Steak fry brings political giants to Simpson’s backyard

More than 1,000 people braved cold winds to attend the 31st annual Harkin Steak Fry Sunday, Sept. 14 at the Indianola balloon fields. Candidates from several local races were in attendance, but it was the upcoming presidential election that speakers focused on most.

First lady of Iowa, Mary Culver, set the mood for the day, which was largely an attack on Republican presidential nominee John McCain and his running mate, Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

“I haven’t been this cold since John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate,” Culver said.

The keynote speaker for the event was Brian Schweitzer, the governor of Montana whose speech at the Democratic National Convention last month received high praise from party officials.

Schweitzer spent the day emphasizing America’s need to break its dependence on foreign oil.

“The message of today is we need to produce American energy designed by American engineers, produced by American workers,” Schweitzer said.

According to Schweitzer, America needs to focus on finding alternative sources of energy.

“We can’t just drill our way to energy independence,” Schweitzer said. “We have a lot of sources of energy in this country, but it’s not all in the ground.”

Schweitzer received applause and a standing ovation for his stance on renewable energy.

“[He’s] big on renewable fuels,” Harkin said.

Schweitzer discussed multiple ways of using less energy.

“I would say grow it, blow it, drill it or dig it,” he said, “Just let it be American.”

Also mentioned was the idea of using biofuels as an alternative energy source.

“Biofuels are here to stay,” Schweitzer said. “Biofuels are the future of America.”

As the national campaign for the presidential race gets into full swing, the views of John McCain and Barack Obama were addressed.

Harkin expressed to the public his thoughts on McCain and renewable energy.

“I have never seen him step forward in any way and help us with renewable energy,” Harkin said. “Certainly not ethanol, he’s been opposed to ethanol and biomass fuels.”

Schweitzer also mentioned the importance young voters will play in the November election.

“A lot of young people don’t have a landline, and you can’t poll them,” Schweitzer said. “So if you want to start talking about people who are under-polled, start talking about the college people.”

According to Schweitzer, young people face greater challenges than their older counterparts did as young adults.

“We’ve given them the greatest challenges, and yet they’re up for the challenge,” he said. “This generation has more at stake than any of the rest of us generations, and they’re going to vote for Barack Obama.”

Young voters have been notorious for not turning out on election day in the past, but Schweitzer thinks this year will be different.

“It’s never happened before, but I think it happens this time,” he said of strong youth voter turnout.

Lucas Oglesbee, a sophomore at the University of Iowa came to Indianola to support Harkin. Oglesbee agreed that this election is important to young voters.

“We have a presidential candidate who is inspiring to youth in our country,” he said. “If there was a time for young people to care about voting it’s now.”

Harkin is running for re-election to the Senate, where he is currently serving his fourth term. Bruce Braley, David Loebsack and Leonard Boswell are all seeking re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Becky Greenwald and Rob Hubler are trying to defeat incumbent House members Tom Latham and Steve King respectively.