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Amy Klobuchar looking ahead to Democratic debate, caucus success

Gazette - 1/11/2020

Jan. 10--CEDAR RAPIDS -- Riding a late-developing surge, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is looking forward to the last debate before the Iowa caucuses to continue laying out her plans and addressing issues such as disability rights and rural concerns.

She doesn't know if her recent rise in polls will cause other Democratic presidential hopefuls to press her when they meet Tuesday at Drake University in Des Moines, but she said Friday she'll be ready.

"I hope they aim a lot of questions that me," Klobuchar said after meeting with disability rights advocates in Cedar Rapids.

She laid out a plan calling for fully funding educational opportunities for the disabled, improving access to transportation -- including in rural areas, prohibiting landlords from unfairly discriminating against renters with disabilities, improving and promoting employment training programs for people with disabilities and investing in long-term care.

The needs of the disability community often go overlooked, she said, but they are disproportionately affected by decisions at the federal level.

"Remember when Betsy DeVos goes after funding for the Special Olympics, it's a bad thing for everyone, but this community takes it in the heart," Klobuchar said of the U.S secretary of education. "This administration's assault on the Affordable Care Act and the preexisting condition provision, they take that personally. Parents with kids with Down syndrome, ... they know that could be the end of their child's life as they know it.

"So all of these things, when it's health care or it's housing, or it's even the very act of voting, hit the disability community in a much bigger way," she said.

Like disability rights, rural issues and agriculture policy haven't received the attention they deserve in previous debates, Klobuchar said.

"I'm the only one on that stage that asked to be on the Agriculture (Committee)," Klobuchar said, "and has been involved in three farm bills, which doesn't mean just farmers. It also means aid to local communities and conservation practices.

"So that's going to be an opportunity for me to differentiate myself," she said.

Klobuchar's poll numbers have been rising but are still in single digits. A CBS News poll in Iowa that found Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg in a three-way tie for first at 23 percent, with Elizabeth Warren at 16 percent and Klobuchar at 7 percent. She raised more than $11 million in the last quarter.

However, Klobuchar believes it will be her grassroots support in Iowa that will help her finish well in the caucuses.

"We have the most endorsements of elected and former elected officials than any other candidate," she said. In the Cedar Rapids area that includes state Sen. Liz Mathis, state Rep. Molly Donahue and former state legislator and Ambassador Swati Dandekar.

"That's going to help," Klobuchar said. "It's going to make all the difference (because) they will not just be endorsements on a brochure. They're going to be endorsements in the room" on caucus night.

"It's going be all about people," she said. "For me, it always has been. Ads don't vote."

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