Three presidential candidates stopped by the annual Story County Democrats soup supper Saturday night, the Story Country Democrats’ largest fundraising event. California Sen. Kamala Harris, Julián Castro and John Hickenlooper shared their visions for the country, offered personal histories and shed light on the need for dialogue and action that may not always be comfortable.
Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand also spoke on a recent vote by the State Appeal Board and settlement for victims of sexual harassment by former Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison.
Mason Zastrow, freshman in political science, said he saw the soup supper as a learning opportunity.
“I like seeing as many candidates as I can,” Zastrow said. “I was an intern on the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. Even though Bernie is running, I’m more interested in seeing all the different options.”
Sen. Harris spoke first, addressing why she became a lawyer and her activist roots through her parents.
“It’s time we speak truths, uncomfortable though they may be in this country,” Harris said.
Harris said the vast majority of people have more in common than what separates them.
“Let’s speak the truth about the fact that we are not right now having an economy that works for working people … that climate change is presenting an existential threat … that we pretend to be a society that cares about education … Instead, we are investing in a system of mass incarceration in this country,” Harris said.
Harris said watching her parents’ activism in 1960s Oakland, California, inspired her decision to become a lawyer, translating the passion on the streets to courtrooms across America.
“My sister … she and I joke that we grew up surrounded by a bunch of adults who spent full-time marching and shouting about this thing called justice,” Harris said. “Let’s talk about concepts of justice. When we see an administration … taking children at the border and daring to call it border security, when in fact it was a human rights abuse, that is not reflective of justice.”
Julián Castro, former secretary of housing and urban development under President Barack Obama, outlined a strong support for education systems.
Castro said his mother raised her two sons as a single parent, just as her mother had raised her. Castro and his brother grew up with their mother and grandmother.
“Joaquin and I went to the public schools of San Antonio and then had the opportunity to go to college, to law school and to become attorneys — the first professionals of our family,” Castro said.
Castro said he is making a run for presidency to ensure the same opportunities that were given to him are made available to everyone. Castro called for a reformed healthcare system, justice system and universal Pre-K and higher education.
“I know that sometimes folks say … that’s just free stuff, but I would ask the folks who went through college in the '50s or the '60s to remember that there was a time in this country where many of our state university systems were either tuition free, or almost tuition free,” Castro said. “This is nothing radical, it’s nothing that we didn’t have a commitment to before.”
Castro communicated a need for tax reform that benefits the working class.
“For the last 40 years we have had a tax system that more and more has rewarded the people that are already doing well and corporations that are getting bigger and bigger,” Castro said.
Bill Vogel, a retired Iowa State alumni, said he is perplexed by slashes in tax revenue authorized by Gov. Kim Reynolds, sharing Castro’s tax reform sentiments.
“I’m in the upper five digits … and my state income tax is only three or four thousand dollars,” Vogel said. “It’s not that big. If you’re going to knock a thousand dollars off what I pay, that’s going to drop the revenue by 25, 30 percent. I just don’t know how that’s going to work out.”
John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado, focused on climate change, gun regulations, mental healthcare and the times he had gotten people to come together who don’t usually get along.
“Americans are frustrated by the inaction of Congress,” Hickenlooper said. “Unless we are able to come together … on solving some of these big issues that are facing our country, we’re toast.”
Citing his construction of the first comprehensive methane regulations in the United States, Hickenlooper said what he felt was an obligation to address climate change.
“Climate change has gotta be one of the most important things that any of us can do,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s just unspeakable that we haven’t gotten further.”
Reflecting on the 2012 Aurora mass shooting, Hickenlooper called for increased gun regulations and background checks on gun buyers. Further, Hickenlooper called for healthcare reform.
“We have a mental health epidemic in this country right now, and we are not responding to it," Hickenlooper said. "Almost every single Democrat I know is for universal coverage, so let’s focus on getting universal coverage.”
Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand was also asked to speak. Upon taking the podium, Sand said he knew exactly what he wanted to discuss with the community.
Last month, the State Appeal Board voted two to one in regards to the settlement for victims of sexual harassment by former Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison.
The State Appeal Board is a three member board comprised of the auditor of state, treasurer of state and director of the department of management. The board approves or rejects, and pays claims against the state or a state employee.
Jamison was fired last March after two employees came forward with allegations detailing acts of sexual harassment.
“I’m sitting on the board, being asked to write a check with taxpayer money, and I wanted to know if Dave Jamison is going to be asked to chip in,” Sand said.
Sand, unable to get a definite answer, voted no on the settlement.
“Let me tell you why,” Sand said. “Every time you pick a jury in a sex abuse case in the state of Iowa, it’s not two people who go back in to the judge’s chambers and say, ‘I can’t sit on this case because I was sexually abused.’ It’s not five people. It’s eight. It’s 12.
“I’ve been in judge’s chambers all around the state of Iowa while individual jurors came back one by one and told us things that had happened to them they had never told anyone before.We need to change something. Maybe we need to hold people accountable when they are the ones who have done the deed.”