Weekend open thread: New Iowa Democratic Party leadership edition

Following a less acrimonious campaign than what unfolded in December and January, the Iowa Democratic Party's State Central Committee voted yesterday for Troy Price to lead the party through 2018. Price brings a lot of relevant experience to the job. He worked in the Vilsack and Culver administrations and led the LGBT advocacy organization One Iowa during the 2010 election campaign, when conservatives targeted Iowa Supreme Court justices and other supporters of marriage equality. Later, he served as political director for Organizing for Iowa, was the Iowa Democratic Party's executive director during the 2014 election cycle, and was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton's campaign before the 2016 caucuses.

Sentiment against Price was brewing in some private Facebook groups near the beginning of this short campaign for a new statewide party leader. Some activists distrusted him because he had worked for Clinton's operation and was running Todd Prichard's gubernatorial campaign until a couple of weeks ago. Those feelings didn't gain steam, partly because unlike the last time, there was no "Bernie" candidate for state party chair this go around. Also, Price reached out personally to central committee members, and a few activists with clout vouched for him privately and publicly. Robert Becker, who ran the Sanders campaign in Iowa, posted on Friday that Price would be an "outstanding" chair. Jon Neiderbach, the only gubernatorial candidate who was a public supporter of Sanders for president, didn't endorse anyone to lead the party but said he was confident Price would be even-handed if elected.

I was disappointed to learn that some prominent labor union leaders and supporters conducted a whispering campaign against Julie Stauch, Price's main rival in this race. The backstory here is a mystery to me; I've known Stauch for more than 20 years and never seen any sign that she isn't staunchly pro-labor. Unions are a powerful constituency within the Iowa Democratic Party, providing financial support and sometimes endorsements that influence primaries. It would be helpful for labor leaders to stick to the case for their preferred candidate, instead of making up reasons not to support someone else. More than a few state central committee members were turned off by the negative campaigning against Stauch, who handled the situation with class.

CORRECTION: It was more than a whispering campaign. A reader pointed me to this public thread in which Iowa State Education Association President Tammy Wawro said, "Labor is with Troy, we have no time to waste," and AFSMCE's longtime President Danny Homan added, "The only hope for the IDP is Troy Price." Pressed on their reasoning, Wawro and Homan both mentioned Price being at the Capitol during debates over key anti-labor legislation this year--as if Iowa Democrats who were not physically at the statehouse on those days don't share the same views. That kind of litmus test won't be helpful as Price tries to build bridges between different party factions.

I enclose below more links on the State Central Committee meeting and Price's top priorities as state chair.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Readers who want to help select the Democratic nominee for governor should block out Monday, February 5, 2018 on your calendars. The precinct caucuses held that evening will select delegates to county conventions, which on March 24 will select delegates to the district and state conventions. If no gubernatorial candidate receives at least 35 percent of the vote in next year's primary, the state convention delegates will choose a nominee on June 16. John Deeth has more to say on next year's caucus-to-convention process.

Radio Iowa's O.Kay Henderson posted audio of the speeches Price, Stauch, and Bob Krause gave to State Central Committee members on July 22. Excerpts:

“Our party wants get to work, but we’re only going to be able to get to work if our party is working well,” Price said in a speech to the Iowa Democratic Party’s state central committee. “We’ve lost the trust of the very people we’re trying to help. Our message is fractured and we are focused too much on antiquated ideas and old thoughts and not enough on finding solutions.” [...]

Julie Stauch, one of the unsuccessful candidates for the party leadership slot, said the party is “at a crossroads.”

“It is not enough to care, to know people. We need people who can innovate and move us forward,” Staunch [sic] said. “…Right now, where the Iowa Democratic Party is today, being cautious is the biggest risk you’ll ever take.” [...]

“We need a ‘bad cop’ in the Iowa Democratic Party,” Krause said in his four-minute [speech]. We need somebody that will attack, attack, attack, attack the Republicans.”

