IA-03: Staci Appel launches campaign (updated)

Former State Senator Staci Appel rolled out her campaign in Iowa’s third Congressional district yesterday. Despite ruling out a race against ten-term Republican Representative Tom Latham earlier this year, citing “family obligations,” Appel filed papers with the Federal Election Commission a few days ago. After the jump I’ve posted background on the candidate, including her introductory video (with transcript) and an e-mail stating the case for her candidacy.

Many Democrats in Iowa and Washington have urged Appel to run for Congress, especially since Latham’s first declared challenger Mike Sherzan ended his campaign in April.

IA-03 is a swing district on paper, containing 157,406 registered Democrats, 164,101 Republicans, and 156,340 no-party voters as of July 2013. That said, any Democratic nominee will be an underdog Latham. He says and does little in Congress but has a history of outperforming the top of the Republican ticket.

Here is the “Meet Staci Appel” video launched on YouTube yesterday:

My annotated transcript:

Viewer sees animation of John Deere tractor in farm field with red barn and gray silo in the background, moving toward a highway sign that says Welcome to Iowa.

Appel’s voice: I love Iowa. It’s a great place to live, to work.

[view shifts to animated drawing of “APPEL FAMILY,” with Staci Appel seated by her daughter and five sons]

I’ve been married 16 years, and we’ve been blessed to raise our family here.

I’m Staci Appel. I’m running for Congress because the way I see it, there needs to be a lot more Iowa common sense in Washington. [animated drawing of Appel speaking in front of home morphs into video of Appel speaking directly to the camera]

And for me, that means getting things done ahead of politics and partisanship.

I served in the state Senate from 2007 to 2011 [drawing of state of Iowa below words SERVED IN THE STATE SENATE]

and led the effort to pass voluntary, quality preschool [footage of Appel with young children on a playground]

and to pass equal pay for equal work. [photo of Appel speaking with a woman who looks professional]

I worked across party lines to reorganize state government, [animated words on screen WORKED ACROSS PARTY LINES TO SAVE TAXPAYERS DOLLARS]

cutting waste and duplication. [footage of Appel walking with one of her sons]

I worked to pass mandatory seat belts for children in the back seat [footage of Appel driving van, with two of her children wearing seat belts in back seat]

and I took on even my own party leadership to pass a ban on texting while driving. [photos of Appel while she was in the Iowa Senate]

And even now, we need to do more to protect people from the dangers of distracted driving. [footage of Appel talking with her sons, apparently about how they shouldn’t use a cell phone while driving]

For me, Iowa common sense is about getting things done. It’s about making life better for people, where they live and where they work. [viewer sees drawing of Staci Appel Iowa logo, STACI APPEL FOR CONGRESS]

That means working across party lines to balance the budget and lower our debt, while protecting Social Security and Medicare. Putting Main Street jobs ahead of oil company profits. Passing a Farm Bill instead of bickering about it. And it means a commitment to better schools and more affordable health care.[viewer sees words on screen: STACI APPEL FOR CONGRESS, above bullet points BALANCE THE BUDGET AND LOWER THE DEBT, PROTECT SENIORS, MAIN STREET JOBS, PASSING A FARM BILL, BETTER SCHOOLS, AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE]

Unfortunately in Washington, partisanship and special interests prevent anything from getting done. Longtime incumbents become part of the system that doesn’t work. [animated drawing of Capitol building in Washington]

In Iowa, I’m proud to have helped make things work, as a state senator and a financial consultant helping families plan for the future and save for college. [footage of Appel talking to two labor union members, then talking with various families, mothers with children.

My approach in Congress will be simple: put Iowa values to work in order to get things done. [photo of Appel talking with a boy, presumably one of her sons]

Appel speaks directly to camera, standing outside with American flag in backdrop: That’s plain old Iowa common sense, and we need more of that in Washington.

[Appel for Congress logo and AppelforIowa.com on screen at end of video]

Positives: this video features the candidate’s own voice, which I always prefer to a professional voice-over. It conveys the essential message of an introductory video, hitting high points of Appel’s career and mentioning a few priority issues of her Congressional campaign.

Negatives: Appel sounds too scripted. In subsequent videos, producers should make an effort to capture her speaking more naturally about what’s important to her. There are also way too many conservative buzzwords in this video for my taste (emphasis on deficit reduction and cutting waste in government).

