The 2010 Jefferson-Jackson Day program (Audio)

“We aren’t going back,” Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky just told the crowd as she concluded her opening remarks at 7:42 p.m.  There was a delay in the program’s launch this evening, due to a false alarm.  Party officials say 1400 tickets were sold for the 2010 Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner.  There are tables set for a little less than 1200, however.

The night’s cash haul?  “We have broken $300,00o,” Dvorsky announced to the crowd.

What follows is a live blog of the evening.

Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo) was the first elected official to speak.  I don’t recognize the music they played as Braley makes his way on stage.  (Braley staffer emailed to say it was “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” by the Beastie Boys.  Braley grew up in Brooklyn, Iowa.)  “In 2006, we gave them hope.  In 2008, we gave them change and in 2010 we’re going to give them hell.  We’re just going to speak truth to lies and speak truth to fear and they’re going to think it’s hell when they’re listening to it,” Braley said to open his remarks.

Braley next said the pundits who are predicting November 2 will be “doomsday for Democrats” are wrong.  “We are at our best when we are standing together, fighting for what we believe in…and that’s why Democrats are going to win all over this state on November 2.”

Braley mentioned some accomplishments of the Demcoratic-led congress and President Obama, from bringing the troops home from Iraq to comprehensive health care reform.  “You made that happen and a lot of you know right now there is an avalanche of secret money pouring into this state…I’m here to tell you right now I am honored that they find what I do such a challenge…Iowans are smart and they know when someone’s trying to buy their vote.”

Braley wrapped up by calling upon the crowd to stand. “I want you to be proud of being a Democrat.  Let’s go out on November 2nd and prove them wrong,” Braley concluded.

Next speaker, Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-Mount Vernon).  The music was “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers as Loebsack takes the stage. “I wanted that Tom Petty song when I got up here…That’s what Bruce was talking about right?” Loebsack said. “No way are we going to back down.”

Loebsack said he was “very proud of the work” he’s done in congress.  “I’m not going to take a backseat to anybody,” he said. “…In case you’re sensing a little bit of indignation in my voice…I don’t know about you, but Bruce and I are angry about the threats to our democracy…That shadowy group out there that has those secret donations.”

Loebsack criticized his opponent, Marinnette Miller-Meeks, for loaning her campaign money.  “I have an opponent who has bankrolled her campaign to the tune of half a million dollars…Iowans do not want my opponent or any of those other folks who want to buy an election in Iowa.  With your help, I am not going to let it happen.”

Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-Des Moines) was next.  Some sort of country song was playing as he took the stage, I think, but it’s hard to tell.  (It was “Real American” — Hulk Hogan’s theme song.)  “Hello, Iowa.  I want you to sit down.  I want you to be real quiet.  Now a year ago last February I had the opportunity with a numberof others to go to the White House and greet our new president,” Boswell said to begin, then he retold the story of the meeting.

“We love this state. We love this country…We cannot go back to where we was, the ditch….We’re not going back.  Is that right?” Boswell asked the crowd, and the crowd replied in the affirmative.

Boswell touted the section of the health care reform plan that deals with children with preexisting conditions, then he gave a shout out teachers and veterans in the audience.

“Let us go forward,” Boswell said to wind up. “Let us make this country what we want it to be.”

(Go here to listen to the speeches from the three congressmen.)

Next up, Roxanne Conlin.  Pat Benetar’s “All Fired Up” was the song played as Conlin made her way to the microphone.

Conlin began by “reminding you of my background” and mentioning her campaign began 50 weeks ago.  She contrasted that with Grassley, who “has been in office for 52 years.”

“…We held 200 town hall meetings. We’ve been to all 99 counties…We learned a lot from all of you…As a nation and as a state we have big problems, there’s no doubt about it, but none of them is too great that we can’t solve together.”

A server dropped a plate full of food, making a huge clattering sound as the china broke on the concrete floor.  “Chuck?” Conlin asked, in response, getting a few laughs from the crowd.

“He’s running his campaign like he’s the Wizard of Oz.  Pay no attention to the man behind that…curtain,” Conlin said. “He has not done a single open, public event since July.  He has refused to stand before the people…and defend his record. Why do you suppose he’s hiding?  Perhaps he knows he cannot defend his record before the people of the state of Iowa.”

