IA-Gov: Eight Democratic candidates are in but Rich Leopold is out

The first Democrat to launch a campaign for governor became the first to leave the race today. Rich Leopold cited “difficulties in fundraising and talking about myself” and coming to learn “first-hand that electoral politics in Iowa is largely controlled by a small group [of] people.” Ultimately, he concluded “the reality of an outsider mounting a winning campaign in Iowa is slim.” I enclose the full text of his Facebook post below.

Leopold’s departure was not unexpected. Until this morning, his campaign’s Facebook page hadn’t been updated since April. He had missed some recent Democratic events, including the Boone County Democrats’ “Picnic for the People” on June 3, at which most of the other candidates spoke. He pledged today to keep working for “cleaner water, equal and fair treatment of all people, resilience to climate change, strong and sustainable rural economies, compassion in our mental and physical health systems, and CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM!”

In alphabetical order, the remaining declared Democratic candidates for governor are:

Nate Boulton (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Andy McGuire (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Jon Neiderbach (website, Twitter, Facebook)
John Norris (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Todd Prichard (website, Twitter, Facebook)

Three others are exploring gubernatorial campaigns and likely to announce in the coming months:

Cathy Glasson (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Fred Hubbell (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Mike Matson (Twitter, Facebook)

Mike Carberry, who had considered this race, confirmed a few weeks ago that he will run for re-election as Johnson County supervisor next year instead. Scroll to the end of this post to read his statement.

Film-maker Brent Roske had floated the idea of running for governor as an independent while contesting both major-party primaries. The Secretary of State’s Office says he will have to choose one path and can’t pursue them all simultaneously.

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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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Ready to Run campaign training for women reflection

Jaime Allen kicks off the series of guest posts by Iowa women who have become more politically engaged since the 2016 election. -promoted by desmoinesdem

As a stay-at-home mother of four children under the age of five, I spend most days wiping fingerprints off of my windows and mirrors. If there is one thing I despise most about the trivial aspects of being a mother, it is the smudges on glass. Since I became a mother I have spent my time in my home with my children. My husband and I shared a vehicle for years, so while he was at work I was home bound. This was never really an issue–really, who wants to take four children to do errands?

My only real escape to the outside world was watching reality TV shows. Even though I knew they were fake and staged it was my secret indulgence when the children went to bed. I dreamt of what it would be like to live their lives, so polished and dressed flawlessly with picture-perfect makeup all the time. This was an unattainable life goal as most days my bank account said “try again later” and my personal appearance would be better suited on the “People of Walmart” Facebook page.

It wasn’t until my newsfeed started to show things about the 2016 election that I started to realize that how I was viewing the world from my couch was both different and similar to how others viewed it as well. It was a shock to the system to see how very different people felt about “others.” I never really had taken the time to view how divided the country was on so many aspects of what I assumed were just accepted by most. The similarities I saw were the unspoken ones, the ones where we viewed politicians as untouchables. They lived a life most could never dream of. I began to question why they weren’t doing more wherever they could, with all that power in their hands.

As everyone did I watched the 2016 election play out like a reality TV show. Every day the news evoked shock and awe, villains from all angles, and a plot twist at every episode. Was this how I wanted to live life? A spectator watching helplessly from the sidelines, waiting to see what would happen to my own life and the lives of those I cared about? This election hit hard because I am an immigrant from Canada, a woman, a poor, working-class person. Everything that helps to define me was undermined.

November 9, 2016 was a turning point for me. It was the day I received my citizenship. I stood with 36 other individuals from 24 countries to take an oath to the country I have called home since 2001, at the age of 14.

In that moment I was given two privileges I had not had prior as a green card holder. With citizenship you are allowed to vote and to hold elected office.

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IA-Gov: John Norris calls on Democrats to limit campaign donations, spending

Iowa is one of only twelve states with no limits on individual contributions to state-level races. John Norris is challenging Democrats who run for governor in 2018 to “lead by example,” adopting federal campaign contribution limits (capped at $2,700 per person) for the primary election.

Speaking to Democratic activists in Panora (Guthrie County) on April 27, Norris also urged gubernatorial candidates to agree to keep their primary election spending below $1.5 million, saying, “We should campaign on the power of our ideas and spend our time talking to Iowans and not chasing money from wealthy special interests.” I enclose below a longer excerpt from his speech.

Norris will decide soon whether to run for governor. Democrats Rich Leopold, Jon Neiderbach, and Dr. Andy McGuire are already running, likely to be joined by State Representative Todd Prichard, State Senator Nate Boulton, Fred Hubbell, Mike Matson, and/or Mike Carberry (though many Democrats expect Carberry to seek re-election as Johnson County supervisor instead).

