‘Passport to Victory 2020’ tour in Cresco
Fri, 06/14/2019 - 5:19pm admin
Sara Stromseth-Troy TPD Staff
A crowd of nearly 300 gathered at the Heritage Events Center in Cresco last Saturday afternoon for the Iowa First District Democrats’ Passport to Victory 2020 tour, a marathon 4-1/2-hour event featuring Presidential candidates and other down ticket Democratic candidates.
Presidential candidates speaking at the event included Amy Klobuchar, senior United States Senator from Minnesota; Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City; John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Also speaking at Passport to Victory 2020 were U.S. Senate candidate Kimberly Graham, U.S. Senate Candidate Eddie Mauro, Congresswoman of Iowa’s First District, Abby Finkenauer and J.D. Scholten, a candidate for Iowa's 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House who nearly beat incumbent U.S. Representative Steve King. Andy McKean, the longest-serving member of the Iowa GOP before changing his party affiliation to Democrat this year, also spoke.
Iowa Democratic Party First District Central Committee Chairwoman Catherine Crist welcomed the crowd.
“Welcome to Cresco, Iowa and our inaugural Passport to Victory 2020 event,” she said. “We wanted to break our first district into five regions according to four to five counties each and one of the ideas was that we could arrange events like this with several counties together to host these events. We could introduce Iowans to the presidential candidates for the Democratic Party and our down ballot candidates. You have the opportunity to meet and learn from these candidates and the candidates can hear from you, as well.”
Howard County Democratic Chairwoman Laura Hubka was next to speak.
“I have been working very hard to do something here that represents the rural Democrat. We do exist and that we are here and working and we are doing everything we can to make sure we have Democrats in office that stand for every value we have.”
Following is a sampling of remarks from Abby Finkenauer, Amy Klobuchar, Bill de Blasio, John Hickenlooper and Pete Buttigieg, respectively:
Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer remarks
Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, who has served Iowa's First Congressional District since 2019, said, “Look at this room: This is exactly what someone needs after spending a week in Washington, D.C.”
“So many didn’t think it was possible for Iowa to elect a Democratic woman to the US House of Representatives. Our friends across the first district said otherwise and our friends across the third district said otherwise. Because you sent Cindy Axne to that U.S. House as the first Congresswomen from Iowa, we’ve been able to have your backs every single day and we are just getting started.
“We have been fighting for our friends and neighbors who were devastated by the flooding in Iowa a few months ago. I wanted to go to Washington, D.C. to get something done and step up for folks who need it and who deserve it.”
Finkenauer said Iowa values are what draws her to her work.
“That is why we are there. It is not about politics; it is about the values we grew up with in Iowa. It’s about the idea that if you work hard, you can make it. That is what we were taught and that is what we were promised but that is what has gotten harder and harder year after year. We have literally brought the voices of Iowa to Washington, where they had been ignored for years.
“Our state has been taking the brunt of this trade War started on Twitter over a year ago by this administration. It has been heartbreaking to watch. People were told to wait, told there would be a little pain for a lot of gain. Here we are with a lot of pain, no gain and folks telling me they are dipping into their 401k’s, telling their children not to go into farming because they are worried about their future.”
Finkenauer said a friend of hers told her she looked a little mad.
“I said, ‘I am a little mad and worried and concerned.’ To do this job right, I am going to do this job a little bit mad, to know what we are fighting for and at the same time, have hope that we can change it and that we can make our country and our state better. You are all folks who give me that hope every single day, so thank you.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar remarks
“I always say I can see Iowa from my front porch. I am your Senator Next Door, as I say in my book. I have watched what has happened here; I have been out here for those incredibly sad state losses but I have seen the emergence of these new leaders across your state and I see the potential. I know it doesn’t start at the top but it starts the way Tom Harkin and Paul Wellstone ran their races: It starts at the grassroots up.”
Klobuchar described her upbringing:
“I have grit; I come from a humble background. My grandpa was an iron ore miner; my mom was a teacher and my dad was a newspaperman. They were proud union members and I wouldn’t be standing here today without education and without people who wanted to invest in our country. I wouldn’t be standing here today without that sense of community. I was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in the state of Minnesota and a candidate for president of the United States. That would not have happened without a community of people who had my family’s back. We have a guy in the White House who literally tries to fracture that community every single day, with every single Tweet. He goes after immigrants; he goes after people of color; he goes after people in his own party when he doesn’t agree with him; he goes after people in our party. So when we go around Iowa and we talk to people, their eyes are opening and it’s not just Democrats.”
