Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention (AUDIO)

The Iowa Democratic Party’s convention started earlier this morning.  It’s 11 o’clock and (gasp) they’re on schedule.  Roxanne Conlin, the Democratic Party’s 2010 nominee for the U.S. Senate,  is being introduced to the crowd.  What is below is a live blog of the event, which has a line-up including Conlin, Senator Tom Harkin and Governor Chet Culver.

“Hi, good morning,” Conlin said to start, then she joked as she adjusted IDP vice chair Sue Dvorsky’s “booster chair” behind the lectern — Dvorsky introduced Conlin. (Listen to Conlin’s 16 minute speech by clicking on the following link:  ConlinConvention.  Read the Radio Iowa story here.)

“There are lots and lots of people to thank,” Conlin said, regarding her primary victory. Conlin thanked Bob Krause, her primary opponent,  for a “wonderful, dignitifed, issue-oriented campaign.”  She asked him to rise and crowd gave him a standing O.  (She did not mention her other opponent, Tom Fiegen, who has said he will not endorse Conlin.)

“We worked very hard,” Conlin said of the Primary. “We built a grassroots army.  We made 200,000 telephone calls.  We visited all 99 counties….We sent millions and millions and emails.  Are you all getting our emails? We have thousands of Facebook friends.  We tweet.  We text.  We do it all!”  Conlin then asked the crowd to visit her campaign website and give her campaign contact information.

“…We expect the attacks — well, the attacks have already begun, but we want to know where to find you when we need you,” she said.

Next Conlin invited the crowd to watch the campaign commercial her nine-year-old granddaughter made, joking that her granddaughter says she looks just grandma “but my hair is longer and she’s old” (that was Conlin channeling the granddaughter there).  The crowd laughed.

Conlin next made a pitch for campaign contributions. 

“We have earned the right to run against Senator Grassley and run against him we will.  He will have the race of his life,” Conlin declared. “…He has been in the United States Seante for 30 years.  He is about to begin his 4th decade.  It’s up to us to persuade Iowans that three decades is really long enough…We know that you cannot send the same guy to do the same job and expect a different result and we want a different result.  We demand a different result.  We send our senators to DC to do the people’s business and we wonder who is Senator Grassley listening to?”

She mentioned Grassley’s campaign slogan: “Grassley works.”

Conlin said: “For who?  For who does Grassley work?”

Conlin asked the delegates to “bring every single Iowa Democrat home to the Iowa Democratic Party” for November,   Conlin said it ws important, too, to reach out to Republicans and independents “and remind them of the failures that we Democrats have to fix.”

Conlin offered a litany of items which she labeled Grassley failures:  turning billions of dollars in surplus into deficits; he reduced taxes “for those who already have the most not once, but twice”; he allowed the dollar to plunge and the trade to soar.

“He and others went to the floor of the senate went to the floor of the senate to try and prevent reregulation of the oil companies,” Conlin said, mentioning the oil spill: “Why Senator Grassley would you let this happen to our country?”

Conlin offered a bit of her own biography.  “I have spent my life speaking out for those who have had no voice,” Conlin said.  “…I locked up every single heroin dealer in the state in a 24 hour period and they took a contract out on my life….I’ve stood up to the most powerful forces in our nation…and if I am fortunate enough to be your United States senators I will fight for justice for every single Iowan every single day and I will hold Senator Grassley accountable for every single vote, for every single job lost, for every single Iowan hurt by the policies he espouses.”

She continued: “We need to replace a career policitican who thinks only of the next election with a challenger concerned with the next generation…So I say to Senator Grassley, ‘Let’s go. Let’s get started…Let’s find out who represents the everyday people.'”

She criticized Grassley for voting for the Wall Street bailout.  “Tell Iowans, please, why you voted five times for tax breaks for corporations to ship our jobs overseas?  Senator Grassley, why did you do that?”

“…Why is it fair for you to vote for $36.5 billion in subsidies for big oil and vote no, no, no for unemployed Iowans?  Why is that fair?”

Conlin made an appeal to the activists gathered for the state convention: “America is depending on us to put America back on track.  Are you up for it?  Are you ready to work for change?  Are you ready to fight for change?  Iowa can do better.  Iowa must do better.  Iowa will do better.  Count on me.  I’m going to count on you.”

“…I’m going to go get him….This is our home…This is where we teach our children the promise of tomorrow…and we intend that that promise will be kept…I have worked hard.  I have been lucky and I have lived the American dream.  I want everybody to have that same opportunity.  We will stand together.  We will defend the American dream…and this time we will prevail.”

“…Thank you and on to November 2,” Conlin said.

Senator Tom Harkin was the next speaker.  (Listen to Harkin’s 23 minute speech by clicking on the following link:  HarkinConvention.) Harkin began by wishing Iowa Democratic Party chairman Michael Kiernan a “full and speedy recovery.” (Kiernan resigned this week for health reasons.)

