Monday, October 10, 2005

Kerry Energizes Iowa Democrats

Kerry energizes county Democrats

In his first trip back to Johnson County since his presidential campaign, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told a group of Democrats gathered at Elizabeth Tate High School that the party has a lot of work to do.

"We're fighting for the heart and soul of our nation, for who we are as a civilized nation, as people around the world look at us," he said.

"Americans are good hearted people; Iowans are good hearted people. But do you see that translated into policy?"

Kerry's talk was the highlight of an organizing event for the Johnson County Democrats. Party leaders introduced local candidates and grassroots organizations and asked those in attendance for their help as caucus and precinct leaders.

Sarah Swisher, chairwoman of the Johnson County Democrats, told the crowd of more than 200 people that she sensed energy in the Democratic Party.

"It's sort of a fever, an undercurrent," she said.

"Because nothing is going right in this country and it's certainly something everyone in this room could have predicted."

Local party leaders unveiled a strategic plan the Johnson County Democrats developed after surveying residents and elected officials.

Nick Maybanks, a candidate for County Attorney, outlined four goals the survey identified: to educate Democrats on policy and current issues, to recruit strong candidates, to build a more efficient party and to support and coordinate with grassroots organizations.

He said ad hoc committees already have started work on how to implement those goals.

Kerry, who earned 64 percent of the vote in Johnson County, but came up one percentage point behind President Bush overall in Iowa in 2004, told the crowd that their local efforts have bigger implications.

"What you do here, it all makes a difference to the national level too," he said. "It's all connected, folks."

After his speech, Kerry met with local grassroots organizations, shook hands and even signed a Tate student's skateboard.

Cassandra McWane, 15, said after Kerry signed her skateboard he offered her some advice.

"He was like, 'Please don't break your neck,'" she said. "It was awesome."

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, attended the event. He said he thought Kerry's talk would move some Johnson County Democrats to action.

"I think it energized people," he said. "I think it's pretty clear the country's headed in the wrong direction and we've got to change the country starting at the local level."


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