RALEIGH, N.C. — Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said if elected she would take immediate action to bring down rising gas prices.
Clinton, speaking at the party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Raleigh Friday night, said she would make oil companies pay the gas taxes during the summer instead of consumers.
She bashed President George W. Bush’s administration for not investigating what she calls “price gouging and market manipulation.”
Clinton said she would end $55 million tax breaks given to large corporations, including oil companies. She proposed $100 billion in middle class tax cuts.
Clinton also said she would create a cabinet position devoted to ending poverty, an issue that former Sen. John Edwards discussed when he was still a candidate for the nominatation. Edwards has since dropped out of the race.
“John ran with compassion and conviction,” Clinton said.
Clinton said on the education-front she would end the education initiative “No Child Left Behind,” and instead focus on universal pre-kindergarten and college programs.
Clinton said she would be willing to support rival Sen. Barack Obama if he is selected as the party’s nominee.
“If Sen. Obama is the nominee, you better believe I’ll work my heart out for him,” Clinton said. “And if I am the nominee I know Sen. Obama will do the very same for me because it will be a united Democratic party that goes on to victory in November.”
Clinton spoke the same day a WRAL news poll showed Obama had a 9 point lead over Clinton among Tar Heel Democrats. A month ago, Obama was ahead by double-digits. There a 4-point margin of error in the poll, conducted by Rasmussen Reports.
Jerry Meek, state Democratic Party chair, opened the event by welcoming guests and recognizing party officials.
Earlier speakers in the night were Senate candidate and potential Elizabeth Dole challenger Jim Neal and gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue.
Following Clinton’s speech Neal's rival for the nomination, State Sen. Kay Hagan, will speak. She'll be followed by gubernatorial candidate State Treasurer Richard Moore and remarks from Gov. Mike Easley.
Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama will be last to the lectern.
“It is huge. We’ve never had anything like this. It is clearly unprecedented,” said Meek.
The Democratic Party hosted the dinner, the largest in its 78-year history in the state.
Party officials said 950 people dined, with another 4,000 in the stands. Tickets for the event sold out hours after the two announced they would attend. On Friday, the Democratic Party released about 100 more tickets, which also quickly sold out.
Prior to the dinner, Clinton and Obama both campaigned in the state on Friday.
Clinton, trying to gain more ground, crisscrossed the state, making stops in Kinston, Hendersonville and Greensboro before coming to Raleigh. Her daughter, Chelsea, campaigned in the Triad, in Winston Salem and Lexington.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, stuck to the larger cities. Barack Obama appeared at a rally in Charlotte prior to appearing at the dinner. Michelle Obama appeared at an event at the Durham Armory Friday afternoon, before heading west to speak in Asheville.