Harkin mentioned Conlin’s Primary victory next: “Boy, talk about a slam dunk.”  He mentions helping Conlin blast through the “glass ceiling” — but Harkin does not mention Grassley by name. 

Next, Harkin offered a defense of Chet Culver, the Democrat who is seeking a second term as governor and who faces Republican Terry Branstad, a former four-term governor. 

Harkin said:  “I’ve been reading Terry Branstad’s campaign statements.  I’m kind of scratching my head…(Branstad seems) so proud to be yesterday’s man.”  Harkin suggested Branstad’s favorite day of the year was when every one turns their clocks back for daylight savings time. 

“Let me put it this way.  I know something about tires and I know something about politicians and the problem with retreads is they have a tendency to blow out and cause a lot of wrecks.  That’s why I’m better on our high-performance….Governor Chet Culver this year.”

Harkin said he was “very optimistic about this campaign year” and later said there was “still plenty of kick left inthe old Democratic donkey.”

Harkin introduced the convention’s keynote speaker, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who took the stage at 11:43 a.m.

“Good morning,” Klobuchar began. “Are you ready to give Tom some company in the United States Senate?”

Klobuchar began with a joke, based on a well-known quote about Minnesotans,  adding that you could ask Al Franken (the other U.S. Senator about this) that “all the recounts are above average.”

“I am well aware you have a lot of famous people come to Iowa,” she said, listing names like Barack Obama and the Clinton.  Klobuchar referred to them as “my warm-up acts.”

She mentioned Sarah Palin’s December trip to Iowa (a stop at a Sioux City bookstore, part of Palin’s book-signing tour).

“I will tell you that some people claim that my northern, Fargo-type accent is a little like Sarah Palin’s,” Klobuchar said.  “I mean, we do have something in common, right? We both come from states that are states of snowmobiling and ice fishing, but there is one big difference. When she gives a speech, she gets hundreds of thousands of dollars and I’m here for a free lunch.”

She made another Palin reference, about her puzzling assignment on a senate subcommittee on oceans.   Klobuchar suggested she got the assignment because: “I can see Lake Superior from my porch.”

Klobuchar listed a number of similarities between Iowa and Minnesota, then moved onto the policy portion of her speech.  “Let’s look to the future and capture the imagination of Iowa and Minnesota — the people who gave us Norman Borlaug.”

Klobuchar issued an “economic call to action”– adding America should become a manufacturing powerhouse again, so that when you go into a store and buy something, ‘You turn it over and it says ‘Made in the U.S.A.'”

“…This isn’t going to be easy….We need to get our nation’s priorities back in order….Let’s be clear.  We’re going to have some fights along the way….Let’s do something radical.  Let’s reward actual job creation in the United States of America.”

“…and by the way, despite what the United States Supreme Court may say, big corporations aren’t people.  People are people.”

She got a standing ovation from the crowd for that statement.

Klobuchar said Democrats were offering a “positive, optimistic vision for our nation.”  As for Republicans, Klobuchar said: “I’m not hearing a lot of ideas from the other side.  What they seem to be selling too much is selling fear.”

Sound is down.  Audio emergency taking me away from live blog.

“In all the fury and all the debates in the 24/7 TV cable…you’ve always got to remember what we’re fighting for….You know what’s been going on.  They’ve been trying to scare us…and when that happens, you’ve got to look for courage.”

She told a story about her grandpa Mike, who was a miner.  “You’re Iowans.  You’ve always known the right thing to do.  You’ve given the country leaders of courage…It’s up to you to shine a light in the dark of that mine…Remember, we have no fear.  No fear, because we’re doing the right thing…Your candidates need you…so let’s get to work.”

At 12:07 p.m., there was a photo op on stage after Klobuchar finished, as Conlin and Harkin came on stage.  “Don’t those three look good together?” Dvorsky said when she came back on stage.

At 12:23 p.m., there’s a nomination from the floor for Jon Murphy to serve as the Democratic Party’s nominee for state auditor.   He wins.  He speaks.  He’s a former aide to Congressman Bowell who now works for Governor Culver as head of the state/federal relations office.  Murphy worked at Iowa State University in its governmental relations office.  He’s 39 years old.  He’s a native of Des Moines who lives in Des Moines, and he’s taken a leave of absence from his job to run against Republian State Auditor Dave Vaudt.  (Read the Radio Iowa story about Murphy.)

The party’s delegates are now debating the timing of the 2012 Caucuses, specifically whether the Caucuses should be held on a Friday or Saturday.  Delegates are saying those days disenfranchise Jews and Muslims.  Holding it on a Friday or Saturday would reinforce the notion that Iowans are “a  bunch of white Protestants who don’t care about diversity.”

