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Biden Calls On Iowans To Vote Democratic, Uphold Dignity

In a final appeal to Iowans ahead of Election Day, former Vice President Joe Biden urged over a thousand supporters in Cedar Rapids to vote Democratic in midterm elections he characterized as a referendum on dignity and character in modern politics. Biden called on voters to cast their ballots for gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell and 1st Congressional District candidate Abby Finkenauer.

Eager would-be Democratic voters began lining up around 4pm, some four hours ahead of Biden’s remarks, the queue stretching down the block and around the corner from the Veterans Memorial Building in downtown Cedar Rapids. A light drizzle didn’t dampen the enthusiasm inside the auditorium, where over a thousand retirees, union workers, university students, and young families with children all squeezed in together to hear from the candidates.

The event was a chance for the former vice president to add his firepower to some of the most competitive races on Iowans ballots during the 2018 midterms. Analyses by Real Clear Politics and theCook Political Report show the race between Republican incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds and Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell is a toss-up. Both sites show challenger Abby Finkenauer has a slight edgeover incumbent U.S. Rep. Rod Blum. The Iowa Republican Party has called Biden’s visit a “rescue mission”, characterizing it as an effort to bail out campaigns it says are floundering.

Union carpenter Antonio Govea of Cedar Rapids is an ardent Finkenauer supporter, attracted by the 29 year old’s working class upbringing and her family’s organized labor background. Govea brought his three young children with him, all under the age of 15, so they could see what young women can do with their lives.

“That way the kids can get a little bit of hope. I have a 15 year old girl. I have a 10 year old girl. They could do something with their lives too, as far as in politics,” Govea said.

If elected, Finkenauer would be one the youngest women ever elected to Congress, and the first woman elected from Iowa’s 1st District. Addressing the crowd, Finkenauer said she was motivated to run for federal office after watching Republican majorities in Des Moines and D.C. chip away at protections for workers and the access to healthcare.

“I vowed to myself in that moment, this is not how we treat people in my state or my country,” Finkenauer said. “This is coming down to our values and who are we. Are we people who step up for our neighbors or are we not?”

Appearing with his running mate Rita Hart, Democratic candidate for governor Fred Hubbell touted his plans to roll back the privatization of Medicaid, to reinvest in public education, expand services for those with mental illnesses, and restore state funding to Planned Parenthood.

“I’m running for governor because I can’t stand by and watch our state get run into the ground by Governor Reynolds and the Republican Legislature!” Hubbell said.

Taking the mic at the end of the evening, former Vice President Biden called on Iowans to rise above the forces of terror and hate he says he sees playing out in America, saying Hubbell and Finkenauer stand in contrast to a Republican Party that has “lost its nerve."

We need more women and men of character, like Fred and Abby. Because what they really do have, they have character. They’re decent, they’re honorable," Biden said. "Folks, I think we all know there’s something different about this election.”

The candidates characterize this as a pivotal time in a pivotal election, when control of the governor’s mansion, the statehouse and the U.S. House are potentially up for grabs. Biden told the crowd he believes political dignity and decency are on the ballot too.

“We’ve got to bring this country together! The only thing that’s strong enough to tear America apart is America itself! And we’ve seen it start and we must make it stop!" Biden said as the crowd cheered. "That’s what Tuesday’s all about!”

Biden sounded by turns like someone stumping for leading Iowa democratic candidates, and by turns someone running for president. The crowd seemed to love most every minute of it. A handful could be spotted in homemade ‘Biden for President’ gear.

Iowa City resident Richard Huber made the trip to Cedar Rapids for the rally, carrying with him a twelve year old “Biden for President” yard sign he’d kept in his garage until now, pasting over the “2008” with “2020”.

“I think he’s about the only person we have who can run against Trump,” Huber said. “I think he can stand up to him.”

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter