DES MOINES, Iowa —
Two political polar opposites converged Saturday at the Iowa Events Center, speaking at separate events.
Senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told a conservative audience at the annual Family Leadership Summit it’s a “moral imperative” to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health care law.
Conway encouraged Iowans to engage in government while focusing on Christian values while placing principle over politics.
Her role has drastically increased since becoming President Donald Trump’s campaign manager at the tail end of the 2016 presidential election and then joining the president’s cabinet. She said many of her critics base their evaluations of her on the fact that she’s a woman.
“So much of the criticism of me is gender-based,” Conway said. “I saw some of it this morning I would use as examples, but this is a family audience.”
She said being in the public eye can be exhausting but asked the audience to “pray for the mockers.”
“It’s just our job every day to focus on the news and cut out the noise,” she said. “If I wasn’t a person of faith, it would be a difficult job.”
Inside the same building complex, former Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, held a rally that marked his first time in Iowa since the election.
He told community organizers at the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund’s convention that the GOP health care bill is “anti-working class legislation.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimates at least 22 million more people would be uninsured under Republican legislation.
Sanders said America should join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all citizens, pointing to neighboring Canada as an example that provides health care to its citizens in a cost-effective way. He also urged Iowa Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley to reject the proposal.
“Trump told the people of Iowa that he was going to stand with the working class of this state, the working class of America, but he is currently supporting the most anti-working class legislation ever presented in the modern history of this country,” Sanders said.
About 850 people attended the event in which the crowd raised more than $33,000 for the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund.
Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the Family Leader, asked fellow conservatives to “greet them” and “love on them.”
Ernst and Grassley highlighted accomplishments of their party on Capitol Hill.
“All we seem to hear about in the media is adversity in Washington, D.C., yet the reality is we have confirmed a new Supreme Court justice,” Ernst said.
Conway also spoke of her own experiences facing the harsh reality of the political realm.
“Certainly, I have a lot of friends on the other side of the aisle,” she said. “We respect each other and we respect the fact that we live in a nation where we all, particularly women, can disagree. I understand we’re a nation of charged opinions and partisan rancor, but I do find most of the vitriol comes from people who don’t know me.”
“We’re never going to be a civil society if it’s all just attack, attack, attack,” she added. “I know well that facts matter, not policy, not personalities but principles.”
KCCI’s Maria Lisignoli contributed to this report.