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In Iowa campaign debut, Deval Patrick pledges to prioritize climate change response

Latest entrant in Democratic presidential field visits flood-affected areas in Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS — Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick kicked off his campaign in Cedar Rapids on Monday for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination by promising to “run myself ragged” in the 77 days before the Iowa caucuses.

At the same time, Patrick, who announced his candidacy Thursday, indicated he’s not focused only on Iowa, where there is “an expectation that you’re going to shake the hands of most of the candidates.”

“There are lots of parts of the country where that expectation is not there. They also deserve attention paid, and they also need to be made to feel important,” Patrick said.

Patrick will respect the political tradition of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses this campaign cycle, he said when asked if he would join other Democratic candidates in pledging to keep Iowa first.

“I’m sort of dodging your question,” he said, explaining, “I’m not interested in being president of the Iowa caucuses. I’m trying to be president of the United States.”

However, many of the things people in Cedar Rapids worry about are the same as what worries voters in South Carolina, Massachusetts and elsewhere, he added.

Among those worries is climate change, which Patrick, 63, said would be his priority as president.

“We’re already late to climate change. The question is whether we are too late and if we continue to delay we will be too late,” he said while discussing the issues with a handful of people at Sykora Bakery in Czech Village, which was flooded by 8.5 feet of water during the 2008 flood.

Later, state Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who has engaged 15 candidates in “climate conversations, led Patrick on a walking tour of the flood-affected area.

“We’re not talking about an inconvenience. We’re talking about the survival of humankind,” Patrick said.

Phil Engen of Cedar Rapids hopes he’s serious.

Engen is with Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which is advocating for the Carbon Dividend Act — a carbon tax, possibly — to engage market forces in addressing climate change.

“Obviously, this is a new campaign, but I hope that he fleshes out his position,” he said.

Not everyone was excited to see Patrick join the race.

“I’m looking for less candidates,” said Steve Hanken, who didn’t know Patrick would be there when he stopped by the bakery. A Monticello Democrat backing U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Hanken is skeptical that any other candidate has the same commitment to his priority — health care.

Buzz Pounds agreed there’s no need for another candidate in the party’s nomination contest. However, as the new chairman of the Delaware County Democratic Party, he was there to check out Patrick.

“I’ve got to represent my county (because) he’s not going to be in Delaware County tomorrow,” he said.

After his Cedar Rapids flood resistance tour, Patrick met with Polk County Democrats in Des Moines.

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

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