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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 21, 2018

Iowa Democrats revive Steak Fryin Des Moines

By By Erin Murphy Gazette-Lee, Des Moines Bureau | Oct 03, 2017

DES MOINES — Iowa Democrats hope one revival in 2017 precedes more revivals in 2018 and 2020.

On a sun-drenched early autumn afternoon Saturday at Des Moines’ Water Works Park, the Polk County Democrats hosted the Steak Fry, a fundraiser and party organizing event that was hosted by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin until his retirement in 2014.

Event organizers said they sold about 1,500 tickets for the event, which featured speeches by Democratic candidates for governor, Congress and — maybe — president.

The candidates and hundreds of party faithful talked about how Democrats can bounce back from electoral disasters in 2014 and 2016 to have success in 2018 and 2020.

“Nine months ago, people were counting us out. But all of us are here to say with one voice that we are not going away, we are not backing down and we are going to win in 2018,” state party chairman Troy Price said.

How will Democrats win in 2018 was on the minds of the crowd.

People talked about normal Democratic issues, such as health care and the environment, but also said Democrats need to have an economic message and reach out to voters in rural areas.

“The labor issue is so big. I think the party needs to represent labor and make sure that that message is there to try to get some of that back,” said Ryan Gillum of Des Moines.

Said Laurie Wells, of Des Moines, “The rural areas — they need to get that message out to the rural areas. Without them ...”

A similar plea was made by U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., one of the event’s main speakers.

In 2016, Bustos won re-election by more than 20 percentage points in a district narrowly won by Republican President Donald Trump. The district includes the Illinois portion of the Quad Cities but also many small towns.

With her victory in a Midwest district won by Trump, Bustos has become a rising star in the national party. She deflected questions Saturday about being a possible presidential candidate in 2020 but did talk about how Iowa Democrats can win back rural portions of the state.

“I think it starts by showing up, No. 1, and I think No. 2 it starts by listening, something not all politicians are very awesome at. Then it’s doing something about what we learned,” Bustos told reporters.

Bustos said Trump tapped into rural voters’ economic anxiety.

“There are too many places in too many towns all over this country that feel left behind,” she said.

“People I meet have in some cases not only lost their jobs once but maybe twice. And now a decade or a dozen years later, they’re making half what they did before their jobs were sent to China and Mexico.”

But the president, she said, has failed to deliver on his promises.

Bustos said Democrats must do more than criticize Trump. They also must present what they stand for.

“We’ve always been the party of jobs, and we’ve got to start making sure that people believe that again. And how we make people believe that is we show them,” Bustos said.

The event’s other main speakers were Democratic U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.

Democrats’ message must focus on jobs, said Sean Bagniewski, chairman of the Polk County Democrats.

“The top three issues are jobs, jobs, jobs. And then jobs after that,” Bagniewski said.

“Everybody needs a job. Let’s start talking about jobs again.”

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