Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand might be trailing in the polls both in Iowa and nationally, but she believes stops like the one she made to Big River Resources in Dyersville will convince Iowans to send her to the White House.
The New York Senator visited the ethanol plant outside Dyersville July 15 with former Iowa Lt. Governor and Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge.
Gillibrand said she has time before the Iowa caucuses in February to get her message to Iowans. “My plan is to spend a lot of time with caucus goers, talking about their goals and their concerns about the future. I will get to know them and earn their support one room at a time. I have time to introduce myself to Iowans and to the country as to who I am and how I am different from other candidates.”
Gillibrand was first elected to Congress from an upstate New York district where Republicans outnumbered Democrats two to one. Her last Senate election in 2018 saw her win 18 counties that supported President Donald Trump in 2016.
“I have a record of doing well in red places, blue places and purple places, going into rural areas and smaller counties across my state. That’s what I’m doing across the country. I think I have a different level of experience on how to bring the country back together again.”
Her visit to Big River Resources allowed Gillibrand to learn a bit more about ethanol and its importance to rural economies. Big River President and CEO, Ray Defenbaugh told Gillibrand, “We are here to preserve communities, provide jobs that provide good return.”
Defenbaugh shared his concern about small refinery exemptions, removing millions of gallons of ethanol from the nation’s fuel supply.
“It circumvents the law,” Defenbaugh said. “The law was passed in the Renewable Fuel Standard to create a certain amount of volume of usage. It’s really a play on words. In addition, some of the companies that are given the exemptions are not small refineries. It’s not really a good thing for the rural community or the ethanol community.”
Gillibrand said the stop at the plant allowed her to learn more about the industry. “The tour was helpful in letting me understand the industry more and how important it is to Iowa and to the country. It’s a pretty amazing industry. I have a real vision for America that is inspiring and exciting.”
She said ethanol is part of her plan to pass a green new deal when she is president. “We want renewable fuels to have a future. I’ll be investing in biofuels along with wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower.”
She continued, “As president, I would amplify the work already being done at a place like this with apprenticeships for hands-on training so anyone underemployed or unemployed has a chance for the training to get higher paying jobs in a community they want to live”
For Judge, who now chairs the Focus on Rural America, Gillibrand’s visit is a way to make rural issues known to presidential candidates. “We want to make certain that our candidates understand that there are issues in rural America that may be different than the ones seen in metro areas,” Judge explained. “Even in Iowa the problems here in Dyersville are much different than the ones in Des Moines or even in Cedar Rapids.
Judge said she expects most of the Democratic candidates to meet with her group. “I’m really happy with the number of candidates. They are coming here, talking to us and going out of Iowa spreading the message about rural America.”
Gillibrand also condemned President Trump’s remarks about first term congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. In remarks, the President said the four should “go back to the crime infested places from where they came.”
“President Trump is racist,” said Gillibrand. “It shows when he makes statements like that. When he says ‘Make America Great Again,’ what he means is ‘Make America White Again.’ It’s offensive and it’s misogynistic against these four women in particular.”