DES MOINES, Iowa -- Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley are in Des Moines on Monday for the Iowa Brown and Black Forum.
From immigration reform and economic inequality to criminal justice reform, all three Democratic presidential candidates dealt with concerns and issues facing Des Moines' minority population, which many saw as a pleasant change of pace.
"Like to see them get out more in their area where it is needed, more of the poverty areas, more people with more issues because they feel as though the candidates don't come into their areas and speak to them directly, and that's what they want,” said Barbara Wise.
"Minorities aren't talked about that often. You might get one question on ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and the rest is pushed away towards building a wall and having the Mexican government pay for it. So I think focusing on it and having an in-depth conversation isn't just brushing over the facts but really speaking the facts and to the people directly,” said Jonathan Douglas.
For two hours, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley did just that inside Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University.
The Iowa caucuses are three weeks away and an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll shows Sanders just 3 percentage points behind Clinton among likely caucus voters.
Many of those voters were at the Brown and Black Forum, waiting eagerly to hear a response to issues and concerns facing minorities in Iowa.
"What is it going to take to utilize our Hispanic students? I think it will benefit the country and jobs and the economy for most,” said Esther Palacios.
The effects from Monday’s forum could be the difference for Sanders and Clinton in becoming victorious on caucus night Feb. 1.
Clinton has long been viewed as the Democratic front-runner, but according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll, Clinton holds a 48 percent to 45 percent lead over Sanders among likely Iowa caucus-goers. When it comes to likely New Hampshire caucus-goers, Sanders leads Clinton 50 percent to 46 percent.
Earlier in the day Monday, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie spoke alongside the mayors of Baltimore, Maryland, Columbia, South Carolina, and Santa Fe, New Mexico set an urban agenda from mayors across the country.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she saw violence in her city after the death of Freddy Gray while in police custody. She talked about the relationship between the community and police and compared it to how a marriage works.
“Will we commit to discussing our problems and not hiding? Or is going to be one where we turn our backs on each other and pretend that problems don't exist? There is a major role that candidates can play, that the next administration can play, that can make us come to the table and have these critical conversations in order to repair the relationships between the community and police,” Rawlings-Blake said.