Senator Cory Booker will headline the Iowa Democratic Party’s biggest event of the year in early October, the party announced this afternoon. He’s the featured guest for this year’s Fall Gala (formerly known as the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner), which will be held on Saturday, October 6.
It’s the New Jersey senator’s first trip to Iowa this election cycle, and it comes just as Booker’s national profile is larger than ever for his role in the Brett Kavanaugh nomination hearings. Booker drew headlines this week for clashing with Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley and releasing documents on Kavanaugh from the Judiciary Committee that were supposedly confidential. Republican Senator John Cornyn accused Booker of positioning himself for a presidential run; this trip to Iowa will certainly heighten that chatter and speculation.
“The 2018 election is the most important of my lifetime,” Booker said in a press release. “So much is at stake, from the future of healthcare, to whether huge tax breaks and benefits will keep flowing to those at the top at the expense of everyone else, and more. I’ve been traveling all across the country this year to campaign for Democrats and discuss the urgency of this moment, and I’m excited to come to Iowa in October to support an incredible slate of inspiring candidates.”
Booker’s visit will also be one of the first this year from the group of Democrats considered early frontrunners for the 2020 nomination. Iowa has seen no shortage of drop-ins from potential presidential candidates; over 20 White House hopefuls have made over 80 trips to the lead-off caucus state since the 2016 election (see our tracker page for the full list).
But the biggest names in the party, like Booker, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, have largely kept their distance. That’s left some wondering how Iowa may fit into their plans, and led to questions of whether they’re letting other contenders get too much of a head’s start in the state.
This trip from Booker may put pressure on others to consider a trip to Iowa before the election cycle is out, even if it kicks off national presidential run chatter before they’re fully ready for it. Iowa Democrats face crucial races for governor and the Statehouse this year following a complete Republican takeover in 2016, and activists may remember which 2020 hopefuls showed up to help and which didn’t.
“Senator Booker represents a future-driven vision for our party and our nation that has inspired millions,” Iowa Democratic Party chair Troy Price said in a statement. “As we head in to the most grueling weeks of this cycle, we hope that his message will be the fuel Iowa Democrats need to put our candidates over the top in November.”
Though this is his first trip to Iowa, there has been some talk behind the scenes that Booker has been helping out local races financially. Booker also made some campaign trips to Iowa on behalf of Hillary Clinton in 2016, where he was very well-received by local activists.
The IDP’s Fall Gala will also featured gubernatorial nominee Fred Hubbell and his running mate Rita Hart, as well as the rest of the party’s statewide slate of candidates.
by Pat Rynard