Harris presses young people to vote early in Iowa trip

Harris presses young people to vote early in Iowa trip
© Greg Nash

ANKENY, IOWA — Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWarren has contacted 100 people in early 2020 primary states: report O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold Warren fell for ‘Trump trap’ with DNA test, says progressive MORE (D-Calif.) pressed Iowa Democrats on Monday to take advantage of early voting as she stumped for Democrats across the Hawkeye State two weeks before the midterm elections.

“Let’s bank those votes, get them done,” Harris said at an event at Des Moines Area Community College.

The auditorium where she spoke was near the campus’s early voting location, and information about early voting was displayed on a projector screen behind her and the other speakers. 

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Democrats in Iowa have been pushing to get young voters, who often are more liberal, to cast their ballots early in the midterm elections. 

Getting young voters to the polling booths could determine whether the party wins a handful of competitive House seats as Democrats seek to win back the chamber’s majority this fall. Democrats need to gain 23 seats to win the majority, and three of Iowa’s four congressional districts are currently GOP-held and seen as competitive. The fourth is held by a Democrat.

Harris, making her first campaign visit to Iowa since 2008, is seeking to help Democrat Cindy Axne, who is challenging GOP Rep. David YoungDavid Edmund YoungIowa New Members 2019 McCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote Dem Axne beats GOP Rep. Young in Iowa MORE in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. 

“There were years where certain folks couldn’t vote, in particular African-Americans and women,” Harris said at the event at the community college, located in the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny. “And so because of that, so many of us, we take it very seriously, voting, and we almost have ceremonies about voting on election day, because people fought and died for our right to vote. And we go and we bring our children and we take selfies as we’re voting. Well I just want to remind people of something: You can honor the ancestors by voting early.”

Harris will also be speaking at early voting rallies on Tuesday at the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa.

Sean Bagniewski, chairman of the Polk County Democrats, said that one out of four Democrats in Polk County, which includes Des Moines and Ankeny, have either already voted or requested an absentee ballot.

Across the country, more than 4 million people have already voted early — a sign that voter turnout will be greater than it was during the last midterm elections in 2014.

According to data from the Democratic firm TargetSmart, registered Democrats in Iowa have been casting significantly more early and absentee votes than registered Republicans.

NBC News first reported Monday, citing data from TargetSmart, that GOP-affiliated voters have exceeded Democratic-affiliated voters in early voting in a number of states with competitive Senate races. Some of those states only had absentee voting at the time the data was measured, which tends to skew Republican, compared to in-person early voting, which often skews Democratic.

Harris sung the praises of Axne and candidates for state legislature that were also at the event at the community college. 

“We need her to be in the United States Congress,” Harris said of Axne. Both Harris and Axne received standing ovations from the audience of about 200 people.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race between Axne and Young as a toss-up. 

At a rally with the Polk County Democrats in Des Moines Monday night, Harris also campaigned with Deidre DeJear, the Democratic nominee for Iowa secretary of state and the state's first black major-party nominee for a statewide office.

"Electing Deidre DeJear would be a statement about who we are," she said. 

Harris’s trip to Iowa comes as jockeying has begun ahead of the 2020 presidential race. Harris is often thought to be a potential 2020 candidate, and other such possible candidates have also been making their way to Iowa, which holds the first-in-the-nation caucuses. For example, Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersCorker to introduce resolution holding Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi's death Gillum reached out to O’Rourke amid 2020 speculation: report O'Rourke spoke with Al Sharpton amid 2020 speculation MORE (I-Vt.) was in Iowa on Saturday and Sunday to campaign for J.D. Scholten, who is running to unseat GOP Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingRep. Steve King appeared on podcast that also hosted white nationalists Dems must wield power against the powerful to win back rural America Iowa governor: Steve King needs to decide if he wants to represent ‘the values of the 4th District’ MORE in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.

During her speech at the community college, Harris said that the country is at an “inflection moment.”

“This is the moment in time that is requiring us to fight for the best of who we are,” she said. “And the stakes are high.”

She added that “if we have leaders who want to vote to take away our health care, we need to vote them out of office.” 

Harris said it’s important to speak the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. 

“If Charlottesville didn’t make it clear, racism is real in this country. Anti-semitism, homophobia, sexism are real in this country,” Harris said. “Let’s deal with those truths. Speak them so we can deal with them.”

Harris also argued that many people are still struggling financially even as Republicans are touting the stock market and the low unemployment rate.

“The economy ain’t working for everybody,” she said.

Harris blasted the tax law that congressional Republicans passed last year, arguing that it benefits corporations and wealthy individuals and adds to the debt. She touted her new proposal to create a refundable tax credit of up to $6,000.

“We need to have a better vision for this country and in particular reform this tax code in a way that supports the people who work to make this country great,” she said.