Conlin, a lawyer, delivered a defense of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who are the target of an anti-retention campaign because of the court’s 2009 ruling on gay marriage. 

“I was proud of Iowa and I was proud of them,” Conlin said of the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court opinion on gay marriage.  The crowd applauded.  “So let’s keep them,” Conlin said of the three justices who are in this year’s rentention election. ” Turn your ballot over and vote yes to retain those courageous justices!” 

The crowd stood to applaud.

“If you send me to Washington, I will fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’; I will fight to repeal DOMA and I will fight to end discrimination in employment,” Conlin continued.

She wrapped up soon after that.

Tom Harkin took the stage at 8:11 p.m. 

“Make no mistake, from Governor Culver on down the ticket, we are going to win on November the 2nd,” Harkin said.  “The people of Iowa will not elect Terry Branstad to be their next governor.”

Harkin predicted Chet Culver would win reelection.  “Believe it, believe it, believe it — because it’s going to happen!” Harkin said, to applause from the crowd. “And am I going to be a happy trooper when after all these years of having my progressive votes cancelled out to have Roxanne Conlin in the United States Senate.”

Harkin advised the crowd:  “We need to be clear about why we fight…It’s really very simple.  We’re going to continue to go forward…or is Iowa and America going to be dragged backward by the Republican Party, a Republican Party that quite frankly has lost all semblance of moderation.”

Harkin said the crowd could collectively “hold your nose and read the Iowa Republican Party platform” on the Iowa GOP’s website. “Their official 2010 platform calls for…repealing the minimum wage…dismantling the Iowa Dept of Education….using the Bible as a textbook in our public schools, privatizing Medicare and Social Security.”

Harkin ridiculed a Republican congressman from northwest Iowa. “The incomparable Steve King is demanding that Republicans in Washington sign a blood oath that they will shut down the govt if necessary in order to repeal the health care reform law,” Harkin said, adding that was “another reason we’ve got to get Matt Campbell in there.’  (Campbell is King’s Democratic opponent.)

Harkin said he wasn’t going to mention the judicial retention election, but felt compelled since Conlin had done so. 

“We in Iowa have been blessed since 1962…with having one of the fairest judicial systems in the United STates.  We have taken judges out of the political process.  You can’t contribute to them. They can’t raise money,” Harkin said, adding the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had recognized Iowa’s court system as one of the best in the country.

“Now, there’s an effort afoot as you know to deny three judges up for retention based on a unanimous decision…that the Constitution of the State of Iowa will not permit a law banning marriage of two people of the same sex.  And you know, they made the decision…and people said, ‘you know, that’s right.  There were a few people who were upset about it,” Harkin said. 

Harkin said the gay marriage ruling had been in “the great tradition” of other Iowa court rulings, dating back to an Iowa territorial court which banned slavery.

“Think about that,” Harkin said, to applause. “Two years after Iowa became a state, 85 years before Brown v Board of Education, the Supreme Court of Iowa banned discrimination in our schools…In 1873, Iowa became the first state in the nation to admit a woman to practice law in the state of Iowa…I’m sure there were pranks at that time who probably thought the court was wrong — and now there’s this group out of Tupelo, Mississippi.”

The American Family Association is based in Tupelo. 

“I say to you, my friends, don’t let those people from Tupelo, Mississippi, make Iowa like Mississippi.  Let’s keep those judges there (on the Iowa Supreme Court),” Harkin said.  The crowd stood to applaud.

Harkin started winding down.  “Remember how you felt two years ago on Election Night when Barack Obama won the White House…Think how you felt.  Don’t let them take us backwards,” Harkin said.  “…This is going to be a close and a very tight race.”

(Go here to listen to the speeches from Harkin and Conlin.)

As an interlude, the infamous “bucket pass” was held. Buckets that look like buckets for movie popcorn are passed through the crowd and people are encouraged to throw in their American currency. Some items, like Iowa football tickets, were auctioned off to raise more money.

