Are women better candidates than men? (And other curiosities from the 2016 Iowa House elections)

After taking a closer look at the 2016 Iowa House election results, Kent R. Kroeger believes Iowa Democrats have reasons to worry but also reasons to be optimistic about their chances of taking back the chamber. You can contact the author at kentkroeger3@gmail.com.

The dataset used for the following analysis of 2016 Iowa House races with Democratic challengers or candidates for open seats can be found here: DATASET

When former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine asked in her July 2016 Huffington Post essay, “Is 2016 the year of the woman?”, she can be forgiven if her underlying assumption was that the U.S. would be electing its first female president four months later.

We know how that turned out. Yet, her question had a broader vision and was not dependent on the outcome of one presidential race in one country. The question springs from an emerging body of evidence that women may make for better politicians than men. Given that only 19 percent of U.S. congressional seats are currently held by women, it may seem ridiculous to ask such a question. And since 2000, the percentage of women in state legislatures has plateaued (see graph below). Nonetheless, looking across a longer time span, there is no question more and more women are running and winning elective office in this country.

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Iowa Democratic Party chair defends vote for Tom Perez

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Derek Eadon wrote to members of the party’s State Central Committee on Monday to explain why he supported Tom Perez to lead the Democratic National Committee. Among the roughly half of SCC members who supported Bernie Sanders for president in 2016, many are unhappy that 1) the Iowa delegation unanimously backed Perez instead of casting some of their votes for Keith Ellison, the preferred candidate of most on the Sanders wing, 2) SCC members were not consulted about the decision, and 3) SCC members received no advance warning before Perez’s campaign tweeted out the news on the day before the DNC election.

Over the weekend, a number of SCC members were among the Iowa activists vehemently expressing their disappointment in public and private forums on Facebook. Several asserted that Eadon and First Vice Chair Andrea Phillips had previously committed to supporting Ellison. Some drafted a joint letter to Iowa’s five voting members of the DNC (Eadon, Phillips, Scott Brennan, Sandy Opstvedt, and Jan Bauer) criticizing the bloc support for Perez and the lack of transparency surrounding the choice.

Multiple sources involved in those discussions told Bleeding Heartland today that SCC members decided to raise those concerns at an upcoming retreat on March 4, rather than sending a joint letter to the DNC delegation in advance. But former Sanders campaign staffer Evan Burger, one of the fourth Congressional district’s representatives on the SCC, did go public with his views. In a commentary for Iowa Informer, Burger argued the “block vote for the establishment candidate was a tone deaf move” symbolizing “a continuation of business as usual” in the Democratic Party.

After the jump I’ve posted the full text of Eadon’s message to the SCC, excerpts from Burger’s post, and part of an e-mail blast by Ed Fallon, an influential voice among Iowa progressives.

UPDATE: Added an excerpt from the speech Phillips gave at the January 21 State Central Committee meeting, where she was elected first vice chair.

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Leadership contest may leave Iowa Democrats more divided than before

UPDATE: Derek Eadon was the winner; have added more about the meeting below, along with the audio from his first comments to reporters as state party chair and background on the new vice chairs. Democrats avoided a polarizing result today.

For many years, the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee “elected” the state chair in name only. In reality, insiders rubber-stamped a decision made by one person (Senator Tom Harkin, Governor Tom Vilsack, or Governor Chet Culver). So I was thrilled to see an open competition among four talented people seeking the top position in 2015. Contrary to some predictions, that race was not a foregone conclusion for the establishment’s favorite candidate; Andy McGuire needed three ballots to win.

The spirited campaign to become state party chair for the next two years is encouraging, considering the huge challenges facing our party after losses in November exceeding most people’s expectations.

I decided early not to endorse any candidate, because everyone in the field brought valuable skills and experience to the table. Reading the pieces posted here by Julie Stauch, Kurt Meyer, Derek Eadon, Sandy Dockendorff, Blair Lawton, and Kim Weaver, along with messages to State Central Committee members from Mike Gronstal and Bob Krause, I felt confident that whoever won would understand the key tasks facing the party and could draw on many good ideas floated during the process.

As today’s election approached, I have become increasingly concerned that the outcome will leave Iowa Democrats more angry and divided–party because the voting procedure won’t allow for consensus-building, and partly because some old hands simply don’t understand the mindset of many activists energized by the Bernie Sanders campaign.

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An Iowa Democratic Party Vice Chair Candidate's Thoughts on the Party's Next Steps

Andrea Phillips was the Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 37 last year. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Having just come through an Iowa election from the inside as a legislative candidate, I’ve had a behind-the-scenes view of how the party operates in an election cycle. I have decided to run for Iowa Democratic Party 1st Vice Chair because I have a passion for implementing the changes we need to start making now to position us to win back the Governor’s office and make gains in the statehouse and in Congress in 2018 and 2020. Election night 2016 shocked us all. In Iowa, not a single Democratic legislative challenger defeated a Republican incumbent (including me; I lost my race to represent northern Ankeny in the Iowa House).

With the Governor’s office and both the Iowa State Senate and House under Republican control, our party activists are more important now than ever. We need to be sounding the alarm constantly, letting legislators know that people are watching how they vote, and letting voters know what the people they elected are doing at the statehouse (setting the stage for a correction in 2018). We need to strengthen our party infrastructure so that it’s easy for people to get and stay engaged, and to harness the anger, fear, and frustration many people are feeling into action. (And after the rallies are done, we need to maintain contact with the people who are showing up, welcoming them to remain involved with the party).

But if we want to see our values and priorities reflected in the laws of our state and nation, we need to win elections. Here are some things we as a party need to do:

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3rd Congressional District Forum sponsored by Ankeny Dems

Thanks to Stephen Nein for this first-person account. Many central Iowa Democrats I talk to are still undecided on this primary race. -promoted by desmoinesdem

(I just want to say that I apparently do journalism like every thing else – I’m an unrepentant slowpoke. -SN)

Unlike the Presidential campaign, I’ve been undecided on my candidate for the House and Senate election. In the House race: I’ve admired Jim Mowrer for his run against Steve King (& and I grew up in a house across the street from his current home in Waveland); Desmund Adams has a remarkable narrative and palatable thirst for the job; and Mike Sherzan is no slouch in his progressive business-based values.

Thankfully, the Ankeny Area Democrats helped by holding a candidate forum this week. If you missed it, it’s cool – there’s an even BIGGER forum next Tuesday for the Democratic candidates for both seats.

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