As Newton residents slurped their soup Sunday afternoon, they also soaked up speeches from the state’s leading gubernatorial candidates at the annual Jasper County Democrats Soup luncheon, one of the county’s longest running events. Candidates have been making their way to Newton for more than 40 years to meet and mingle with voters, and this year, with a crowded field seeking the state’s highest office those candidates laid out their vision for the future of Iowa.
Candidates for the governor’s office may have stolen the show on Sunday, but residents also got plenty of time to interact with local Democratic party officials as well. They were on hand Sunday to ladle out steaming bowls of chili, and well as answer questions from constituents.
“It’s nice to have our local officials here, it’s a social setting and not as intimidating, people can get questions they might have answered,” Michelle Smith, the Jasper County Democratic Party chair, said.
U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack-D also addressed the crowd on Sunday, and it was Loebsack that drew the loudest cheers from the crowd, earning a standing ovation.
“Next time I’m going to win Jasper County, our governor is going to win Jasper County, and we’re going to take back the house and the senate,” Loebsack told the crowd.
While promising he doesn’t take anything for granted, Loebsack has been meeting with voters across his district and he said he’s focused on making sure there’s a place for middle class Americans in the state. As he talked about his childhood in Sioux City, the congressman had tears in his eyes as he reminded the crowd “there’s nothing fun about food stamps, there’s nothing fun about not having a job” but those services are essential in making sure every Iowan has a chance to succeed.
Calling education “the great equalizer” Loebsack said he’s committed to making sure those same opportunities are still available today.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that, we need to keep making these investments,” Loebsack said.
In Newton, Loebsack said it’s easy to see how important these programs are to residents. After Whirlpool pulled out of Newton, Loebsack said it was clear that residents in Newton needed help.
“Without these democratic opportunities they wouldn’t be back in the middle class,” Loebsack said. “This community knows that given the struggles they’ve gone through.”
Five gubernatorial candidates addressed voters Sunday, here’s a take away from their speeches in Newton.
Fred Hubbell reminded the crowd on Sunday he’s not a politician, and he never has been. Instead, Hubbell insisted his best skill is bringing people together, and he said unity will be a strong theme in his campaign as he attempts to win the state’s highest office.
During his speech Sunday afternoon Hubbell laid out three priorities for the state: education, health care and ensuring incomes continue to increase for all Iowans. Calling it “our fastest growing challenge” Hubbell pledged to support sweeping reforms in Iowa’s health care industry, including bringing back funding to Planned Parenthood clinics across the state. As he’s been campaigning across the state of Iowa Hubbell said he’s enjoying hearing Iowans stories firsthand.
“There’s so much diversity in our state, I want to hear what Iowans like about our state, and interact with them,” Hubbell said.
For Nate Boulton, it’s all about the people. As he looked across the room Sunday afternoon Boulton told voters about the struggles ordinary Iowans are facing, and laid much of that blame at the feet of Gov. Kim Reynolds.
“Iowa is better than this, and we’re going to prove that in 2018,” Boulton said.
As a first-term senator in the state senate, Boulton’s had a front row seat to view the state’s problems, and he pledged if elected he’d work to restore collective bargaining rights, including reinstating overtime for the 2,800 state employees Boulton said they are no longer eligible to receive the benefit.
“We know Iowa needs a better path forward if we’re going to win this in 2018 we have to show that we have a vision for Iowa,” Boulton said.
With his name badge, John Neiderbach is easy to spot as he wandered through the crowd at the Jasper County Democratic Party fundraiser. For Neiderbach, the badge helps him start a conversation with Iowans about the issues facing the state, even if he’s in line at the gas station.
“The energy level is so high right now, there are so many candidates and so much passion to fight the Republicans,” Neiderbach said.
If elected, Neiderbach is focused on improving Iowa’s schools, cleaning up Iowa’s natural resources, including state waterways and legalizing marijuana. According to Neiderbach, legalizing marijuana would add an additional $200,000 in tax revenue to the state’s coffers, a much-needed boost for Iowa’s economy. A former Des Moines school board member, Neiderbach said he’s seen firsthand the importance of making Iowa’s schools the best in the nation. Instead of relying on an advertising campaign Neiderbach is crisscrossing the state, engaging Iowans about the issues they’re most concerned about.
As the chair of Iowa’s Democratic Party from 2015-16 Andy McGuire has seen firsthand the impact Gov. Kim Reynolds has had, and she said it’s time for Reynolds to go. The Waterloo native, a doctor and health care professional pledged that if elected she’d restore funding to Planned Parenthood and focus on improving Iowa’s educational system to make the state a leader in K-12 education. Years of underfunding Iowa’s schools have damaged the state reputation McGuire said, but it’s not too late to close the gap in Iowa’s schools.
“Underfunding education for seven years has really made a difference, all of these things are so important, with the new collective bargaining agreement teachers will never more than inflation based raises,” McGuire said.
Reynolds has the wrong priorities McGuire said, but she’s encouraged by the response she’s seen as she’s been traveling the state.
“There’s a lot of energy, people are attending town halls, making phone calls, they’ve awoken, and it’s good for the party,” McGuire said.
As a top aide to Gov. Tom Vilsack, John Norris said he’s got plenty of experience cleaning up “a Branstad mess” and that’s exactly what the state is facing under Gov. Kim Reynolds’ leadership Norris told the crowd on Sunday. For Norris, the focus is on making Iowa a leader in renewable energy, and improving Iowa’s public education system, which he called “the key to opportunity for everyone.”
Norris said he’s heard plenty of concerns from voters as he’s campaigned across the state, and he knows what issues are important to Iowans. Calling for health care reforms statewide, Norris said closing mental health institutions around the state means that now Iowa’s jails and prisons are overwhelmed with patients who should be receiving care in a hospital.
Focusing on the economy is critical to the state’s recovery, and Norris said that if elected he’d make sure the state is providing training for skilled labor and would renew a focus on creating pathways in higher education other than a four-year degree.
“We’re dropping the ball on this, we need to create programs where students can learn and earn, with internships and apprenticeships across the state,” Norris said.
Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org