Government

Linn County Democrats brave weather to hear candidates

Enough show to fill all delegates slots

HIAWATHA — Once again the weather tested Iowa Democrats.

Just as snow tamped down attendance at the party’s precinct caucuses in February, an early spring snowstorm Saturday challenged party members who gathered for county conventions.

In Linn County, delegates braved snow- and slush-covered roads to hear from candidates — those who could make it — put together a party platform and lay the groundwork for the upcoming primary and general elections.

Linn County Democratic Party Chairman Bret Nilles wasn’t sure what to expect, but found about 40 people at the Hiawatha Kirkwood Center when he arrived Saturday morning.

“I figure if they could make it to the caucuses, they would be here today,” he said. He was right. Enough delegates and alternated made it to fill the party’s 228 delegate slots.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Andy McGuire, who had visited three counties before getting to Linn County, thanked the delegates for making the effort.

“This is how we win. This is how we’re going to make sure we have a Democratic governor, a Democratic House and Democratic Senate so that we can get our ideas out there and take care of people,” McGuire said.

McGuire, a Waterloo native, said that in the Iowa she grew up in, “We cared about people, we cared about our neighbors.” But what she’s hearing now, she said. is people don’t feel their government cares.

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“They feel like they can’t get ahead, they’re not getting a fair shake. They feel like (government) is putting profits ahead of people.” McGuire said. “I want to change that.”

State Sen. Nate Boulton, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, joked that his campaign delivered “plenty unassembled snowmen for us to a put together later.”

A more immediate priority for the delegates was putting together a winning slate of candidates to take control of the governor’s office from Gov. Kim Reynolds and flip the Legislature from red to blue.

“This election is about contesting for power,” John Norris, said another candidate for the Democratic nomination. “It’s about contesting for power against the wealthy, the special interests and the corporate lobbyists who run our government today.

“We have to seize government back from the grip greed has on our politics and government today,” he said.

Boulton, 37, presented himself as a new generation of leaders and spoke of offering a “positive vision forward.”

Iowa and Democrats are having a moment, he said, calling the 2018 election “a fight for the soul of our state.”

“We are in a moment right now where we will determine Iowa’s long-term future,” he said.

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He called on Democrats to stand up for “Iowa values” such as education, protecting natural resources, health care and workers’ rights.

“Those are the things that defined us. It’s who we are and that is what’s on the ballot this year,” he said.

Norris described himself as an “old-fashioned Democrat” who marched with Cesar Chavez for farmworker rights, with the late Sen. Paul Wellstone against the World Trade Organization, who helped organize the Rainbow Coalition, who directed the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition.

“We win as Democrats, we beat wealth and greed and power with people. That’s how we’re going to win this race,” Norris said.

With six candidates on the Democratic June 5 primary election ballot, Norris said the county conventions have added importance this year.

There is speculation that none of the candidates will get 35 percent of the primary vote, and therefore the nominee could be selected at the state convention June 16.

“So the county delegate selection could be, for the first time in the governor’s race, extremely critical,” Norris said.

That’s why McGuire was on the road despite the weather.

“Don’t you want your governor to think about every county?” asked McGuire, who was trying to visit six counties.

The Linn County convention did not form preference groups and that was fine with McGuire.

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“My goal is to have a Democratic governor,” said McGuire, a former state party chairwoman. “Honestly, I always want to make sure that everybody in my campaign sees the goal as a Democratic governor.”

The Norris campaign didn’t push for preference groups, either.

“We’re just telling our folks to run for delegate” for the district and state conventions, he said.

“I feel comfortable going to the state convention with a roomful of uncommitted delegates,” Norris said. “Let them make the best decision of who our best nominee is to beat Reynolds and who they want to lead this state.”

Delegate elected at county conventions represent their counties at the district and state conventions that are April 28 and June 16, respectively.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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