DES MOINES -- Julian Castro, Beto O’Rourke and Bernie Sanders took to that stage at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines Thursday night for a town hall hosted by The League of United Latin American Citizens.

  • Hundreds of Latinos attended
  • Bernie Sanders got loudest crowd reaction
  • Julian Castro impressed some with immigration knowledge 

It was an opportunity for not only the moderators--including Spectrum News’s own Annette Gracia--but the audience to ask questions. The candidates were surrounded by hundreds of Latinos ready to cheer on their favorites.




“Should we make public colleges and universities tuition free? Yes. Well you know what, that’s what the American people believe. Is health care a human right? Yes," Sanders said. 

Sanders worked the crowd and got the loudest applause of all the candidates. But, audience members said popularity isn’t enough. We spoke to a few people who said they knew nothing about Castro, but were surprised by his knowledge on issues surrounding immigration and his proposal to decriminalize border crossings – something that’s drawn criticism from some prominent Democrats.

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“No. I wish these Democrats would stop speaking like Republicans. Look, crossing the border without permission under my administration, you would still be held accountable for that, but in a civil court, not in a criminal court,” Castro said.

Meanwhile, O’Rourke’s proposal about public servants being cleared of student debt resonated most with the audience.

“If you’re willing to dedicate yourself to public service, under my administration we will wipe clean and clear your outstanding student loan debt. So you can focus on public service.”

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Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also appeared in the town hall. Her segment was pre-recorded because of a scheduling conflict.

She did take the opportunity to comment on Hillary Clinton's implications that she’s a Russian asset.

“It is outrageous for Hillary Clinton or any one of one of her allies or proxies in the media or politics to make sure a baseless factless allegation. I am a soldier. I am a major serving in the United States Army National Guard,“ Gabbard said.

Several hundred Latino voters attended the town hall in a state that will be key for these four candidates come the caucuses in February.