Area Democrats gather at new campaign headquarters

Audience members react to Christie Vilsack’s speech at the opening of the Story County Democrats’ new office, which opened July 1.

Aimee Burch

Approximately 200 people gathered Sunday in Ames to commemorate the opening of the official campaign headquarters for Story County Democrats.

Local, state and federal officials came together with area Democrats and supporters to eat, share thoughts and begin the campaign process of setting up volunteers and early voters while also getting a few jabs in at their Republican counterparts.

“Welcome to your new home,” said Jan Bauer, Story County Democratic Party chairwoman. She emphasized ways citizens can utilize and spend time in the new space through volunteer opportunities from now until the general election. High-ranking members of the various Democratic campaigns, such as for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and Christie Vilsack’s congressional campaign, were also introduced so citizens would know who they would be working with.

The afternoon’s keynote speeches came from Vilsack and Sen. Tom Harkin.

Vilsack, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, said Story County and Ames “feels like home” and that she feels welcome here.

She characterized this congressional race between her and Republican incumbent Steve King as asking for a new job.

“Each of us is applying for a job. We’re asking the people of this new district to consider us,” Vilsack said. “Each of us has a different idea of what that job entails.”

Vilsack said King has only represented about 48 percent of the new district they both encompass now, whereas she has represented all of the new district. She reflected on her time as Iowa’s first lady as a time when she did not only stand for Iowa’s Democrats, but instead served “everyone in Iowa.”

“I see [this job] very locally. I see it much the way a teacher sees it,” Vilsack said. “I see these 39 counties the way I would look at my students on the first day and say, ‘How can I as quickly as possible get to know all of these cities and all of these counties? How can I help each of them reach their maximum potential?’”

Vilsack took a few jabs at King as well during her speech, saying that he sees this congressional job as a way to promote his own personal profile as well as to promote a national ideology.

Harkin used his time to reflect on the recent Supreme Court ruling the states the Affordable Care Act as constitutional. Harkin serves as chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee as well as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Both committees and Harkin were instrumental in getting the Affordable Care Act through its beginning stages to now.

“Everything I put in [is] constitutional,” Harkin said. When Gov. Terry Branstad’s name was shouted by an audience member in regards to his opposition in implementing the law, Harkin said, “When this all takes effect, [Branstad] hopefully won’t be governor any longer.”

Harkin said all Democratic candidates currently running for election or re-election should stand positive on this ruling and be affirmative in their remarks on this legislative landmark. He outlined different talking points on the Affordable Care Act, such as coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and the ability for children to stay on their parents insurance until age 26.

“We are on the right side of history,” Harkin said. “We are finally emphasizing prevention and wellness.”

Harkin also used his time to emphasize Iowa’s role as a battleground state, saying that area Democrats need to support and do everything they can for officials at the local and state levels to get Democrats in the Iowa Legislature.

He also recognized the work needed to get Democratic incumbent Obama re-elected to another term in the White House, alluding to Obama’s other accomplishments like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

“We have a great record of accomplishment,” Harkin said in closing.