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Clinton cultivates voters in SJ Valley

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., shakes supporter hands at a rally Monday, Oct. 22, 2007 in Fresno, Calif. Clinton spoke to students at Fresno High School about her future plans if elected president in 2008.
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., shakes supporter hands at a rally Monday, Oct. 22, 2007 in Fresno, Calif. Clinton spoke to students at Fresno High School about her future plans if elected president in 2008. (Gary Kazanjian / The Associated Press)

FRESNO -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton touched down for the first time in California's farm belt Monday, seeking to sway voters and local officials in the state's conservative interior.

Fresh from a fund-raiser Sunday at the Los Angeles home of director Rob Reiner, Clinton didn't arrive seeking cash.

The Democrats' presidential front-runner used the stop to speak to hundreds of students, grandmothers and teachers outside Fresno High School about her proposals to pass immigration reform and boost the farming economy.

"Everywhere I go, people feel like they are invisible to their government," Clinton said to the crowd waving signs outside the school. "None of these people are invisible to me and they will not be invisible to the next president of the United States."

Clinton, D-N.Y., has racked up endorsements from more than 50 San Joaquin Valley party leaders, including Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, her campaign announced Monday.

But Democratic presidential contenders historically have failed to attract much money or build a significant voting bloc in the region.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Clinton has raised $13,270,732 in California for her campaign, more than any other candidate has received in state contributions.

Just $11,130 of that came from the Fresno area, as opposed to the nearly $2.8 million Clinton collected in Los Angeles.

Still with February's presidential primary looming, swing voters in the valley and the interior portions of Southern California have more pull, political analysts said.

"Fresno has never been a place where you raise Democratic money," said Chris Lehane, a Clinton supporter who runs a Democratic consulting business in San Francisco. "But it's smart to have Hillary's feet on the ground there because you do well with women, you do well with Latinos. You focus on traditional swing areas like the valley and you'll do well in the state."

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