo Rodriguez, and then attended a modest fundraiser in his honor at the Sunnyside Golf and Country Club.

Several Republican candidates also have made local stops, seeking campaign contributions and voter support in advance of California's Feb. 5 primary.

Those candidates include Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Local Democratic political activist Billie MacDougall -- who in 2004 backed Edwards, but this time is backing Clinton -- said her California campaign team has scheduled a series of 9 p.m. meetings beginning today to prepare for the event.

"It will be great to see her and know she's here," MacDougall said. "It's time for a woman. I'm backing Hillary all the way."

Fresno Unified spokeswoman Peri Lynn Turnbull said Clinton is scheduled to appear on the steps of Fresno High's Royce Hall at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

The district has no written policy about political candidates using school grounds, but it has established procedures that call for no campaign signs or political literature on campus during the rally, Turnbull said.

She also said Superintendent Michael Hanson supports community involvement in the political process.

"This is a great opportunity to learn about the democratic process," Turnbull said. It will be up to individual teachers whether they take their classes to hear Clinton speak, she said.

Organizers hope to attract Clinton supporters from across the community but are specifically targeting Fresno State and Fresno City College for distributing admission tickets for the rally.

Fresno Unified has to be careful not to give the perception that it endorses any political candidate, Turnbull said.

Turnbull said the district plans to send a letter to parents this week, explaining that Fresno High was chosen to host Clinton's rally. She also said Clinton's campaign will pay for any cost to the district.

"This is a pretty prestigious event because it puts Fresno in the spotlight," Turnbull said.

Clinton campaign staffers have come to Assembly Member Juan Arambula -- the Fresno Democrat is the highest-ranking official in the Valley who has endorsed the New York senator -- for help in arranging the event.

"They have come to our office," said Sarah Reyes, Arambula's chief of staff. "We have taken time off to show them around the city, and they are working on a potential visit."

Clinton's visit comes as her campaign reported another strong fundraising effort in the most recent quarter, with $35 million cash on hand at the end of last month. That amount bested her chief Democratic rival -- Illinois Sen. Barack Obama -- and far outdistanced Giuliani, who was the top Republican fundraiser.

Locally, however, her fundraising has been limited.

According to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, Clinton has raised just $4,000 thus far from the Fresno metropolitan area. That amount is far behind Giuliani, Romney, McCain and Edwards and slightly less than Obama has raised.

"There's a lot of Edwards supporters here," MacDougall noted, "but [Clinton] will do well. I think she'll win the Valley."