19 Democratic presidential candidates outline progressive policies at Hall of Fame Celebration

19 candidates presented their campaign messages at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Sunday, where many focused on a plethora of progressive policy topics such as health care and education.


Roman Slabach

2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Cory Booker speaks at Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, June 9, 2019. 19 democrats spoke at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame.

Julia DiGiacomo, Politics Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS – In the largest 2020 presidential-nomination event leading up to the Iowa caucuses so far, 19 candidates gathered to pitch their campaign messages Sunday in Cedar Rapids before about 1,500 Iowa Democrats.

The 2019 Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame created an early opportunity for Iowan’s to compare and contrast candidates ahead of the upcoming debate season, where many candidates touched on their hopes to improve key progressive issues like health care, public education, climate change, and women’s reproductive rights.

“Make the case for our America – an America where healthcare is a right, an America where teachers will be paid their value, an America where women have the rights to make the decisions about their own bodies,” California Senator Kamala Harris said before the crowd.

Many candidates, like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, California Rep. Eric Swalwell, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and more, touched on solutions to expand healthcare coverage. This could include establishing a universal healthcare or Medicare-for-all system.

“No American should be worried about whether they can pay for their insulin or worry about their children’s health care, or worry about whether if they make a decision about health care they may be signing themselves up to bankrupture,” Delaney said.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and O’Rourke also connected the issues of health care and women’s reproductive rights.

“We are for every American having access to healthcare and make no mistake, abortion is  healthcare and healthcare is a right,” Booker said.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Inslee both explicitly cited the issue of climate change as an existential threat for the planet. Inslee hopes to combat the issue by creating jobs in clean energy.

“I want to make sure that on my final days on Earth, I can look at my three grandkids in the eye and say ‘I did everything humanly possible to save you from climate change’,” Inslee said. “I will make defeating climate change the first paramount and overriding duty of the US and we’re going to get this job done.”

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of Housing and Development Julian Castro, Massachusetts Senator Seth Moulton, Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam were among the Democratic candidates absent from the Hall of fame event.

Iowa City public school teacher Lisa Mellecker said Harris and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, stood out to her most at the event due to their emphasis on supporting public education and teachers.

“Kirsten Gillibrand talked about her mom being an educator and her support for union rights, which is under attack at the state level in Iowa,” she said. “That’s very important going forward as a public employee.”

While supporters lined the streets cheering, some candidates, like Harris, Booker, and Klobuchar, hosted rallies directly before the event to further ramp up supporters. Sanders led a march from a Cedar Rapids McDonald’s to the Doubletree Hilton hotel, joining McDonald’s employees on strike who are demanding higher wages.

The Iowa minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, although Sanders is calling for a $15 federal minimum wage.

Teresa Meyer marched with Sanders and other supporters through the streets. As a registered nurse for 30 years, she said she has witnessed the current healthcare system fail vulnerable people. She supports raising the minimum wage and plans on caucusing for Sanders.

“I’m all for Medicare-for-all and this is in honor of my father and my grandfather who were union folks, which got my dad a living wage so he could feed my family,” Meyer said. “It’s very important to have some leadership that will fight for the everyday person.”