Betsy DeVos tells Iowa caucus Republicans 'freedom itself' is on the ballot

It’s not just President Donald Trump on the presidential ballot this year, his secretary of education told a Republican crowd in Cedar Rapids.

“Make no mistake, what makes America great is on the ballot this year. Freedom itself is on the ballot this year,” Betsy DeVos warned a crowd of more than 200 caucus goers at Butcher Block Steakhouse Monday evening. “A self-avowed Socialist may well win the other party’s caucus here in Iowa tonight — let that sink in for a moment.”

DeVos was one among more than 80 Trump surrogates the president’s campaign deployed to Republican caucus sites across Iowa, in what the Wall Street Journal reported was intended to be “an ambitious show of force.”

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The education secretary regaled the crowd with a list of Trump policy highlights, with mixed results. Caucusgoers whooped over Trump’s more than 180 judicial appointments but applauded more tepidly when reminded of the president’s “huge tax cuts that got the government off the backs of the middle class.”

Of the 211 Republican caucusgoers at the steakhouse, representing five Cedar Rapids and one Robins precinct, 203 voted for Trump. Four attendees supported Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, three supported “other” candidates and one supported former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh.

At a Republican caucus at North Linn High School in Coggon, 42 ballots were cast and 42 votes were for Trump.


While no one spoke on behalf of a presidential candidate, Republican Rep. Louie Zumbach, House District 95, advocated for Rep. Ashley Hinson for Congress. Hinson is running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenaur.

“I’ve worked with Ashley Hinson and Abby Finkenauer in the Iowa House,” Zumbach said. “Both are nice young ladies. Ashley is there every day, dedicated and is a real hard worker. I know she’d appreciate your support in being your next congresswoman.”

Matt Ward, 52, a farmer from Walker, said he’s caucusing for Trump because “he’s the president, so I have to support him.”

Ward voted for Trump in 2016, and said the president is fulfilling his promises.

“He’s doing what he said he would get done,” Ward said. “He worked on boarder security. He talked about the economy, and he’s done great with that.”

Over the years Ward has brought his four sons caucusing with him. Monday, two of them joined him at the Republican caucus.

“I want to get them involved. Give them an idea of how the process works,” Ward said.

Jerry Schipley, 58, an electrical engineer at Collins Aerospace from Central City, caucused for Trump Monday night because he thinks he’s done a “fantastic job” with the economy.

Schipley said none of the other Republican candidates are “legit.” A 15-year Iowa resident, he said he thought about not caucusing Monday, but decided it was too important not to come.

At Mount Vernon High School, 46-year-old Hy-Vee delivery driver Kyle Telecky caucused for Trump, saying he likes what the president has done when it comes to anti-abortion policies, including his participation in the March for Life rally and his choices for judges — in particular U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.


“He’s been willing to take some hard stances and stick with them,” Telecky said. “He’s kept a lot of promises and really stood his ground. I feel like he’s an outsider, as someone who had never been elected to any office. ... It was interesting to see an outsider go to Washington.”

Fewer than 10 Johnson County Republicans had signed into the GOP caucus at Coralville City Hall Monday night. One was Keith Kauten, 59, an insurance adjuster and aerial surveyor from Coralville.

He plans to vote for President Donald Trump in November, but wanted to come out to share his view on the Republican platform.

“This is more to kind of hear about the issues that are near and dear to my heart,” Kauten said.

Student loan forgiveness is Kauten’s priority. He knows Republicans are in the minority in Johnson County, but he thinks the GOP could win over more Eastern Iowans by supporting mainstream issues such as student loan forgiveness.

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