Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a “town hall” forum in Iowa’s most Democratic county, Johnson County, this afternoon.
“Yes, sir, in the blue shirt,” Clinton said, calling on a man in the audience.
He replied: “Blue’s a popular color in this county,” and Clinton cheered along with the crowd, many of whom were wearing blue, which has become a symbolic color for Democrats.
Mike, the man Clinton called upon, said his daughter was working for a national group that’s pushing for an increase in the minimum wage.
“This county just approved a graduated increase to a livable wage,” he said, and the crowd cheered, “and some communities are buying in and some are not.”
A Johnson County Board of Supervisors ordinance that went into effect this month raised the minimum wage in participating areas like Iowa City to $8.20 an hour. By 2017, it will be $10.10 an hour and Clinton told the crowd she was familiar with that local decision.
“But the key is we’ve got to raise the federal minimum wage so we have a higher floor,” Clinton said. “And that will then enable communities like Johnson County to go higher, if that is your decision.”
Clinton competitors Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley support increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Clinton drew applause from the crowd when she repeated her call for a $12 minimum wage.
“That would be setting it at a level that would be equivalent to the point in our history where the minimum wage was the highest and, in inflation adjusted terms, that was in 1968,” Clinton said.
Clinton said a $12 national minimum wage is what Democrats in congress have decided to start lobbying for, but Clinton would “encourage” local communities to go higher “if they can afford to.”
“I’ve supported LA going to $15, Seattle going to $15,” Clinton said. “New York, for some workers in New York City, going to $15.”
A couple of high school students in the crowd were there to lobby Clinton for a visit and they were wearing t-shirts to illustrate their invitation.
“My name’s Megan Adam and we’re from southeast Iowa. I’m part of #KeotaHopesForHillary,” Adam said and Clinton replied: “I’m coming! I am coming to Keota.”
Adam smiled and laughed, as the crowd applauded: “That’s so awesome.”
Adam told Clinton she’s worried Keota’s school district, with about 80 high school students, will have to close.
“I think I’ve met most of them by now,” Clinton said, laughing. “…Anybody who can organize such a really well-planned effort to get me to visit, you deserve it. I’m going to come.”
Clinton said school consolidation was a “serious issue” and new technology may provide the kind of advanced courses students need and reduce costs so small schools can remain open.
“I’m going to think about that, so when I come we can actually talk about it and I’ll give you my best thoughts because I know how important it is for communities to have that sense of belonging and connection that a school provides, so I’m going to come,” Clinton said. “I promise.”
Clinton also spoke about this summer’s shooting at Coralville’s mall and, as she did during a visit to Iowa City in July, Clinton vowed to make gun safety a campaign issue in 2016. Clinton is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in Grinnell this evening.