(Windsor Heights, IA) One of the nation’s most powerful interest groups plans to mobilize its members in Iowa in hopes to influencing the debate among the presidential candidates.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) opened an Iowa Caucus office Wednesday in Windsor Heights, a Des Moines suburb, as a hub for AARP’s efforts.
The Iowa Caucuses, tentatively scheduled for January 31, 2000, are a crucial early test in the presidential selection process.
“There will be a lot of hard work,” Otto Schultz, an AARP board member from Madison, Wisconsin, told the two dozen AARP members who attended a ribbon-cutting at the group’s Iowa office. “There will be telephone calls and mailings. There will be newspaper ads and meetings, but what it all boils down to is people. The more people we can get actively involved and registered, the more successful we will be.”
Schultz said the Caucus Project gives AARP members a chance to leave a political legacy in the state where candidates meet voters, face-to-face, and respond to questions.
“When you’re flipping pancakes in Keokuk, we will be there,” Schultz warned candidates. “When you’re driving a tractor in Red Oak, we will be there. When you’re milking a cow in Decorah, we will be there and when you’re kissing a piglet in Iowa Falls, we will be there.”
At the top of the group’s agenda is a push to add prescription drug benefits to the Medicare program, which provides health care insurance to the nation’s elderly. AARP members are collecting prescription drug bills and bottles, with plans to take their props to candidate events and meetings.
“We urge all our members and their families to ask their elected officials what they would do to make it easier for seniors to get the prescriptions they need,” said Mary Rose Brown, state coordinator for AARP/Vote, a voter education off-shoot of the interest group.
According to an AARP document, 143,000 elderly Iowans “have no assistance whatsoever when it comes to paying for the prescription drugs they need to stay healthy.” The group contends one-third of Americans who are over the age of 64 foot 100 percent of the bill for their prescription drugs.
AARP has 360,000 members in Iowa.