Yes, this is more about the Iowa caucuses.
But before the breakdown with the Iowa Democratic Party’s new app, before the party’s delays in reporting results, before former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders sort of split victory in the state, some area Iowans got fresh looks at the whole process.
When Thom Chesney took over the presidency of Clarke University in July, he was excited to get his first look at the famous first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. But, when he was scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., on caucus day for the annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, he thought he was out of luck.
This year, though, the IDP piloted 96 satellite caucus sites around the country, and three overseas.
D.C.’s was one of the biggest. The IDP emailed Chesney two days before the caucus to inform them that “due to higher-than-expected turnout,” the location had been changed to the IBEW International Union.
“It was really good to see so many Iowans in one place,” Chesney said. “I encountered only a couple of people I knew — four or five from Dubuque, specifically — they were either working here or they were at a conference like me.”
Chesney said the location was well-run.
“I have to give hats off to the organizers who saw it through to make it happen,” he said.
Chesney said that at least during the first alignment, the group gathered in the nation’s capital separated differently than Iowa Democrats did statewide back home.
“It was kind of notable in the fact that in the first round there was a very quick and very clear division — 40% went directly to (U.S. Sen. Elizabeth) Warren,” he said. “Otherwise, it was evenly divided between (former Vice President Joe) Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders and (U.S. Sen. Amy) Klobuchar.”
Chesney said he aligned as undecided the first round, because he was. He went through the process and was convinced to land somewhere.
“I’m not going to tell you where I landed the second round,” he said.
Back in Dubuque, Julia Theisen participated in the caucus in the more traditional way, but for the first time. Theisen is a native of Britain.
But, she said at a Tom Steyer campaign stop just days before caucus, that she had just passed her U.S. citizenship exam in order to vote this year.
Loras College political science professor Chris Budzisz said that he had some guests from overseas at caucus sites in Dubuque as well.
“They thought it was really interesting,” he said. “They said the French would never do this. The French are ‘too formal’ and ‘don’t get very emotional with their politics.’ To them it seemed like a very American approach, to stand up and talk about your candidates with other people.”
Another Abby at the State of the Union
U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, joined dozens of lawmakers in inviting folks with pre-existing medical conditions as their guests to President Donald Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address last week.
For that, Finkenauer turned to Abby King, a Senior High School student Finkenauer met during an October roundtable discussion at Carnegie-Stout Public Library about prescription drug prices.
“I want to make sure the president looks up and see Abby and other folks from across the country,” Finkenauer said on a call with reporters the morning before the address. “We have passed hundreds of bipartisan bills that are now sitting in the Senate that they have not touched.”
Those include HR 3, the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act,” passed in December.
Abby King made her way to D.C., accompanied by her mother Mickey King, a teacher in Dubuque.
“My concern is, it’s not going to be long,” Mickey said. “ She’s going to age off my insurance. She is wanting to go into an area that I’m not sure is going to have the most reliable health care. She should never have to make the choice.”
Abby King said she is concerned about her future.
“I would rather have a job that I’m enjoying and want to be there every day, than worry about paying for my insulin,” she said. “But that concerns me.”
During his address, Trump did ask the assembled lawmakers for bipartisan action to lower drug costs. Afterward, Abby King said she was glad that he did.
She was also a bit awed by the experience.
“It was really amazing to be in a room full of these politicians who make choices that change our lives every day,” she said. “It demonstrated to me how little ideas through this long process can take effect and become laws.”
Abby said the partisan tensions in the chamber — just a day before the Senate voted, mostly along party lines, to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial — were not lost on her.
“There were people who were happy in their own groups, but tense between the Democrats and Republicans,” she said. “I felt that a little bit.”