DES MOINES, Iowa — A Democratic Party tradition returned to Des Moines on Saturday, but the focus remained strictly on Iowa’s candidates.
The Polk County Steak Fry featured Democratic incumbents and hopefuls ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Candidates spoke directly to voters at Water Works Park about their political perspectives.
“It’s important to be here listening to our constituents and making sure our word gets out,” said U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, who is running for re-election in Iowa’s 3rd congressional district. “I’m glad we’re having it again.”
The steak fry also featured several candidates looking to challenge seven-term U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley. That includes Abby Finkenauer, who formerly represented Iowa’s 1st congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“It’s time we have our voice heard, and it’s time we have it heard in the Senate,” Finkenauer said. “It’s about folks being able to make it or have a good life. We’re going to fight for those policies every chance we get.”
The steak fry did feature one notable political announcement. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, the longest-serving attorney general in the United States, told the crowd he will run again for the position he has held since 1995.
“I’m enthused to do this again if the voters give me a chance, and I’m indebted to the voters of Iowa,” said Miller, who was also Iowa’s attorney general from 1979 to 1991.
This year’s steak fry was a vastly different experience than the past two years. 2019 featured a parade of presidential candidates ahead of the Iowa Caucus, and 2020’s steak fry became a drive-in event because of COVID-19 concerns.
“I’m glad to not be speaking to cars this year and to be speaking to real people,” Axne said.
While nationally-known names mostly shied away from the steak fry stage this year, Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois provided the keynote address for the event.
“We can win, we can lead, and we can make a difference, and that’s what the American people are hungry for,” Underwood said.
The Polk County Steak Fry was formerly known as the Harkin Steak Fry; longtime U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin started the event in 1977 while he was still in the U.S. House. Harkin hosted the steak fry until he retired from the U.S. Senate in 2014.