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Clinton Seeks To Keep Lead In Home State, With Visit To Illinois' Old State Capitol

Amanda Vinicky

Kate Dunn, a mother of three whose oldest son does to a Springfield public school, gun violence is "a primary concern for everybody in the United States." "I feel like it's preventable. It's not necessary," she said. "It's crazy. I mean just .. every day. I hate to even look -- listen, look, watch -- every day it's something worse."
Credit Adam Rife

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Hillary Clinton was born and raised in Illinois, and she has the confidence of the state's primary Democratic leaders, but polls show she's at risk of losing the state to Bernie Sanders. She made a final pitch to Illinois voters on the eve of Tuesday's primary, including at a town hall in Springfield.

Local Democrats got a front row seat Monday to the televised MSNBC event, taped at the Old State Capitol in Springfield -- the same building Barack Obama stood in front of when he announced he was running for President.

As "Hardball" host Chris Matthews noted, it's also where Abraham Lincoln gave his "House Divided" speech in 1858. "How are we doing on that subject today?" he asked.

"Well we could use that speech again," Clinton said. "From a lot of leaders as well as citizens because there's a disturbing amount of divisive rhetoric in this campaign that is playing on a lot of people's fears, and really engendering a lot of ... mean-spiritedness, bigotry, that I think is not only bad for out politics but it's bad for our nation."

She says she holds Republican candidate for President Donald Trump responsible for igniting violence at his rallies.

The audience laughed when Clinton, who grew up in the Chicago suburb Park Ridge, said she first visited Springfield in fifth grade, a tradition of school children throughout the state then and now.

There was only time for members of the audience to ask a few questions.

One of them came from Kate Dunne, a mother of three whose oldest is in kindergarten.

"And frequently when he's running across the playground to line up at school, I can't help but think about the children killed at Sandy Hook, I can't help but think about Tyshawn Lee, assassinated on the South Side of Chicago," Dunne said, before asking Clinton what she would do to stop gun violence.

"We need comprehensive background checks, we need to end the immunity from liability -- the Sandy Hook parents are suing the maker of the AR 15, trying to do something that channels their grief into action to prevent other children and people from being murdered," Clinton answered.

To do that, Clinton said, voters need to take on the powerful pro-gun lobby, which she says intimidates lawmakers. Earlier Monday during a campaign stop in Chicago, Clinton reportedly got emotional visiting a memorial for the city’s gun victims.

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder also got a question in, about what steps she would take to make sure immigrants are properly screened before entering America.

Langfelder's father was a World War Two refugee from Austria, who needed to have a sponsor before he could come to the U.S. Langfelder says that was done to ensure that immigrants wouldn't be a financial burden to the government and to keep American society safe.

"So that's the question. How can you fast forward to today? You know, cause 'everybody touts immigration," Langfelder told reporters after the town hall. "You know, we are a country of immigrants. But you really can't forget the history. You know you want to protect yourself and make sure that we're growing economically. They did it back in World War II. We should carry that on."

Clinton responded that it's necessary that immigrants go through an extensive and time-consuming screening process, and that asylum-seekers still have sponsors. Clinton said she'd do whatever she can as President to make that process works as effectively as possible.

Other questions centered on police relations and college affordability. Clinton also talked about international trade, the Iraqi war, and Syria during the event. A state historic site official says approximately 135 people were in attendance; tickets appeared to have been coordinated through MSNBC. Activity outside the event was calm; one man -- a Donald Trump supporter -- carried an anti-Clinton poster.

Clinton's opponent, Bernie Sanders, also made a last minute pitch in Illinois Monday with a 10:30 p.m. rally in Chicago.

Republican Ted Cruz -- who polls show edging toward Trump's lead in GOP primary polls, visited a Springfield church late Monday night for a get-out-the-vote event.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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