Democrats gather at ‘Hall of Fame’ dinner

Former Secretary of State and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton speaks at the Iowa Democratic Party’s “Hall of Fame” dinner in Cedar Rapids on July 17, 2015.

Alex Hanson

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Iowa Democratic insiders and activists got their first chance to see all five major candidates for president in one spot Friday, as all five gave keynote speeches at the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual “Hall of Fame” dinner.

Lincoln Chafee

The former U.S. senator and governor of Rhode Island launched his campaign last month with minimal attention. Even though he has not traveled much to Iowa and is currently sitting at the bottom of polls, Chafee is spending more time in New Hampshire and did several events in Iowa this week.

Chafee touted his experience, he is the only candidate who has been a mayor, senator and governor. He also rattled off a list of policy points he said he has long supported, including raising the minimum wage, LGBT rights and investing in infrastructure.

“We have a choice in 2016 — prosperity through peace, or endless war,” Chafee said, also praising the recent nuclear agreement with Iran. “Avoiding war is worth every bit of our energy.”

While he spent most of his speech talking foreign policy, he talked about his vision for America, which includes everyone being able to “co-exist,” regardless of who they are.

“I see a future where everyone has a chance to live the American Dream and I believe that is possible,” he said.

Hillary Clinton

The Democratic frontrunner was in Cedar Rapids for most of the day, hosting a kickoff rally with supporters on Friday afternoon. Just the mention of Clinton’s name elicited a huge applause with supporters chanting “Hillary!”

Clinton opened telling the story of her mother and her upbringing, a story she has told frequently during her campaign so far. She also talked about her new granddaughter and how that perspective has taught her to think differently about issues.

“That’s why I’m never going to let the Republicans rip away the progress we have made,” she said. “We Democrats are in the future business. We are the party of the future.”

She also spent time criticizing the crowded Republican field, which includes 15 candidates at this point.

“They may have some fresh faces, but they are the party of the past,” Clinton said.

“Trickle-down economics has to be one of the worst ideas of the 1980s, right up there with new Coke, shoulder pads and big hair,” she added to some laughs.

She knocked Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush by name, attacking his comments last week calling for Americans to work longer hours.

“Americans don’t need lectures, they need raises,” she said.

She also mentioned Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who launched his campaign earlier this week. She attacked his plans to restrict access to abortion and moves to cutback on unions in his home state.

Clinton also called out Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad by name and mentioned his veto of the reopening of state mental health facilities in Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant.

“I’m adding my voice to yours,” she said. “Gov. Branstad, put down your veto pen!”

Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner at this point in the campaign season, said she and Democrats are focused on those who are struggling and average Americans trying to get ahead.

“We’re going to build an America where we leave no one behind,” she said.

Martin O’Malley

The former mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland hit Wall Street and corporate America hard during his speech, calling for the breaking up of big banks and tougher restrictions on Wall Street.

“We need to stop giving power to the bullies on Wall Street,” he said. “Tell me how it is that you can get pulled over for a broken taillight, but no bankers were charged for single crime of the 2008 [financial] meltdown?”

O’Malley listed off accomplishments from his time in Maryland, including raising the minimum wage and stronger gun control.

“We didn’t just talk about it, we actually got it done!” O’Malley said.

He asked attendees to raise their hands if they had a better life than their parents and asked if they believed their kids would have a better future than themselves.

O’Malley called out Donald Trump, the real estate mogul who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, on his comments about immigration. O’Malley said Trump should run on a “know nothing” party platform if he thinks his comments on undocumented immigrants are accurate.

He also talked about social issues, saying he will continue to push for LGBT rights and marriage equality. O’Malley, who released a comprehensive plan on immigration policy earlier this week, called for a pathway to citizenship to bring “11 million out of the shadows.”

Bernie Sanders

Before Sanders’ name was even announced, his supporters chanted “Bernie!” as he walked toward the stage to speak.

Sanders said he is the only candidate who will say the country needs a “political revolution” to make changes. As is usual with his speech, he blasted the amount of income inequality in America, calling it the “moral, political and economic issue of our time.”

If elected, he said a Sander’s White House would not appoint anyone to the Supreme Court who would not vote for a repeal of the “Citizens United” decision, which allows for unlimited money in campaigns from Super PACs.

Sanders called out Republican candidates, mocking their “family values” agenda, saying women “should make their own decisions” when it comes to abortion and there should be legislation when it comes to wage equality.

He also praised President Obama’s recent move to pardon 46 non-violent drug offenders and said he envisions an America where African-Americans are able to walk down the street and not be harassed by cops.

“Please don’t think small,” Sanders said. “Think big.”

While Clinton remains the front-runner, Sanders has been able to attract some impressive crowds at campaign events. Some are so big, his campaign has been forced to switch venues. Sanders still remains behind Clinton in the most recent polls.

Jim Webb

The former senator from Virginia who was the first to announce late last year he may run for president, officially launched his candidacy earlier this month in a relatively quiet way — by simply sending an email to supporters.

Webb opened by talking about his long-shot big in Virginia. He also mentioned that he was elected the same cycle with Sanders, and he often got Webb “fired up” during political fights in the U.S. Senate.

He spoke at length about his pro-union stances, saying he is the only candidate who took part in a union picket line protest during his time in Virginia politics.

“Organized labor is not the enemy,” he said. “It’s the friend of many, and working to turn things around.”

Webb, who earlier this week announced he has some problems with the Iran deal, said he would not sign any executive agreement that allows Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Other candidates praised the agreement in their speeches. Webb’s opposition received a few claps from supporters in the crowd during Friday night’s dinner.

‘”I would never accept Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons,” he said.

Webb is also at the bottom in recent polling, but has been to Iowa several times before announcing his candidacy. Webb, a more moderate Democrat compared to Sanders and O’Malley, also called for some bipartisanship in his speech.

“We need a president who can articulate Democratic values while at the same time working across party lines,” Webb said.

Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame inductees

While the candidates may have stolen the show, one of the main purposes of the 16th annual dinner was to elect statewide leaders and activists into the party’s “Hall of Fame.”

• Outstanding Elected Official: Senate President Pam Jochum of Dubuque

• Outstanding Supporter: Former Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran

• Outstanding Leadership: Former State Sen. Bev Hannon

• Outstanding State Central Committee (SCC) Member: Penny Rosfjord

• Outstanding Party Chair: Wapello County Chair Melinda Jones

• Outstanding Party Activist: Kurt Meyer of St. Ansgar

• Rising Star Award: Morgan Miller of West Des Moines

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, the only Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation following the 2014 midterm elections, spent several minutes thanking those in attendance and those helping make the event happen. Loebsack, who represents Iowa’s second district, said as the only Democrat in Congress from Iowa, he does his best to represent all of Iowa’s interests.

Loebsack also said it is clear that Democrats are representing the best interests of everyday Iowans and made a plea to those in attendance to help in the coming election.

“We need a Democratic president because we need to expand and protect the middle class,” he said.