NEVADA — Four Democrats embarking on campaigns to unseat Republican incumbents in 2020, pitched their ideas and visions to Story County Democrats at their Sunday barbecue fundraiser at Gates Memorial Hall in Nevada.
The event’s speakers, 2020 presidential hopefuls Gov. Steve Bullock and three-star admiral Joe Sestak and two Iowa senatorial candidates, Eddie Mauro and Navy Admiral Mike Franken, all stated their cases, looking to build momentum in their respective primary races.
Bullock, Sestak look to build rapport among Iowa voters
While 17 of his fellow Democratic candidates spoke at the Polk County Steak Fry event in Des Moines on Saturday, Bullock said, “to hell with it,” opting to pitch his message to local Democrats that he can defeat President Donald Trump, and appeal to a wide variety of voters, if given the nomination.
One of Bullock’s main points of emphasis was he can win red states, citing his successful re-election bid in 2016 — winning the state by four points on the same day President Donald Trump won the state by 21 points.
“In 2016, I was the only Democrat in the country to get re-elected in a state that Donald Trump won,” Bullock said. “At the end of the day this isn’t about percentages it’s about collecting votes, 270 electoral votes. We have to recognize that the path to victory doesn’t just go through the coast. It doesn’t just go through the urban areas. It goes through the places we lost to Trump.”
Iowa, in particular, was a major pivot state for Trump in 2016, as he managed to swing 31 of Iowa’s 99 counties in his favor to defeat Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton.
“You’ve done real well here in Story County, but almost a third of your counties voted Obama, Obama, Trump,” Bullock said. “This election is not only about the White House, it’s also about the Statehouse.”
Since entering the race in May following the conclusion of Montana’s legislative session, Bullock has yet to gain significant traction in local or major polls, stuck in a dearth of candidates who are polling below 0 percent.
Bullock said he wants to revitalize the American dream for those who have been denied by it, including communities of color, women and college students struggling with federal student debt.
“I had the opportunity to live that American dream,” Bullock said. “But we have to recognize for far too many people in this country that dream has been denied. For women who are making 80 cents on dollar or college students struggling with student debt, that dream has been deferred.”
However, the Montana governor likened a potential breakout in the polls similar to 2004 general election runner-up John Kerry’s rise in the Iowa polls in 2004 caucuses and Barack Obama’s surge in 2008 caucuses in the Iowa Caucuses that led him to the presidency.
“I think for anyone in this field, you have to do well in Iowa,” Bullock said. “I also think there’s been a false distinction that we have to turn out our base, or bring back voters. The only way we’re going to win is to do well in Iowa.”
Sestak also is looking to move out from the pack of candidates polling 0 percent in most statewide and major polls, outlines a list of campaign priorities including restoring several major Obama-era international pacts, specifically the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear agreement and the free trade Trans-Pacific Partnership.
He said the president should be “convening the world against the challenges.”
The former two-term House lawmaker from Pennsylvania is campaigning on accountability, promoting himself as the candidate who is “above self, above party, above any special interest.”
Sestak pulled off a notable upset by defeating Pennsylvania’s longest-serving U.S. senator, Arlen Specter, in the 2010 primary for Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District.
Senatorial candidates take swings at incumbent Ernst.
A newcomer to the political arena, Mike Franken made Story County his first campaign stop in his efforts to unseat Republican Sen. Joni Ernst.
Three other Democrats — Theresa Greenfield, Kimberly Graham and Eddie Mauro — will compete with Franken for the party’s nomination in next June’s primary election.
A Navy admiral for more than 40 years, Franken said he hopes to continue his history of working with and helping Iowans of all denominations in his campaign.
“I’ve spent time in Washington, D.C., and have worked with people from all denominations across all walks of life,” Franken said. “I’m also known as the guy who has had to make tough decisions,”
Franken said he’s running to replace Ernst, who he considers a “Trump-era Republican,” from Washington D.C.
“I’m confident her head is in the right place, but I’ve had 11 jobs in D.C. during my nearly 40-year career with the Navy,” he said. “I’ve managed 6,700 people, and I’ve been in charge of a $150 million budget.”
Franken said he thinks the “breadth of his background and experience was better suited to a seat in the upper house of Congress.”
Eddie Mauro, businessman and life coach, echoed his message from last month’s visit to Boone in wanting to fix unfairness in Iowa’s affordable housing and healthcare.
“We’re seeing fundamental unfairness across the board, from affordable housing to healthcare, it’s all creating unfair playing field for Iowans,” Mauro said to the Tribune. “Ernst has not represented Iowan in Washington, D.C., only special interest groups.”