Iowa Democrats react to second night of presidential-nomination debates

Iowa political leaders respond to the second night of the Democratic presidential-nomination debate in Miami – some mentioned that Sen. Kamala Harris stood out.



Democratic presidential candidates wave to the crowd as they arrive to the stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami on Thursday, June 27, 2019, for Day 2 of the first Democratic presidential primary debates for the 2020 elections. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS)

DI Staff

Rosemary Schwartz, the Democratic chair in Benton County, said Sen. Kamala Harris stood out to her in the Democratic presidential-nomination debates on June 27 even though she has supported former Vice President Joe Biden so far.

A notable moment of the debates was when Harris called out Biden for working with senators who many consider to be segregationists, Schwartz said.

“Somebody had to take that on,” Schwartz said. “It’s a weak spot for Biden, and she had to do that.”

Harris told a story during the debates about what it was like for her to attend Berkeley public schools during the integration of African American students. Harris called some of Biden’s statements on segregationists to be “hurtful.”

This was the second night of Democratic presidential-nomination debates taking place in Miami. In order to qualify, the candidates had to poll at 1 percent in three polls approved by the Democratic National Committee, or they needed 65,000 unique campaign contributions.

These are the candidates who debated June 27:

  • Marianne Williamson, author
  • John Hickenlooper, former Colorado governor
  • Andrew Yang, former tech executive
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana
  • Former VP Joe Biden
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
  • Sen. Kamala Harris of California
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
  • Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell of California

Most of the candidates on the debate stage spent time speaking out against President Trump. Biden said “defeating Trump” is his biggest priority in the election. Biden and Harris specifically said they wanted to overturn the Trump administration’s tax plan, which they believe gave tax cuts to the wealthy.

“I just can’t imagine any American who really is paying attention would want anything Donald Trump is doing,” said Kelcey Brackett, the Muscatine County Democratic chair.

Brackett agreed that Harris stood out from the crowd during the debate. While other candidates talked over and interrupted one another, Brackett said, he liked Harris’ comment that Americans want candidates to put “food on the table” instead of having a “food fight.”

Brackett said the June 27 debate on climate change, similar to June 26’s, brought up a lot of comprehensive plans. Hickenlooper and Bennett listed climate change as a top priority, and Harris reaffirmed her support for the Paris Climate Agreement and Green New Deal.

“Do we have the courage to implement [the ideas], though, that’s the question,” Brackett said.

Overall, he said, most of the candidates would have a good shot at beating Trump in the 2020 election.

Jeff Kaufmann, the Iowa Republican Party chair, released a statement on the June 27 debate, saying Democrats are “tripping over themselves.”

“It’s a race to determine which out-of-touch liberal will raise your taxes the highest, steal your insurance, open our borders, and see which clown will hand out the most free stuff without any plan to pay for it,” Kaufmann said in a statement.

Des Moines County Democratic Chair Tom Courtney was among other Iowans who agreed Harris stood out, along with Buttigieg. Courtney said he thinks beating Trump in the presidential election is the most important thing for most Democratic voters.

Courtney said the debate might begin to narrow the field, and candidates not polling well could possibly drop out of the race in the upcoming weeks. He noted that some candidates may consider running for the Senate.

“I don’t want to just beat [Trump] with an empty shell — I want someone that’s got good ideas, too,” he said. “For the most part, I heard pretty good ideas tonight and last night as well. I don’t think that’s necessarily the way you win an election is just to say ‘I’m going to beat Trump — it’s important — but it’s not the only thing.”

The candidates talked about Chinese tariffs — something that has affected Iowa’s agricultural sector greatly since July 2018 when some tariffs were implemented.

Courtney said that one of the big questions facing candidates is what they will do on Day 1 to repair relationships with foreign trade partners.

That’s really important to Iowans — trade is really important to us. I think the other thing that goes along with that is our standing among other world leaders. I think most of us think that those relationships have really suffered under President Trump — we’d like to see those come back,” he said.