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VAN HORNE — Four Democrats who want to replace U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley stumped for support at Iowa's congressional district conventions Saturday, saying it's time to give the six-term Republican a retirement party.
'We have the opportunity to send Chuck Grassley home to mow his lawn,' Patty Judge of Albia, a former Iowa agriculture secretary and lieutenant governor, said at the 1st Congressional District convention in Van Horne. She was referring to a Grassley campaign ad featuring him operating a combination of lawn mowers at the same time.
The others — state Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids and former state legislators Tom Fiegen of Clarence and Bob Krause of Fairfield — sounded similar themes in their appeals to the delegates, some of whom will go on to the state and national Democratic conventions. The party activists also are among those most likely to vote in the June 7 primary election to nominate a Grassley challenger.
Hogg said he's running 'to do the job and make Congress work again.'
'Sen. Grassley made the decision to become the chief obstructionist in the United States Senate,' Hogg said. 'He needs to either do his job or get out of the way so somebody else can do that job.'
The key to winning in 2016, Fiegen said, is promising 'unconditional loyalty to working people … who are tired of having their hearts broken by Democrats.'
He called on the other candidates to refuse contributions from corporate political action committees.
'A Democrat cannot take corporate PAC money and work for working Americans at the same time,' he said.
The Democratic Party has lost its way, Fiegen said, and has to commit to shared values such as raising the minimum wage, tuition-free college and a guaranteed living wage.
They all acknowledged that defeating Grassley is an uphill battle in large part because of his campaign treasury. Judge said she has the name identification and network of supporters at the state and national level to wage a winning campaign.
For Hogg, the unanimous endorsement of the Iowa Federation of Labor as well as the backing of AFSCME Iowa Council 61 and other unions and labor leaders is a 'huge shot in the arm' in the primary and general election.
In addition to whatever financial support labor provides, he said 'it will continue to magnify the grass-roots enthusiasm for this campaign.'
Krause can't match the millions Grassley has and will raise, but believes social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and 'that universe of things' is how Democrats will beat Grassley.
'You have to use the free stuff,' he said. 'Don't be timid about sharing this stuff with your friends' because reposting and sharing pro-Democratic messages has the 'same true value as a cash contribution.'
He encouraged delegates that when they think about defeating Grassley — 'the fellow that's stopping the Supreme Court nomination, that has voted against women, against working people, that has voted against just about everything that you and I believe in, that you hit the share button.'
Whichever candidate Democrat choose, 'this is going to be one tough race,' Judge said. 'This going to take all hands on deck.'
The convention delegates also heard from 1st District House candidates Pat Murphy of Dubuque and Monica Vernon of Cedar Rapids, who want to challenge first-term Republican Rep. Rod Blum of Dubuque.
'Every day we talk to voters across northeast Iowa about what really matters to them, and events like this are one more opportunity to do that,' Vernon said. She is building a coalition of leading Democrats 'and an overwhelming number of labor unions who have endorsed me because they know that I'm the only Democrat who can beat Blum,' she said.
Murphy, who lost to Blum in 2014, called the convention 'an opportunity to talk to the biggest activists' as well as build the party, not only for the primary election, but the general election in November.
'These are the activists who are going to be involved,' he said.