Among those candidates, McGuire, Boulton, and Hubbell are the only ones well-positioned to collect many campaign donations larger than $2,700. McGuire recently completed a two-year stint as Iowa Democratic Party chair, during which she solicited many four-figure and five-figure gifts. Roxanne Conlin is among McGuire’s most prominent endorsers. Boulton raised a considerable amount for his first campaign in 2016 and is expected to have strong support from labor unions and attorneys if he joins the field. Hubbell is independently wealthy, having donated $30,000 to the state party during the 2016 cycle, as well as four-figure sums to some other Democratic campaigns. He is rumored to have the support of other central Iowa major donors including Bill Knapp, who gave the Iowa Democratic Party more than $60,000 during the last two years alone. (You can search any individual’s Iowa political donation history here.)

Neiderbach has made campaign finance reform a major theme of his early stump speeches and has promised not to accept any contribution exceeding $500. Leopold speaks often of the need to break the grip “expensive consultants, corporate lobbyists and powerful special interests” have on Iowa’s “insider elite political class.” Bleeding Heartland will soon publish an in-depth interview with Leopold that touches on similar themes.

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Former Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, who has been advising Prichard in recent months, noted in response to this post that both Norris and Prichard have networks outside traditional Iowa donors. Point taken, and I did not mean to imply that other gubernatorial candidates would be unable to raise contributions larger than $2,700. Prichard’s leadership team includes some political heavyweights. Norris has years of experience fundraising for Iowa Democrats and connections to many potential out-of-state donors, due to his past work in President Barack Obama’s administration and with nationally-known Democratic operatives like David Plouffe.

Reacting to this post on Facebook, Neiderbach commented, “Do we want a Governor beholden to the voters – especially those who have historically been marginalized or ignored – or beholden to the rich, to big business, and to other special interests? Couldn’t the money spent on endless TV ads and campaign consultants better be spent donated to food banks and homeless shelters and our underfunded schools? Spending $1.5 million on a primary is obscene. Voters are tired of it. I urge all candidates to follow my lead and limit all donors to $500, telling those who would donate more to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and educate our students.”

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IA-03: Mike Sherzan is out, Pete D'Alessandro to decide soon

Mike Sherzan will withdraw his candidacy in Iowa’s third Congressional district. In a written statement enclosed in full below, the runner-up in the 2016 Democratic primary to represent IA-03 said today,

I am exiting this race because I have recently come to the conclusion that conducting the type of campaign I am comfortable with would require substantial financial self-funding, and that’s not how this process should work. The campaign finance system we currently have is wrong and must be changed. For this and other personal reasons I have decided to withdraw from the campaign. Going forward I will support the progressive causes I campaigned on and have great passion for. These causes include campaign finance reform, public education and student debt reduction, and funding Planned Parenthood. I will also continue to support candidates who value the policies and positions of the Democratic Party. It was a true honor to run for this office and I will always be grateful for all of my amazing supporters.”

“I’ve spoken with all kinds of Iowans about what’s happening in our country and there’s a real desire for change from what is happening under David Young and Donald Trump. The energy among Democrats is as high as I’ve ever seen, and I’m confident a strong candidate is going to defeat Young next November. I look forward to hearing from those who step forward and working to help them win.

Sherzan’s departure leaves Anna Ryon as Young’s only declared challenger. You can read more about her here or on her campaign website.

Longtime Democratic consultant Pete D’Alessandro, who was political director for Bernie Sanders in Iowa, is also considering this race. I reached out to ask how Sherzan’s decision might affect his plans. D’Alessandro commented by phone this afternoon, “Mike’s statement was pretty solid and showed a guy with a lot of character, with how he described what his thought process was, and also about how he viewed where we need to move.” Sherzan wasn’t “throwing any negative stuff at anybody else.” Rather,

I thought that he showed that he grasped progressive values and just didn’t think he was the right vehicle at this time. I really thought it was very well thought out […] You really grasp from that statement that he is a person that understands that what we’re going through is bigger than any one person, and that he sees the fact that we have to move in a certain direction as much more important than any particular campaign, including his own. So I think he deserves a lot of credit for that.

And the fact that he wants to stay involved–anyone with that kind of view of what we need to do is going to be able to stay involved.

As for his own plans, D’Alessandro said he won’t make any announcement until after Easter weekend, but expects to have something “concrete” to say about the race “sooner rather than later,” probably sometime next week.

UPDATE: I asked John Norris, who may run for governor, whether he might consider becoming a candidate for Congress instead. He is very familiar with both offices, having served as chief of staff for Representative Leonard Boswell after the 1996 election before doing the same job for Governor Tom Vilsack. Norris responded by e-mail today, “My focus is on Iowa and helping turn this state around. I believe I can have the most impact here, especially as the Trump Administration shifts so much of the responsibility to the states.”

SECOND UPDATE: Added below Ryon’s statement on Sherzan leaving the race.

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