IOWA CITY — U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris encouraged young Iowans to use the “power of the people” to take back power from Republican majorities that have created an economy that doesn’t work for working people and a health care system that is neither affordable nor accessible and that elevated a man accused of sexual misconduct to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Elections have consequences,” the California Democrat told an audience of about 500 people, a mix of University of Iowa students and Johnson County Democratic stalwarts, at an early voting rally in Old Brick in Iowa City.
“When you win, you get to make the decisions,” Harris said, “So if they’ve got the power and these are the decisions they make, let’s take back the power.”
Harris, who is seen as a potential candidate for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination, held a series of rallies Monday in central Iowa before visiting the University of Northern Iowa and the UI on Tuesday. She was to cap off her first Iowa visit with a rally at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids.
The first-term senator campaigned for Deidre DeJear, the Democratic secretary of state nominee, and more broadly for all Democratic candidates on the Nov. 6 midterm election ballot.
With control of Congress and state legislatures at stake, Harris said Americans are individually and collectively asking “Who are we?”
“It’s a moment in time requiring us to fight for who we are,” she said. “We will do it because we know we are better than this.”
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Although confident of Democratic victories, Johnson County Democratic Party Chairman Chris Taylor welcomed Harris.
“We’re at that point in the midterm campaign when we can use a shot in the arm to get us over the hump,” he said as he waited for her to speak.
Harris’ appearance and earlier visits by a parade of potential 2020 presidential candidates “helps keep us fired up,” he said.
Whether it’s those appearances or the issues facing voters, Taylor said the level of engagement in Johnson County this campaign cycle has been more like a presidential election than a midterm.
Although her visit is fueling speculation Harris is laying the groundwork for 2020, Taylor said he would like to think her visit was as much about 2018 as it might be about 2020. Although Harris tried to keep the focus on the midterm two weeks away, her campaign said she has made donations of $25,000 to Democratic parties in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — the states with the first presidential primaries and caucuses in 2020.
The former California attorney general raised her national profile during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh with her prosecutorial line of questions and her “nope” response when the roll was called on advancing his nomination to the full Senate.
The website fivethirtyeight.com includes Harris in its “basically running right now” group of potential 2020 candidates. It gave her a score of four based on her plans to publish a book, campaigning for federal candidates, being the subject of a magazine profile and being included in 2020 polls. That compares to a score of seven for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and six for former Vice President Joe Biden.
However, that score was before she visited Iowa and South Carolina.
Harris, 54, who said she’s “not ruling it out” when asked about 2020, has hired Lily Adams, a former Hillary Clinton campaign spokeswoman, as her communications director. She’s also married to Douglas Emhoff, a former senior adviser to the Clinton campaign.
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This fall, Harris said, it’s important for Democrats to “speak the truth ... that racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism is real in this country ... that we have an economy right now that is not working for working people ... that the tax bill gives permanent tax breaks to corporations and only temporary help to working families and ... point out it gives on average a $50,000 a year break to the top 1 percent.”
Harris said it’s interesting that when Democrats point out these truths, some people question their patriotism. There are two kids of patriots, she said. One condones the conduct of the country whatever it does.
“Then there is the kind of patriot who will fight each and every day for the ideals of our country. That’s what this election about,” Harris said.
Years from now when people ask what they did at this critical moment, those who spoke the truth, who voted, will have an answer “bigger and broader than just how we felt.”
“Our answer is going to be what we did,” Harris said. “Our answer is going to be the stand we took. That we spoke up. That we walked outside and got down the road before 3 o’clock,” Harris said, encouraging students to get in line at a satellite voting center in the UI Memorial Union by 3 to vote Tuesday.
Despite the rally and Harris’ urging, poll workers said there was no last-minute surge of voters.
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