ROCK RAPIDS-One of the biggest Republican events in Iowa of 2013 took place in Rock Rapids Thursday night. The Lyon County GOP partnered with the county parties in Sioux, O’Brien and Osceola counties for a large fundraiser. The four counties that make up the corner of northwest Iowa are also the reddest in the state, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats 4-1.
Here are my thoughts and some interesting tidbits on the event.
The Crowd: They sold 400 tickets and there were 320 people were in attendance, plus media and campaign staff. That is a big number for a place that isn’t easy to get to. There were activists from all over western Iowa, as well as from as far away as Hardin County, Benton County and Johnson County. There was a also good demographic mix of all age groups.
The Money: They raised around $30,000. Each county party that participated will get a share of the money.
Notable Attendees: It was a veritable who’s who of Iowa politics. The lineup of speakers included 2012 Iowa Caucus winner Rick Santorum, Congressman Steve King, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, plus former South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, who is running for the U.S. Senate.
All of the declared Iowa Republican U.S. senate candidates were in attendance, as well as Mark Jacobs, who is exploring a bid, and Rod Roberts, who is still considering jumping into the race.
State Auditor Mary Mosiman was there, as were several GOP legislators. Iowa House members in attendance were Dwayne Alons, Jason Schultz, Jeff Smith, Megan Hess and Dan Huseman. State Senators on hand included Minority Leader Bill Dix, Randy Feenstra, Bill Anderson, David Johnson and Mark Segebart.
RPI officials included RNC National Committeeman Steve Scheffler and National Committeewoman Tamara Scott, plus State Central Committee members Jamie Johnson, Cody Hoefert and Bob Anderson. Hoefert is also the Lyon County GOP chairman and he served as emcee for the event. Bob Anderson came all the way from Johnson County, a 6+ hour drive.
The Food: Fairly standard stuff for the rubber chicken circuit. Roast beef, turkey, potatoes, green beans, gravy, rolls, salad and pink lemonade. Patriotically decorated cupcakes made for a tasty dessert. Overall, it was decent. Nothing special, but nothing inedible.
The Setting: The Forster Community Center in Rock Rapids provided the perfect venue for this event. This size of the room was just right and it filled to capacity. The decorations, were elegantly done, but not too fancy schmancy. Plus, they had a very strong Wi-Fi signal, which helped our livestream significantly.
Funniest Line: Congressman Steve King jokingly telling Matt Schultz he needs to tone down the rhetoric. Well played, sir. Well played.
Emotional Moments: Both Rick Santorum and Congressman King got momentarily choked up during their speeches. Santorum’s moment was early in his speech, when discussing his special needs daughter Bella. They are building an extra wing to the house, with an elevator, to help accommodate her better.
Congressman King became teary eyed while honoring Sioux City native and military hero Colonel Bud Day, who passed away recently. King and Day were good friends. It was a powerful tribute:
The Speeches: The county chairs from the four sponsoring central committees helped introduce that candidates. I thought that was a good touch. Cody Hoefert also did an amusing bit, when he told everyone to turn off their phones, then his phone began playing “Hail to the Chief”. The president was calling in.
Apparently, President Obama was concerned because with everybody’s phone off, the NSA wouldn’t be able to listen in. Hoefert informed Obama he could watch the live stream on TheIowaRepublican.com. Thanks for the plug, Cody, and for the additional web traffic, Barack.
Matt Schultz The secretary of state talked about his favorite topic, Voter ID. It was pretty standard stuff from Secretary Schultz, which works well with GOP audiences. Short, on message and well delivered, as usual.
Steve King You wouldn’t know the good congressman had gone through a rough full weeks. He was enthusiastic and energetic. As I mentioned before, his tribute to Bud Day was a very touching moment. It was a very good and extremely well received speech from the Fourth District congressman.
Kim Reynolds The lieutenant governor started her speech strong, but once she got into the weeds of all of the Branstad administration’s successes, it drifted a bit. That’s probably because it was very detail-oriented. It’s hard to hold an audience’s attention when that happens, but Reynolds’ enthusiasm helped.
Mike Rounds The former South Dakota governor, and likely next U.S. senator, was a late addition to the speaker slate. This was my first time hearing Rounds in person, and I was impressed, as were many people in the room. He was engaging, funny and stood strong on conservative values. Good stuff.
Rick Santorum Those 381 townhalls in Iowa during the 2012 caucus campaign are paying dividends. Santorum has become an infinitely better speaker since mid-2011. It was a long speech, going almost 40 minutes.
Santorum focused first on his time in Iowa, then moved to his familiar theme of the principles America was founded on. Later in his speech, the former Pennsylvania senator encouraged conservatives to fight for the values they hold dear. One of his strongest lines was refuting those who want Republicans to adopt Democrat policies. Santorum says conservatives should adopt Democrat tactics, not their policies.
He ended the speech on a high note, with an inspirational message, encouraging the audience to get out and do what is necessary to make this country better. It was very good speech, in my opinion. Everyone I talked to afterwards agreed.
Overall: I have to say, this was one of the best county GOP fundraisers I have attended, and I’ve been to many. The lineup of speakers was very strong, they delivered good, conservative messages and the program went off without a hitch.
The only semi-negative comment folks had afterwards was the event ran a little long, going almost 3 and a half hours from the time the doors opened at 5:30. Part of the problem was the organizers had a tough time dragging the VIPs out of the reception, which was down the street, and into the main room. So the program started 15-20 minutes later than scheduled.
However, the event did not drag, as some of GOP fundraisers tend to do. I must give a tip of the hat to the Lyon County GOP, as well as the folks in Sioux, O’Brien and Osceola counties. Very well done
You can view Senator Santorum’s full speech in the video below:
Photo by Jacob Hall
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