Bill de Blasio had an unconventional first trip to Iowa as a presidential candidate

GOWRIE, Ia. — People in New York City and rural Iowa have one thing in common — they’re both populated by “working people” who want the government to work for them, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said here Friday.

In his first trip to Iowa since announcing his campaign for president, reporters asked de Blasio how the mayor of America’s largest city can relate to rural Iowans. 

“I think there’s more that unites us than divides us, I really believe that. When you talk to people here about what they’re going through, (there’s) a lot of economic uncertainty,” he said after touring the POET ethanol plant in Gowrie, a town of about 1,000 residents in northern Iowa. “They’re hurting because of the tariffs now — they’re really hitting Iowa farmers hard — and they want a better lifestyle for their family and they want the government to be on their side.

“Doesn’t matter where you come from, that’s a universal reality.” 

Democratic presidential candidate New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tours the POET Biorefining Ethanol Facility, Friday, May 17, 2019, in Gowrie, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) (Photo: Charlie Neibergall, AP)

De Blasio made an unconventional first trip as a Democratic presidential candidate to the first-in-the-nation state on Friday, choosing not to introduce himself and outline his issues at rallies or even meet-and-greets in front of would-be supporters.

Instead he took a tour of the ethanol plant with former Gov. Tom Vilsack, met privately with family farmers in Greene County, and held a private discussion with Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie and mental health care professionals.

The mayor was scheduled to speak Friday night at a fundraiser for the Woodbury County Democratic Party in Sioux City, a group he meets with in late February as he mulled a run for president.

When asked why he decided to take the unusual approach, de Blasio said he still has plenty of time to have traditional campaign events before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020. 

“We’re doing it piece-by-piece, but what I’m really focusing on today is listening to Iowans. It’s not: me, me, me. It’s: ‘listen to the people,'” he said.

In Gowrie, reporters followed de Blasio and Vilsack as they toured the ethanol plant.

A farmer wearing an Iowa State University ball cap had just pulled in to drop off a load of corn when de Blasio stopped to introduce himself. Later, one of POET’s employees gave de Blasio a handful of distillers grain, a byproduct of ethanol used for animal feed. 

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