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Weathering the Political Storm in Siouxland, Sioux City

18 Jan

A pedestrian makes his way on a city street donwtown as winter weather envelopes Sioux City and other parts of Iowa. The weather prevented former U.S. Sen. and vice president and 2020 Democrat presidential hopeful Joe Biden from campaigning in Sioux City and Council Bluffs, Iowa on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, today ahead of the Feb. 3 Iowa caucus. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winter can be unpredictable when it comes to weather in Siouxland, or any place in the Midwest. Sioux City has been spared a lot of winter type weather so far this season, but that came to an end recently as a major storm passed through dumping 6-7 inches on its way east to spread more joy and happiness to other “lucky” residents.

An Iowa DOT snow plow clears a lane for traffic on a state roadway as winter weather envelopes Sioux City and other parts of Iowa. The weather prevented former U.S. Sen. and vice president and 2020 Democrat presidential hopeful Joe Biden from campaigning in Sioux City and Council Bluffs, Iowa on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, today ahead of the Feb. 3 Iowa caucus. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Because of the presidential election year coming up and the state of Iowa being the first in the nation with a presidential caucus vote, many candidates have been making last ditch efforts to visit and engage potential supporters and energize the base they already have. But Mother Nature can forestall any hopes such as a visit by former vice president Joe Biden to Sioux City. An event here and south in Council Bluffs were cancelled because of weather.  Last year NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio visited the Sioux City area campaigning as the one to lead the Democratic party for the 2020 presidential election. A winter storm was blowing in carrying mostly rain and sleet, and reporters from the eastern city covering their mayor decided to camp out rather than risk driving at night. The Mayor’s team decided to push ahead after the event in town ended and headed out, but for only 30 minutes. The roads became too icy an dangerous to safely drive, and rather than staying where they had been with a choice of accommodations they ended up in a smaller community with one motel choice and at least a Subway sandwich shop to quench their hunger.

Nature doesn’t care about politicians and the schedules they feel the need to keep. Locals will hunker down and only go out if necessary, job depending, but politicians have to “make hay while the sun shines” as the saying goes. And with caucus only a couple of weeks away, to use another cliche, “time is of the essence”.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Traffic almost disappears on a state road that leads out of town as winter weather envelopes Sioux City and other parts of Iowa. The weather prevented former U.S. Sen. and vice president and 2020 Democrat presidential hopeful Joe Biden from campaigning in Sioux City and Council Bluffs, Iowa on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, today ahead of the Feb. 3 Iowa caucus. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)


A U.S. Postal Service employee makes his rounds delivering mail downtown as winter weather envelopes Sioux City and other parts of Iowa. The weather prevented former U.S. Sen. and vice president and 2020 Democrat presidential hopeful Joe Biden from campaigning in Sioux City and Council Bluffs, Iowa on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, today ahead of the Feb. 3 Iowa caucus. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Candidate Frenzy in Siouxland, Democratic Hopefuls Make their Pitch

8 Jan

Former vice-president and 2020 presidential Democratic candidate hopeful JOE BIDEN begins his 18-stop “No Marlarkey Bus Tour” at the Biden campaign office in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa, and will campaign in western Iowa after the Thanksgiving holiday Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.

With the new year beginning here in Siouxland as it is elsewhere, every four years the state of Iowa is blessed in being the first in the nation with its political caucus involving presidential politics. With less than four weeks remaining to make their pitch to the residents of Iowa why they should become a party’s nominee 2020 presidential Democratic candidate hopefuls are crisscrossing the state and Siouxland itself in making yet another pitch. This happened in 2015 with a large Republican field. And it’s a point of pride with Iowans that they are able to get some personal face time with national candidates wanting to tell their stories and why they should be selected to serve.

U.S. Sen. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful waves to people who waited the better part of an hour as her campaign schedule ran behind while trying to campaign in a number of Iowa counties before stopping at a small winery in Ida Grove, Iowa Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019 after the most recent Democratic presidential debate held in December. Klobuchar is making a three-day 27 county bus tour through Iowa.


Entrepreneur and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate hopeful ANDREW YANG, center, gives a thumbs up for a supporter’s selfie as a CNN camera person does a sound check for a live broadcast interview at Yang’s campaign office in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.

Retail politics demand that candidates spend time with possible future constituents. It’s still a bit of a norm in the day and age of social media and the internet where everything is uploaded to and shared with the world. Depending on one’s definition of world, being a community, state, nation or a select sphere of people who believe in the same norms and policies.

Former Congressman JOHN DELANEY (D-MD), left, and 2020 presidential Democrat nominee hopeful campaigns during a breakfast stop at the Horizons Restaurant in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020.


U.S. Sen MICHAEL BENNET(D-CO), left, and 2020 presidential hopeful campaigns at a local brewery in downtown Sioux City, Iowa Saturday evening, Nov. 8, 2019.