She continued, “I am blunt, honest and to the point and I think we need some of that in Washington, D.C. One of the issues I think we need to deal with is climate change, up front and center. As your president, on day one I will sign us back into the International Climate Change Agreement. We need to take on the issues of income equality with a higher minimum wage. We made it clear we have to stand up to these pharmaceutical companies, who have been increasing prescription drug prices at astronomical rates. We have people who used to get insulin for $18 a vial. Now it is $1200 a month. Pharma may think they own Washington with their two lobbyists for every member of Congress. They don’t own me.”
“We believe in rural America. Think of what this country brought to the world: Norman Borlaug, who fed the world and brought science to the world and thought we could do a better job. You know what else you brought the world? Two leaders in the Granger Movement: Farmers from Iowa and Minnesota who stood up and said, ‘We are sick of everything going so big. We want to be able to afford our crops, to do things in our way as small businesses.’ We are now reaching a new gilded age in America and that is why I am leading the effort in Congress, with the leading antitrust bill to change the standards because there is such a thing as ‘too big’ and we need to make sure everyone has a chance.”
Klobuchar said she doesn’t get depressed despite her concerns regarding the current administration.
“I am someone that has been an underdog in every single one of my races and every single one of them, I have won. We are going to do this the right way in this campaign. We have to win this; we have to unite our party and bring people together. I am not going to stop working until I get to every single county in this state. I think that’s what grassroots politics is about.”
Addressing a question from the audience regarding her foreign policy plans, she said:
“We must stand with our allies; we cannot go it alone. I believe we should not be coddling dictators. We need to get backup paper ballots back in every state in this country. When I am President, I will negotiate us back into the Iran Agreement. That is the right thing to do for peace in the world, along with the International Climate Change Agreement.” Finally, we need to modernize our military. The number one thing we get briefed about all of the time is cyber attacks. We need to have a foreign policy that looks forward and not backwards.”
Bill de Blasio remarks
“My wife Chirlane and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and she is leading the way in the city of New York but also around the country on the question of mental health. Iowans know plenty about this question because your Republican governors have set back this state on mental health so terribly. When you get to know the First Lady of New York City, you will hear her passion on fighting for a day when mental health issues are not stigmatized; people are respected and can get the help they need and that is what we’re doing in New York.”
“Do you think people are working longer hours? Have there been times in your family’s life where it is hard to make ends meet and hard to pay the bills? Do you ever feel life has gotten more stressful? The problem is that America is not working for working people right now. For so many people, they are working very hard but they aren’t getting the fruits of their labor. What is happening is working people don’t get their fair share because of the policies of the federal government. The wealthy get wealthier because the federal government helps them every step along the way. I believe we can have a country that is fair to working people. To do that, we are going to have to invest in people, schools, infrastructure, affordable housing, to put money into the hands of working people. I always have one critic or pundit who gets up and says, ‘You can’t do that.’ Here is what I say to that: ‘There is plenty of money in this country; it’s just in the wrong hands.”
“In New York, we have had a constant policy of supporting working people. We get Pre-Kindergarten for free to every family in New York City. We gave paid sick days to our working people. This next one is controversial: I looked at the fact that hundreds of thousands of people in my city have no health insurance and no place to go when they are sick until they go the emergency room. So, we made a bold decision; we now guarantee healthcare for all New Yorkers. If you don’t have insurance, you will get a health care card and not only be able to go to public health care clinics and public hospitals but you will be assigned a primary care doctor; a person who will be there for you when you get sick. You go to the doctor. You go and get well. Isn’t that what everyone deserves? My last example is unheard of. There are millions of people who work and never get a day off. We’re passing legislation this year mandating that all working people two weeks’ paid vacation.” All of these changes have happened in the biggest, toughest most diverse city in this nation and it’s changing lives. It could happen for our whole nation and it should.”
De Blasio said that, as a New Yorker, he had watched Donald Trump for decades prior to his becoming President.