At12:48 p.m. Governor Chet Culver, his two children and his wife, Mari, entered the room.  Culver gets behind a microphone on the convention floor and “enthusiastically name Patty Judge as the lieutenant governor candidate.”

There is a voice vote.  “In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it,” the convention chair declares. 

Judge takes the stage, and “proudly accepts the nomination as the Democrastic Party’s lieutenant governor.”  Part of the crowd rises to applaud.  Some don’t, as there had been a floor fight about how to nominate the lieutenant governor led by Ed Fallon, former Culver foe in 2006.

Judge lists what she considers the accomplishments of the Culver administration. “We’ve got money in the bank,” Judge said of the state’s fiscal condition.

“…Terry Branstad would overturn all of this.  All of it, saying that it is foolish and, I’m not making this up — I’m taking his words — ‘It is foolish to invest in people,’  and the road to prosperity…according to Terry, lies in tax cuts for his rich pals…My answer to Terry is: ‘No.'”.

“…I will work day and night with Chet to stop him and I know that you will be with us, too,” Judge said, to applause.

She mentioned preserving public preschool funding.  “Chet and I are not going to let the Republicans take that away from Iowa’s children,” Judge said.

Judge mentioned her own weight loss, which she called “leading by example.”

Judge then restated part of the speech she gave at the Culver campaign kick-off.  (Listen to Judge’s entire 10 minute speech by clicking on the following link:  JudgeConvention.)

At EXACTLY one o’clock, Judge introduced Culver and the Rolling Stones are playing over the loud speakers.  “Start me up,” Mick sang in the classic.

Culver begins with thanks to First Lady Mari Culver, his “bride of 17 years.”  Mari is sitting in a chair on the stage, flanked by 9-year-old Claire and 7-and-a-half year old John. (Click on the following link to listen to the entire speech:  CulverConvention.  Read the Radio Iowa story about the speech here.)

“We are working every day as a team…to try to help impact lives of 2.8 million Iowans,” Culver said, adding Patty Judge had “been there every single day.”

Culver mentions the tornadoes and floods of 2008, praising Judge who serves as his homeland security advisor.  “She has been there and she was on the front lines with me as we responded.”

He touts the vote in the Iowa legislature to lift the ban on stem cell research and gets applause.

“We feel very good about our record,” Culver said, “…the progress that we’ve made…We have a choice to make on November 2nd.  Are we going to go backwards, back to the 20th century with Terry Branstad?  We are not going to go back to the ’80s.  We are going to keep this state moving forward.”

“…We are not going to let Terry Branstad pull the plug on progress on Iowa,” Culver said.  “Now, we’ve got some work to do.  We have 140 days.  Who needs sleep?  Sleep just makes you groggy.”

“…I promise you a vigorous campaign.  I will give it everything I’ve got, every day, to make sure that we’re successful,” Culver said.  “…We need to stand up and fight for 140 days.”

Culver urged the crowd to “work tirelessly for the next 140 days.”

“…We are going to win this race on the ground.  That’s what we know how to do as Democrats.  We’ve done it before and we will do it again on November 2nd.”

Culver thanked Sue Dvorsky for stepping in as chair, adding he hopes to see Michael Kiernan back out on the campaign trail “in the next few weeks, hopefully” after Kiernan’s surgery to remove a tumor next to his salivary gland.

Culver praised Klobuchar and Harkin., then began to tout Roxanne Conlin’s campaign against Senator Chuck Grassley, the Repubican who beat Culver’s father, former Senator John Culver, in 1980.  “You think it’s been a long 30 years for you.  It’s been a long 30 years for the Culver family, too,” Chet Culver said. 

Culver mentioned that Iowa has never in its 164 year history elected a woman to congress. “I want to be a part of history on November 2nd when Roxanne Conlin wins this race,” Culver said.

Culver praised the statewide candidates, saying Iowa Democrats “have a fantastic ticket from top to bottom.”

Culver turned back to his own race against Branstad. “We are on the right rack.” he said. “We are moving foward and we don’t want to go back with Branstad.”

“…The former four-term governor says that change is on the way.  He’s got that right.  Change is on the way.  If you believe in women’s rights…civil rights…he’s going to take away Iowans’ rights and Iowa’s freedoms when it comes to equality. Our Supreme Court has spoken loudly and clearly,” Culver said and the crowd stood to applaud at this point, remaining on their feet (and clapping) for the remainder of the speech.  “We are not going backwards….to the 1980s…Those are our values and we’re not going backward.  Not on my watch.  It is a different generation, a different century and we’re going forward…We are going to win together on November 2nd.” 

Speech over at 1:17 p.m.  Former Iowa Democratic Party chairman Dave Nagle said 1974 appears to him to be the last time attendance at the state convention was this low.  Many chairs were empty, as Ed Fallon and many os his supporters on the party-rule issue walked out after they lost.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.