It was overshadowed a bit on an extremely busy weekend for Iowa politics, but Iowa Democrats may finally have seen the first rumblings of 2016 caucus activity. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden send video tributes to Tom Harkin... but Martin O'Malley showed up.
The official reason for the Maryland governor's visit to Iowa was to campaign for Jack Hatch. But as the saying goes, no politician ever accidentally goes to Iowa, and while an aide noted that the term-limited O'Malley was also campaigning for gubernatorial candidates in other states, no one's denying that the man has other ambitions.
"Our government is affected by too much ideology and anger. We need to decide whether ideas move us forward, not left or right," said O'Malley, describing Hatch but also describing himself. "Mayors and governors get things done by building a common platform and being collaborative."
In Maryland, O'Malley said, "we've held down tuition not by wishing and hoping but by acting." He also cited marriage equality and gun safety legislation as accomplishments in his two terms.
Hatch said outreach to local government would be a big goal of his administration. "We'll ask you what you need, you tell us, and we will help you," he said, directing the remark to Iowa City mayor Matt Hayek in the crowd. "We're going to be problem solvers."
Also on hand was former governor Chet Culver, who introduced O'Malley. Hatch described Terry Branstad's 2010 campaign against Culver as "myths, close to being lies. The Democratic legislature and Democratic governor made the hard choices" in the tough economy and flood recovery of 2009 and 2010.
Flood recovery was central to the remarks of Monica Vernon, Hatch's newly chosen running mate, who first met Hatch when he helped develop post-flood affordable housing in Cedar Rapids after the 2008 flood.
Hatch referenced Vernon's just finished congressional campaign, where she fell short of Pat Murphy in the primary. He said he'd privately hoped Vernon would finish second, "because I needed her." (Unrelated post-primary note: The 1st CD's last-place finisher, Dave O'Brien, looks likely to land on his feet, with Tom Harkin slating him for a federal judgeship.)
Vernon described the nomination following a year long congressional bid as "lean in, then lean in again." She said her goal as lieutenant governor would be to "use my business background to get diverse groups to the table to solve problems."
So those were the speakers, in an unusual order of big out of town guest first followed by nominee followed by running mate, but it seemed to work for the crowd of 50-ish, mostly donors (but they let me in anyway). Jim Hayes' home is a frequent and beautiful setting for fundraisers, and it has history, too. Grant Wood lived in the house during the last years of his life.
In addition to all the governors past present and future, others on hand included legislators Mary Mascher, Joe Bolkcom, and Bob Dvorsky (along with former Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky, who was also mentioned for lieutenant governor before Vernon got the nod). County attorney Janet Lyness and supervisor candidate Mike Carberry also attended.