Politics

Former President Bill Clinton was in Louisville Tuesday, making stops across town and stopping briefly to speak to supporters at a rally in West Louisville. His visit comes two weeks before his wife, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, will appear on primary ballots in Kentucky.

Before the rally, Clinton met with supporters at Franco’s Restaurant in Shively. There, he stood behind the counter posing for pictures with staff and—at one point—heaping fried chicken onto one diner’s plate.

“We need you all here,” diner Ron “Speedy” Hunter told Clinton. “We need it. It ain’t what we want, but what we need.”

Hunter said Hillary Clinton has his vote.

“She knows the issues, she knows how to deal with foreign affairs, she can take care of the economy and everything,” he said. “So, we’re voting for Hillary, all the way. 120 percent.”

Bill Clinton in Louisville 2J. Tyler Franklin | wfpl.org

Bill Clinton speaking at the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage.

After Clinton left Franco’s, he stopped for a coffee (black, decaf) at Heine Brothers at Fourth Street Live. Then, more than two hours after his scheduled rally time, he took the stage before a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage.

Throughout the speech, Clinton touched on familiar Democratic themes: the importance of providing opportunities for the middle class, building the country’s renewable energy capacity and giving nonviolent offenders alternatives to long stints in prison.

Some of his message seemed tailored for Kentucky, as he touted his wife’s plan to invest billions of dollars in coal country. This, Clinton said, is a way to both boost struggling economies and help fight the prescription drug and heroin epidemic.

“It won’t surprise anybody to know that the highest abuse rates are in the towns with the worst economies,” he said. “But if you marry fighting the drug problem with increasing investments in the areas where the economy is weakest, you will accelerate how quick we get over the drug problem as you accelerate how quick we increase economic opportunity. And that’s the genius, I think, of the approach that she has taken. We should do both things at the same time.”

Clinton’s message was consistent, as he touted Hillary Clinton and her experience. He didn’t mention his wife’s opponent, Bernie Sanders, who was about to begin a rally across town at Louisville’s Waterfront Park, and was only hours away from beating Clinton across the river in Indiana.

“We had rising poverty and stagnant incomes when I became president, but the world was not as complicated and troubled,” Clinton said. “You don’t have time to wait for a new president to figure out how to stop the worst things from happening and make good things happen and make sure that we are doing what we can in the world, both to be a good decent neighbor and keep their problems from sinking our economy. She’s the only one who’s qualified to do that from the first day, and you know it.”

Kentucky’s Democratic presidential primary is May 17.