WASHINGTON - Two women talked about their abortions. Another who worked at Toys R Us for 33 years said a Wall Street leveraged buyout left her facing unemployment without severance.
And a minister pressed for justice reform by describing a man now free on bail after serving more than 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. An all-white jury at his third trial took just 30 minutes to convict him after two mixed-race juries at previous trials had deadlocked.
Those stories and more at the "We the People" summit were used to extract promises and test the commitments of five Democratic senators who may be presidential candidates in 2020: Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten GIllibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
The format featured short speeches followed by two or three questions from the summit's organizers, which included labor unions, Planned Parenthood, and immigration, environmental and anti-poverty activists.
"It's not enough to set yourself up in opposition to the administration,' said Jennifer Epps, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. "We want answers to our questions."
Chris Shelton, president of the Communications Workers of America, said the Democratic Party needs to embrace a "people's agenda" that focuses on poor and working families, regardless of citizenship status or sexual orientation, rather than Wall Street or wealthy special interests.
"We all know a fight is raging for the soul of the Democratic Party," Shelton said. "Today we will weigh in on that fight."
Here are highlights from each senator, in order of appearance:
Booker had one of the more awkward moments of the three-hour conference when he tried to warm up a questioner from New York, Robert Suarez, by asking if he was a fan of the NFL's Giants, who play in New Jersey.
"I lost my mother to AIDS. She died in my arms," Suarez said, beginning his question rather than responding to Booker. "This led me to become homeless. I've lived under bridges and under highways."
Along with condemning a racist justice system that puts "incarceration over caring" in dealing with drugs, Suarez asked Booker how he would deliver health care that's universal and affordable.
"Let me put this simply: Health care is a right, health care is a right, health care is a right" Booker said.
Booker and his other questioner, Toys R Us worker Cheryl Claude of Woodbridge, N.J., met earlier this month when politicians joined workers at a protest rally. On Wednesday, Claude asked Booker what federal policies he supported to protect workers at companies that venture capitalists take over.
Booker said he supported ending the tax loophole that allows hedge fund managers' "carried interest" to be taxed at a lower rate than wages, and he said other polices were needed to raise worker pay.
"Where are we right now in America?" Booker said. "We're at an 85-year corporate-profit high, and a 65-year low, as a percentage of all of our GDP, of worker pay. And so this has got to end. And I believe the way do it is by putting common-sense regulations in place."
Warren took aim at those who say the high stock market and low unemployment mean the economy is soaring. The real test, Warren said, should be how average families are faring.
"Do they have the money to be able to buy a home? The money to be able to send their kids to school? Do they have money in savings?" Warren said. "Do they have confidence that their kids will do better than they did?"
Her answer was that they did not, and gave her reason why.
"Our government has been been captured," she said. "It has been captured by powerful corporations and billionaires who have used their money to rig our economy so it works for them and not for you."
Asked by the Rev. Andre Bennett of Zion Baptist Church in Massachusetts what she would do about "the new Jim Crow system" that disproportionately jails people of color for drug offenses and then takes away their voting rights, Warren said the level of incarceration was a "national embarrassment."
She described bills she sponsored with Booker to ensure women in prison have access to sanitary products, and one she sponsored with Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., that would let states determine whether marijuana is legal or not.
She was also asked what she would do to support organized labor by a union baggage handler at Newark Liberty Airport, Zakiyy Medina, who fought to get a higher minimum wage. After recounting how her mother's minimum wage job at Sears helped the family avoid losing its home, Warren told Medina:
"All I can say is, you count me in, I believe in unions," Warren replied.
The 2016 presidential contender took the stage to a loud standing ovation, and used his speech to highlight ideas he said were initially radical but now had popular support - though not in the Senate - including Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, and free college tuition.
Claudia Quinonez of Maryland told Sanders she is being protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order issued by former President Barack Obama, an order President Trump is trying to rescind.
She asked Sanders what he would do to "defund and expose" the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agencies.
Sanders said he opposed a recent budget agreement because it did not have a provision to protect people covered by DACA such as Quinonez.
"I consider the issue of 1.8 million young people who've known the United States as their only country and who are facing deportation as perhaps the great moral issue facing this country today," Sanders said.
"The idea that kids who were raised in this country, went to school in this country, are working now, are in the military, the idea that they could be subjected to deportation is beyond words, it is disgraceful beyond words," Sanders said.
More than the others, Gillibrand focused on Trump in her opening remarks, deriding his attacks on immigrants, press freedom, and workers trying to organize into unions.
She also echoed Warren in criticizing the government for "rewarding owners and not workers" and called for an end to the "soft corruption of Washington" that leads to members of Congress spending too much of their time in a bubble with wealthy contributors.
Gillibrand called for paid family leave, criticized tax laws that make the large salaries of top corporate executives deductible and, in response to a question, she said she supports a tax on financial transactions.
After Leah Vanden Bosch of Iowa described how her battle with mental illness led to her decision to get an abortion, Gillibrand also made a spirited defense of reproductive rights.
"For every woman, she should, as a civil right, get to decide about the reproductive health of her body," she said. The Hyde Amendment, which blocks using public funds including Medicaid to pay for abortion, is preventing low-income women from having access to that civil right, she said.
"So we need to be fighting against the Hyde Amendment. We shouldn't be constantly on defense, we should be on offense. I hope next year we could actually unwind the Hyde Amendment," she said.
A questioner from the group MoveOn, Micah Lawery of Maryland, also asked about restoring voting rights to people who have committed crimes.
"Once they have paid their debt to society, they should be allowed to vote," Gillibrand said.
Harris began by comparing the current political climate to the one where her parents met, as graduate students on the Berkeley campus of the University of California in the 1960s.
"This is a moment in time that is requiring us to fight for who we are," she said. Overall, Harris said people share the same worries, regardless of party, about their own and their family's health, their ability to pay bills, and to retire with dignity.
But she said there are issues people don't want to confront, including the reality of racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism; the stagnant level of American wages while costs for gasoline, housing and tuition are rising; and the country's "problem with mass incarceration."
After Sierra Club member from North Carolina, Bekah Whilden, asked what she would do to promote clean energy, Harris described her efforts as California's attorney general to defend state environmental standards that were stronger than the federal government's.
She also said it was a "false choice" to have to pick between economic growth and combating climate change.
Harris defended abortion rights after Army veteran Peshka Callaway of West Virginia said she turned to Planned Parenthood for that procedure and other health care, including removal of precancerous cells in her breast that Veterans Affairs doctors missed.
"This is a full-on assault on women's reproductive health care," Harris said.
Del Mar racing fans had a different reason to cheer on Saturday. This time it was for Martine Bellocq.
Deserts will dry out over the weekend, monsoonal moisture returning by Tuesday. Weekend temperatures slightly warmer as the high moves over the region, bringing in drier air. Beach conditions to improve Saturday. Water temperature slightly cooler than last week.
A man who fired a gun and threatened customers at a Fallbrook bar early Saturday morning was thwarted by patrons who tackled him and held him until law enforcement could arrive, a San Diego County sheriff's deputy said.
A man is suspected of crashing his car into a Skyline home and fleeing before being apprehended by police early Saturday morning.
The San Diego team in the Alliance of American football announced the signing of former San Diego State offensive tackle Terry Poole, a fourth-round choice by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2015 NFL draft, and nine other players.
A San Diego man with a prior conviction for the same offense was sentenced in federal court to more than 3 1/2 years in prison for his admitted role in a human-smuggling attempt that seriously injured a U.S. Border Patrol officer.
San Diego County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Fischer is free Friday night after posting $2 million bail. He is accused of groping and assaulting more than a dozen women while on duty.