Side note 1: the drawing of the “Appel family” that appears around the ten-second mark of the video features the candidate surrounded by her six children. Her husband Brent Appel is not pictured because as an Iowa Supreme Court justice, he is not allowed to take part in any campaign events or partisan political activities.

Side note 2: I supported all of the legislation Appel highlighted in this video, and also Iowa’s public smoking ban, which she helped pass in 2008, chairing the conference committee that mostly kept the Iowa Senate’s stronger language. She chose not to mention that work here, despite its positive impact on the smoking rate in Iowa and public health generally. I wonder whether Latham, a heavy smoker, will make an issue out of this during the campaign. When the bill was debated in 2008, many Republicans and some Democrats objected to what they saw as an infringement on freedom.

It’s unfortunate that the Appel for Iowa campaign website has no content other than a space to sign up for e-mails and a link to the ActBlue page for contributions. Any candidate who can invest in professional consultants to put together an introductory video should put more substance on the website ahead of a campaign launch. Ideally, Appel’s website would show potential supporters her political priorities if elected. At a bare minimum, the website should include some biographical information and a statement of purpose in running for Congress, as Jim Mowrer has done with the website for his campaign in IA-04.

It’s doubly unfortunate that Republicans aligned with Appel’s 2010 Iowa Senate opponent Kent Sorenson still own the domain name staciappel.com.

In the absence of an official bio from Appel’s new campaign website, here’s a version published around the time of her successful Iowa Senate campaign in 2006:

Staci Appel was born and raised in Iowa. She is a resident of rural Ackworth, a community located several miles outside of Indianola. Prior to taking time off work to concentrate on raising her children and working with various community and charitable organizations, Staci Appel was a financial consultant with Merrill Lynch and USB Paine Webber. For 11 years, Staci helped businesses, non-profits, and families balance their budgets and plan for the future.

During the past eight years, Staci has concentrated on raising her four children, with the help of her husband, Brent Appel. [note from desmoinesdem: the couple has since had two more children] Staci has dedicated her spare time to working with children and improving the quality of public education.

Staci has made a commitment to serve her community by working with the following schools and charitable organizations:

Member of United Methodist Women

Board Member of Warren County Philanthropy Partnership

President of Montessori Children’s House

Honorary Board Member of Mentor Iowa

Member and Publicity Chair of Indianola Concert Association

Member of the Year-Round Parents Group

Past President of the Irving Elementary Parent Teacher Organization in Indianola

Charter Member of the United Way Women’s Leadership Connection

Member of the Warren County Child Abuse Prevention Council Advisory Board

Sunday School Teacher at First United Methodist Church in Indianola

Member of the Administrative Board for First United Methodist Church

A July 8 press release included this line, which probably will be repeated in Appel’s stump speeches and campaign advertising:

“After 18 years in Washington, Congressman Latham has become part of the partisan gridlock. If being a proud mother of six children has taught me anything, it’s how to listen, compromise and work across the aisle to find common sense solutions.”

In a e-mail blast that went out to many Iowa Democrats yesterday, Appel explained why she’s running as follows:

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what the people of Iowa deserve. As a mom, businesswoman, and a state senator, I’ve been able to experience firsthand everything Iowa has to offer. And there’s one thing I know – it’s that you don’t get anything done with gridlock and partisan bickering instead of working together and offering sensible solutions to our problems.

That’s why I’ve decided to run for Iowa’s 3rd district because I want to make a difference. I know how to work together with both Republicans and Democrats to get things done for Iowa. But, the next 48 hours after my big announcement are the most critical and that’s why I need your urgent support. All eyes are on me.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Click here to watch a video I made about why I am running and then help me start our campaign off the right way with a small contribution.

Iowans deserve to have a representative who will work across the aisle to get things done, not just point fingers and partake in partisan obstructionism. We deserve a comprehensive Farm Bill for our farmers, bills that create jobs for our middle-class, and spending cuts in the right way.

I want to take our Iowa values to Washington — something my opponent has forgotten about in the 18 years he has been in DC. We deserve someone who will make an effort to make this a people-powered campaign.

Will you join my people-powered campaign? Watch our video and then chip in to get our campaign off on the right foot.

I’m looking forward to making this journey with you.



