2020 candidate Kirsten Gillibrand returns to Iowa City for a meet-and-greet at The Mill

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand meet-and-greet

The Mill — Thursday, July 25, 6 p.m.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York speaks during an event at The Airliner. Feb 18, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is returning to Iowa City for a campaign event at The Mill on Thursday. The meet-and-greet with the New York Democrat will begin at 6 p.m.

Gillibrand attracted an overflowing crowd to the side room of The Airliner in February, during her first stop in Iowa City as a 2020 hopeful. At that time there were 10 declared candidates for the Democratic Party nomination; now there are 24 or 25, depending on whether you count Mike Gravel. (The 89-year-old Gravel, who represented Alaska in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1981, has said he doesn’t expect to actually win the nomination, but is running in hopes of appearing in televised debates to discuss what he considers important topics.)

The crowd at The Airliner was enthusiastic as Gillibrand discussed her personal story and offered examples of how she has been able to pass laws that reflect her priorities, despite Republicans controlling both the Senate and the White House. But that enthusiasm does not appear to have translated into support for her candidacy in Iowa. In the most recent Iowa poll, Gillibrand received less than 1 percent.

One of the topics Gillibrand discussed at The Airliner was why she was the first senator to publicly call for the resignation of Sen. Al Franken, after he was accused in 2017 of groping and other inappropriate contact with women.

I know Democrats are very sad about Al Franken. I’m sad about Al Franken. But the truth of this issue is very clear: he had eight credible allegations against him that were corroborated in real-time by the press that were investigating it. Two of the allegations were since he was a senator — the last one, the allegation came from a congressional staffer.

Enough was enough. I had a choice. I could continue to remain silent and carry that water, continue to remain silent and defend that action, continue to remain silent and not stand behind the women who had come forward to say ‘It is not okay to grope me or forcibly kiss me without my consent.’

It’s a topic that’s back in the news this week, following the publication of a story by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker that calls into question the truthfulness of Leeann Tweeden, the first woman to accuse Franken of groping. The story includes quotes from seven of 35 senators who called on Franken to resign, expressing regrets in hindsight either about Franken’s resignation or how it happened.

Gillibrand was not one of those senators.

“There was really no critical or investigative journalism or reporting on the other seven [women], and that certainly causes me pause,” Gillibrand told reporters on Monday, after the story was published. “He had eight credible allegations against him — two since he was senator, and the eighth one happened to be a congressional staffer. Now I could have told those seven senators, and any of the senators — the 35 senators who came out against him — that there is no prize for someone who tries to hold accountable a powerful man who is good at his day job. But we should have the courage to do it anyway.”

“So no, I do not have any regrets.”

Gillibrand will be in Cedar Rapids before her event at The Mill. After touring Waypoint Services, a 125-year-old nonprofit that assists people experiencing homelessness and victims of domestic violence, she will take part in a roundtable discussion on climate change at Coe College’s Stewart Memorial Library that starts at 2 p.m.

After the meet-and-greet, Gillibrand will head to the Hilton Garden Inn to address a session of the Midwest School for Women Workers, a summer program sponsored by the United Association for Labor Education, the Iowa Federation of Labor and the Labor Center at the University of Iowa. The senator’s speech is scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m.

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