MADISON COUNTY, Iowa – Hillary Clinton will headline Sen. Tom Harkin’s Iowa Steak Fry next month, according to organizers, a move the steps up Clinton’s political activity ahead of the 2016 presidential race.
Former President Bill Clinton will also speak at the September 14 event, according to a release about the steak fry.
Hillary Clinton’s attendance at the 2014 steak fry, which brings together prominent Democratic leaders from the first-in-the-nation caucus state, is the most obvious political step for the former secretary of state and possible candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Other than campaigning for candidates with whom she has a personal relationship, Clinton has largely tried to stay out of politics since leaving the State Department in 2013.
It has been over six years since Clinton visited Iowa. Her attendance at the event has been rumored by Clinton insiders for over a month.
Harkin first organized the steak fry as a fundraiser 37 years ago and this will be his final event as host, as he is retiring from the Senate in January 2015.
“Not only will this be my last Steak Fry, we’ll also need to rally our troops for outstanding, progressive Iowa champions on the ballot this Fall,” Harkin said in a statement. “That’s why I couldn’t be happier than to share this special day with two such close friends. They have contributed so much good, inspiring leadership to this country for many years, and I am sure they will continue to do so in the years ahead.”
The steak fry regularly draws big-name, national politicians and is seen as a required stop for any Democrat seeking the presidency. Vice President Joe Biden and then-San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro headlined the event last year and then-Sen. Barack Obama headlined the event in 2006, two years before he bested Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Since leaving the State Department in 2013, Clinton has become a regular on the speaking tour and published a memoir in June about her four years as secretary of state.
Although widely seen as the frontrunner for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016, Clinton has tried to play coy about her aspirations. She has, however, used her book tour to tout her record at State and in the past months has become more open about the fact that she is considering running for president.
Iowa has not always been friendly ground for Hillary Clinton. During the hard fought 2008 presidential caucus, Clinton finished a disappointing third behind then-Sens. Barack Obama and John Edwards with 29% of the vote. Obama won the caucus with 37.6%.
In her memoir, “Hard Choices,” Clinton wrote, “The night of the Iowa caucuses, when I placed third, was excruciating.”
In July, as Clinton toured the country as part of her memoir tour, an Iowa editorial board urged Clinton to spend more time in Iowa than she did in 2008.
“Our hope, if you are really considering a 2016 run, is that you have learned from your experience and come to Iowa intent on having true conversations about what matters to our state and the fine people in it,” the editorial board wrote. “We’d suggest sooner rather than later this time.”