‘Orange County, Iowa’: Irvine Rep. Katie Porter is using her rural bona fides to sell Elizabeth Warren


There’s no scarcity of politicians flitting round Iowa lately, as pre-caucus politicking hits its peak. However Rep. Katie Porter desires to make one factor clear: She’s not just like the others.

It’s evident from her opening anecdote, which she delivers at college health club rallies and front room gatherings as a high surrogate for Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Her audiences, no strangers to political vacationers, instantly chuckle when she describes her (unnamed) congressional colleagues saying with childlike marvel that they’re headed to Iowa “for the primary time!”

Earlier than a Cedar Rapids home social gathering, she flashed a conspiratorial grin: “Suckers! They’re gonna be so chilly.”

It was an incongruous punchline coming from a girl whose Irvine congressional district was, at that second, almost 40 levels hotter — and that was the purpose. Porter’s pitch is rooted not simply in who she is — a first-term Democratic congresswoman from Orange County — but in addition who she was: a daughter of rural Iowa who made it to Harvard Legislation College and a front-row seat in then-professor Warren’s chapter legislation class almost 20 years in the past.

The Warren marketing campaign is wagering that Porter’s mix of Hawkeye bona fides and lengthy historical past together with her candidate will persuade caucusgoers who might just like the Massachusetts senator however fear about her common election prospects. Porter, an unabashed Warren acolyte from a swing district, tackles these electability fears head-on, whilst political opponents again residence hope to make use of her endorsement in opposition to the senator.

“She’s Orange County, Iowa,” mentioned Dan Newman, a Democratic strategist who labored on Porter’s 2018 marketing campaign. “There’s not a variety of Orange County, Iowa.”

Porter, 46, was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and grew up on a farm in Winterset. Her stump speech remembers when the agricultural city’s financial institution closed in the course of the farm disaster of the 1980s, sparking her curiosity in client protections.

The anecdote affords a simple transition to Warren’s signature emphasis on shoppers, however Porter makes clear that their bond goes deeper than shared ideology.

“I ought to simply disclose: I’ve three kids. None of them are named Joey, Peter or Bernie,” she informed an viewers over breakfast bites in an Iowa Metropolis front room. “However I’ve a daughter named Elizabeth.”

Porter met her daughter’s namesake within the fall of 2000, when she was a third-year legislation scholar at Harvard. Since then, Elizabeth, as Porter completely calls her, has been a analysis associate and political mentor. (The primary-name foundation, Porter mentioned in an interview, started “after I graduated — undoubtedly not till after I graduated.”)

Nonetheless, Porter didn’t instantly again Warren’s presidential bid. For months, hypothesis mounted over whether or not she would endorse Warren or California Sen. Kamala Harris, who as state legal professional common appointed Porter to supervise a $25-billion settlement with the nation’s high banks.

When she lastly made her alternative within the fall, she known as her mentor on the cellphone.

“I mentioned, ‘Elizabeth, in the event you’ll have me, I want to endorse,’” Porter mentioned, which Warren cheerfully accepted. “After which I mentioned, ‘I’ve missed you numerous.’ And he or she mentioned ‘I’ve missed you too.’”

She made the endorsement public in late October.

Since then, she’s made three journeys to Iowa, with a fourth deliberate for the Feb. Three caucuses. She acts as a warm-up emcee at Warren rallies. She cheerleads volunteers set to knock on doorways within the bitter wind, doling out custom-made nail polish within the marketing campaign’s “liberty inexperienced” and revealing that Warren likes to color her toes wacky colours.

And he or she twists arms of undecided voters, in group settings and one-on-one. Kurt Meyer, who chairs the Democratic Occasion in three rural counties, mentioned Porter spent most of their lunch in Mason Metropolis evaluating mutual acquaintances and sharing private recollections of Warren earlier than turning to the laborious promote.

