Two-time U.S. Senate candidate Tom Fiegen, who left the Democratic Party after last year’s primary election, currently has no plans to run for governor in 2018 as an independent, he told Bleeding Heartland today.
Fiegen spent July 15 at the Iowa CCI Action Fund‘s annual convention in Des Moines, carrying a pitchfork “for the revolution,” he told Gavin Aronsen. (The progressive advocacy group’s theme for the day was “Revolution Iowa: From Protest to Power.”)
I caught up with Fiegen after Bernie Sanders’ keynote address. The vocal #NeverHillary voice (even calling for disrupting Hillary Clinton’s campaign events) has been rumored as a future independent candidate for statewide office. Asked if he’s running for governor, Fiegen told me simply, “No.” When I followed up to see if he would consider an independent candidacy, he responded,
I’m–let me just say I’m keeping my powder dry. I have a number of people talking to me about it. I want to see how the Democratic primary shakes out. The only person in the Democratic primary that absolutely could convince me to run as an independent is Andy McGuire. If Andy McGuire wins, I will go after Andy McGuire to keep her from being governor. The other people, we’ll see who wins. But I am so convinced that she is disaster, she would be a disaster for Iowa, if she wins the Democratic primary, I’ll give you my announcement speech.
As the Iowa Democratic Party chair in 2015 and 2016, McGuire came under fire from some Sanders activists, who didn’t believe in her neutrality and disliked how she handled the caucuses, convention process, and roll call during the Democratic National Convention.
Aside from McGuire, four Democrats are already running for governor (Jon Neiderbach, Todd Prichard, Nate Boulton, and John Norris) and three are likely to make their campaigns official soon (Cathy Glasson, Fred Hubbell, and Ross Wilburn). Fiegen said he won’t endorse any of the Democratic candidates before next June, nor does he plan to vote in the primary. What he heard at the CCI Action convention cemented his view that joining the party isn’t the way forward. However, depending on who wins the nomination, Fiegen did not rule out endorsing the Democratic candidate for governor next fall.
To my knowledge, Neiderbach is the only Democrat in the current field who endorsed Sanders before the 2016 caucuses. Other candidates have embraced elements of the Sanders platform; for example, Glasson supports single-payer health care (Medicare for all) and a $15 minimum wage, while Prichard has a plan for tuition-free community community college. Several former Iowa staff for Sanders are assisting the Norris campaign.
UPDATE: After reading Fiegen’s guest column in the Des Moines Register on July 18, I wonder whether he may be leaning more toward an independent candidacy than he let on. After castigating both parties for ignoring the “legalized bribery destroying our democracy that is sticking us with laws ‘purchased’ by the highest bidder,” Fiegen slammed pro-labor rhetoric from Democratic gubernatorial candidates as “a play for union campaign money.”
Democrats have been insisting they’re “fighting for working families,” which is code for giving back public employees their Cadillac health insurance and arbitrator-awarded raises. It may be a good primary strategy because unions write the big campaign checks. But it does nothing for the 90 percent of Iowans who are not union members, or for rural and low-wage workers who pay the taxes to support public union perks.
Where’s the bold vision to find and grow the next great Iowa company? What about requiring employee stock ownership or profit sharing for companies that get economic development grants and tax breaks?
Democrats are also talking about “adequate funding for schools.” That’s another play for union campaign money. Yes, some of our schools are slowly being starved for resources. But the “more money” chant does nothing to address current funding disparities, special-needs children getting passed along, the use of detention boxes, and shortchanging our children not going to college.
Feigen also criticized Democrats and Republicans for not talking about “the crises in rural Iowa that are killing us and destroying our quality of life: poisons in our water and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).” He concluded, “We need to find an alternative to an election model that allows wholesale purchase of politicians by a few families. If we do nothing, we will continue to be at the mercy of the 1 percent who own both parties.”