Story County Democrats host candidates at annual fundraiser

Democratic congressional candidate J.D. Scholten speaking at the Story County Democrats’ annual “Soup Supper” on Jan. 18 at the Collegiate United Methodist Church.

Jake Webster

The Story County Democrats annual “Soup Supper” hosted presidential campaigns, local elected Democrats and congressional hopefuls late Saturday.

Maddie Anderson, the chair of the Story County Democrats, said the event is their largest fundraiser of the year.

“We depend on people coming out and supporting us for the majority of the funds that we raise throughout the year,” Anderson said. “We do have several smaller fundraisers that are during the summer and the fall, but this is the big one — this is the one people come out through the sleet and the freezing rain and the high winds.”

Though the windchill temperature Friday night dropped below negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit, at least 200 people were present at the event hosted at the Collegiate United Methodist Church in Ames.

Anderson said the event took place earlier in the calendar than last year’s to maximize engagement ahead of the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.

“We recognize that the candidates are going to be focusing on other early state’s after the caucuses and this is a way for us to get the big-name speakers here,” Anderson said.

Story County Supervisor Lisa Heddens said the event helps raise awareness of the candidates who are running for president.

“It also gives an opportunity for those who are running for U.S. Congress or U.S. Senate an opportunity to share their vision as well as to state why they’re running for higher office,” Heddens said.

Heddens said she is supporting former Vice President Joe Biden in his bid for the presidency. Heddens endorsed Biden in May 2019.

“For me it’s definitely very personal,” Heddens said. “I endorsed him when he ran in [2008]. I have continued having conversations with the vice president. He and my son — I have a son who is 25 who has an intellectual disability, he really bonded with the vice president. The vice president called him for his birthday, he actually sent him a basketball book for his birthday — you know just always, when my son was sick with pneumonia and was in the hospital he called to find out how — he called him ‘the big guy,’ — he was doing. So that’s very personal to me.”

Several other local Democratic elected officials were present at the event.

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, who had previously endorsed Sen. Cory Booker, was speaking with a representative of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign.

Wessel-Kroeschell said she is unsure about making another endorsement before the caucuses though she added she is playing “phone tag” with a couple of the candidates. She said electability is the most important issue for her, and she needs someone who will “excite the electorate.”

“Elizabeth Warren […], I’ve had some contacts also from the Klobuchar campaign — I haven’t followed up on those. I would probably lean one way or the other on those two.” Wessel-Kroeschell said.

Heddens introduced each of the speakers at the event starting with former Rep. John Delaney, who is seeking the presidency.

Delaney entered the presidential race in 2017 and has campaigned heavily in Iowa since, visiting all 99 counties. The latest Selzer & Company poll for the Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom found Delaney has 0 percent support among likely Democratic caucusgoers.

Delaney was the only candidate who came to the event in person. Representatives spoke on behalf of Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Biden.

Democratic congressional candidate J.D. Scholten also spoke to the assembled Democrats.

Scholten urged those present to caucus on Feb. 3 even if they have not decided on a candidate. He said his campaign will receive information on who turns out for a Democratic caucus so they can see who their base is and who they should contact moving forward to the general election in November.

Sehba Faheem, senior in biological systems engineering and co-president of the College Democrats at Iowa State said “it is always nice to hear from J.D. Scholten.”

Four of the five Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for U.S. Senate spoke at the event.

Retired Navy Vice Admiral Michael Franken, attorney Kimberly Graham, businessman Eddie Mauro and Cal Woods all spoke at the event. Theresa Greenfield was the lone Democratic Senate hopeful who did not attend the event.