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Bernie Sanders' rural Iowa potluck will go on without the candidate

Vermont senator cancels Lone Tree appearance after heart procedure

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a March campaign rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. The Democratic presidential hopeful had a heart procedure this week, which forced him to cancel planned appearances in Lone Tree and Iowa City this weekend. (Reuters)
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a March campaign rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. The Democratic presidential hopeful had a heart procedure this week, which forced him to cancel planned appearances in Lone Tree and Iowa City this weekend. (Reuters)

The party’s still on even though the surprise guest of honor won’t be able to make it.

Rural Johnson County supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders plan to go ahead with their potluck lunch Sunday even though the Vermont independent has had to cancel because of a health issue.

After experiencing chest discomfort Tuesday, Sanders underwent a test that showed he had blockage in an artery and two stents were inserted, according to his campaign.

“We’re still on. We were never off,” said Julie VanDyke, who lives outside Iowa City in Liberty Township.

The potluck will be from noon to 2 p.m. at the community center in Lone Tree, a town of 1,300 about 15 miles south of Iowa City.

VanDyke and other Sanders supporters planned the potluck during a Sunday afternoon conversation. They decided to get together again and continue their discussion of Sanders and his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

“We had a really amazing talk together,” VanDyke said. “The goal from the start, the focus, was that larger areas had Sanders events, and we wanted a rural-focused one.”

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So plans were made and VanDyke, a member of the Johnson County Democratic Party Central Committee, rented the Lone Tree Community Center.

The Sanders campaign heard about their plans, and the candidate decided to attend.

“We were giddy with excitement,” VanDyke said. A lifelong Democrat, she had never participated in the caucuses until 2016 after she heard Sanders speak at West Branch.

“It was the first time I heard a politician telling me the truth,” she said. “I cried.”

Roger Oullette, a Sanders campaign staffer in Iowa, couldn’t say what dish Sanders planned to bring to the potluck but speculated it would be “heavy with Vermont cheddar cheese.”

The potluck’s organizers hope Sanders will join them when he’s back on the Iowa campaign trail. He’s scheduled to participate in the United Food and Commercial Workers presidential forum Oct. 13 in Altoona.

In addition to missing the Sunday potluck, Sanders pulled out of an Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition forum Saturday in Iowa City. Organizers say the forum will be rescheduled.

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

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