At Iowa Starting Line, Pat Rynard posted a transcript of Price's first interview following the vote. Excerpts:

“The party can sometimes get beholden to certain campaigns or certain campaign committees,” Price said. “And they will have a certain idea about what the campaign should look like, and it’s going to be the exact same thing it looks like in every other contested state that they’re challenging, doesn’t matter whether that’s a presidential campaign or a senate campaign. What we need to do is allow for greater local voices and greater empowerment at the local level. Because we don’t have that [national committee] this year – we have the DGA [Democratic Governor’s Association], which just operates in a different way – because the dynamics are different this year, I think we have an opportunity to really take a hard look at the coordinated campaign and rebuild what it is.”

“We need to have people working in all 99 counties. Not necessarily staff, but volunteers and coordinators in all 99 counties, that are fully plugged in and ready to go. That means we’re going to need staff resources available to be able to go find all those people. We should be able to hand to our nominee, whatever the role is, a book and say here’s exactly what the plan is and welcome aboard, and let’s get to work. [...]

“Our counties need a lot of support out there. Our infrastructure is probably in one of the weakest shapes that it’s been in a quite a long time. My goal as chair is, first of all, obviously raise the money, and then put the resources in place. Through training efforts we can really improve our county parties. I think we need to get more staff out there that are able to organize in all of these counties.” [...]

Any role that the party plays in the state gubernatorial race is one of neutrality, and that’s certainly one that I’ll do. I stepped away from my previous position [with Todd Prichard’s campaign] more than two weeks ago and have cut my ties there … I’ve spoken with [gubernatorial] staff or the candidates themselves over the last few weeks and will continue to do that going forward. The one thing the state party can do, given the potentiality that there could be a convention in the governor’s race as well as the congressional races too, one of the things I want to do is create a “candidate council” so that we as a party are having direct conversations with the candidates on a regular basis of what’s happening at the party and what the processes are going forward.

Facebook status update by Troy Price, July 22:

I am so honored to serve as the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. I can't thank enough the State Central Committee, as well as the many friends and loved ones who have reached out with support over these last couple of weeks.

I want to thank both Julie E. Stauch and Bob Krause for working so hard in this race and for the great ideas you had about our party. Both of you are great Democrats and Great Iowans, and I look forward to working with you to help put our party on a new path forward.

I also want to thank Andrea J. Phillips for taking the reins of the party and help guiding it through this transition. I look forward to our partnership together these next 18 months.

We have a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it. I am excited for the job ahead. The work ahead will be difficult at times, but in the end we will be successful thanks to the great volunteers, activists, candidates, and staff in our party. So, let's get to work!

Iowa Democratic Party press release, July 22:


DES MOINES – Today, Troy Price was elected the Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party by the Party’s State Central Committee.

“Troy is exactly who we need leading the Party in this critical moment,” said Interim Chair and 1st Vice Chair Andrea Phillips. “He is someone who knows how to navigate tough campaigns and bring folks together. I am incredibly optimistic about the future of our Party with Troy at the helm.”

Troy Price is a longtime Iowa political operative and strategist as well as a vocal LGBT rights advocate. Raised in Durant, Iowa, Troy has held positions in various campaigns and causes around Iowa since graduating from the University of Iowa in 2004.

Troy has worked for Governor Vilsack and Lt. Gov. Pederson, Governor Culver and Lt. Gov. Judge. He headed Iowa’s largest LGBT advocacy group, One Iowa and has worked behind the scenes as political director for President Obama’s Iowa re-election campaign and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. He has also served as the Iowa Democratic Party's executive director.

“First, I want to thank my fellow candidates for their dedication to the future of our Party. I know this was a tough choice for our State Central Committee members, and I hope Ms. Stauch and Mr. Krause will continue their valuable activism within the Party.” said Mr. Price.

“I am incredibly honored to serve as Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. The road ahead will not be easy. We’re facing opposition at every turn, but I am confident that with the best volunteers, activists and candidates, together, we will win up and down the ticket. Our commitment to protecting good, union jobs, growing our economy, protecting women’s rights, and making health care affordable for every family will never waver. The challenges we face as a party are real, but together we can meet them head on. Let’s get to work”

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