Nation & World

Kirsten Gillibrand gives 'MeToo'-themed address in Iowa

Capitol Ideas

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat seeking her party’s 2020 presidential nomination, is endorsed Wednesday, April 17, 2019, at a Des Moines event by Kirsten Anderson, (left) a former Iowa Senate Republican staffer who made headlines after filing a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit and receiving a $1.75 million settlement from the state. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat seeking her party’s 2020 presidential nomination, is endorsed Wednesday, April 17, 2019, at a Des Moines event by Kirsten Anderson, (left) a former Iowa Senate Republican staffer who made headlines after filing a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit and receiving a $1.75 million settlement from the state. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Kirsten Gillibrand offered high praise for Iowan Kirsten Anderson and blunt criticism of President Donald Trump during her visit last week to Iowa.

Gillibrand, a U.S. senator from New York and one of 19 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president, delivered a #MeToo-themed address last week in Des Moines.

Gillibrand has been endorsed by Anderson, the former Iowa Senate Republican staff member who said she was fired in 2013 after raising claims of sexual harassment. The state in 2017 settled the case with Anderson for $1.75 million.

During the campaign event in Des Moines, Gillibrand applauded Anderson for her bravery and lambasted Trump. Gillibrand noted the nearly two dozen women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment and accused Trump of demeaning immigrants, transgender people, military service members, the media and others.

“President Trump is somebody who demeans others. He demeans and devalues the vulnerable,” Gillibrand said. “He’s a president who puts his name on every building because he wants us to believe that he is strong. He is not. Our president is a coward, and this country deserves a president who is brave, a president who is strong, a president who does what’s right.”

While the expansive field of Democratic candidates obviously finds little in common with Trump, most of the candidates have not made it a point to spend much time criticizing the president. Some have said the focus should not be on opposing Trump, but on offering Democrats’ vision for the country.

Gillibrand’s statements were among, if not the most, pointed criticisms of Trump that I have heard on the 2020 campaign trail thus far.

“That’s why I’m running against President Trump: because the division, the hate, the fear he has placed on this country is really ripping apart the moral fabric of who we are,” Gillibrand said.

Anderson returned the favor in also describing Gillibrand as brave and said she is “the right candidate.”

“I want you to see what I see in her,” Anderson said. “I want you to give her the time and attention that she deserves because she’s the real deal. She’s what this country needs right now.”

Gillibrand cited as evidence of her willingness to fight the tough fights her votes in the U.S. Senate against the bailout package for banks, her opposition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay people in the military, and her efforts — alongside U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa — to combat sexual assault in the military.

“I believe we need a president who is brave, a president who will do what is right even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard,” Gillibrand said. “The truth is, I do stand up when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.”

The big 2-0

National news reports indicate former Vice President Joe Biden is set to join the race for president this week.

Assuming he jumps in, that will bring the field of Democrats seeking their party’s nomination to an even 20.

And it probably won’t stop there: Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana is giving serious consideration and said he will make a decision after his state’s legislative session ends, which should be soon. And U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado appears likely to make his run official as well.

Once Biden joins the race, he immediately becomes the front-runner. Even though he has withheld his decision to this point, he has led in polling on the race — usually comfortably — in Iowa and nationally.

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Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy

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