“I’m a New Yorker; I’ve watched this guy for decades. We all knew about the schoolyard bully. The bully got away with things if no one confronted him. The way to deal with bullies is to confront them and show them we aren’t afraid. In New York, he said if we didn’t change our approach to immigrant New Yorkers, that he would take away our security funding. My city is the number one target of terrorists in the United States of America. The President of the United States said he would take away the money we have used to protect people from terrorism unless we ask immigrants their documentation status. I said and my police commissioner said there is no way in the world we are going to ask people their documentation status. If we do, they will never report a crime; they will never be a witness; they will never come forward to help police in the fear it could lead to their deportation. My answer to President Trump was, ‘What you are doing is wrong; it is unconstitutional; I will see you in court and we will beat you.’ We beat him. His game is up; he has tried to con too many times. Working people really want something different. They want to feel the country’s fair. They want to feel it belongs to everyone again. I am running for President for my children; for your children and working families.”
John Hickenlooper remarks
“I am running for President because Donald Trump is fueling a national crisis of division that is moving this country backwards. We live in a country where the sick and elderly have to swallow increases in their premiums and drug costs. We live in a country where the young have to take on a mountain of debt to get a four-year degree. While Donald Trump may get a lot of lip service, we still live in a country where opioid addiction devastates families and towns. We live in a country where a woman’s right to choose is being taken away. For some women in some states and rural areas, that right is already essentially gone. Beating Donald Trump is absolutely essential, but it is not sufficient. We have to address the divisions that are tearing this country apart and we have to tackle the kitchen table challenges facing Americans. We have to go to communities like Cresco where people might not always agree with us but we have to listen. I never persuaded anyone to change their minds on anything that matters by telling them why they were wrong and I was right. The only way to make those connections is to listen.”
He continued, “We have to say loudly and clearly what we stand for and what we do not. I’m not trying to rile anyone up, but Socialism isn’t the answer. We should not try to achieve universal health coverage by removing private insurance from 160 million people. We should not try to tackle climate change by guaranteeing a government job for every American. In Colorado, I worked with non-profits and businesses, with Democrats and Republicans, and together we achieved near-universal health care coverage and created the number-one economy in the country for the last three years. I am an entrepreneur, a mayor, a governor. I think I am the only one running who has actually done the things the others are talking about.”
A former geologist, Hickenlooper talked about his own bout with being laid off and having to change careers.
“In the recession in the mid-80s, the profession of geology just about disappeared for a few years. When our company was sold in 1986, we all got laid off and I lost not only my job but my profession. I was out of work for almost two years and I can tell you, after six or eight months you begin to see a different person in the mirror. You don’t have the same confidence and resilience you might have had before. These are the same seeds that created the frustration that built the anger that elected Donald Trump.
“After I was laid off, I was lucky; I started a restaurant that brewed its own beer in a forgotten part of Denver. Rent at that time was only $1 per square foot per year. It still took us a year and-a-half to raise the money. My mother would not invest. I went to the other restaurants and worked together to change our chances. Soon, we started transforming that abandoned neighborhood into one of the national models of urban revitalization. As an entrepreneur, I created 20 businesses and over 1,000 jobs. I learned that real entrepreneurs measure their success by not how often they say, ‘You’re fired’ but how often they say, ‘You’re hired.’”
“In 2003, some of my customers talked me into running for mayor. No one thought I could possibly win, but I got 65 percent of the vote and won in a landslide. We got 34 different mayors; two thirds of them Republicans, to support Fast Tracks, the most ambitious transit initiative in modern American history. We became the first city in the nation to offer universal Pre-Kindergarten and we passed major police reform 10 years before Ferguson all the while eliminating that massive deficit; the worst budget crisis that Denver had ever had.
“In 2010, I ran for governor and I became the first Denver mayor to be elected governor in Colorado in 120 years. We produced a progressive change that Washington fails to deliver. Today, everyone in Colorado’s 64 counties has Broadband (Internet). Colorado has near-universal health coverage and we have saved a dozen rural hospitals from closure. Colorado now has the number-one economy in the country and two-thirds of Colorado’s rural county ranked in the top quarter of employment growth. The interesting thing is we didn’t get any of these by applying ideological litmus tests. I took a pragmatic approach. We didn’t demonize the private sector and above all else, we focused on building state that would work for everyone, in urban areas and in rural areas as well. As President, I will take that same approach. I will not be just a dreamer, but a doer; not just a progressive but a pragmatist. When I am President, we will have the largest investment in rural broadband in the nation’s history and we won’t stop there. We will support construction and renovation of historic buildings as community buildings in small towns across the country. When I’m President, we will ban advertising for addictive painkillers so we can finally end this opioid crisis. We will supercharge our rural economic development. When I am president, we will not have a tariff war. I believe in fair trade. When I am President, we will create the largest expansion of community colleges and skill-based training in the history of this country. When I am President, we will declare healthcare is a right, not a privilege. We will tackle climate change head-on and we will protect a woman’s right to control her own body.”
