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Earlier this week, several 2016 Democratic contenders, not including Hillary Clinton, took the stage at the International Association of Fire Fighters‘ annual conference in Washington. Many notables attended including Jim Webb, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. The conference is open to politicians of any party and many Republican candidates attended as well.

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Report from the Washington Times:

The Democratic presidential field’s long-shot hopefuls got a chance to make a pitch Tuesday for a key endorsement from firefighters unions, touting their union ties and working-class values without competition from Hillary Rodham Clinton.

With Mrs. Clinton preoccupied and unable to attend, all her potential rivals took turns testing out their stump speeches at the International Association of Fire Fighters‘ annual conference in Washington.

Each served up populist rhetoric that President Obama has helped make a cornerstone of the Democratic platform.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, beckoned the firefighters to join him battling a “war going on against working families.”

Mr. Sanders, a self-described socialist who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate and is considering running for president as a Democrat, proposed expanding union membership, instituting trade policies that protect U.S. jobs, making college more affordable and guaranteeing health care as a legal right.

Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia talked up his Marine combat experience and vowed to use his leadership skills to fight for “true economic fairness” for American’s downtrodden middle class.

“The grand bargain that has been the foundation of our entire society is simple: if you work hard and elect leaders who will insist on a fair chance for you to succeed, you will have a good income and a comfortable way of life,” he said. “This simple concept is now at risk.”

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley channeled George H.W. Bush by blasting Republicans for pursuing “voodoo economics” — a phrase Mr. Bush used in the 1980 presidential campaign against Ronald Reagan. Mr. O’Malley blamed such “voodoo” for income gaps and vowed to restore the American Dream with a pro-union policies.

“To make the dream true again, we must fight for better wages for all workers, so that Americans can live again on what they earn,” he said. “That means raising the minimum wage, expanding eligibility for overtime pay and respecting the rights of all workers to organize.”

The long-shot hopefuls made their appeals at the IAFF’s presidential forum, which included several Republicans who are eyeing a White House run in 2016: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rep. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rep. Peter King of New York, former New York Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush addressed the conference in a prerecorded video.

A day earlier, the conference heard from two other potential Democratic candidates, Vice President Joseph R. Biden and liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

More than any other speaker, Mrs. Warren wowed the crowd with her anti-Wall Street rhetoric and populist rallying cry that has made her the left wing’s dream candidate for 2016.

We all know the Republicans who have their hat in the ring, but it’s interesting to see the Democrats begin to form a field of candidates offering the Hillary-alternative. The fact that Elizabeth Warren attended, despite her constant denials about running for president, may speak louder than her words.

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