Democrats laud retiring Sen. Tom Harkin in Indianola

Ready.

Ready for Hillary.

Ready to get out the vote.

And the hundreds of Hillary Clinton for president supporters clad in blue shirts were ready for the the former first lady and secretary of state to make an announcement declaring her candidacy at the 37th annual Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola Sunday.

While Clinton did not do so, she gave every indication she is seriously thinking about throwing her hat in the ring again.

In 2008, she lost to then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democrat nomination.

Another run would please Linda Mulholland of Council Bluffs, a third-shift homemaker-health aide who made the three hour drive with a friend.

Mulholland said she had attend previous steak frys.

“I think Hillary Clinton would make an excellent president, said Mulholland. “I especially like her experience in foreign affairs.”

Echoing her comments was Bill Reese of Des Moines.

“Honestly, I think she should be the next president,” said Reese.

Reese said he had attended four other steak frys.

Hillary Clinton was one of three keynote speakers at the fundraising steak fry to honor retiring Sen. Tom Harkin which attracted a crowd estimated at 6,000 and dozens of international and national broadcast and print reporters.

Former President Bill Clinton and retiring Harkin rounded out the headliners.

Harkin, a native of nearby Cumming, received most of the attention despite sharing the star-studded stage.

With dozens of “Thank You Tom” signs lining the roadway leading to the event grounds, the stage was set to give him a fond farewell.

Harkin served 10 years in the House of Representatives and 30 in the senate.

His devotion to traditional Democrat issues such as civil rights, education, health care inspired Democrats an their candidates throughout the state.

In an emotional speech, Harkin recalled how his father, a Depression era out of work coal miner with five children and one on the way, had received a postcard from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, telling him to report at a Works Project Administration site not far from Cumming.

“That card gave my dad dignity, and most importantly, hope,” Harkin said. “Former President George H. Bush said that ‘government can’t give hope.’ One of his staff was in my office one day and repeated that. I disagreed. I showed him that WPA card on my wall. Later, my dad qualified for Social Security and Medicare.”

Speaker after speaker lauded not only Harkin’s 40-year service, but his career-long efforts advocating for the disabled with the passage of the bipartisan Americans with Disability Act in 1990.

Harkin himself cited the ADA in his speech as one of his premier political achievements.

Harkin and former Republican Senator Bob Dole of Kansas co-authored the historic legislation.

“Not one penny of government money has gone to a disabled person,” Harkin said. “But the ADA knocked down barriers and gave them the opportunity to succeed.”

Harkin had said frequently over the years that his late brother Frank, who was deaf, inspired him to lead the fight.

Much of Harkin’s remarks included heartfelt thanks to former staff and supporters.

“I stand on the shoulder of giants,” Harkin said. “For every person who contributed to my campaigns, you empowered me, to every person who knocked on doors on my behalf, you empowered me. You, my fellow Democrats, my fellow Iowans, you put your trust in me, you worked your hearts out for me, you stood by when things got tough. And sometimes things got pretty tough.”

The event also featured current Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.

“I’ve been on the agriculture committee for 40 years, in the House and Senate, and Secretary Vilsack has elevated the status of that position … he has been a tireless worker for agriculture.”

Joining Harkin and the Clintons were a host of Democrat candidates including

congressional candidate Staci Appel, Congressman Bruce Braley, locked in tough race to succeed Harkin, Congressman Dave Loebsack, state gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch, state senator Patrick Murphy, running to succeed Braley, and congressional candidate Jim Mower.

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