Campaign

Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats

Marching bands, governors pouring beer and not one but two separate ice cream stations will greet a record number of Democratic activists expected to attend the largest single event in Iowa politics on Saturday as the run toward the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses kicks off.
 
Des Moines-area Democrats say they have sold more than 11,000 tickets for the Polk County Democratic Party’s annual Steak Fry.
 
{mosads}That’s more than the 10,000 people who showed up to see Democratic candidates ahead of the 2004 caucuses, in the pouring rain. The crowd will rival — and will likely surpass — the 12,000 people who showed up in 2007.
 
The ticket sales are another measure of unprecedented Democratic enthusiasm ahead of the February caucuses. In May, Polk County Democratic Party Chairman Sean Bagniewski said he expected 5,000 to 6,000 attendees — about half the number who have bought tickets. 
 
“It’s a test of each campaign’s organizational strength and ingenuity. It’s also a time to energize supporters,” said Jeff Link, a longtime Iowa Democratic strategist who is unaffiliated with a candidate this year. “There will be a lot of uncommitted voters listening to the speeches, too.”
 
At least 17 of the Democratic candidates running this year will speak to party faithful Saturday. Ten have rallies planned in the hours leading up to the Steak Fry, and eight will make a show of marching into the event at the head of a long trail of supporters.
 
Some of the candidates are adding an extra splash to their entrances to draw notice from the activists on hand.
 
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will be joined by striking McDonald’s workers at a pre-Steak Fry rally. She will march into Water Works Park behind the Isiserettes, the Des Moines-based drum line and dance crew that accompanied then-Sen. Barack Obama at the 2007 Steak Fry.
 
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg will draw supporters to his tent with live music and games. They will march into the Steak Fry together, joined by a dozen activists and elected officials who said Friday they back Buttigieg.
 
Inside, those who need a refreshment can get a beer from Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who plans to spend his time pulling pints and flipping steaks at one of 13 grills set up around the park.
 
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) doesn’t plan to march into the park. Instead, her campaign says it will use the event to organize supporters and prepare a mock-up canvass, training activists and throwing them into the fray of the Steak Fry before they head into neighborhoods to knock on doors.
 
Virtually every candidate has plans to stump around the rest of the state after leaving the Steak Fry.
 
Bullock plans a bus tour with J.D. Scholten, the Democratic candidate challenging Rep. Steve King (R). All told, Bagniewski said candidates plan to hold more than 50 events across Iowa in the coming days.
 
The party is so big that Polk County Democrats are going through the region’s largest supermarket chain to order their food. Bagniewski said the party had purchased 10,500 steaks from Hy-Vee, along with chicken and meals for kids. Three food trucks and two different ice cream stations are being set up. 
 
And for the first time, Bagniewski said, there will be a vegan option to accommodate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the race’s only non-meat-eater.
 
Link, the Iowa Democratic strategist, said all eyes are on the weather. Thousands of Democrats in an outdoor park is likely to mean thousands of umbrellas too — the forecast says there is a decent chance for rain in the Des Moines area on Saturday.
Tags 2020 primary Barack Obama Cory Booker Elizabeth Warren Iowa Pete Buttigieg Steve Bullock Steve King

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