Democrats get warm Iowa welcome

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday during the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding fundraiser at the Surf Ballroom and Museum in Clear Lake, Iowa. Sanders is running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday during the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding fundraiser at the Surf Ballroom and Museum in Clear Lake, Iowa. Sanders is running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

By Sam Wilmes

Austin Daily Herald

CLEAR LAKE — A full house greeted the top candidates for the Democratic Party presidential nomination Friday evening at the 2015 Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

Candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee discussed income inequality and other populist topics.

The crowd gave Clinton a standing ovation when she entered the room.

“We’re energized, we’re unified and we’re going to win this election in 2016!” Clinton said.

Clinton expressed her support for President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran.

“None of us should have any illusions about Iran,” Clinton said. “But our path is clear. This agreement, combined with strong enforcement and deterrence, is the only way to stop Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.”

Clinton also discussed Benghazi and the recent email controversy that has embroiled her campaign in controversy.

“Let’s be clear, seven investigations have already debunked all the conspiracy theories,” Clinton said about Benghazi. “It’s not about emails or servers, either. It’s about politics.”

Former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin announced his support for Clinton’s campaign Friday morning and Clinton thanked him that night.

Clinton discussed the Republican Party and linked Donald Trump to other Republican candidates, specifically mentioning the Republican candidates’ views on abortion.

“Mr. Trump’s words are appalling, but so are what are the other Republican candidates are saying,” she said.

Clinton said if the Democrats focus on what they can do for the country in the future they will win the election.

“If this election is about the future, we are going to win against a Republican Party that is hopelessly out of touch,” she said.

Clinton also discussed women’s pay as part of equal rights for women.

“When you shortchange women, you shortchange families,” Clinton said. “When you shortchange women, you short change America.”

Clinton discussed economic inequality.

“Boosting incomes for low and middle class families so they can have a better quality of life is the defining economic issue of our time,” she said.

Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, also discussed income inequality. He has framed his campaign around this issue.

“We have been generating a large amount of enthusiasm around this country,” Sanders said.

“This country belongs to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.”

With that, Sanders discussed his campaign’s resistance to big money.

“I didn’t want the money coming in from the millionaires and billionaires,” he said. “I don’t support their agenda and I don’t want their money.”

He discussed his support for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and said he supports the breaking up of big banks deemed too big to fail.

“If a financial institution is too big to fail, it’s too big to exist,” Sanders said.

Sanders discussed his opposition to trade agreements and Citizens United.

“Citizens United must be overturned through a constitutional amendment,” he said, adding he supports the public funding of elections.

Sanders — who came on the stage Friday to chants of “Bernie, Bernie!” — also offered up his support for Obama’s nuclear deal.

O’Malley, a former Maryland governor, said he wants to make America work for all Americans.

“Our economy should work for all us,” O’Malley said. “Wages should rise, not fall, with rising productivity.”

O’Malley discussed student debt and his efforts as Maryland governor to increase education funding and improve schools, and he framed his campaign in terms of the future.

“Progress is a choice,” O’Malley said. “Job creation is a choice. Whether we give our children a better opportunity, that’s also a choice.”

Chaffee also mentioned Rhode Island’s passing of a gay marriage law and minimum wage increase while he was governor.

According to Real Clear Politics, Clinton holds a commanding 24.2 point lead over Sanders in Iowa. O’Malley and Chafee both are polling in the low single digits in the early primary state.

Funds raised by the Iowa Democratic Party Wing Ding are distributed directly to participating counties’ general funds and are used to support county parties, local candidates and local events.

“It was great,” said Roneil Jackson, a Democrat who lives in Des Moines. “All the energy was incredible. It’s always good to get everyone here and get all the candidates coming together and speaking positively about other candidates. I had a real great time and I won’t forget it.”

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