LAS VEGAS — Bernie Sanders may have been the first to make plans to campaign Sunday at Victory Missionary Baptist Church in Las Vegas, but he had to share the pulpit with his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination — and her special guest.
Ahead of next weekend's Democratic caucuses in Nevada, Hillary Clinton came to the service in the company of Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the civil rights icon who has endorsed her candidacy and introduced her to the African-American congregation on the city's west side.
"The vote is powerful ... It is the most powerful nonviolent tool in a democratic society," Lewis said. "I am here for ... my friend, my beloved sister, who I've known for so many years, who's a warrior, a fighter. ... Look, she is prepared, she is ready."
Lewis' appearance was a continuation of Clinton's efforts to woo black voters, which has intensified following her 22-point loss to Sanders in last week's New Hampshire primary. Both Nevada and South Carolina, which follows the Western state on the Democratic primary calendar, are more racially diverse than leadoff Iowa and New Hampshire.
The first two states also have relatively strong economies and low unemployment rates, while Nevada is still recovering from the Great Recession. The state experienced a massive real estate bust and years of double-digit unemployment, and its gambling and construction industries have not returned to the success of their boom-time years.
The official unemployment rate in Nevada in December was 6.4 percent, the lowest since June 2008. But the state has the nation's highest rate of underemployment, which measures people who have stopped job hunting or those who are in part-time jobs that want full-time employment. Wage growth remains a common concern.
"This state was decimated," Sanders told the congregation. "We have made great progress, but much more needs to be done."
At a later rally in Las Vegas, Sanders' call for a new approach to the nation's economy resonated with Nicole Reihl-Molloy, 37, of Las Vegas, who said that she and her husband struggled after the recession.
Reihl-Molloy said she had to take a retail job when she couldn't find work in her field of marketing and her husband — a construction project manager — had to move away for several years to work.
"I used to cry myself to sleep," she said. "There are a lot of people whose careers evaporated."
Clinton, meanwhile, continued Sunday to cast herself as the rightful heir to President Barack Obama and build on his work to resuscitate the economy after the 2008 crash.
"I am proud to stand here and tell you that I will work my heart out to build on that progress and go further," Clinton said at the church service. "Yes we have work to do, my esteemed opponent and I agree. We can never let big banks wreck our economy. No bank is too big to fail. No executive is too big to jail."