CLEAR LAKE, Iowa — It has become one of the biggest and most important Democratic fundraisers in the state of Iowa.
This is the first year the “Wing Ding” fundraiser was completely sold out. The historic venue in Clear Lake – the Surf Ballroom – was packed to capacity Friday night with 2,100 people in attendance. The featured speakers included four of the five announced Democratic presidential candidates.
In the Surf Ballroom, the place where the music died more than 50 years ago, the Democratic presidential candidates were trying to live up to the expectations of their supporters. The Wing Ding event is held at the famed Surf Ballroom where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper performed before being killed when their plane went down on a frozen runway in nearby Mason City in 1959. The large gathering of Democratic Party faithful at the historic Surf Ballroom for the Wing Ding dinner and fundraiser has become a must stop for Democratic presidential candidates.
After acknowledging the musical legacy of the venue, and touting the recent endorsement of former longtime Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, Hillary Clinton told the crowd of activists that she had recently joined Snapchat, and in doing so made light of the recent Justice Department probe into the emails she sent and received on a private server while Secretary of State; Clinton recently turned over her server to the FBI. Clinton joked to the Wing Ding audience that she loved snapchat because “those messages disappear all by themselves.”
After the quip about snapchat, it was on to more serious matters for Clinton, who in a fiery and passionate speech addressed Benghazi and the email scandal that has haunted her campaign in a more serious and direct way. The former Secretary of State described the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya as a “tragedy,” but accused republicans of playing politics with that tragedy, saying numerous investigations had exhausted the matter and found no wrongdoing on her part. Clinton received a standing ovation from the audience and chants of “Hillary, Hillary” when she proclaimed “Black Lives Matter.”
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders also addressed the Black Lives Matter movement, touting his civil rights record and vowing to end racism in America. Sanders says the popularity his presidential campaign has received in recent months has blown his mind, and attributed the large crowds his events have drawn to voters being sick of establishment politics. Martin O’Malley told the crowd that he’s not the only candidate in the race with progressive values, but that he is the only candidate with executive experience that has a record of getting results, saying his campaign was about actions, not words.
The former Mayor of Baltimore and Governor of Maryland said he was running to rebuild the American dream and create a future with more opportunity. Lincoln Chafee, the former Mayor of Warwick, Rhode Island, U.S. Senator from Rhode Island and Governor or Rhode Island, said his unique qualifications and experience set him apart from any of the candidates on either the Democratic or Republican side in the presidential race.
The Wing Ding was first held in 2004 to raise funds for the county Democratic Central Committees, with only three counties participating at that time; Hancock, Winnebago and Cerro Gordo. It has grown in size and influence over the years and now includes 23 participating counties.