Government & Politics

Bill Clinton cancels Kansas City speech for his wife’s campaign

Former president Bill Clinton abruptly canceled a Kansas City campaign rally Tuesday, blaming a late-winter rainstorm for the decision.

Clinton had planned to campaign for his spouse, Hillary Clinton, at a union hall near the Truman Sports Complex. Kansas City was to be the second stop on a three-city campaign swing for the Democrat.

Instead, Clinton traveled from Chicago to St. Louis for a campaign event there.

Becky Gatapia of Kansas City, a Clinton supporter, said she was disappointed in the cancellation, “but you can’t do anything about the weather.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who told the crowd Clinton would be a no-show, said the decision wasn’t related to the relatively small audience at the event. About 300 people, most of them from organized labor, were on hand for the appearance, leaving one-third of the room empty.

Cleaver said the rally was largely meant for union workers and not the general public, leading to the lower turnout.

But he conceded Hillary Clinton supporters can sometimes seem less energetic than those for other candidates in both parties, particularly Donald Trump. He said the campaign will have to address the issue.

“There is an enthusiasm gap, there’s no question about it,” Cleaver said. “And we need to fix it.”

Branden Haralson, a Clinton supporter from Kansas City, blamed the smaller crowd on the time of day and the older ages of Clinton backers.

“Hillary, she’s got the older vote, and they tend to work more 9-to-5 jobs,” he said. “They can’t take off and wait three hours like we waited here.”

Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic race, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, drew 7,500 people to a rally at Bartle Hall on Feb. 24. That event, like the one Bill Clinton scheduled for Tuesday, took place in the middle of the day.

Sanders and Clinton are battling for 71 of the state’s 84 Democratic convention delegates in the March 15 primary. The delegates will be awarded proportionally.

There are 13 Democratic superdelegates in Missouri. They’re officially unpledged, although most have declared for Clinton.

Cleaver said efforts are underway to convince Hillary Clinton to hold a campaign event in Kansas City before the primary. Clinton’s campaign schedule may be affected by services for former first lady Nancy Reagan, her campaign said this week.

Clinton did not appear in Kansas before the state’s caucuses.

Dave Helling: 816-234-4656, @dhellingkc