Ans for all the caterwauling that other states and pundits make about Iowa getting a personal and up close look at potential candidates,  people in Iowa take the challenge and responsibility seriously. Asking tough questions about how and why a particular candidate might be worthy of their support. Unlike attendance at large “big-city” rallies or high end dollar fund raisers and dinners, the people meeting these potential Presidential persons are moms, small business owners, folk who live in a rural setting most often and in communities on average no larger than 3-5,000 people, and many times maybe only 1,200 people who live in a small town. They represent a microcosm of American life with all the ills of a larger society but often times without the benefit that is afforded to larger communities because “rich” people don’t live there and individually these folk have no sway or lobbying power than the more “affluent” try to affect to curry favor.

U.S. Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-PA) and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful campaigns at the Woodrow Wilson Junior High School gymnasium in Council Bluffs, Iowa Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. All candidates are in a push to visit the state of Iowa with roughly one month left before the Iowa caucus event, Feb. 3, 2020.


Businessman and investor TOM STEYER and 2020 presidential Democrat nominee hopeful campaigns at the Sioux City Convention Center in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020.


South Bend, IN, Mayor PETE BUTTIGIEG, and 2020 presidential Democratic nomination hopeful, listens to a woman’s issue dealing with Social Security as he meets Iowa voters in an intimate setting at Cronk’s Cafe in Denison, Iowa Nov. 26, 2019.

The people only have their own dreams and dreams for the children to have a better life. A hope maybe that their children might pursue some kind of career that would keep them nearer home and not have to move away to a larger city to pursue work options and make enough money to survive, get married and start a family on their own. So the folk of these small Siouxland and other communities in Iowa feel they have a vested interest in being picky about who might represent them and others like them in the next election. And not all candidates make the cut, some falling by the wayside between the start of their campaigning in ernest and and their failing in having the funding to continue. But most try. And I find it interesting that since 2015 and the large Republican field then with the large showing of Democratic hopefuls this election cycle, running for the highest office in the nation seems to have become a bit more democratic in and of itself. Candidates can survive for a period of time on smaller donations and not just being bankrolled by wealthy individuals and corporations and others who more than likely have a more selfish interest in who gets elected. And so it goes, until Feb. 3 in Iowa, when everyone gets together in their local caucus and chooses who they would like this time to represent themselves and the candidates go forth hoping they will become the chosen one.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

U.S. Sen. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ) and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful laughs along with the audience during an introduction as he campaigns iat The Fruited Plain Cafe in Sioux Center, Iowa Saturday, Dec. 21 2019 after the most recent Democratic presidential debate held in December.


Former San Antonio mayor and secretary of Housing and Urban Development, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate hopeful JULIAN CASTRO speaks on the campus of Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019 as he campaigns in western Iowa.

Siouxland’s part of the Presidential Horserace Begins

24 Mar

Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MASS), center, talks to reporters after her organizing event in the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I recently wrote about the 2015 Iowa caucus campaigns that Republican presidential hopefuls pursued starting around April of that year. This time around the Democrats have started even earlier, beginning in January and most hopefuls have appeared in Siouxland which is a bit more red than a more purplish/blue hue found more in the central and eastern part of the state of Iowa. All are doing “exploratory” visits to see if folk in Iowa actually like them and would support a run for the office of president.

New York City Mayor BILL DE BLASIO, center, a Democrat, shares a joke with VLADIMIR LANDMAN, left, of Sioux City and formerly from Brooklyn and TISHA DUMKRIEGER, right, also of Sioux City, at a meet and greet with local Democrats at Rebos restaurant on Historic 4th Street in Sioux City, Iowa, Saturday evening February 23, 2019, as he explores entering the 2020 presidential race.


Former Maryland Congressman JOHN K DELANEY, center, opens a campaign office in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019 and greets supporters and others who attend. Delaney has visited all of Iowa’s 99 counties through his 23 trips to the state. THis week Delaney also opened a campaign officein Council Bluffs , did meet and greets in Ft. Dodge and Glenwood and a town hall meeting in Dennison as he pursues a 2020 presidential campaign.

Early on many of these meet and greets happen in local residents’ homes where people get a chance to listen to those politicians visiting and ask questions. Some questions can be softballs, but others prod visiting presidential hopefuls into expanding their comments even though it’s still early in the process. Those very active in Iowa politics, even on a local level get the chance to really learn more about these people and see what they are like. Sometimes it feels a little like a show and tell party, but local, retail politics is just that.

Rep. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), center right standing, and an Iowa native, talks with members of the Truman Club of the Woodbury County Democratic Party in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday evening, Feb. 16, 2019 as he explores his potential in running for President in 2020.


Former San Antonio, TX, mayor JULIAN CASTRO,left, meets and talks with members of the Democrat Woodbury County Truman Club in Sioux City, Iowa, Friday evening, February 22, 2019, as he explores entering the 2020 presidential race.


