"Make America America again": photos, highlights from Iowa Democrats' fall gala

Everyone could have guessed Alec Baldwin would get Iowa Democrats laughing with jokes at President Donald Trump’s expense.

But who would have predicted the serious part of the actor’s speech would evoke an even stronger response from the crowd?

Follow me after the jump for audio and highlights from Baldwin’s remarks and those of the seven Democratic candidates for governor, along with Stefanie Running‘s photographs from a memorable evening in Des Moines.

Attendance on November 27 was by far the largest I’ve seen at the event formerly known as the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in any year that didn’t immediately precede the Iowa caucuses. The Iowa Democratic Party sold more than 1,800 tickets for dinner tables and approximately 1,100 more tickets for the packed bleacher section.

THE HEADLINER

Normally, I cover a string of political speeches in the order in which they were delivered. I’m starting with the closer this time, because Baldwin electrified the crowd. Here’s the full audio, which ran a little under 30 minutes.

Baldwin began by playing professor “of advanced Trumpology and abnormal psychology,” welcoming students to Trump University. The school has “two stringent requirements for matriculation”: 1) students write checks made out to Donald Trump personally, and 2) the checks clear. He hoped everyone had completed the assigned reading for the summer: The Art of the Deal, the “biographies of show business legends Chuck Woolery and Danny Bonaduce, as well as an abridged version of the United States Constitution that doesn’t include the First, Fourteenth, and Twenty-Fifth Amendments.”

Baldwin made a few announcements about the Fall 2017 course catalog: “Professor Flynn will be taking a sabbatical this year.” In his place, Paul Manafort will be teaching “con law”–“con is not an abbreviation for anything.” Students are free to drop by “for a one-on-one conversation with Professor Pence,” “unless you’re gay or a woman, in which case Professor Pence is unavailable until the end of time.”

Others on the faculty include Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Environmental Protection Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be teaching a class, he just can’t remember which one.” Special note: Judge Roy Moore’s class “Hair and Make-up Tips for Teens” has been moved from the local mall.

Baldwin then commenced delivering his lecture, “What I learned from trying to get inside Donald Trump’s head.” “The process has affected me so deeply it has actually rewired my brain.” The “essence of Trump” comes bursting out at unexpected moments, especially when he is tired and cranky. “When this is over, I’d like to donate my brain to science, if we still have science.”

Switching between his regular voice and his Trump impression, Baldwin took the audience on a tour of “Trump’s brain, a world without synonyms.” (Everything becomes “fantastic” when the president reaches for a word he hasn’t used in a long time and fails to find it.) The way Trump walks “clearly reminds us of those debilitating heel spurs that kept him from serving his country.”

Wrapping up the Trumpology lecture, Baldwin proceeded to read a fake letter from the president, in Trump’s voice. “Jefferson Jackson was a great man. People are hearing more and more about him these days.” He “never touched those kids, and even if he did,” we could elect him to the United States Senate.

“Many people are saying” this is the biggest crowd ever at this event, “and it’s all because of me,” Trump boasted. He trashed Alec Baldwin as not funny, “a loud, obnoxious, no-talent tv star,” adding that he’s always been very nice and very fair to the actor. The Iowa Democrats should have invited his younger brother, though–“Everyone knows Stephen Baldwin is the best Baldwin.” He wrapped up the letter by thanking the “electoral college losers.”

About ten minutes into the speech, Baldwin shifted gears to talk about the party we care about and the country we love, which “is in deep trouble.” His father was a public school teacher in Long Island, a classic Kennedy Democrat. Baldwin recalled canvassing for Jimmy Carter in 1976, volunteering for Carter and Walter Mondale in 1980 and 1984, and attending the Democratic National Convention in 1988. Baldwin traveled all of Massachusetts in 1994 to campaign for Senator Ted Kennedy, who was facing a tough challenge from Mitt Romney.

He helped publicize a voter registration drive in Florida in 2000, only to see “hanging chads and a Supreme Court decision” install George W. Bush in the Oval Office. He wept when Barack Obama won in 2008, and turned his focus to advocating for the arts rather than politics.

The 2016 election result shocked Baldwin and so many other Democrats (myself included). Maybe Russian hacking and an “anemic” Hillary Clinton campaign contributed to the result, Baldwin speculated. But ultimately, “I only have myself to blame.” Democrats lost more than 900 state legislative seats during Obama’s presidency. “We just didn’t work hard enough.” To turn things around, it’s not enough to slap “a new label, new and improved,” on the party.

