Ames Tribune: Harris covers ground on gun control and unity in back-to-back Ames visits
On day two of her three-day Iowa tour, during a campaign stop at Cafe Diem in Ames, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris ran into a familiar face.
It was the face of 18-year-old Iowa State freshman Jaedyn Brockway, who remembers barging through a crowd of supporters during the highly-attended Democratic Polk County Steak Fry in September — and sharing a “heartfelt conversation” about gun control and the fears of her fellow students with the senator.
“I remember just talking to Kamala, about how many students my age are afraid that on any given school day they won’t make it home to their parents. Being in high school, that fear didn’t go away,” Brockway said to the Tribune. “It’s important that a candidate recognizes the fear and anxiety that students are experiencing in high school and college dorms and classroom. The fear that they may not say goodbye to their loved ones — Kamala Harris understands that.”
During her evening visit to the Ames coffee shop to a crowd of roughly 50, Harris said the issue of gun control is not a “Democrat, Republican or Independent” issue.
“There’s some basic truths we have to face and one of them is: our children should not be living in fear,” Harris said. “It literally is affecting all of us. All of us.”
The former prosecutor said that if elected, on the grounds that if Congress does not enact major gun legislation — including universal background checks, closing the so-called boyfriend loophole, and repealing a law that prevents victims from holding gunmakers and firearms dealers liable for their losses — she would take executive action to do so in her first 100 days as president.
Sitting around 5 percent in polls both nationally and in Iowa, Harris trails former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sanders, who have double-digit shares of the vote.
Harris plans to campaign in Iowa for half the month of October, will double her campaign staff from 65 to 130 and add 10 field offices over the next month, in an effort to turn around her campaign — which saw a sharp rise in the polls following the first Democratic debate in July. Her poll numbers rose sharply after the debate but have since fallen off.
Harris said she is not swayed by her poll numbers, and touted her history of being counted out and then winning races.
“This is not a new conversation for me,” she said, “In fact, this is a conversation I have heard every single time I have — and here is the operative word — won.”
Harris said Iowa voters can help refute doubts surrounding about her campaign by supporting her in the caucuses.
“Iowans have the ability to show our country what can be, even if we’ve never seen it before. This is what you do,” Harris said. “This is what Iowa is.”
Harris kicked off the first leg of her tour on Sunday evening, speaking spoke to roughly 200 community members at Iowa State University’s Scheman Building, centering her message on unity.
“Overall, the greatest priority really is about unifying our country,” she said to reporters following the event. “It is clear to me that we have got to unify as a country around our common goals, our common dreams and the commonality between us.”
In regards to the upcoming election, she said, “justice is on the ballot,” before delving briefly into issues including climate change, poverty, gun control and immigration. She also commented on President Trump’s administration.
“Justice is on the ballot when we have a crook in the White House, and let’s be clear — the way I think about it, he’s just a walking indictment in a red tie,” she said.
During the question and answer portion of the event, Harris tackled issues ranging from immigration to international affairs.
She said, if elected, she plans to pass comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship. Additionally, she is “prepared to take executive action to immediately reinstate the DACA protections for our dreamers and extend it to their parents.”
Looking for a candidate who can defeat Trump in the general election, Kat Wellman, a fellow Californian, asked Harris during the town hall whether she would, if elected, re-enter the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump unilaterally pulled out of in May 2018.
Harris said she would both re-enter the deal and seek to strengthen it — by extending the sunset provisions, including ballistic missile testing and increasing oversight — and focused on the importance of building international relationships by “keeping our word.”
“I was very impressed with her. I thought she gave an excellent speech, she gave a very detailed, responsive answer to my question,” Wellman said. “I’m pro-Israel, so I was I was very concerned and all about making sure we limit nuclear missiles in any country that could possibly destroy us all. I thought her answer was very good.”
Christian Dole, of Ames, said he was also most interested in hearing Harris’ stance on international relations. Though he has heard both Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Bernie Sanders speak at informational events earlier this year, it was his first time hearing Harris speak.
“I think she covered what I was listening to hear,” he said. “I am not American, so of course I was interested to hear what she would say about climate change and how she is going to handle working with allies.”