"We can do better": Deidre DeJear's case for secretary of state

Iowa Democrats are set to have their first competitive primary for secretary of state since 1998. Deidre DeJear launched her campaign last month on the 52nd anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, to symbolize her commitment to increasing voter participation.

DeJear spoke to Bleeding Heartland at length about her candidacy, and I’ve posted highlights from that interview after the jump, along with the audio and full transcript of her remarks to a Democratic audience in Grinnell. You can follow her campaign on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

DeJear’s approach to the race is markedly different from that of Jim Mowrer, the other Democrat in the field. Mowrer came out swinging against Secretary of State Paul Pate, vowing “to say no to making it harder and more expensive to vote” and highlighting the failure to count nearly 6,000 votes in Dallas County last November. In contrast, DeJear says little about Pate in her campaign materials and stump speech. She didn’t bring up the Dallas County debacle in our interview either.

Pate is very unpopular among Democratic activists since pushing for new restrictions on voting that will create barriers for certain populations. Nor is the secretary of state well-liked by county auditors, some of whom have already endorsed Mowrer. I suspect many 2018 primary voters will be drawn to a candidate willing to take the fight to Pate, relentlessly.

On the other hand, DeJear’s more aspirational, positive message should resonate with Democrats who prefer candidates to talk about what they are for, not what they’re against. I look forward to following this race.

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IA-Gov: Andy McGuire has her work cut out for her

I’ve never seen a bigger disconnect between Iowa Democratic Party donors and activists than in their attitude toward Dr. Andy McGuire as a candidate for governor.

I’ve never seen a bigger disconnect between Iowa pundits and activists than in their assessment of McGuire’s chances to become the Democratic nominee.

Since McGuire rolled out her campaign three weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about how she might persuade enough rank-and-file Democrats to support her in a crowded gubernatorial field. I’m stumped.

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John Norris: Why he may run for governor and what he would bring to the table

With the exhausting battles of the 2017 legislative session behind us, Iowa Democrats can turn their attention to the most pressing task ahead. Next year’s gubernatorial election will likely determine whether Republicans retain unchecked power to impose their will on Iowans, or whether some balance returns to the statehouse.

A record number of Democrats may run for governor in 2018. Today Bleeding Heartland begins a series of in-depth looks at the possible contenders.

John Norris moved back to Iowa with his wife Jackie Norris and their three sons last year, after nearly six years in Washington and two in Rome, Italy. He has been touching base with potential supporters for several weeks and expects to decide sometime in May whether to become a candidate for governor. His “concern about the direction the state’s going” is not in question. Rather, Norris is gauging the response he gets from activists and community leaders he has known for many years, and whether he can raise the resources “to make this a go.”

In a lengthy interview earlier this month, Norris discussed the changes he sees in Iowa, the issues he’s most passionate about, and why he has “something significantly different to offer” from others in the field, who largely agree on public policy. The native of Red Oak in Montgomery County (which happens to be Senator Joni Ernst’s home town too) also shared his perspective on why Democrats have lost ground among Iowa’s rural and small-town voters, and what they can do to reverse that trend.

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Weekend open thread: Post-legislative funnel edition

It was a busy week in Iowa politics, as state lawmakers raced the clock before the first “funnel” deadline on Friday. With few exceptions, non-appropriations bills not yet approved by at least one Iowa House or Senate committee are no longer eligible for consideration during the 2017 legislative session. For roundups of which bills are alive and dead, see James Q. Lynch’s story for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register article by William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel. Bleeding Heartland covered the demise of the “personhood” bill here.

Some bills that didn’t clear the funnel may be attached to appropriations bills later. Republican State Senator Brad Zaun hopes to revive a medical cannabis proposal that way, Tony Leys reported for the Des Moines Register.

I enclose below Iowa Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg’s post-funnel list of the “dirty dozen” bills that Democrats are most focused on blocking during the remainder of the legislative session.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. I’d especially appreciate tips on newsworthy comments from today’s legislative forums around the state. A Democrat in Muscatine asked State Representative Gary Carlson this morning whether he had any evidence of election fraud and whether he would acknowledge that the Republican voter ID proposal is a voter suppression bill. Carlson told her, “I just want the right people to vote.” Probably more honest than he meant to be. John Deeth explained the latest disenfranchising provisions House Republicans want to attach to Secretary of State Paul Pate’s bill, now named House File 516.

Final note: although it was sunny and unseasonably warm today in Des Moines, only about 100 people showed up for the “Spirit of America” rally by the Capitol building. A much larger crowd came to the Capitol on a very cold Thursday in February to march against President Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” and immigration executive orders. An estimated 26,000 turned out for the Iowa Women’s March at the same venue on a Saturday morning in January.

UPDATE: Added after the jump side by side photos of the Women’s March and today’s event. SECOND UPDATE: A reader sent me his photo (taken by a drone) of the crowd at the Capitol for the “Day Without Immigrants” rally on Thursday, February 16. Added below.

Zaun was the first speaker to the pro-Trump audience today, and he noted (accurately) that he was the first Iowa Republican elected official to endorse Trump for president. He didn’t mention that he had previously declared himself “110 percent behind” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose campaign flamed out months before the Iowa caucuses. On caucus night, Trump finished third in the Senate district Zaun represents, behind Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

UPDATE: Past and future presidential candidate Martin O’Malley was back in central Iowa on March 4, attending a fundraiser for State Senator Nate Boulton, among other events. O’Malley’s 2016 presidential campaign had a strong organization on the east side of Des Moines, which is part of Boulton’s district. The former governor of Maryland has visited Iowa regularly since the election, including stops in Davenport to support the special election campaigns of Jim Lykam for the Iowa Senate and Monica Kurth for the Iowa House.

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The Iowa Democrats Need a Brand Makeover

Market research and polling expert Kent Kroeger argues that without a major re-branding effort, the national and Iowa Democratic Party will not build a durable electoral majority anytime soon. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The Democrats’ brand, nationally and here in Iowa, is in desperate need of a reboot. The once growing assumption that the Donald Trump presidency will soon implode ended with his speech to Congress last Tuesday.

Following the speech, many Democrats finally reached Kübler-Ross’ final stage of grief over the 2016 general election: acceptance.

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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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