Nine ways Democrats can keep 2018 primaries from becoming destructive

More Democrats are running for Iowa’s statewide and federal offices than at any other time in at least four decades. I’m excited to watch so many strong candidates make their case to be elected governor, secretary of state, or to Congress in all three Republican-held U.S. House districts.

Contested primaries are mostly good for political parties, I believe. For too many election cycles, Iowa Democrats tended to coalesce around one candidate early on. A battle for the nomination forces contenders to work harder and sharpen the message. With more campaigns trying to identify supporters and get them to the polls, I expect a record-setting turnout for Iowa Democrats in June 2018.

The process will also drive more activists to attend next year’s precinct caucuses and county conventions, since conventions may be needed to select Democratic nominees for governor and in the third Congressional district, if no candidate receives 35 percent of the vote in the primary.

The only downside to a competitive primary is the risk that the campaign could become intensely negative, leaving some of the most engaged activists feeling angry and alienated from one another. Case in point: some people are still arguing about Hillary v. Bernie more than a year later.

Fortunately, Democrats can prevent that destructive dynamic from playing out.

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If Pete D'Alessandro runs in IA-03, it won't be just to win an election

Pete D’Alessandro would be a first-time candidate if he joins the large group of Democrats challenging Representative David Young in Iowa’s third Congressional district. But no one in the field has more Iowa campaign experience than this longtime political operative.

D’Alessandro has been thinking seriously about this race for months. In a recent telephone interview, he told me he has set Saturday, August 26–the date of the Iowa Democratic Party’s third district workshop in Atlantic–as “the day to fish or cut bait.”

He also discussed the points he would raise as a candidate and how Democrats can accomplish “real change,” capitalizing on the activism that fueled Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

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How Phil Miller won the Iowa House district 82 special election

Democrat Phil Miller won today’s special election in Iowa House district 82 by 4,021 votes to 3,324 for Republican Travis Harris (53.8 percent to 44.5 percent). It was a larger margin of victory than Miller’s good friend Curt Hanson managed in his 2009 special election, the first state legislative race after the Iowa Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in Varnum v Brien. The results will be a morale boost for Democrats, since Donald Trump won nearly 57.8 percent of the vote in the House district 82 precincts last year, compared to just 36.4 percent for Hillary Clinton.

The 7,476 votes cast in House district 82, according to the unofficial tally, is roughly three times higher than the turnout for the special elections earlier this year in heavily Republican House district 22 and heavily Democratic House district 89. The major parties spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television commercials and direct mail to mobilize supporters of Miller and Harris (more on that spending below). On the other hand, turnout for this race was a bit lower than voter participation in Hanson’s special election win eight years ago.

Miller’s home base of Jefferson County, containing the population centers of Fairfield and Vedic City, carried him to victory.

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Iowa GOP's closing argument for special election: fake news, Nancy Pelosi

Iowa Republicans apparently could not find anything of substance to criticize in Dr. Phil Miller, the Democratic candidate for House district 82. With less than a week to go before the August 8 special election, the GOP has replaced their first attack ad–a misleading spot seeking to stir up fear of transgender students–with a new hit piece tying Miller to “liberal special interests in Washington” including U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

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Our health care on the line

Ruth Thompson shares her remarks from the Our Lives on the Line health care rally in Des Moines on July 29. She has previously described how the Affordable Care Act saved her daughter from potentially severe medical complications and crushing debt. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I’m a person with lived experience with disability and I’m the vice-chair pro-tem of the Disability Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party, I serve on the board of the Central Iowa Center for Independent Living and a very active member of the Polk County Democrats.

I’m speaking as a representative of those groups and as an individual who cares about health care.

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Social capital and party building

Scott Thompson, a rural sociologist focusing on social capital and community development as well as an active volunteer for the Democratic Party, was inspired to research the condition of our party’s “social capital.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

I am engaged in a research project stemming from my personal observations and social interactions. Full disclosure: I am a Democrat and I possess partisan views. I’m also concerned for the long-term health of the party for which I am a part. I felt compelled to write this, not to point fingers, place blame, ridicule, or complain. In this brief, you will not find the names of candidates, past or present.

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