“She was the nearer,” Meyer mentioned. “She was to guarantee that Kurt Meyer understood in a profound manner that the Elizabeth Warren staff desires him to get off that picket fence he sits on considerably uncomfortably and be part of Crew Warren.” He publicly endorsed Warren per week later.

Porter’s barnstorming is infused with nostalgia. She detours to drive by the Coralville home she lived in as a College of Iowa legislation professor, proudly noting the picket fence she constructed by herself remains to be standing in high quality form. Her occasions are dotted with acquainted faces — former colleagues, her previous hairdresser, her dad.

Those that don’t know Porter personally typically know of her, accustomed to the now-viral congressional listening to interrogations of JP Morgan Chase Chief Govt Jamie Dimon and Housing Secretary Ben Carson. She has emerged as one of many higher-profile members of the freshman class of Home Democrats, a gaggle that has been unusually coveted as surrogates this cycle.

The alliances have largely fallen alongside predictable ideological traces: moderates who ousted Republicans from swing seats, akin to Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, are backing former Vice President Joe Biden, whereas progressive firebrands from deep-blue districts, akin to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have sided with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Each candidates deployed their distinguished freshman surrogates on the path in Iowa this weekend.

Warren’s different main first-term endorsers — Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Deb Haaland of New Mexico — occupy reliably Democratic seats. However Porter defies that pattern. Her district is hardly a liberal bastion — she is the primary Democrat to signify that patch of Orange County for the reason that 1930s, and registered Republicans nonetheless outnumber Democrats by a margin of roughly 17,000.

Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine speaks with voter Matthew Neppel at a campaign gathering in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in January.

Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine speaks with voter Matthew Neppel in January at a marketing campaign gathering in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

(Melanie Mason / Los Angeles Occasions)

Porter ran in 2018 to unseat incumbent GOP Rep. Mimi Walters with Warren’s encouragement and endorsement; the Massachusetts senator featured prominently in her marketing campaign promoting.

“She had a good main. She had a good common,” Newman mentioned. “She had a extremely powerful district. It was thought of to be on the bubble of being a misplaced trigger getting into.”

Porter made a couple of breaks from the left, akin to opposing a hike within the state fuel tax, however her message largely echoed that of Warren’s in blasting the affect of cash in politics. She gained by four factors.

Now, Porter is making an attempt to persuade Iowans, determined for a Democrat who can beat President Trump, that if a Warren-style marketing campaign can reach Orange County, it will possibly succeed elsewhere.

“I simply give you proof you can win on the insurance policies that you simply imagine in, and which can be genuine to you and your expertise and that talk to your group, wherever within the nation,” she mentioned in Iowa Metropolis.

Republicans, in the meantime, are able to pounce on Porter’s Iowa subject journeys. One e mail blast from the Orange County GOP accused her of “championing Warren’s excessive agenda to boost your taxes and finish your non-public healthcare choices.” One other missive from the Nationwide Republican Congressional Committee pointedly posed the query, “Is Katie Porter operating for Congress in Iowa?”

Mike Moodian, a political commentator and professor at Chapman College in Orange, mentioned the affiliation with Warren might have an effect on Porter’s reelection prospects some, though she would seemingly be helped by Trump’s unpopularity in Orange County.

“It may very well be an even bigger downside for her perhaps down the highway, when Donald Trump isn’t on the poll,” he mentioned.

`Porter brushes off critiques of being an absentee congresswoman, noting she’s had a dozen city halls within the district. And to listen to her inform it to Iowans, that is precisely the place her constituents need her to be.

“My constituents in California — they know why I’m right here in Iowa this weekend and never with them,” she mentioned in Cedar Rapids. She rattled off an inventory of domino results that may come from a Warren win in Iowa: momentum to sort out corruption, stop gun violence deaths, sort out local weather change and different liberal priorities.

“I’m so proud to be an Iowan this weekend,” she continued. “I might be actually proud to be an Iowan on Feb. 3.”



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