It wasn't the hottest political ticket of the day - kinda hard to compete with an 11 candidate circus at the GOP Lincoln Dinner. But the Johnson County Democrats' Hall of Fame event was no doubt the best celebration of the night in terms of honoring the grassroots folks who make our political process work.
The JCDems honored former State Rep. Ro Foege, longtime platform co-chairs Dennis and Robin Roseman, and activists Pat Ikan and Gary Sanders.
"When you see Sanders For President signs they are not for me," Gary said, "they are for a different Jewish Socialist from a big city." Gary is well known from cable access TV, newspaper columns, and an affinity for lost causes that all of a sudden aren't lost anymore.
Sanders hails from Iowa City Precinct 18, the just east of downtown area that competes with northside Precinct 21 for the honor of most Democratic in town (and maybe in Iowa). He bragged of passing a platform resolution to repeal the 2nd Amendment at the 1996 caucus, a classic People's Republic of Johnson County moment.
The Rosemans showed off old campaign t-shirts and bragged about their earliest campaigns. Dennis was a county convention delegate for Shirley Chisholm in 1972 (and clashed with the more "moderate" McGovern delegates in another ur-People's Republic moment), while Robin as a child helped on the ill-fated Helen Gahagan Thomas Senate campaign in 1950. She lost but not without labeling her opponent with the immortal nickname "Tricky Dick."
Pat Ikan is the godmother of what's informally called the Solon Mafia, a core of activists that helps Democrats win in northeast Johnson County. She dropped a reference to 25 cent beer at the original Donnelly's Pub, run by Democratic supervisor Harold Donnelly. (The current version is just a revival of the name).
Ikan, an educator, brought her background into the current education funding debate that's kept the legislative session going into overtime. "Every educational decision is a political decision," she said.
"Being born in in Lyon County" in heavily GOP northwest Iowa "and being in the Johnson CO Dems Hall of Fame is a political miracle," said Foege. He's only the second non-Johnson County resident in our hall of fame. Foege and the other non-resident, David Osterberg, both hail from Mt. Vernon and represented a now-dismantled House district that straddled the Johnson-Linn line. He said he considers Mt. Vernon "the Johnson County part of Linn County."
Foege spent most of his time thanking others, and reminisced about the greatest parade unit in Iowa campaign history, the Ro Boats. The parade crew wore toy boats around their waists, carried blue and yellow oars which said RO, paddled more or less in synch, and sang "Ro, Ro, Ro's my vote, on Election Daaay..."
Dave Loebsack also dropped a Ro Boats reference. Loebsack was once considered Foege's likely successor, until he goofed that up by getting elected to Congress. He said the only thing more surprising than that win was that "I'm the only Democrat left" in the Iowa delegation.
Loebsack cited the 1st District as the best pickup chance for 2016, but didn't name any of the three names running. He also said Chuck Grassley "has done nothing but cater to the tea party" since his 2010 re-election.
Grassley's two announced opponents, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause, were on hand, as were most of the legislative and courthouse delegation. Also visiting: Cedar Rapids state senator Rob Hogg and Hillary Clinton's Iowa chief, Matt Paul.