Then the spotlight went off Baldwin for a while, as the first two minutes of this Saturday Night Live “message from the DNC” played on the large screens:

Maybe that sketch was “funny because it’s true,” Baldwin commented. “We’ve got to revitalize our farm team, strengthen our triple-A ball teams. […] Ten years ago, future president Barack Obama spoke at this dinner. […] Maybe a future Democratic president is in this room tonight.”

Baldwin pulled out his best Bill Clinton impression to share some of the former president’s advice: “impeaching this guy’s not the answer. We need to get back on our message, we need to keep reminding people that what we have to offer is better for the American people than what they have to offer. We need to tell them what we stand for.”

Turning his attention to Iowa politics, Baldwin urged the audience to pledge right now to support whichever candidate for governor wins the Democratic primary, name-checking all of the Congressional candidates and those running for statewide office too. “What unites us is so much more than what divides us.”

Democrats love to hate the Koch brothers, and Baldwin is no exception. “Here in Iowa, the Kochs backed 21 candidates for the state House and nine for the Senate […] Take the Koch money out of Iowa,” you’d have a different state. Take the Koch money out of our national elections, “we’d have a different country.”

The crowd responded enthusiastically as Baldwin ticked off more Democratic stands on energy policy and health care, calling Republican efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act “ridiculous,” “offensive,” and “inhumane.”

Baldwin bashed Iowa Republicans for putting public schools “on a starvation diet,” reducing funds for higher education, and taking away a longstanding tax deduction for teachers. Although we should not vilify people who have made a lot of money, we should not let billionaires write off their private jets when teachers can’t write off school supplies. On so many issues–infrastructure investment, an equitable tax code, net neutrality–“Democrats are builders and Republicans are destroyers.”

Striking a more optimistic note, Baldwin said Democrats “were once the champions of the working class, and we will be again.” We can remind people that we are the party of FDR, JFK, Clinton, Obama, the party that cares about opportunity for every American. He recalled recent Democratic victories in Virginia and an Oklahoma state Senate special election.

I could hardly hear Baldwin talk about defeating GOP Representatives Rod Blum, David Young, and Steve King, because the crowd was so engaged by that point. Baldwin asked every Democrat to “drag 80 people to the polls” next year, put out a sign, knock on doors.

He then reflected on the time he has spent playing Trump on Saturday Night Live. “I’ve got a lot of conflicting feelings about that.” Many people thank him for it, but some have suggested that this president is “beyond the bounds of humor.” Maybe the show’s treatment of Trump “normalizes things that shouldn’t be normalized,” like the “daily assault on civility, on decency, and women. […] We laugh at things that shouldn’t be laughed at. […] We forget things that should never be forgotten.”

Baldwin promised, “I am ready to fight” to help Democrats win in 2018. He will make phone calls, he will knock on doors. He’ll come back to Iowa, maybe for the steak fry (“pecan pie on me”), because “It is my dream to never, ever” have to get into the mind of Donald Trump again. “Let’s send Trump to retirement in Moscow where he belongs!”

Most of the crowd were on their feet by the time Baldwin closed out the speech with an instant classic: “we all have an important role to play, and that is to make America America again.”

When the Iowa Democratic Party announced Baldwin was coming to Des Moines, some people questioned whether a celebrity headliner was the right choice for an event that draws some of Iowa’s biggest political junkies. I doubt anyone left the venue disappointed.

THE ATMOSPHERE

Before organizers opened up the main hall, hundreds of Democrats caught up with friends or spun scenarios about the various competitive primaries. Stefanie Running captured the upbeat mood.

As was the case at the party’s Hall of Fame event in July, the Nate Boulton and Fred Hubbell campaigns brought the largest contingents. Several hundred supporters of each candidate were waving sticks or wearing t-shirts.

The Isiserettes were on hand again for Hubbell.

Among the other gubernatorial candidates, Cathy Glasson had the largest and noisiest group of supporters, mostly in the bleachers. Some of Andy McGuire’s backers carried eye-catching lighted signs. I saw some people wearing John Norris t-shirts or stickers; he had said at his campaign’s pre-event reception that they planned to win the primary through talking to voters, not “manufactured excitement.”

