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.

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Latest news on the Iowa Democratic Party leadership contest

Former Iowa Democratic Party executive director Troy Price will seek the state chair position, he confirmed this afternoon. I enclose below the e-mail Price sent to State Central Committee members, who will elect Derek Eadon’s successor on July 22. Excerpt:

I have previously served as Executive Director of IDP, where among other things I developed and managed an $8 million coordinated campaign – the largest non-presidential coordinated campaign in Iowa’s history. My state leadership roles also include two presidential campaigns, staring with President Obama’s re-election in 2012, building and nurturing donor and organizational relationships all across the state. I have developed and managed communications for two Democratic Governors. Plus, I ran One Iowa, the State’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, during a time of great challenge following the loss in 2010 of three Supreme Court justices who supported the Varnum decision.

The biggest challenge for Price over the next two weeks will be winning over State Central Committee members elected by delegates who favored Bernie Sanders for president. Some Sanders supporters retain strong anti-establishment feelings, and Price was Hillary Clinton’s political director here before the 2016 caucuses. I have not heard of any “Berniecrat” planning to run for chair, though. During the last leadership contest, Blair Lawton had the most support from the Sanders wing on the State Central Committee, followed by Kim Weaver. Neither Lawton nor Weaver is seeking the position now.

Julie Stauch is the only other confirmed candidate to lead the Iowa Democratic Party. Bill Brauch told me this afternoon, “I have withdrawn as a chair candidate, for my own health reasons.” Kurt Meyer is still considering another bid for party chair.

For the last several months, Price has been running State Representative Todd Prichard’s gubernatorial campaign. Going forward, John Davis will manage day-to-day operations for Prichard, and Jesse Harris will be a policy adviser.

UPDATE: Bob Krause joined Stauch and Price at a forum organized by the Iowa Democratic Party’s Veterans Caucus in Waterloo on July 8. Krause was one of eight candidates who campaigned for the party’s top job last winter; I posted more background on him here.

Meanwhile, Meyer told Bleeding Heartland on July 9 that he has decided against running for state party chair again.

I looked long and hard at what the Party needs and what I could do to be helpful. I engaged in conversations with a number of people, mostly people inside the Party, activists, candidates, etc. I urged Troy Price to run for the Chair position and am very pleased that he’s seeking the post. I decided the best way for me to be of service is to do everything I can to help the Party’s efforts to raise money… that’s what I’ll be doing for the foreseeable future. I’ve agreed to head up a statewide Finance Committee. And although I agreed to this post when the previous Chair was in place, I am very eager to work with our new incoming Party Chair.

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First look at possible new Iowa Democratic Party leaders

Derek Eadon announced this morning that he resigning as Iowa Democratic Party state chair, having recently been diagnosed with “Trigeminal Neuralgia, a painful but non-lethal ailment that requires radiation procedures over the summer.” I enclose below the full text of an e-mail Eadon sent to Iowa Democratic Party county chairs and State Central Committee members.

About fifty State Central Committee members will elect Eadon’s successor on July 22. I have reached out to the other seven Democrats who ran for state party chair in January.

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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 Outsider's Opinion on the Race for Iowa Democratic Party Chair

Highly-engaged Democratic volunteer nwfisch attended a January 10 meeting in Dubuque, where six candidates to lead the Iowa Democratic Party spoke to activists and answered questions. -promoted by desmoinesdem

As a teacher, I wouldn’t consider myself a political insider. I live a modest life and try my best to advocate for my students through politics. I’ve become more involved in the local party over the past year and I recently had the chance to hear six of the candidates running for chairperson of the Iowa Democratic Party.

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Tough Choice. In Support of Kurt Meyer for Iowa Democratic Party Chair

Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee member Laura Hubka chairs the Howard County Democrats and helped create the Tri-County Democrats organization with Kurt Meyer. -promoted by desmoinesdem

After a disastrous election we all needed a breather, but it seemed we wouldn’t have it. We as Iowa Democrats have a lot to digest and consider. I am proud to say that I have listened to and HEARD what all the candidates for IDP Chair have to say.

The candidates who personally asked to meet with me were Kim Weaver, Derek Eadon, Blair Lawton, and Kurt Meyer. Julie Stauch called me and we spoke at length and she offered to meet up with me, but I could not find a free time to make it work. I got an email from Bob Krause. I heard Sandy Dockendorff speak at the first district. I never got any communication from Mike Gronstal except an email from someone else in his stead. I saw all of them speak at the forum the night before the December State Central Committee meeting and again at the SCC meeting (with the exception of Gronstal, who had a prior commitment).

I entered this with an open mind and have been pulled this way and that with my decision. I always have come back to Kurt.

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