At 8:45 p.m. Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge came on stage to deliver her remarks.  “There is a person I have not seen a lot of, and that is Terry’s running mate Kim Reynolds and I want you to know that’s not because I haven’t been trying,” Judge said.

Judge mentioned a news conference in which Reynolds was asked about debating, and Branstad answered the reporter’s question.

“Now, my friends, I love Chet Culver just like my brother, but believe me, nobody tells me when or where I can speak,” Judge said.

Judge told the crowd she’d been out looking for Reynolds, and photos were shown on the huge screens in the room.  One showed Judge on the side of a road with a sign on her quest to find Reynolds.  “Seen Kim?” were the words on the sign Judge was holding in the picture. Another photo showed Judge looking in a van that had a Branstad/Reynolds bumper sticker.

“Not even here,” Judge quipped when that picture was on the screen.

Judge said she’d finally seen Reynolds at the debate between Culver and Branstad in Cedar Rapids.  “She seemed to be in an awful hurry….All I really wanted to do was have a chat.  It would have been fun to debate Kim…I had faith that Terry would eventually let her debate…but, you know what?  He let us down one more time.”

Judge talked for a few more minutes, then introduced Chet Culver to the crowd.  Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” was the song played as Culver came on stage.

“I’ve got some good news folks,” Culver said, citing a poll his campaign released last week suggesting the race was narrowing.  “They are running, but they can’t hide and we are going to win this race November 2nd.  And we’ve got ’em on the run because we’ve got a great record. We’re the team that won last time and we’re the team that’s going to win this time.”

Culver touted the other statewide candidates, congressional candidates. 

Then Culver returned to his own race. “I feel great tonight…I’m a boxing fan and we are the champs,” Culver said.  “…I have no doubt that we’re going to be successful.”

Culver said the State of Iowa had been recognized as well-managed. “Why would you want to fire the coach?  Most coaches would get a lifetime extension,” Culver said. “…I don’t need that. I just need four more years.”

Culver next said there had been a “stunning development” in his race, regarding Branstad’s promise to cut the state budget by 15 percent.

“He’s changing his tune a little bit,” Culver said.  Culver cited Branstad’s remarks to The Des Moines Register’s editorial board, where Branstad said the budget would “not necessarily be smaller” under his plan. 

“Can you believe that?” Culver said, and laughed.  “Another broken promise.”

Culver launched into a campaign litany of issues, concluding each with the phrase:  “not on my watch.”

“You in this room have worked too hard for every single one of those victories,” Culver said.  “…And we don’t want to go back to 1982 and the 20th century with Governor Branstad. I think, Senator Harkin, that term limits is in their platform, too — believe it or not.”

Culver concluded by asking the crowd to believe victory was at hand. “Let’s believe,” Culver began, and kept shouting as the crowd kept clapping. “…Let’s work and let’s win.”

Journey was on the sound system again by 9:13 p.m., singing about believing as Culver waved to the crowd and exited the stage. 

Go here to listen to the speeches from Culver and Judge, as well as the keynote address from Ed Rendell.

At 9:15 p.m. the theme music from “Rocky” was played and former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, the current governor of Pennsylvania, came on stage.  “It’s real honor to be invited to talk in front of the 1200 most important Democrats in America,” Rendell quipped at the start.

“This is an unusual dinner in that you have a tremendous tolerance for speeches,” Rendell said. “And also because you’ve had one great speech after another tonight.”

Rendell asked the crowd a question.  “If you get this question right, I will give you two tickets to the next Cubs World Series game,” Rendell promised, to some laughter and groans.  “Who gave the nominating speech for Adlai Stevenson at the 1960 Democratic convention in Los Angeles?”

The answer, according to Rendell, was Eugene McCarthy.  There was a connection from that story to a story about Tom Harkin.

Rendell next said Culver was too timid to talk about his accomplishments. “Iowa’s unemployment rate is 30 percent below the national average,” Rendell said, to applause.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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


  1. Jane Kiplinger says

    Should have played “Send In The Clowns”…what a bunch of liberal propaganda!
    Conlin & Culver will each lose by double digits and Miller, Braley, Loebasack are in tough races.

  2. Drew Miller says

    This has got to be the best JJ ever for music. Beastie Boyz and Hulk Hogan?!