Now that spring seems like it has arrived, hopefully these potential candidate visits will become a little more fast and furious as they try to prove themselves within a crowded field, as yet there are still a few folk deciding still if they will be running. But it seems politicians are always running. It just depends on whether you believe what they say, or not.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

U.S. Sen. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), reacts to an attendee during a Woodbury County, Iowa, Democrats first time meet and greet at the residence of a local couple in Sioux City, Iowa Friday evening Jan. 18, 2019, as she explores running for the office of the President.


Former Colorado Governor and businessman JOHN HICKENLOOPER, a Democrat, talks members of the public at the Coffeeworks in Sioux City, Iowa, Saturday morning February 23, 2019, as he explores entering the 2020 presidential race.


Author and spiritual guru MARIANNE WILLIAMSON speaks at the Donna Reed Theatre and talks about poverty in America, in Denison, Iowa Saturday, March 2, 2018, while exploring a presidential run for 2020.

Winter is passing, so has the Iowa Caucus, Siouxland

6 Feb

It is now February. And even though a recent blizzard dumped 14 inches of snow into Sioux City, Iowa, and more in some parts of Siouxland, winter is passing. The days are beginning to get longer.

And so too, has the Iowa Caucus event come and gone. The month of January was busy for me covering a number of presidential candidates, both Democrat and Republican, visiting the Siouxland area. I have been covering them since the parade began last summer for ZUMA Press. It is fascinating and surreal at the same time to have these individuals chatting and meeting regular, everyday Iowans who take the time to attend an event. Many of them small, although as time progressed, the events grew as each candidate tried to reach more and more people to support them during the caucus event.

But now Iowa is quiet, for the most part, and the picked candidate for each party won’t return until sometime next fall when they come looking to solidify their support for the general election. The months leading up to the caucus event is an interesting time and one many Iowans cherish to meet and get to know the various candidates. And it will be another four years before the next First in the Nation event takes place again. Kind of like Leap Year. Four years to rest and recoup from this one.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

History in Siouxland, Mapleton

6 Aug

Over the Fourth of July I spent a little time in a private museum in Mapleton, Iowa. I say private because it is a former church now owned by an individual who has turned the space into a history museum. Keith Robinson is a former teacher from the area and has garnered quite a collection of Mapleton history as well as presidential memorabilia in his The Museum of American History. Some of it dating back to the mid and late 1800’s. With all the hubbub of this election cycle getting underway, I find it fascinating to look at these items and try to imagine what it might be like in those bygone days before mass media, before the internet, and candidates travelled by train and people campaigned by wearing a certain type of hat, or displaying a particular kind of dish ware or wearing a particular pin in your tie. Possibly a more simple election cycle without 24/7 TV ads and bombardments from paid circulars in your mailbox and tons of emails.

In those days, people probably found it as trying as we do today, sifting through all the “garbage” and hype to figure out who is a worthy candidate that one wants to support. But whatever innocence there may have once been about campaigning for the U.S. presidency, there certainly isn’t anymore. And people have become more cynical and skeptical about what their politicians can do for them and not what they can do for their country.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Politics in Siouxland and the 4th of July, Denison

5 Jul

The last couple of weeks have been a bit busy with presidential wannabes visiting Siouxland. The last election cycle did not get that many visits from presidential candidates seeking contact with residents in northwest Iowa. This election cycle you see both Democrats, and especially the Republicans visiting and trying to connect with local residents, lining up potential supporters during Iowa’s caucus night.

I have been photographing these visiting folk and will post some of those photos a bit later. This weekend saw candidates throughout Iowa and New Hampshire walking in parades and “meeting and greeting” potential supporters. In Denison, Iowa, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) participated in the community’s 4th of July parade. Prior to the start of the parade, he told local Democrats that he loves walking in parades and has participated in many in his home state of Vermont.

But along with candidates, come the assorted allotment of media people, myself included, as I freelance for Zuma Press. It’s always interesting and fascinating in watching these people work, as a majority were from larger media organizations and travel for this type of assignment. For me, Denison was about an hour and 30 minutes from Sioux City. Everybody is vying for that shot or film footage of the candidate interacting with locals, even though the media sometimes ran interference with locals in trying to capture that interaction.

Denison is a pretty town, and has a nice downtown area. Although like many small communities, the town has its share of closed store fronts. But people love a parade and a holiday. The kids were out in force collecting candy thrown from the parade floats, as were their parents watching over them so they wouldn’t be run over while collecting candy.  With people lining the streets, residents gave Sen. Sanders a nice Iowa welcome as he passed by introducing himself.

It was a nice day to celebrate a holiday. I stayed a bit longer to photograph a some more of the parade, but had a deadline I needed to meet. This time next year though,  there will be only two candidates out stumping, and each will have considerably more media following them since the election in 2016 will be just 5 months away.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Ice Cream and Art in Siouxland, Le Mars

20 May

It’s always nice to visit the community of Le Mars, Iowa. After wandering around its streets looking for images and finding new wall art that has been painted on one of the community’s downtown business wall, one can stop in the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor for an ice cream. A lot of people do, even those passing through the community visiting the state. It makes for a nice end of day journey, but then again, it might be nice to start the day that way as well.


Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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