A Bold Step Forward

Kim Weaver continues the series of guest commentaries by candidates seeking to lead the Iowa Democratic Party. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I’m honored to have an opportunity to outline my vision for the future of the Iowa Democratic Party. Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of talking with many State Central Committee members and will be reaching out to the remaining members before our election in January. Despite our devastating losses in November, I am excited about our future. Just like the Phoenix who rose from the ashes, we have an opportunity to re-build, but we need to take bold steps forward to do so.

As Democrats we basically have a mutually shared goal. I believe that goal is to strengthen the Party so we are able to get Democrats elected who support our visions, values, and beliefs. Where we get caught up is how we think we will reach that goal. Below is my vision of what the Chair, the SCC, and the IDP Staff can do to help us achieve this.

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America Needs Lesbian Farmers

Donna Red Wing, executive director of the advocacy group One Iowa, explains what really happened at the recent LGBT Rural Summit in Des Moines. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Rush Limbaugh is all a-twitter about what he describes as an invasion of lesbian farmers. His conspiracy theory includes imagined government payments designed to recruit lesbians to leave urban America and flood ‘red’ states to farm.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Of all of the events in the LGBT Rural Summit Series since it began in June 2014, it was our 2016 event in Iowa, the 15th in the series, that really ticked him off. Why Iowa? Why our event?

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Iowa local election results discussion thread

What election results were you watching tonight, Bleeding Heartland readers? I was excited to see the “Core 4” progressive slate sweep the Iowa City council elections, despite a well-financed campaign for the rival group, representing Chamber of Commerce types who have long dominated local government. John Deeth described what was at stake in those races, and Tom Carsner put it succinctly in a letter to the Iowa City Press-Citizen:

The “growth at any price to grow the tax base” philosophy of the present council majority puts Iowa City at financial risk when one TIF-financed Big Bang project turns south. A series of smaller investor-financed mixed use — business and residential — projects can energize multiple neighborhoods and build a more reliable and sustainable tax base.

[…] I urge Iowa City to welcome the just, equal, affordable, inclusive and sustainable growth vision presented by John Thomas, Rockne Cole, Pauline Taylor and Jim Throgmorton. Vote for them to shake loose the scared establishment of the present City Council.

UPDATE: In his analysis of the Iowa City results, Deeth sees outgoing Mayor Matt Hayek’s “ham-handed editorial” in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on October 14 as “a turning point in the campaign.” Bleeding Heartland user corncam points to another factor that may have helped the “Core 4.”

Davenport voters resoundingly elected Frank Klipsch mayor, ousting incumbent Bill Gluba by more than a 2: 1 margin. It’s the end of a long political career for Gluba, who won his first election (to the Iowa legislature) 45 years ago. Gluba was an activist even before running for office, participating in the 1963 march on Washington for civil rights. His handling of some local controversies this year, including his role in forcing out Davenport’s city manager, prompted the Quad-City Times to endorse Klipsch, a former CEO of the local YMCA who has a “reputation for bringing diverse groups together” and a “more collaborative style.”

In my own corner of the world, I was pleasantly surprised that challengers Threase Harms and Zac Bales-Henry defeated the two Windsor Heights City Council incumbents on the ballot. CORRECTION: Only Harms won her seat outright. Bales-Henry will have to face Charlene Butz in a December 8 runoff election. Butz and Dave Burgess were frequent “no” votes on any kind of change or progress, and Butz was a particularly dedicated opponent of new sidewalks on streets where they are badly needed. Bales-Henry promised to work to “Create a more efficient and walkable neighborhood […] and ensure that each citizen can walk, run or bike to any location within city limits safely and easily,” as well as trying to improve the local trails system. Harms also expressed support for new sidewalks on key city streets. You never know what could become a hot-button issue in local politics, and the sidewalks question has been one of the most divisive issues in Windsor Heights over the past decade. UPDATE: The anti-sidewalks voters may come out in force for the December 8 runoff, but even if Butz is re-elected, there might be enough votes for change, because two of the incumbents who were not on the ballot this year (Steve Peterson and Tony Timm) have expressed support for new sidewalks in the past.

My son and I stopped at Harms’ home while trick-or-treating on Friday. When I mentioned that I’d seen lots of her yard signs around town, she responded, “Yard signs don’t vote.” Right answer! Clearly she knows how to GOTV, because she finished way ahead of the rest of the field in our at-large elections. That’s a rare accomplishment for a first-time candidate running against incumbents.

UPDATE: I was sorry to see that Cedar Rapids residents rejected a levy to fund public libraries. Todd Dorman covered the campaign for library funding over the weekend.