THE CANDIDATES FOR GOVERNOR

Soon after Iowa Democratic Party chair Troy Price kicked off the program, the seven Democrats running for governor each got about five minutes to speak. From left to right in this photo: Boulton, Glasson, Hubbell, McGuire, Jon Neiderbach, Norris, and Ross Wilburn. Cindy Axne, one of seven Democrats running for Congress in the third district, is second from right. First district Congressional candidate Abby Finkenauer is on the far right; one of her primary rivals, Thomas Heckroth, is standing behind Wilburn.

I recorded all of the speeches, but be warned: the acoustics in Hy-Vee Hall left a lot to be desired. Each candidate touched on their favorite themes, but no one repeated their scripts from the Hall of Fame event in July or the Progress Iowa Corn Feed in September (the last time all seven shared a stage).

Neiderbach was up first.

Some highlights:

We’re here because we have better policies than Republicans. What is extraordinary this time is the gross mismanagement of our government […] we can’t take any more of this, and come November, we’re going to speak out and put a Democrat in Terrace Hill. […]

Quite frankly, when I go around the state and talk to people […] on the streets of Atlantic or Lamoni or Deborah or Humboldt or whatever town, I get told one thing very, very clearly. What we need, what we need is an end to the stacked system that is holding us back.

I’m running because I’m tired of a stacked economic system, a stacked political system, a very stacked legal system, education and medical system that does not work for ordinary people, does not meet the needs of ordinary Iowans, focuses on folks with money and big corporations.

I pledge to you as the governor, I will fight back every single day. You know, people talk about the urban/rural divide. When I talk to Iowans, I don’t see a whole lot of divide. People may express things in different ways, but they’re all saying the same things. They want bold leadership.

Neiderbach highlighted a couple of policy proposals that are unique to his campaign. People are upset about Iowa’s mental health system, the worst-funded in the country. He proposes legalizing cannabis to bring in some $200 million a year in revenue, which he would allocate to mental health services and drug treatment programs. Neiderbach also proposes a state bank that could fund “massive investments in infrastructure and anti-pollution efforts.” He wants to make in-state college tuition free, which we could afford if we eliminated many tax breaks for corporations and wealthy people.

In closing, Neiderbach reminded the audience that there are six months to go before the primary and asked for Democrats’ serious consideration.

Dr. Andy McGuire spoke next. Stefanie Running photographed her earlier, seated near two of her best-known endorsers: former Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and former Attorney General Bonnie Campbell.

McGuire’s campaign provided her prepared text. I made minor changes to reflect the speech as delivered. She had the most to say about the recent Iowa Senate Republican sexual harassment scandal and was the only candidate to call for a ban on so-called “conversion therapy,” an abusive practice inflicted on too many LGBT youth.

My name is Andy McGuire and I want to be your next Governor.

Right now I am disgusted with our government.

Governor Kim Reynolds and Bill Dix have taken no ownership for their part in an unacceptable culture of harassment, discrimination and retribution. Iowa taxpayers are on the hook for $1.75 million.

How many of you have felt the sting of harassment in your life?

I too have felt the pain of not being valued.

As Governor I will change a culture that says it’s okay to harass and abuse another and get away with it.

I have travelled to all 99 counties and listened to you.

You don’t feel like your elected leaders have the right priorities, and I don’t blame you. They don’t.

As your Governor I will stand up for everyone – including some of the most vulnerable Iowans. Some of them are on Medicaid.

Medicaid privatization is a mess. It was a bad idea to begin with, and it’s getting worse by the day. You know, this affects over half a million of our most vulnerable who cannot get access to care. As a doctor who has worked in health care my whole life, I have the experience needed to help fix this mess. I will restore Medicaid back to the state and ensure Iowans get the health care they need, when they need it, because health care is a right, not a privilege!

I have heard from Iowans with friends and family who are struggling with mental health, substance abuse, and addiction.

You know, we have neglected funding and our police have become our first line mental health workers – taking patients to jail and emergency rooms – two of the most expensive and worst places for someone in crisis – rather than preventing crisis with more up-front counseling.

We need to attract and retain more to the profession, we need to prioritize and focus resources, and we need to destigmatize mental health.

We need to love more and ignore less.

You know, I hear from kids who are bullied at school and online. I pledge to continue to fight as we work to ban conversion therapy and support our youth because everyone deserves the dignity to be who they are.

I have heard from many of the women affected by the closing of Planned Parenthood clinics. They are concerned about where they will go for quality, affordable health care. As a doctor, a woman, a mother, and as your Governor, I will restore funding for Planned Parenthood.

And I hear from parents and teachers worried about education. Republicans have underfunded Iowa’s schools for the past seven years. Educating our kids and making sure they have the tools and resources to be the best they can be is our number one priority. For teachers in the audience, you deserve our thanks, our respect, and the resources you need to do your job.

We need to raise the minimum wage, support our unions, and bring good paying jobs with benefits – especially in our rural areas where Iowa’s small towns and farms are vital to the fabric of our state.

And I am a scientist and I will bring science back to the Governor’s office, because climate change is a scientific fact!

I am a mother of seven children and one grandchild. I want to make sure my children and grandchildren and your children and grandchildren can stay in Iowa and succeed. I see an Iowa where we have clean air and clean water, accessible, affordable health care, the best education anywhere, and good paying jobs with good benefits all over the state, and where all Iowans are treated with respect.

That’s the Iowa I see and that’s the Governor I want to be. I am Andy McGuire, and I want to be your next Governor!

Norris took the stage next. At the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame event in July, he dinged Hubbell by saying candidates who “tout the size of campaign war chests are out of touch with Iowans.” Last night, he took a subtle shot at both Hubbell and Boulton, saying, “Our campaign’s not about buying expensive tables and seats at the table.” But the best line was this, which I hadn’t heard in any previous Norris stump speech: “I know a little bit about cleaning up Branstad messes, and I’m ready to clean up this Branstad mess.”

Norris began by thanking his family, acknowledging his three sons, wife Jackie Norris, and mother, who were all present. Because of Jackie’s strength, he is confident their sons will be part of “a generation that respects women.” He joked that his parents were a “split household”–mother for Hillary, father for Bernie.

I lost my dad this year. He never had wealth, but he taught me to lead a rich life. Be grateful for what you have, fight for those less fortunate. Those with wealth will be just fine.

But greed–greed made him angry. It makes me angry too. And greed controls our government today.

This election, this election is about contesting for power against the wealthy special interests and corporate lobbyists that control our government.

Norris assailed Governor Kim Reynolds for prioritizing tax breaks over “care for our most vulnerable citizens.” He recalled standing with some great Democrats Jesse Jackson, Tom Harkin, Paul Wellstone, Cesar Chavez, then quoted Hubert Humphrey:

“The moral test of government is what that government does for people in the dawn of life, our children. The twilight of life, our elderly. And the shadows of life, our sickly, our needy, and our disabled.”

We are failing all those tests today.

“We care about all people, and put people first,” Norris said, promising to improve mental health care and reverse the privatization of Medicaid.

Half of Iowa’s babies are born into poverty, he added. “We must break the cycle of poverty” through better education and job training, raising wages, providing child care for people who want to work, pay equity for women, and protecting workers’ rights, “and seeing our immigrants’ opportunity as our opportunity.”

Instead of tax cuts for corporations, we should provide tax credits for college students who stay and work in Iowa. Norris also wants to give local governments more flexibility to use property tax revenue to rebuild rural Iowa.

Recounting some of his work experience (state director for the Farm Unity Coalition, chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, representing our country at the United Nations for agriculture, chairing the Iowa Utilities Board, and serving on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), Norris said he knows the future of our state is rural broadband, renewable energy, and making farms profitable.

Alluding to his work as Governor Tom Vilsack’s chief of staff “after 32 years of Republican control,” Norris said,

I know a little bit about cleaning up Branstad messes, and I’m ready to clean up this Branstad mess.

My life has been a commitment to social and economic justice. As your governor, at the end of every day, I will ask, have we done all we an do for those we as Democrats are fighting for?

Our campaign’s not about buying expensive tables and seats at the table. It’s about providing a seat at the table of government for every Iowan. […]

Our fight is for the people. Join us in our fight. Norrisforthepeople.com. Let’s change this state. Let’s make it our fight. Join our team. Thank you.

Hubbell’s supporters made lots of noise as he took the stage.

