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Corn Dogs And Stump Speeches Kick Off The Iowa State Fair

John Pemble / IPR
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was the first of nearly two dozen candidates who will speak at the Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox during the fair. He called himself a "pro-choice, pro-union, populist Democrat."

A long weekend of political speeches got underway Thursday afternoon at the Iowa State Fair, as Montana Gov. Steve Bullock delivered the first speech at the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox.  Candidates get 20 minutes to talk to whoever shows up to listen at a stage along the Grand Concourse.  The crowd for Bullock was pretty thick, though some attendees said they had arrived early to hear former Vice President Joe Biden, who was scheduled to speak about 20 minutes after Bullock concluded.

Bullock described himself as a pro-choice, pro-union populist Democrat who has won election to the governor’s office in a red state twice.  He said he believes health care can be made accessible and affordable, though he is not among the Democratic candidates who say they support “Medicare for All.”

“But we don’t have to disrupt 165 million people on private insurance,” he said.  “We can have a public option, finally negotiate drug places, take those steps, end surprise medical bills.”

Bullock said President Donald Trump can be defeated next year if Democrats focus on making the country better instead of chasing the president’s tweets.  He also stressed his Iowa ties a couple of times, reminding the crowd that his great-great-grandfather ran a store in Lowell, in Henry County, for several decades beginning in the mid-1800s.

Bullock is one of 15 of the Democratic candidates who have not yet qualified for participation in the next Democratic debate, planned for September.  He hasn’t met the polling or fundraising requirements set by the Democratic National Committee.  Bullock said in the weeks ahead he would continue to “Get out and talk to folks in Iowa and across the country.”

“…I think I offer something that can not only bring Democrats together, but win this election,” he said.

IPR's Clay Masters contributed to this report.

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.
Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.