Voters in Des Moines re-elected Mayor Frank Cownie and the city councillors who were on the ballot. I didn’t realize that Cownie is now the longest-serving Des Moines mayor. In the most hotly-contested race, the open seat in Ward 2 on the east side of Des Moines, turnout was down and Linda Westergaard, backed by business interests including a realtors’ lobbying group, defeated Marty Mauk.

photo credit: Mark Carlson

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In Des Moines, a rare left-wing take on 1950s nostalgia and American exceptionalism

Sunday night, the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines marked its 100th anniversary at a dinner gathering downtown. The gala was unusual in several respects. For one thing, I don’t recall seeing such a large and bipartisan group of Iowa politicians at any non-political local event before. Attendees included Senator Chuck Grassley, Governor Terry Branstad, State Senator Jack Hatch, Lieutenant Governor nominee Monica Vernon, Representative Bruce Braley, State Senator Joni Ernst, Representative Dave Loebsack, IA-03 candidates David Young and Staci Appel, State Senator Matt McCoy, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, State Representatives Helen Miller, Marti Anderson, and Peter Cownie, and several suburban mayors or city council members. (Insert your own “a priest, a rabbi, and an Iowa politician walk into a bar” joke here.)

The keynote speech was even more striking. It’s standard practice to invite a Jewish celebrity to headline major Federation events. This year’s guest was award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss. But other than a “Borscht belt”-inspired opening riff about learning to nod and say “Yes, dear” to his wife, Dreyfuss left obvious material aside. He didn’t dwell on humorous anecdotes from his Hollywood career, or talk about how being Jewish helped his craft. Instead, Dreyfuss reminisced about a cultural place and time that could hardly be more foreign to his Iowa audience, regardless of age or religious background.

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New IA-03 Democratic candidate speculation thread

Time for a new thread on other Democrats who may join former State Senator Staci Appel and Gabriel De La Cerda as candidates for Congress in Iowa’s third district. Right now my best guess is that State Senator Matt McCoy will throw his hat in. He was planning to run for Congress in IA-03 way back in 2001, but he stood aside when Representative Leonard Boswell decided to move to Des Moines. McCoy has said previously (and confirmed again this week) that he would consider running for an open Congressional seat. He could raise substantial money as the chair of the Iowa Senate Commerce Committee and is well-known in the LGBT community as our state’s first out gay legislator. One complicating factor for McCoy: he is up for re-election next year in Iowa Senate district 21, covering parts of Des Moines and West Des Moines. He would have to give up his Senate seat in order to take a chance on IA-03.

Several other prominent Democrats contacted by the Des Moines Register indicated directly or through associates that they are thinking about this race, but I just don’t see former Governor Chet Culver, Polk County Democratic Party Chair Tom Henderson, former Des Moines City Council member Michael Kiernan or Dr. Andy McGuire following through.  

Any new Democrat who enters this primary will be playing catch-up. As of September 30, Appel’s campaign had nearly $200,000 cash on hand. Perhaps more important, her campaign sent out a press release on December 18 highlighting more than a dozen groups that are standing by their endorsements of her candidacy. I’ve posted that release after the jump. The loyal Appel endorsers include several labor unions, Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa, EMILY’s List, and the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.

Democrats who have ruled out a candidacy in IA-03 include Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, State Senator Janet Petersen, and Boswell’s 2008 Democratic primary challenger Ed Fallon. The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs mentioned Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie and both Tom and Christie Vilsack as possible candidates, but I would be shocked if any of them ran for Congress next year.  

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IA-Gov: Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie thinking about it (updated)

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie may seek the Democratic nomination for governor, Graham Gillette reported at Iowa Watchdog today.

Cownie has courted both Republicans and Democrats in recent weeks and appears ready to jump into the fray. Cownie has called [Governor Terry] Branstad vulnerable and [State Senator Jack] Hatch unelectable, giving him a shot at taking over Terrace Hill.

Cownie said he believes his record will attract Iowa voters. Hatch and Branstad are seen as state political insiders. Cownie sees himself as the person with executive experience capable of bringing something new to the governor’s office, he said.

Cownie and Hatch could easily split the Polk County Democratic vote, leaving the door open for a candidate from another part of the state. Des Moines is Iowa’s most populous city, but it’s not nearly large enough to dominate a statewide primary. Both Hatch and Cownie are strong on many progressive issues. Cownie was first elected mayor in 2004 after serving two years on the Des Moines City Council.

Any comments about the governor’s race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Then again, maybe he won’t. Cownie told the Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs Friday afternoon, “the rumors of my running for governor at this moment are greatly exaggerated.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal will “make a decision before the end of the summer” about running for governor.

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