Hubbell said “it’s great to see so many Democrats out in full force,” then recognized the many accomplishments of his wife and partner of 41 years.

A year from today, Iowans will no longer see Terry Branstad on the ballot. But in the meantime, we will still suffer from the heartless, misguided Republican policies that have deeply hurt this state.

They privatized Medicaid, cutting benefits for patients, leaving our doctors and hospitals with reduced and delayed payments, all the while costing Iowans tens of millions dollars more than they promised.

They cut funding and beds for mental health, forcing those in need of treatment to end up in emergency rooms and jails as a last resort.

They stripped our workers of collective bargaining rights. They short-changed education for our schools and colleges and universities. And they defunded Planned Parenthood.

And what did we get? Better schools? [crowd: No!]
Better health care? [crowd: No!]
Higher incomes? [crowd: No!]
No, we got more debt.

Despite all those cuts, Hubbell noted, Iowa ran a “massive $250 million budget deficit” last year, thanks to “tax loopholes and corporate giveaways like the Apple deal.” Next year’s budget looks just as bad. It’s a “complete failure of leadership.” Last week, Iowans learned that our state had the worst second-quarter economic growth of all 50 states.

We are witnessing the beginning of the end of the Reynolds administration. In these troubled times, Iowa needs a governor who has demonstrated leadership success in the public and private sectors. A governor with a proven track record of delivering results for people. And a governor who’s a lifelong progressive with a commitment to transparency and fairness.

We’ve got to turn this state around, and we don’t have time to waste.

In this room, we need to stand together united and lead with our hearts to put people in this state first again. And I mean all people. Rural and urban. Young and old. Women and men. Gay and straight. Black, white, and brown. Democrats, hinged and unhinged. Independents, and even Republicans.

In this room, we need to stand united to invest more in education for our young students, our colleges and universities, while showing our teachers the respect they deserve.

United to restore collective bargaining rights for our workers and get incomes rising across every part of the state.

Urban or rural, every Iowan deserves an opportunity to succeed, and “it’s past time Iowa received a raise.” Hubbell called for Democrats to stand united for permanent funding for water quality and soil conservation, to restore funding for Planned Parenthood, reverse Medicaid privatization, and improve mental health care. Hubbell loves the state and wants to improve conditions for every Iowan: better job training, quality health care, more infrastructure and housing.

I’m running for governor to get Iowa growing. If we stand united, we can turn the tide. Stand united with us in June, and we will turn our state around. Thank you.

Cathy Glasson always gets the crowd going.

Glasson’s campaign provided a full prepared text. I edited to reflect the speech as delivered. Glasson emphasized the issues that landed her Iowa CCI Action’s endorsement earlier this fall: a $15 minimum wage, single-payer health care, and taking on Big Ag polluters.

I’m here to deliver a message to the working people of Iowa.

For too long, your voices have been silenced by a Republican governor and legislature bought and paid for by corporations. By watered-down centrist policies that settle for too little and leave too many out.

And by politicians who tell you they know what you need, instead of listening to what you do need.

To the men and women that I’ve met across Iowa who told me they’ve been left out, to the young people who think no one is listening, tonight, we’re here to say loud and clear:


WE. HEAR. YOU!

To the 331,000 low-wage Iowa workers who desperately need a raise:

WE. HEAR. YOU. [Some in crowd responded: “Hear us now!”]

We will fight for a $15 minimum wage, and fast. We’ll get there in three years and index it to inflation moving forward.

To the 28 million Americans who have no health insurance, millions more who are underinsured and can’t get the care that they need when they need it.

WE. HEAR. YOU.

We will fight for Medicare for All. Healthcare is a fundamental right. Not a luxury for the wealthy.

As an intensive care nurse, I believe this is in my heart: we will build support for universal single-payer in all 99 counties.

And if the politicians out in Washington, DC don’t do the right thing, then we will work to pass a universal, single-payer plan here, right in Iowa to cover every single Iowan.

Because it’s the only way to ensure every Iowan gets the care they need–which includes access to mental and reproductive health services.

Everybody in, nobody out. Iowa can lead the way.

And if you’re a parent worried about Iowa’s commitment to public schools, or a teacher struggling on a paycheck that’s too small:

WE. HEAR. YOU.

We will demand a major investment to truly make public education our top priority again. No more lip service.

