The steaks might have been warm at today’s second annual Polk County Democrats Steak Fry, but not much else was. A steady rain began falling on the field at Des Moines’ Water Works Park shortly into the second speaker’s turn on stage. A crowd of over 500 cold and wet souls had dwindled to about 100 by the time the event ended, but overall the Democratic activists seemed to enjoy a day of meeting the party’s statewide ticket and some national names.
Starting Line will do a quick write-up of some of the speeches later today or tomorrow, but for now here’s some of our photos from the day.
Two Democrats with White House ambitions arrived early to flip some steaks and greet activists. Congressman John Delaney of Maryland, who has already announced his 2020 run, was here for his 16th trip to Iowa since 2016. He gave a speech about uniting the country and addressing the technological challenges of the 21st Century.
Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon was making his 6th trip to the lead-off caucus state. He told reporters while flipping steaks that he wanted to deliver a message about opposing Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court while in Iowa. He recently filed a legal challenge to a vote in the Senate on Kavanaugh.
Both men donned the traditional aprons to attend to their cooking duties. Local and international press were on hand to interview everyone.
Delaney brought his own bus to the event. Staffers were hopeful it would not get stuck in the mud.
And Fred Hubbell unveiled his own brand new campaign bus at the event.
Senator Rita Hart kicked off the day’s speeches with her most forceful and rallying cry yet of the campaign, referencing her nephew Tucker, who has been featured in Hubbell’s ads about Medicaid privatization.
Hubbell reiterated many of the same themes he’s hit throughout his campaign, bashing Governor Kim Reynolds on her handling of the budget and Medicaid. Afterwards, he and Hart held a short press conference with reporters.
The Steak Fry attracts many Democratic activists from around Iowa and the country. One man flew in from Colorado, treating it as a “political tourism” weekend. Various issue groups set up tents at the event, including labor unions, women’s rights groups, minimum wage organizations and climate change activists.
The rain drove many people back under the tents, but most stuck it out through the coldest day yet of the Fall season in Iowa.
The entire statewide ticket was on hand. Many of them gave their usual stump speeches. The challenger candidates drew loud cheers from the crowd. Rob Sand reiterated his pledge to subpoena the Medicaid Managed Care Organizations. Deidre DeJear rallied the crowd to drag their friends and neighbors out to the polls. Tim Gannon discussed the damages that Donald Trump’s trade war that was started on Twitter caused.
Congressman Dave Loebsack and all three Democratic congressional challengers addressed the crowd. Abby Finkenauer joked about the rain and Congressman Rod Blum’s recent spate of scandals, saying, “Now I know how Rod Blum feels: when it rains, it pours.”
Finally, the four keynote speakers took the stage. Delaney pitched his 2020 vision, followed by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Seattle, who gave perhaps the most impressive speech of the day. She spoke of her immigrant story to America, her opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination and her belief that Democrats’ progressive stances on things like Medicare-for-all is more in the center of what Americans actually believe.
Alyssa Mastromonaco, a former top official in the Barack Obama White House, recalled her first visit to the Harkin Steak Fry in 2006 with then-Senator Obama. She’s written a New York Times best-selling book and is well-known in Democratic circles from her work with the Pod Save America network of podcasts.
And Merkley ripped into the nomination process surrounding Kavanaugh, as well as laying out a vision for America that would reverse Republican policies in recent years and find solutions on healthcare, climate change and economic inequality.
by Pat Rynard