Democrats visit small-town Iowa on Fourth of July

In a largely-Republican county, Democratic presidential-nomination candidates attended the annual Fourth of July parade in Independence, Iowa.


Katie Goodale

Crowds gather during a 4th of July parade in Independence Iowa on July 4, 2019. Former Vice President Joe Biden, former Congressmen Beto O'Rourke, and Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio were in attendance. This is the 159th 4th of July parade in Independence.

Julia Shanahan, Politics Editor


INDEPENDENCE — In an Iowa town of slightly more than 6,000 residents, former Vice President Joe Biden, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made appearances during the town’s annual Fourth of July parade.

Independence Mayor Bonnie Davis said this was the 159th year for the parade — which traditionally attracts people from many parts of eastern Iowa. Several hundred people lined the street to view the parade, and Davis said more people tend to turn out during election years for a chance to see a presidential-nomination candidate.

“Us being Independence, Iowa, this is a very important event,” Davis said.

Cedar Rapids resident Luann Kilts, attending the parade for the first time, said she had wanted to see it for a long time. When she heard Biden would attend, she said, she thought it would be a unique opportunity to see a former vice president.

“I think it’s kind of neat that [Biden] actually comes to Iowa for something like this,” Kilts said.

In addition to the three visits from Democratic presidential-nomination candidates, Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer also walked in the parade, along with campaign organizers for Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.

At the tail-end of the Democrats’ section of the parade rolled two Republican-theme floats. One featured campaign signs for President Trump, Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Gov. Kim Reynolds, and other statewide Republican candidates. The other float carried a large elephant statue.

Jacob Poorman, an Iowa native who has attended the parade in Independence for six years, said having Democratic candidates and campaign organizers in town is a good opportunity for Iowans in “Trump Country” to see there are other options ahead of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.

In the 2016 presidential elections, Trump won Buchanan County with 53.7 percent of the vote.

“We can have our little differences as far as individual Democrats — but the show of strength and support to the people around here, because not only is there an alternative [to Trump], but there’s a smorgasbord of choices,” Poorman said. He likes O’Rourke and Warren but wants to keep his options open.

Poorman said that while he and his wife went to high school in Iowa, they lived in Austin, Texas, for a period of time in which they voted for O’Rourke when he ran against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. Poorman said they decided to move back to Iowa, because they like the culture and the cost of living.

The parade traveled through Independence’s quaint downtown, staying mostly on the main street of Second Street NE. Candidates did impromptu meet-and-greets with locals before the parade and after it ended.

Parade participant Karen Crawford, who rode in a red sports car advertising the Independence Motor Speedway, said this is her 10th year in the parade. Describing the size of the parade, she said even though Independence might be considered a small town, the event attracts a lot of different people.

“We pride ourselves in being one of the floats that does not run out of things at the end,” said Crawford, pointing to the 900 beaded necklaces and 55 bags of candy she had stored in the back seat of the car.

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