We will call on the legislature to increase school funding by 6 percent over current budget levels, because we want to invest in STEM education, relieve overcrowding, and increase teacher pay.

And I hope, and I hope the legislature listens carefully: because as governor, I will veto any budget with less than a 4 percent increase in K-12 funding.

And to the 15,000 Iowans who lost their health care because Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds defunded Planned Parenthood:

WE. HEAR. YOU.

We will fight to reopen every clinic they shut down and give you the reproductive health care you need.

To Iowans whose land is being swallowed up and poisoned by corporate agriculture:

WE. HEAR. YOU.

For years, factory farms have polluted our lakes, rivers and streams.

They’ve fouled over 750 waterways with their toxic chemicals, waste and fertilizer.

It’s time for a governor who’ll stay out of the pocket of corporate farms and protect our water. We need a moratorium on all new and expanded factory farms until Big Ag cleans up the mess they’ve made.

My fellow Iowans, it’s time to rise up and be counted to build a bold, progressive future.

I’m running for governor to be your voice. So your demand for change carries from this room and echoes through all 99 counties.

So it rattles the windows in the corporate suites, rumbles through each chamber of the state house, and roars into the Governor’s mansion. A thundering wake up call.

Iowa working families, brothers and sisters, my fellow Iowans:

WE. HEAR. YOU!

I’m Cathy Glasson. I’d be honored to be your Governor. Thank you, Iowa Democrats. Thanks for all you do.

The thunder sticks were out in force for Boulton:

Boulton’s campaign also provided a prepared text, which I edited to conform to his delivery. Although he appealed to a sense of Democratic unity, he snuck in a couple of barbs at Hubbell (“I didn’t wait for Terry Branstad to leave town to fight back”) and Glasson (“No amount of frustration, of shouting, no protests will matter if we don’t deliver a victory in 2018”).

I want to say thank you to each one of you who chose to STAND UP this past year, in the midst of relentless Republican attacks. At the Capitol Democrats were ready to STAND UP, sometimes all through the night, with thousands of Iowans to make sure our voices were heard. We never waited on the sidelines while Republicans forced through their destructive policies, and we won’t stop now!

Senator Dix has promised “Chapter Two” is coming for us in January, and Kim Reynolds got a head start on it this summer! She mismanaged our budget and raided more rainy day funds, offered millions in new corporate coupons, took away overtime pay for overtime work for thousands of Iowans, and cut even more staff in our mental health facilities.

She called LGBTQ rights a matter of local control, and has continued a disastrous Medicaid scheme, privatized in a way that has been worse and worse for some of our most vulnerable citizens in this state.

While we have been proud to STAND UP to their agenda, to win in 2018 we must talk about our plan to FIGHT BACK, and I’m introducing a plan of action in the legislature to do just that.

When they try to dismantle IPERS for hundreds of thousands of Iowans, we FIGHT BACK to not only protect IPERS, but offer more Iowans access to pensions.

After they wrecked healthcare, privatized Medicaid, and defunded Planned Parenthood, we FIGHT BACK to reverse those actions and actually push forward for paid family leave and reopen our mental health facilities that they shut down.

When they underfund education and introduce new versions of school vouchers, we FIGHT BACK by fully funding our schools and again treating teachers like the professionals they are.

When Senate Republicans mistreat women, in our own state capitol, and cost taxpayers over $1.7 Million, we FIGHT BACK by not just making sure workplaces are safe for women, but making sure Iowa’s women get equal pay for equal work.

As Republicans continue to gut workers’ rights, we FIGHT BACK to expand workplace and union rights! When their vision destroys the Iowa we’re proud to call home, what will we do? [crowd: FIGHT BACK!]

Yes, we FIGHT BACK. Our fight pushes forward a new era that fulfills the true promise of our state’s future. Where we address the very real problem of climate change with expanded Iowa wind and solar energy, where we value our strong and productive workforce with better wages and benefits, where we lead the nation in education by prioritizing our schools again. Where we build safe and secure communities. Where we promote and protect our natural resources, like my incredible wife Andrea does every day.

The urban/rural divide that we hear so much about, that they believe separates us, is no match for the actual shared values of my parents and grandparents in rural Iowa, and my constituents in urban and suburban Iowa.

