DES MOINES — The gathering of 14 presidential hopefuls in Des Moines on Friday night will be the biggest Democratic event until the party’s national convention next summer, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party says.
With the party in the middle of a hotly contested and historically crowded presidential primary, and with 14 of those candidates scheduled to speak, interest is through the roof, Troy Price said.
Roughly 13,000 are expected to attend the annual fall fundraiser at the Wells Fargo Arena, he said.
That’s almost twice as many as the 6,600 who came in 2015 and a 44 percent increase over the 2007 event, which vaulted Barack Obama to a victory in Iowa en route to two terms in the White House.
Based on demand for this year’s event, Price said, he’s convinced the party could have sold another 13,000 tickets.
“It’s the opportunity for us to show the energy in the party,” he said. “That’s what this dinner is designed to highlight — that energy and that excitement.”
The newly named Liberty & Justice Celebration — formerly the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner and Fall Gala — will include the candidates who have been in the first and second tiers of polling in the race.
The event is to be livestreamed on the Iowa Democratic Party’s Facebook page.
With no more major, multiple-candidate events on the calendar between now and the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, Friday night’s event is the last opportunity to address so many potential caucus participants in one room.
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“This dinner is also kind of that starting gun to the finish line,” Price said. “Really, after this dinner, it’s just a mad sprint to the end. ...
“It’s kind of that last moment to have that sort of Obama-esque moment, that John Kerry-esque moment that moves you forward in a way that you weren’t before. ...
“That’s what events like this do, is it gives people an opportunity.”
For Democrats, both locally and with help from their national counterparts, the event also presents an opportunity for them to organize and mobilize and make Iowa a blue state again in 2020.
The national party is working with Iowa Democrats to make the fundraiser a success and has increased monthly funding to Iowa by 33 percent over 2016 to help with organizational efforts.
The idea is to “maximize participation and mobilize Iowans from every background ... while building the general election organizing infrastructure our eventual nominee will need to defeat Donald Trump in 2020,” said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Perez also will be speaking Friday night.
The national party also is using a fund for state party innovation that is paying for caucus accessibility directors and organizers, who will work to make the caucuses more accessible; and community engagement directors, who are mobilizing efforts in the labor and minority communities.
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