Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer campaigned Saturday at Hotel Ottumwa.

OTTUMWA — Tom Steyer walked into Hotel Ottumwa on Saturday afternoon to tell southeast Iowa residents why they should support him as the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

He said he was running for president because he believed the government failed and it was time the American people got a president who will be honest.

“The first thing we’re going to have to do is break what I call the corporate stranglehold of our government,” he said. “The first task is to get government by the people and for the people.”

Steyer credited his parents who inspired him to “stand up for what is right.”

“It went back to my dad prosecuting Nazis,” he said, “and my father said, ‘If you see something really wrong in your society, then you should fight it really early and you should fight it all the time because otherwise it will take root and take over.’”

Steyer said traveling for three decades to different countries allowed him to understand what makes each country successful and how to work with people who have opposing viewpoints.

“This is going to be fighting the Republicans about how do we become more prosperous,” he said, “and how we share that prosperity more fairly between American citizens. That is something I believe I am equipped to do.”

The biggest concerns he talked about were in regard to breaking the corporate stranglehold and climate change. Taking on the challenges, he said, is what will change the United States.

“We need to take on these two challeges,” he said. “Then we’re going to have a guaranteed standard of living in this country that is better than any country ever. It is going to be a foundation of life for every American. That is what we are fighting for. That’s what we’re going to accomplish, and we’re going to do it next year.”

In the Q&A portion, an attendee asked Steyer how he was going to work with farming communities in Iowa. Steyer’s response was focused on partnering with rural communities and farmers. He said his experience in running a 1,800-head cattle ranch made him qualified to partner with different farmers and look at solutions.

“We’re going to have to sequester a lot of carbon in this world,” Steyer said, “and work specifically with farmers in rural communities to make sure that happens in the real world. We’re not going to go to those communities and tell them what we’re going to do, but ask them the best way to do it and make sure the incentives are in place so that actually doing this is something they get paid for and profit.

“Partnering with companies and farmers in this is going to be a critical part of success in answering climate change,” he added. “We have to work with companies to make sure we’re dealing with air pollution, water pollution and we’re specifically going to have to work with farmers in rural communities.”

Josh Blew asked Steyer how he was going to get equal opportunities for those with physical and mental challenges. Steyer said it started by supporting the people who have the challenges. He wants to change how people look at mental health, something he said is not discussed enough. He wants to spend a lot more money on resources that will pay more attention to mental health issues.

“I want to make sure in terms of people with disabilities that they are trying to get as much opportunities as possible to live a full life,” he said. “I also want to say with regard to other people who get in some way, shape or form discriminated against that we push back as hard as possible. Something has happened in this country under Mr. Trump where he’s tried to divide and vilify them both on cases including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity. I think that’s completely unfair.”

Attendee Deb Blew believed Steyer, not needing any convincing of who she was going to vote for. She picked Steyer from the start.

“I like his policy and places and him doing it in a smart way,” Blew said. “He’s very believable.”

Steyer ended his time discussing honesty and his optimism for the campaign. “No one can lie,” he said. “It’s going to take a broad edge across America and our reaffirmation of our deepest values. I’m confident we’ll do it. We’re talking about flying to the moon and we’re gonna do a lot more than fly to the moon. We’re gonna actually save the planet.”

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

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