This election is too important to repeat the mistakes of the past. Winning will take a new generation of Iowans sharing our vision throughout the state and energizing working families in this state who have been attacked by their own representatives and governor. It will take outreach to small communities like my hometown of Columbus Junction, who feel left behind.

We must make it clear to our friends and neighbors that their quality of life and our livelihoods, are on the ballot. This is more important than who you caucused for in 2016 and even who you choose in this primary in 2018. Because we are ALL Iowans. When we stand up and fight back as a united Democratic party, we not only win in 2018, we deliver a victory for our state’s future.

Like many of you here tonight, I’m not new to these tough fights. Like you, I didn’t wait for Terry Branstad to leave town to fight back. When others were on the sidelines, I was there to stand with you and fight for you, in the courtroom and the statehouse, defending our values from their relentless attacks.

From my front-row seat in the Senate, I have seen all too clearly the problems our state will face if we lose this fight for the soul of our state–if the Republican agenda is emboldened. No amount of frustration, of shouting, no protests will matter if we don’t deliver a victory in 2018.

I’ve fought for working people for 12 years as an attorney. I’ve traveled to 99 counties in this campaign. We’re building a movement to WIN this fight for the soul of our state. This is going to be a tough fight, a fight that will define Iowa for the next generation, a fight we must win. Our opportunity is now. Let’s stand up, let’s fight back, and let’s push forward for a brighter future for our state.
Thank you!

My recorder didn’t catch the beginning of Ross Wilburn’s speech, when he hailed such a large turnout on a Monday evening as a great sign for the party and thanked his fellow candidates. The last gubernatorial contender to begin actively campaigning, Wilburn is also the least-known across the state, so he spent a large chunk of his time describing his background in local government.

“I’m the only Democratic candidate who’s been elected to an executive leadership role in government. I was mayor of my city,” Wilburn said. He proceeded to describe the skills he developed as an Iowa City mayor and council member. He led a disaster command center after a tornado injured three dozen people and caused millions of dollars of damage in 2006. Rebuilding took months, but he was never more proud to lead his community.

It was Iowans at their best, coming together, doing what needed to be done. To this day, people remind me how it felt to be part of a community that responded that way. We did that in local government.

That is the difference I will bring to our state as governor. This is what local government does. We act. We help neighbors. We see each other at the grocery stories, the gas stations.

We’re accountable to each other. We care about each other. That’s what we need in Iowa: someone with experience in local government, who can make that happen in state government.

Wilburn proceeded to explain his “simple, clear message: let’s be Iowa.” “We all know what that means,” he added. Investing in public education, not private vouchers. Building a better health care system. Reverse privatizing Medicaid, take care of people who need mental health services.

Wilburn favors a $15 minimum wage, restoring public employees’ collective bargaining rights, promoting more renewable energy and “sustainable clean energy jobs.

Let’s extend broadband to rural areas to extend opportunities. And when we offer tax breaks, let’s make sure we get a return on our investment. Let’s be Iowa.

I could go on. Really, I could. Like fairness in our criminal justice system. Supporting a path to citizenship. Ensuring LGBTQIA rights, and holding concentrated animal feeding operations accountable. But they told us to keep it to five minutes.

Wilburn closed by describing what Iowa City residents accomplished by working together after that devastating 2006 tornado.

We can fix this if we work together. Our city got to work. We not only rebuilt our community, we rebuilt hope and trust in what Iowans could do if we work together. That’s what I bring to our state.

We need Democratic leadership and values. We need your time, we need your energy, your passion, your boots on the ground to win this race, the governor’s race, the legislative races. We can make it happen. We can make a better Iowa.

I’m Ross Wilburn, I’m running for governor. Join with us together. Let’s be Iowa.

I leave you with a few more of Stefanie’s pictures. Happy Democrats after the event wrapped up:

Iowa Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen:

Former First Lady Christie Vilsack and Governor Tom Vilsack:

The Vilsacks stopped by the press table after most of the crowd had cleared the room. Christie Vilsack mentioned that although she did not defeat Representative Steve King in 2012, she feels there were a lot of “wins” associated with that campaign. She helped some other Democrats who were on the ballot in western Iowa. She often hears from people whom she inspired to get involved in their communities or even run for office.

Tom Vilsack echoed Alec Baldwin’s comments about the importance of Democratic unity for next year’s general election. He perceived that message to be “well-received in this room.” I agree on both counts.

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