Sunday, October 25, 2009

Johnson County Dems BBQ

Loebsack, Senate Contenders at JC Dems BBQ

"Because we've been pusing hard in on the public option, we're beginning to see some movement in the Senate," Congressman Dave Loebsack told the 150 or so Democrats gathered in Hills Saturdayfor the Johnson County Democrats fall barbecue. "We in the House helped move the Senate and, yes, the President."

Responding to critics of health care reform he noted, "Not only have I read the bill, I've amended it" to provide better federal funding for direct care workers.

Loebsack also took credit for improving reimbursement rates. "Finally, Iowa can be treated fairly."

The second term congressman, who casually acknowledged ("not an announcement") that he's seeking a third term, shared the stage with the two announced US Senate candidates, Brb Krause and Tom Fiegen. But some of the buzz in the room was about the likely entry of former gubernatorial nominee Roxanne Conlin into the Senate race.

"The grass roots isn't excited about her," said Fiegen. "There's a sense of been there, done that. She's our party's Doug Gross -- ruch and connected in Des Moines but not in touch with the grass roots." In contrast, Fiegen said, reaction to his economic message has been "tremendouus. People react to me like they've been in the dark and I'm bringing them a flashlight. They're excited to see someone who can go toe to toe with Grassley."

"Grassley's going to have 14 or 15 million dollars," Fiegen told the crowd. "Tom Harkin says I can compete if I can raise 3 million."

"(Conlin)'s going to have to draw heavily on the women's vote and she has a lot of support in Des Moines," said Krause, "but I don't know about the rest of the state."

But plenty of beret-off conversations circled around the new entrant into the race.

Reminders of the Board of Supervisors vacancy were also present, with the podium decorated with a sign from the late Larry Meyers' campaign and one of Larry's trademark "Don't Tread On Me" flags near the stage. Even the President got in on the act.

Supervisor candidate Janelle Rettig worked the crowd, but none of the other applicants were on the scene. Also notably absent were the Iowa City council candidates (Mayor Regenia Bailey, not up this cycle, was there), though Coralville's John Lundell was on hand.

Almost the entire courthouse and legislative delegations were on hand. The event was on the northern end of Larry Marek's House district. The first term Democrat says he hasn't hear any rumors of opponents -- "primary or general," acknowledging reports that some labor-leaning Democrats have been unhappy with his record. (Aside: one possible opponent, former legislator Sandy Greiner, seems a bit busy with Terry Branstad these days.) In the meantime, he's trying to get the crops in despite "the wettest fall I've seen in 40 plus years of farming."

A sizeable Fairfield contingent was present: Krause, Senator Becky Schmitz, Secretary of Agriculture candidate Francis Thicke, and newly elected State Rep. Curt Hanson. "Hope and footwork carried the day over fear and money," Hanson said of his special election win.

Hope was also a theme for Secretary of State Mike Mauro. "Democrats are all about having people participate," he said, bragging of the 45,000 people who used Iowa's new election day registration law in last year's presidential election. "The other side tries to mumble-jumble things with fear and doubt. Their real message is that if they can make things difficult and put enough doubt in people's minds, more people will stay home and maybe they can win. Don't let them do it."

Mauro brought nomination papers for next year's election, as did staffers for Gov. Chet Culver.

The crowd evaporated almost instantly after the conclusion of the last speech (Fiegen's), rushing home to catch the 6:00 Hawkeye kickoff. The 8-0 record and next Saturday night's home game is one more distraction from the poor, forgotten city election. (My Press-Citizen piece, specifically my announcement that I'd voted for Jeff Shipley and Dan Tallon, seemed to have been noticed.)

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