INDIANOLA, Iowa—Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo, took his Senate campaign to the home county of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Monday night, joining the Warren County Democrats for their annual soup supper and off year caucus.
The evening event at Summerset Winery, which drew about 120 Democrats, also honored former Rep. Leonard Boswell and retiring Warren County Sheriff Jim Lee. Boswell, who lost his 2012 reelection bid to Rep. Tom Latham, R-Clive, formally endorsed Braley at the event after announcing his support for his former colleague on Facebook.
“It is without any reservation at all that I will endorse and do all that I can to be sure that I can look myself in the mirror and say I did all that I could for Bruce Braley,” Boswell said. “He’s got some big shoes to fill, but there’s nobody more ready, more capable, and more desirous to do the right thing for us.
Boswell seemed in good spirits—content with his retirement, albeit an involuntary one. He handed Braley a check to kick off his fundraising (Boswell declined to divulge the amount).
“It’s been a great run for me,” Boswell said. “[Braley]’s decided to run for the U.S. Senate, and I am so pleased that he’s going to do that because I know that he’s ready to go. He’s smart, he’s seasoned.”
Boswell, who served 12 years in the state Senate and 16 years in Congress, demurred on whether he’d rather see Rep. Latham or Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron—or another candidate—run against Braley. (“Is Congressman King going to run for Senate? And my answer is, ‘I sure hope so,’” joked Iowa Democratic Party chairman Tyler Olson).
“Oh, I don’t know,” Boswell said. “Their records are so similar. Their personalities are very different.”
State Rep. Scott Ourth, a former Boswell campaign operative, served as the master of ceremonies for the event, which featured what he called “old fashioned speechifyin.’”
Braley’s 20-minute stump speech hit many of the same notes as his inaugural campaign speech Saturday in Scott County, calling Harkin his “friend and mentor for many, many years.”
“I will never be able to fill Tom Harkin’s shoes,” he said. “I do want you to know that I’m going to be working tirelessly over the next two years so that when Tom Harkin walks out of the Senate chamber for the last time, a progressive Iowa Democrat is walking in to fill his desk.”
Braley told the crowd of party faithful that his wife Carolyn, a teacher at West High School in Waterloo, taught him everything he knows about grassroots politics during her successful run for school board.
“She taught me that getting out the vote is all about, and that’s what this 2014 election is going to be all about,” he said. “I’m going to be real honest with you: I need your help. I can’t do this by myself. That’s where you come in, because I need you to hear my story and to find out if I’m the type of candidate you can get behind and then share that message … as we build this campaign together.”
Local Democrats seemed pumped at the turnout for the off-year caucuses, noting that their party is energized for local county races and a potential open congressional seat if Latham runs for Senate.
“I don’t know if we’ve really thought that far ahead,” said Warren County Democrats chairwoman Ann Montgomery, speaking about the congressional race. “I haven’t heard anything about that. But it’s going to be a big race, and we just need to make people aware of that—governor, senator, congress and we need to get rid of [state Sen. Kent] Sorenson.”
Other attendees at the event included Iowa Democratic Party executive director Troy Price, Madison County Democratic Chairman Bob Bell, Carlisle City Councilor Joe Grandstaff, state Rep. Todd Pritchard, D-Charles City, and former state Sen. Staci Appel, who lost a reelection bid to state Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Indianola.
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