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At Boise fundraiser, Biden talks about Trump, the middle class and his Idaho connections


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Several prominent Boiseans, including Mayor David Bieter and City Council President Lauren McLean, attended the fundraiser for former Vice President Joe Biden. | Hayley Harding, Idaho Statesman

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Joe Biden told more than 100 donors at a Boise fundraiser that he’s proud of his Idaho connections.

Speaking Tuesday at the home of Esther and Skip Oppenheimer, the Democratic presidential front-runner talked about how Frank Church, the late Democratic U.S. senator from Idaho, helped get him elected to the Senate in 1972.

The Churches also encouraged him to stay in office after the death of his first wife, Neilia, and his daughter, Naomi, just weeks after that election.

“I was just a kid when I got elected,” Biden, then 29 and now 76, told the donors at a reception in the Oppenheimers’ backyard, where tables were set up but most people stood in the 100-degree afternoon heat. The Church family’s support helped him stay in politics and make a difference on a national level, he said.

Esther Oppenheimer pointed out during her opening remarks that one of Church’s grandchildren, Boise High School government teacher Monica Church, was in the audience, and Biden walked through the crowd to shake her hand.

Donors paid $100 or more to meet Biden, who spoke for about 20 minutes. Donors of $1,000 or more got to have photos taken with him.

Biden cited his accomplishments during his time as President Barack Obama’s vice president from 2009 to 2017. Together, he said, they helped to pass the Affordable Care Act and to create the Paris climate accords, both of which he said made life better for Americans.

He said he has what it takes to turn the country around after four years of President Donald Trump. Trump’s re-election in 2020 would deeply damage the country, he said.

“We can deal with — it will be difficult — four years of Donald Trump’s destruction in the nation,” Biden said, “but eight years will fundamentally change who we are as a people.”

After watching what happened after the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 — where James Alex Fields Jr. deliberately rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing college student Heather Heyer and injuring more than 20 people — Biden said he knew he had to run for president, especially after Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides.”

He said he would restore “the backbone of our country,” America’s middle class.

“When the middle class does well, the poor have a way up and the wealthy do very well, and in the meantime, we can provide social, political and economic stability,” Biden said.

Perhaps most important, he said, is that he wants to unify the country. Biden said detractors might call that goal the optimism of someone from the old days, but in his opinion, it’s a matter of wisdom.

Prominent Boiseans in attendance included Boise Mayor David Bieter, Boise City Council President Lauren McLean, and several state legislators, including Reps. Mat Erpelding and Jake Ellis, and Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking.

Biden’s trip to Boise came after a Monday night fundraiser in Ketchum, where he spoke at the home of Alan Blinken, a prominent Democrat in the area and a Clinton-era ambassador to Belgium. Biden is the second Democrat to visit Boise during this campaign cycle, following a visit from Julián Castro in February.