Iowa Democrats hold low-key convention

Familiar themes, few disputes at gathering in Des Moines

Iowa’s Democrats struck familiar themes about the government safety net, workers’ rights, a turning economy and the middle class at their state convention in downtown Des Moines on Saturday.

“I believe in small towns; I believe in small cities,” former Iowa first lady and congressional candidate Christie Vilsack told an adoring crowd that held up her red-and-white campaign signs as she spoke. “I see my job as representative to create layers and layers and layers of economic opportunity.”

Vilsack is challenging Rep. Steve King of Kiron for the 4th Congressional District seat.

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, who moved into Iowa City to keep the 2nd Congressional District seat, said his family was on welfare, at times, when he was growing up. He promised he would “never vote to privatize Social Security.” He faces a challenge from Republican John Archer of Bettendorf.

But the Democratic Party convention was notable not as much for what happened in the hall, but for what didn’t.

Iowa’s Democrats ran a genteel event compared to the convention put on by their Republican counterparts, as pro-Mitt Romney and pro-Ron Paul delegates battled with heckling and acrimony a convention hall over.

Meanwhile, the loudest arguments in the more subdued convention came as Democrats debated whether the party should keep a word limit on its party platform planks (it did) and whether it should adopt a statement of principles that was more critical of the Republican Party than the current one (it didn’t).

Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky told the crowd of more than 560 Democratic county delegates gathered at Veterans Memorial Auditorium that the GOP arguments could be, and should be, used as a Democrat talking point between now and Election Day, Nov. 6.

“There’s pushing, there’s shoving and there might have been some booing,” Dvorsky said, reporting on the Republican convention taking place at Hy-Vee Hall. “This is the picture and it’s the story we want to tell our independent friends and neighbors ... they don’t want to be involved in a junior high brawl.”

Sharon Seckman, a county delegate and state representative from

Mason City, said the Democrats don’t have the divisions the Republicans do.

“We are on the same page. I think everyone agrees with what we’re saying about not a handout, but a hand up,” Seckman said. “The Republican Party, right now, they’re kind of at odds with each other. You saw it in the House; in the House it would take them forever to agree on something.”

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