Exclusive: Michael Avenatti reflects on his candidacy's "serious" debut in Iowa

The super lawyer told Salon that he was "humbled" by the support and the lessons he learned form Iowans

Published August 11, 2018 2:48PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Michael Avenatti stole the show in Iowa on Friday. The high-profile attorney made an unexpected appearance at the Iowa State Fair earlier this week, an unsubtle hint that he was considering a presidential run in 2020. He later admitted to the Des Moines Register he was "exploring a run for the presidency."

On Friday, Avenatti gave a speech at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding Dinner, a popular fundraiser for presidential candidates. In his speech, he emphatically introduced himself as a genuine presidential candidate.

"What, you may be asking, is a quote-unquote porn star lawyer doing here tonight to speak with you about our party and our republic?" he said in his 30-minute speech. "In normal times, I would not be here. I would be home in Los Angeles enjoying my life. But these are anything but normal times."

In an exclusive phone interview with Salon on Saturday, Avenatti said his trip to Iowa was not a stunt, that it was "serious effort for serious business."

"I thoroughly enjoyed my time here," he said. "Enjoyed meeting the people of Iowa."

Rumblings about Avenatti's potential presidential run has raised some eyebrows in Washington. But the lawyer did not meet any reluctance in Iowa. Enthusiasm for the Wing Ding Dinner ballooned on Friday after it was announced that Avenatti would be making an appearance. People in the crowd told reporters that they saw Avenatti as the perfect opponent for President Donald Trump.

Avenatti told Salon that he was "humbled" by this support. His campaign in Iowa was not limited to a 30-minute stump speech. He also visited a farm to learn more about issues confronting farmers.

"Not just farmers," Avenatti clarified, "But the suppliers and everyone involved the economic ecosystem."

Avenatti said he wanted to learn about how Trump's tariffs were impacting the agriculture business. He emphasized that the eventual Democratic nominee needs to have a solid economic message for hardworking people in the U.S..

Avenatti told Salon that a "real" infrastructure plan would be a big priority in his candidacy. Other politicians have talked up an infrastructure package, but none — including Trump — have delivered it.

"Every dollar that we were going to spend on that wall should go towards an infrastructure plan that gets people back to work," he said.

Asked about other issues that he was passionate about, Avenatti said that he was pro-choice and celebrated a woman's right to choose.

"Middle-aged white guys like Rudy Giuliani should not be making those decisions," he said.

The lawyer called himself a lifelong Democrat, while acknowledging he was not an experienced politician. He is, however, not unfamiliar with political campaigns. In his early years, during and after law school, Avenatti worked on campaigns for Democratic leaders. Avenatti said his campaign work took him to California and Idaho and Hawaii and Minnesota and Illinois. He said that he has a history of fighting for Democrats.

This week, Avenatti told Salon that he's been educated on a lot of the issues at the forefront in Iowa right now. Democratic primary voters in Iowa got an education of sorts on a new, serious candidate.

By Taylor Link

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2020 Presidential Election Democratic Party Donald Trump Iowa Michael Avenatti