An Established View on the LJ Celebration
Last Friday, the Liberty & Justice (LJ) Celebration, formerly known as the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, took place at the Wells Fargo Event Center in Downtown Des Moines. This event is essential for building morale within the Democratic base, introducing candidates to voters before the caucus, and providing candidates with a large audience of potential volunteers. This year, the event was record-breaking as it hosted 12,000 witnesses. It was also particularly special because it allowed the large group of second-tier candidates the opportunity to break away from the pack and build their name and base.
Because I work on the State Central Committee of the Iowa Democratic Party, I receive two tickets to the Goldfinch Reception before the event, as well as two tickets to the dinner. The reception is reserved for core party activists, including those on the State Central Committee, elected officials, and party donors. I was able to reconnect with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, former State Senator Rita Hart (who is now running for U.S. House), U.S. Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield, State Auditor Rob Sand, State Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, State Senators Liz Mathis and Pam Jochum, and my boss, State Senator Kevin Kinney, among many others.
When the reception ended at 6 p.m., guests left for the actual dinner, which was to start at 6:30 p.m. Due to the huge space at Wells Fargo, there was a lot of organized chaos. Finding the lower level was a challenge, and we were directed that the entrance to the stairwell down was “…just past the pizza stand,” which was not much direction at all. But, after we found the staircase, it was relatively easy to get downstairs and find our seats. The floor was set up with over 150 round tables and a large stage from one side of the floor through the center of the floor. I was seated at table 133, and my date and I sat in the mid-northeast corner of the floor section.
All 13 candidates received 10 minutes to speak, walk, and be introduced. For all candidates, that would total two hours of speaking alone. Speaking occurred between these candidates, though, including Iowa’s Democratic Representatives in Congress, as well as state-wide elected officials like Rob Sand, Tom Miller, and Michael Fitzgerald. Tom Perez, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, also attempted to fire up the crowd (but made me yawn).
Although two speakers remained, I called it quits at 11 p.m. due to having an early morning the next day. Democrats, despite the lengthy event, should take away that: 1) it was a long night but worth it; 2) Democrats are motivated to see change happen; 3) it was a hell of a lot of fun to see old faces and meet new ones.
Now, with less than 100 days left before the Iowa Caucus, let’s see how much of that energy from Friday remains on Caucus day and for the following months leading up to the general election.