SEPTEMBER 15TH, 2008 | Harkin for Senate
BY MATT CLARK | Iowapolitics.com
Read the original story at Iowa Politics
Despite the cold and windy September weather, nearly 1,000 Iowa Democrats faithfully drove to the Indianola Balloon Field on Sunday for the 31st annual Tom Harkin Steak Fry.
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, the event headliner, spent much of his time on stage talking about American sources of alternative energy and bucking the power wielded by “petro-dictators” in the Middle East and Latin America.
“We need to grow our own fuel,” Schweitzer said. “We need to do it now. Biofuels are here to stay. Biofuels are the future of America.”
In introducing Schweitzer, Harkin called him a valuable “WMD”—a west-of-the-Mississippi Democrat. He also made reference to the success a previous steak fry speaker had in the presidential arena.
“Four years ago Barack Obama gave that blockbuster speech to the convention. Two years later he showed up here to speak at the steak fry, and now look where he is. Brian Schweitzer gave a blockbuster speech at the convention this year. He is here at the steak fry. Who knows what’s next for Brian Schweitzer?” Harkin said.
The popular Montana governor got national attention at last month’s Democratic National Convention in Denver. Many delegates thought his speech upstaged the keynote address by former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, leading to speculation that Schweitzer may be positioned for a launch into the national political arena.
“I’ve heard that he is a terrific speaker and has a lot of potential,” Denise Rathman of Sioux City said today. “It’s true that sometimes what we really need is someone to fire the crowd up.”
The spotlight thrown on Schweitzer in Iowa today as he attended an event often frequented by presidential candidates only added more buzz around the bolo tie-wearing rancher.
“I had no idea who he was before now,” Paul Ostringer of Granger said. “After today I am really anxious to see where he goes next.”
Schweitzer was the headliner, but he wasn’t the only one to address the event. It also included remarks from members of the Iowa congressional delegation and first-time candidates for office hoping to add to the number of Democrats representing the state.
“We’re going to re-elect Senator Harkin and we’re going to see Democrats representing all five of Iowa’s congressional districts. We’re going to build on our great majorities in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate and we’re going to make history by sending Barack Obama and Joe Biden to the White House,” said emcee Scott Brennan, chair of the state Democratic Party.
After the 2006 midterm election that left Iowa with two more Democrats serving in the U.S. House, Fourth District candidate Becky Greenwald and Fifth District candidate Ron Hubler are looking to replace the two remaining Republican congressional incumbents in the state.
“It’s time we retire him for good,” Greenwald said of Rep. Tom Latham, the Republican she is challenging who first won the seat in 1994.
Hubler said he was running to replace Republican Congressman Steve King because he had become an “embarrassment” to Iowans.
“We can work together for a new era of real representation in western Iowa,” Hubler said.
Longtime Congressman Leonard Boswell thanked Iowans for their continued support and asked that his backers also be generous to freshman Representatives Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley.
“What I’m talking about more than anything is restoring opportunities that have been taken away by George Bush and the Republican Congress,” Loebsack said.
Braley echoed Loebsack’s championing of affordable college education as being among the top achievements of Congressional Democrats.
“Democrats do what needs to be done,” Braley said. “That’s why it’s up to each of us to elect Democrats—from the courthouse to the Statehouse to the White House.”
First Lady of Iowa Mari Culver was also on hand to fire up the party faithful. She encouraged everyone in attendance to take their friends and family with them to local campaign offices and work the phones or knock on doors in their neighborhoods to see that the Democratic candidates are successful.
“I don’t want you to wish for them and hope for them, I want you to work for them,” Culver said.
Saying that securing federal relief aid in the wake of summer flooding has been “like trying to walk around in a maze with a blindfold on,” Lt. Gov. Patty Judge said blamed the government’s slow response on the Bush administration.
“We are sick and tired in Iowa of the same old, same old tired, failed Republican policies and the same old, same old Republican politicians,” she said.
While the annual steak fry has become an institution in Iowa and, occasionally, national Democratic politics, it also remains a major fundraising effort for Harkin himself. Harkin’s wife, Ruth, said that her husband takes every re-election bid seriously and is focused on serving.
“Our family knows it can count on Tom and Iowans know that they can count on him as well,” she said. “From veterans, farmers, women, students, working families – the list goes on – all can count on Tom.”
Harkin said he looked forward to the 2008 election for many reasons, but particularly because he thinks there is a good chance his home district will soon be represented by a Democrat and that the state would elect its first female U.S. Representative.
“I run this year – as I always have – as a proud, progressive, Democratic populist from the state of Iowa,” he said.
Harkin said he is “tired of cleaning up after Republicans,” and said that all any voter needed to know to make a decision as to who to vote for they already learned in driver’s ed class.
“If you want to go backward, you put it in ‘R.’ If you want to go forward, you put it in ‘D,’” he said.