Predictably, the National Republican Congressional Committee bashed Appel as a Democratic “recruitment fail,” citing her alleged “insecurities” and “flip-flop candidacy” as “a blatant red flag for Iowa voters.” However, Republicans wouldn’t be bashing her if they didn’t consider her a potentially strong opponent. I have not seen any press releases or blog posts on the NRCC site deriding Gabriel De La Cerda, who informally began his campaign in IA-03 in February and officially launched in April.

Speaking of which, I hope De La Cerda stays in the race. Judging from this comment yesterday, he intends to do so. He has been attending county Democratic meetings and public events for months. His volunteer-driven effort will make him an extreme underdog in a primary against Appel. She will raise more money and enjoy the establishment’s support. But he has a strong message and can contribute to a good dialogue about Democratic values and priorities. He is targeting disenfranchised, young, poor, or minority voters who don’t have a strong voice in our political system. A student at Des Moines Area Community College, De La Cerda previously worked at the Firestone AG Tire Factory in Des Moines for two years and served as Iowa political coordinator for the United Steel Workers Union during the 2012 election. He has directly experienced the struggles common to a lot of working people in IA-03 and all over the country.

While De La Cerda isn’t as politically experienced as Appel, he deserves credit for running an issue-based campaign, focused on bringing the Democratic Party back to its roots of standing for “the little guy.” When I talked with him a few months ago, he spoke knowledgeably about a range of economic and social issues. You can learn more about De La Cerda on his Facebook page, his campaign website or by watching this radio interview.

Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: De La Cerda posted a strong statement of purpose behind his candidacy on his campaign blog. Excerpt:

Why do I want my past to be under a microscope? Why would I want to be a politician? In response, I would always see a moment from my past which was clear as a sunrise on a cloudless morning sky.

    It was a month after the 2012 election. I had recently returned to the 6pm-6am shift at Bridgestone Firestone AG Tire Factory in Des Moines. I had returned to the factory from an eight month leave of absence working as the United Steel Workers Political Coordinator for the state of Iowa. I was sitting in a break room watching the digital clock and waiting for my shift to start, when I overheard a conversation that I will never forget.

    It was not the words which struck me; rather, it was the raw feelings and emotion behind what was said. I overheard a coworker recant a story which carried such sadness and pain that I can still hear the defeat in her voice; she was explaining how her family was losing their home to foreclosure.

    In her telling, I learned what the death of an American dream sounds like.

    Tears began to flow from her eyes as she told her friend how an unexpected medical complication took her family income from two household pay checks to only one. Next came medical bills whose balances were beyond redemption. Finally she explained how the bank would not work with her during her family’s financial setback. This was the final straw which led to the tears now on her face.  

    These events drove a proud American woman to weep in public. Her tears came at a trickle, and then sobs would cut in-between words, until finally the dam broke and the river of despair flooded the room.

    This first hand telling, of the death of an American dream, left an oppressive weight in the air. The room felt as though it had been enveloped by sudden humidity. I began to feel sick to my stomach, every movement becomes more pronounced and the clothes on my body take on a strangling heaviness.

    I REAFFIRMED right then and there that I would not be an American who turns his back on the suffering of those around him. I would give voice to those who are not heard and to those who could not speak through the tears and sobs of we who have been oppressed for merely being born in the wrong neighborhood or wrong tax bracket.

  • Really?

    It has been no secret at all that I think Stacy Appel is one of the poorest choice of candidates for any office at all.  Lots of reasons for that and I don’t need to rehash them all.

    Placing an one term state office holder that lost their re-election by nearly 20 points in this congressional race simply says democrats have no one else to run…and they are giving this one away.

    I predict an overwhelming re-election result for Latham.  I think I am very safe on that one.

  • Wondering

    Your comment has gone unchallenged by anyone. Hmmmm.  

    • I've said many times

      that I think Latham will be very tough to beat, no matter who is the Democratic nominee.

      • McCoy

        My hope is that Matt McCoy will one day hold that seat.  One of the biggest questions with Matt may actually be whether he would sneak through in a primary where he has a very strong pro-business record.

        • a McCoy/Petersen primary

          would be very interesting if IA-03 becomes an open seat someday. Now that Mid-American has backed off from building a nuclear power plant , I think fewer people will hold a grudge over the nuclear power bill McCoy supported. He can point to times when he stood up to big business, like the current controversy over Wellmark’s cash reserves and some Farm Bureau legislation he has opposed.

          I could easily see an open IA-03 race becoming so crowded that the nomination is decided by a convention.

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