Pete Buttigieg remarks
“I think the Heartland is going to bring a lot of the answers as to what has to change in this country. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of the idea that the Democratic party somehow can’t win in rural or Midwestern America. I think a lot about what it is going to take in order to win and what it is going to take in order to deserve to win and I think it’s the same thing: I think the answer is that our campaigns be grounded in our values.’
It’s a troubling sign that when a lot of people hear ‘values’, they think about the Right, as though values is only something that happen on the other side of the aisle. Take freedom: I would insist that freedom is not a conservative value; it’s an American value. After all, how can they say they are for freedom when they stand in the way of health care? When you’re not free, the health care stops you from being able to live a life of your choosing. You’re not free if you are unable to organize a good day’s pay for a good day’s work. Respect for freedom requires all of us, especially the men in the race, to stand up for women’s reproductive freedom. So, we’re not going to let them say ‘freedom’ is just a property of the Republican Party any more than patriotism belongs on one side of the aisle. When I went overseas, the flag that was on my uniform was not a Republican flag or a Democratic flag; it was the flag of the United States of America.
He continued, “God does not belong to a political party. I want to say very strongly that anybody who holds office and anybody who seeks office ought to speak for people of any religion and people of no religion equally and honor the separation of church and state. I also believe there is nothing wrong about being transparent about where our values come from. I don’t know about you but when I am in church I hear an awful lot about protecting the marginalized, lifting up the downtrodden, healing the sick, welcoming the stranger, walking in humility and decency. These are American values. If you take these values seriously, sometimes they require you to look at policies that are considered progressive but are also widely popular among the American people. The majority of Americans are with us on the issues.”
Buttigieg said, “I’m running for president in what is obviously and admittedly not a natural career move for a 30-something Midwestern mayor. I believe we are living in one of these moments in history that only comes along once or twice in a lifetime; one of these moments where an election is going to decide how an entire era unfolds. The next three or four years will set the tone for the next 30 or 40 and decide how Democrats and Republicans run for office and for government. The beginning of the New Deal was such a moment; the election of Ronald Reagan was such a moment. It’s anybody’s guess what’s next. If it’s hard to make sense of what is going on around us, if the moment we live in is hard to read it’s because we are living on one of those blank pages between chapters in the American story. I believe moments like that call for us to do something very different than what we have done before.”
In the Question and Answer segment, a man discussed how his husband, a veteran, was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and he found it difficult to get him the help he needed. He asked how, as someone who was in the military, Buttigieg would fix the Veterans Affairs system.
Buttigieg responded, “Thank you for speaking up for your husband and thank you for serving. Thank you for naming what’s going on. Part of the problem with mental health therapy in this country; part of the problem of why it is taking longer than it should to address PTS is that people are hesitant to talk about it. I know there is some measure of courage required, even today, to bring that up. There are two overlapping sets of problems here: We need to change the whole framework of how we think about the VA as a gift or favor to veterans to that it is no more or less than America keeping a promise. Some of the veterans aren’t even accessing the services to which they are entitled. Many are confronted with the confusing bureaucracy or can’t get the provider they need. Part of this is an issue of mental health care, even in the VA, which is better than many systems, not being where it needs to be. Part of it is regional; some have to go a long way to travel to get care.”
The veteran in question in the audience then spoke up and said he had to travel 2-1/2 hours to the program he attended, which saved his life. He said it is only one of three such programs in the country and that it takes in 150 veterans at a time. He asked, ‘How do we be okay with taking care of the contract we made with the people to support our democracy? We want to work and be a part of the solution; we veterans. There are a lot of intellectual people in this program, fighting the monster (PTSD) but wanting to do something for our country and continue to serve.”
Buttigieg said, “One of the reasons the world knows as much as it does about traumatic brain injury and PTS is because of the VA. We just don’t have the resources and commitment to make sure everybody is getting treated. People don’t just go there hoping to be taken care of, they hope to be treated so they continue to contribute. Instead of talking about veterans like a problem we need to take care of, we have to talk about veterans like people we need to be competing over; our communities are trying to attract more veterans. I just want to say something, because it wasn’t that long ago you couldn’t say something like this. It feels pretty good to be able to say, ‘Thank you for your service and Happy Pride in the same breath.’”
The audience then gave the veteran and his husband a standing ovation.