UPDATE: Todd has an ActBlue account. You can help put another Democrat in the Iowa House at: https://secure.actblue.com/entity/fundraiser/33307
Democrats in House District 52 held a contested convention last night to choose a candidate to replace Brian Quirk, who resigned a few weeks after winning reelection. Two candidates came forward: retired teacher Tom Sauser of New Hampton and Todd Prichard, a lawyer from Charles City. Prichard won with 4988 allocated votes to 3790 for Sauser.
Tom Sauser deserves appreciation for being willing to step forward and run. Running for office is no walk in the park in any season, but January in Iowa, two months after a national election, during the Christmas season, has to be the worst possible timing.
He was the first to enter the race, and was recruited by Quirk, a conservative Democrat who was, until recently, a member of ALEC. Sauser taught middle school for 38 years, and retired in 2011. He conceded that he was not conversant with many issues affecting the state, but committed to learn as much as he could, and listen to his constituents. His speech, which he read from prepared remarks, was well-received. He had introduced himself to Floyd County Democrats in a meeting on Wednesday last week, a meeting that Prichard attended. It was clear from that meeting that Sauser had a steep learning curve ahead of him, but anyone in that room would have preferred him to the various far-right Republicans who are rumored to be running.The Chickasaw County delegates clearly regarded him with respect and affection.
Todd Prichard left the Wednesday meeting thinking about running himself. He called Floyd Democrats through the weekend and made the decision on Sunday. He immediately had the support of many of the people who have been knocking doors in Floyd County throughout 2012. He is an activist—always there when there is a candidate event or grunt work to do, and very well-liked.
By Monday evening, the word was out that the convention would not be a pro-forma event, and delegates showed up from all but one precinct in Cerro Gordo and two precincts in Chickasaw. Because of redistricting, Chickasaw and Floyd Counties were combined for the first time in the 2012 election, and activists from each county were wearing name tags and introducing themselves to one another. With a coin flip, Prichard chose to speak second, so Sauser spoke first. Each candidate gave gracious assurances to the other that he would support the victor.
More on the convention, and what Prichard had to say, below the fold.
HD 52 was reconfigured by redistricting and now includes Chickasaw and Floyd Counties, plus the three eastern precincts of Cerro Gordo County. The precinct committee officials selected at the 2012 caucuses were delegates.The available votes were based on the votes Quirk received in November. The total of those votes was what each precinct was allowed to cast. If both precinct delegates showed up, each voted half. Only one precinct split—Ward 4 in New Hampton—with Prichard's former employer voting for him and Sauser's campaign manager voting for Sauser. The remaining Chickasaw precincts lined up for Sauser and all the Floyd and Cerro Gordo precincts went for Prichard. The final tally was 4988 to 3790.Those votes were controlled by just 30 people, who were evenly split between the candidates, 15 each. Sauser himself was a delegate from the New Hampton Rural precinct.
Prichard had decided to be a candidate 24 hours earlier, and had spent his Monday morning in court and the afternoon calling delegates. Despite that, he gave an eloquent explanation of why he was running, who he is, and what he believes.
Prichard is a partner in a small Charles City law firm, with a practice that emphasizes real estate. He also works part-time as a prosecutor, for Norm Klemesrud, the Floyd County Attorney, (who spoke in support of Prichard), handling criminal and family matters. His undergraduate and law degrees are from the University of Iowa.
He joined the military in 1996, and served four deployments, including the Iraq surge. He is a member of the Iowa National Guard. He and his wife Ann have three small children. About his military experience, he said:
When I was in the Army, I spent a lot of time outside of Iowa. I lived in the South, around military posts, I was deployed numerous times to the Middle East and Central America. Nothing gives you a greater appreciation of home than going someplace and thinking about your home, and appreciating how good we have it in America, and Iowa. That's what makes me passionate. It's the Iowa way. It's the work ethic, and the commitment to values. And it's the honesty of the people. It's the ability to see what's right and do what's right.
Later, in announcing his support for Prichard, former State Representative and current County Supervisor Mark Kuhn also referred to Prichard's military service, and Kuhn's own service in the legislature.
Is the candidate ready to lead? In Todd's case, that's “continue to lead.” Todd was a commander in the Iraq War. He led 200 troops into battle. He was part of the battalion that served longer than any other in Iraq. He was a friend of former State Representative Ray Zirkelbach. I had the honor of sitting behind Ray Zirkelbach in the state legislature. And when he was serving in Des Moines, when we'd gavel in every morning, a flag would be draped over Ray's desk, and we always honored his service. I think a person who has served as Todd has on the battlefield, with the credentials that Todd Prichard brings to this job, he definitely is a person who would represent us well in the legislature.
Ann later described how they were allowed one videoconference per month during his two years in Iraq, and she would bring their then-only child to see Daddy on the TV.
Prichard summed up his political views with three issues, which he called the “three E's”—the Economy, Education, and the Environment.
With regard to the economy, I've worked with a lot of small businesses here in Charles City, and North Iowa…I understand how hard it is to be an entrepreneur and be successful….I've worked with the Iowa Department of Economic Development, …and used them as a customer… and can bring that experience to the legislature.
Also with economics—it's related—is health care. Not everyone sees health care as an economic issue, but it really is. I remember when I was a child, my parents couldn't afford health care. Today they would qualify for what's called the Hawkeye Program, which is a program for children when the family doesn't have the means to pay for medical care. When I was 13, I passed kidney stones, in the living room, and I remember my father, pacing, frantic. He knew that if he took me to the hospital, it would wipe him out. I look back now as a father, and I think my father was in more pain than I was. We can't go back to those days. We can't let ourselves go back to a position where we don't view health care as something our children need.
The second issue I want to talk about is education. I see first-hand the importance of education when I deal with people in the courts. I know how important it is to have places like this, a community college center, to get people to a position where they can get back into the labor market, and find their dignity and self-respect from work. Especially in this community, new employers look for a labor pool of people who have the right job skills, and that comes from places like this.
I also feel passionate about early education. I serve on The Learning Center board here in town. I'm very involved and a big believer in early education. I know how important it is, especially with a family that's struggling, that their infant or toddler gets the right nutrition, gets the right exposure to get to where they can develop and be competitive in today's world and job market. And it starts at a very young age.
The last thing is the environment. I come from a farming background. I think probably most Iowans have some connection to agriculture and land. Going to the Middle East as many times as I've been there, three times—they have oil there. We have soil. Soil is much better than oil. We need to work to protect the soil in this land for the long term, so we're sustainable, and it continues to drive our economy and feed our nation. And so will I go to the legislature with that in mind. The environment really is our bread and butter here in Iowa. It's how we will grow our economy.
We have a nominee, now what?
The ballots will not be printed until January 7th, and the election is January 22nd, so there will be an early voting effort. Ballot applications can be submitted now. There reportedly will be an ActBlue account and a website up within a few days. I hope to continue to write about this race and let Democrats know how they can help.
Maybe I can wear a Santa hat for doorknocking.
The exhausted and happy nominee: