Kamala Harris pledges to invest in Iowa at Coralville stop

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., kicked off her first of several Iowa events this weekend in Coralville, emphasizing that she would be visiting the Hawkeye State often in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses.


Megan Nagorzanski

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., addresses supporters at Backpocket Brewery on Thursday, September 19, 2019.

Sarah Watson, Politics Editor

“So I’m moving here,” Kamala Harris told a crowd of a couple hundred at a Coralville brewery to laughs and applause. She was referencing her Iowa campaign’s announcement Thursday morning that Harris will be spending much of her time in the Hawkeye State and making investments on the ground — doubling its staff size and offices open in Iowa. 

Harris, a U.S. senator from California, will add 60 new staffers in the first-in-the-nation-caucus state, bringing the campaigns’ total number of staffers up to 125. 

“Now, boy we are ready to roll,” Sue Dvorsky, former Iowa Democratic Party chair and Kamala Harris endorser, said ahead of Harris’ speech. “…We are cleaning out a spare bedroom because we are more than happy to have her.”

At the local brewery, Harris emphasized her electability to the audience, saying she’s heard comments questioning her ability to win elections ahead of every political race she’s won. 

“People said ‘no, but they’re not going to be ready for you. No one like you has done it before — not based on your race, not based on your gender, not based on your platform that was about being progressive’….People said it can’t be done. And I didn’t listen.”

“Not only did I not listen, the people didn’t listen.”

The Coralville visit is the first in a series of five stops she’ll make leading up to the Polk County Steak Fry in Des Moines, where nearly all 20 candidates will be in attendance. 

Megan Nagorzanski
Senator Kamala Harris, D-CA, meets supporters at Backpocket Brewery on Thursday, September 19, 2019.

Harris’ support dipped in the first-in-the-nation caucus state according to a recent poll. The survey, conducted Sept. 14-17 by Focus on Rural America and led by one of Harris’ chief pollsters, showed that the number of likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers who would classify Harris as their first pick dropped 13 percentage points from 18 percent in July to 5 percent in September. 

Harris told reporters she’s only paying so much attention to polls, saying that not a lot of Americans have decided who they’re supporting yet, but that she’s going to focus on spending her time in Iowa. 

RELATED: Kamala Harris in Coralville — PHOTOS

“I’m not riding that roller coaster, I’m just not,” she said. “I’m not riding that roller coaster of being high or low in the polls. It’s about investment in the state and doing as many events as I can.”

Harris gave a rundown of her policy positions in Coralville, saying she would support Medicare for All, eliminating co-pays and deductibles, but allowing people to choose a private insurance option. She also supports investing in renewable fuels, eliminating some federal student-loan debt, and fining corporations who don’t pay women equally to men. 

On gun control, Harris said as president she would give Congress 100 days to enact a buy-back program for assault-style weapons, and would take executive action to implement a ban if Congress didn’t before that time.

Bernadette Nelson, who’s in her final year of law school at the University of Iowa, said she’s still scoping out all the Democratic presidential hopefuls. The Kamala meet-and-greet was just her second candidate event in the caucus season.

A rural Wyoming native, Nelson said she wants a candidate who’s aware of the needs of a large swath of the country — including rural areas. She said issues important to her (and important to rural areas) include access to jobs, policies that encourage strong local economies, and addressing opioid and drug usage. 

Megan Nagorzanski
Senator Kamala Harris, D-CA, talks to supporters at Backpocket Brewery on Thursday, September 19, 2019.

“There are a lot of interests (in the Midwest and the Mountain West) that are not necessarily aligned with the urban hubs of the United States — with cities — so I’d love to see more emphasis on the needs of actual everyday Americans,” she said.

Harris spent a chunk of her speech talking about her beliefs on Medicare for All — she’s proposed Americans having a public option for health insurance coverage, but stops short of saying she’ll eliminate private insurance.

RELATED: What does Medicare for All mean for jobs in Iowa?

That resonated with Gary Whittington, an Iowa City resident and undecided caucusgoer. He believes a single-payer system, where every American would be covered under a government-run insurance plan, such as Medicare, is an ideal goal, but not a policy that can “unite America.”

“I’m looking for a candidate who can transcend base politics and heal the country from Trump,” Whittington said, referring to when politicians propose far right or far left policies to energize the middle-fringe of the party. 

WATCH: Sen. Harris answers questions from reporters about her Iowa strategy and student loan forgiveness.