A candidate for president in Iowa usually means nothing other than spreading their message and attracting voters.
But for one candidate, he was also exploring some family history in Page County.
Democrat candidate Bill de Blasio, who is also the mayor of New York City, was in Blanchard Monday, Aug. 12, learning about his family’s past. His great-grandfather Solomon Warren was mayor of Blanchard in 1892 and 1893. Blanchard was incorporated in 1879.
“I’ve been thinking about this my whole life,” de Blasio said about touring the tiny town as he met with Blanchard Mayor Jeff Brownfield and others from the town.
“My aunt Jean (Wilhelm) talked about it. I’ve known this since I was a little kid.” he said of the stories that include the town resting on the Iowa-Missouri state line.
Jean is 92 and is living in Eastport, Maine.
De Blasio, 61, was told Warren served as a young teenager for the Union in the Civil War. After the war, he left Ohio to farm in Iowa.
“He wanted to farm and he got a farm,” de Blasio said.
According to Blanchard historians Beverly Clinkingbeard and Larry Polsley, Warren was probably in his mid to later 40s while living in Blanchard in the 1890s. The family didn’t stay as de Blasio’s grandmother, Nina, who was born in Blanchard, speculated to have left the town when she was 10.
“I think he wanted his children to have a college education,” de Blasio said while looking at several pictures of the town’s past on display in the Blanchard Community Center.
The family moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, for the University of Nebraska, according to de Blasio.
The presidential candidate was born in 1961 in New York City to Maria and Warren Wilhelm. De Blasio is one of three sons in the family. His father served in World War II and was severely wounded in battle in the Pacific. After the war, de Blasio said his father became an alcoholic which stressed the relationship. Bill’s parents eventually divorced.
Bill was named after his father, but Bill said he was “never called Warren. And there was no reason why.”
He said Bill was probably a nickname derived from the last name Wilhelm. In 2002, Bill legally changed his name to Bill de Blasio as that surname is his mother’s maiden name.
He began his term as New York City mayor on Jan. 1, 2014, after serving in various city council seats since 2002.
His wife Chirlane McCray and son Dante also visited Blanchard.
Bill campaigned the previous weekend at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. He announced his campaign in May.
“There is a passion from Iowa people and the process,” he said, referring to the state’s first in the nation caucus scheduled Feb. 3, 2020. “It makes sense candidates have to prove themselves here. The candidates are challenged here and it is a good thing.”
During his campaign de Blasio said he has met many people “who want to work things out,” referring to the divide in various categories among the people and the nation.
But with more than 20 candidates trying to get the Democrat nomination, this cycle’s process may have different results, he said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if different states go different ways, more so than typical,” he said. “I would not be shocked if the first four states went to four different candidates. There is no one who understands American politics. People are still searching.”