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Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 17, 2018

Bustos one of key speakers at revived Iowa steak fry

Aug 03, 2017

By Ed Tibbetts, Quad-City Times


The Harkin Steak Fry went by the wayside three years ago, but Polk County Democrats are reviving it.

The event won’t have Tom Harkin’s name attached, but its inaugural event will feature three prominent Democrats, including Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.

Bustos has increasingly gained a national reputation as a prominent voice for the Democrats as they seek to regain their footing after President Donald Trump’s election. She and two House colleagues, Reps. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., will be the guest speakers at the Sept. 30 fundraising event.

The Harkin Steak Fry was often a showcase for rising political stars — and those who wanted to position themselves to run for president. Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all spoke there.

Both Moulton and Ryan have been mentioned in political circles as possible 2020 candidates. As Politico pointed out Wednesday, that isn’t the case with Bustos. However, she has been a key candidate recruiter for House Democrats. She also has been grooming candidates at the local level.

Bustos wasn’t available for comment Wednesday, but in a statement she said: “Democrats believe in a better future, where all hardworking men and women have the opportunity to find a better job with better wages to support their families. This is the better deal we’re committed to delivering to the American people and I look forward to speaking about how we’ll turn this vision into reality for all Americans.”

The Harkin Steak Fry was an Iowa mainstay for decades, but it ended in 2014 as the senator prepared to retire from Congress.

Sean Bagniewski, chair of the Polk County Democrats, said Wednesday that local Democrats worked with Harkin for more than a year to get permission to bring the event back.

Now called the “Polk County Steak Fry,” Bagniewski said he hopes the event will take on the importance that it once had. In the meantime, the event will utilize some of the same organizers, vendors and caterers, he said.

“We lost part of our Iowa political legacy when it went away,” he said. Bagniewski said he thinks Harkin may make an appearance at this year’s event, too.

Bustos, Ryan and Moulton have been emphasizing an economic message as a way to appeal to voters, particularly those in rural areas that Trump won last year. Bustos, who co-chairs the House Democrats’ Policy and Communications Committee, helped to draft the party’s legislative agenda released last week.

That focus on jobs was one of the reasons the three were invited, Bagniewski said. The three also are relatively new, he said.

“They’re faces we haven’t seen a lot of yet in Iowa,” he said.

Ryan has been in Iowa before. He gave a commencement address in Fairfield in June. Bustos also is familiar with the state. She represents the 17th District in Illinois but spent a lot of time in Des Moines while working as a hospital executive before being elected to Congress in 2012.

The steak fry will be at Des Moines Water Works Park.

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