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Who Goes to House Parties?

Posted: October 16, 2019 | By: Ian Klein Tagged: Blog

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Before I came to Iowa, my interactions with politics were mostly through the medium of television. I would watch as cable news stations broadcasted live coverage of a candidate surrounded by supporters in a huge stadium, field, or arena. Of course, this is a common way for Americans to view important political figures such as presidential candidates. Iowans, however, get the special privilege of interacting with them in person.

Nowhere in America can one find an intimate setting for a political event quite like the Iowa “house party.” This is an event where a supporter of a candidate for political office will open up their home to the candidate and allow them to meet with other supporters and caucus-goers. The candidate will usually give a short speech before answering questions, taking pictures, and more. On October 3, a West Des Moines supporter of Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar held a house party that was open to the public, and so I went to participate in one of the more unique political events in the country.

For most of the house party, I was standing in the host’s kitchen and watched Klobuchar speak in the adjacent living room. As expected, the house was surrounded by national press and Klobuchar staffers. What I was curious about, however, were the other people present who simply came to see the senator speak. Who are the people that go to house parties?

Perhaps the most important attendee of the house party was its host: Jackie Wellman. According to Wellman, Klobuchar first caught her eye in 2015 when the senator stumped in Iowa for Hillary Clinton, and in this campaign cycle, Wellman saw Klobuchar at an event held by the Asian & Latino Coalition. Furthermore, Klobuchar is a co-chair of the Rare Disease Congressional Caucus, and Wellman herself has a rare disease called “hereditary spastic paraplegia.”

Wellman said that she is an experienced host for political house parties and has had congressional and gubernatorial candidates in her home; however, this was her first time bringing in a presidential candidate. Wellman said that she had been in communication with the Klobuchar campaign after speaking with her at the Asian & Latino Coalition event and offered to host the house party “because I love [Klobuchar].”

Activists also attend house parties to gauge the candidates’ qualifications on specific issues. I chatted with Christine Curry, who is a member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapter in Des Moines. Curry is an ardent activist for protecting the environment. “I believe that if we don’t have our food, water, and shelter intact, then nothing else matters,” Curry said.

House parties draw caucus novices, seasoned veterans, and all in-between, and the combination of attendees and location make house parties truly unique.

Additional reporting by Runal A. Patel.