New leadership coming at the Iowa Democratic Party (updated)

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky and Executive Director Norm Sterzenbach announced yesterday that they will step down next month.

UPDATE: Added comments from Senator Tom Harkin below.

Typically, the Iowa Democratic Party elects a new chair every two years, in January of the odd-numbered years. Dvorsky served a longer term, stepping into the job in June 2010 because of a health problem for her predecessor, Michael Kiernan.

Speaking to the Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs, Dvorsky said being away from her home in Coralville for the last two and a half years was “wearing on me.”

Dvorsky said she’s not sure what’s next for her, but she’s interested in addressing childhood poverty and food insecurity for school children – problems directly connected to school achievement, she said.

The party chair is the public face of Iowa Democrats, and whoever holds the job speaks frequently to the media and travels extensively around the state, as well as doing some heavy lifting on fundraising. Meanwhile, the executive director manages the Iowa Democratic Party’s operations. Sterzenbach has held that position since shortly after the 2006 general election. Speaking to Jacobs, he suggested he is ready for a new job after “kind of doing the same thing over and over every year,” but he plans to stay involved in Iowa politics.

Jacobs reported that State Representative Tyler Olson of Cedar Rapids is a possible candidate to replace Dvorsky. Olson was just re-elected to his fourth term in the Iowa House. He has been viewed as a rising star, because he’s a good fundraiser as well as a policy guy. Since Republicans took control of the Iowa House in the 2010 elections, Olson has served as ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee. Olson told Jacobs he’s not ruling out becoming state party chair but “no matter what happens, he intends to stay in the Iowa Legislature.”

The last several changeovers in leadership at the Iowa Democratic Party have been collegial affairs compared to the battles for the top spot at the Republican Party of Iowa in January 2009 and earlier this year.

The State Central Committee will choose successors to Dvorsky and Sterzenbach. Here’s the current list of committee members, as posted on the Iowa Democratic Party’s website.


Sue Dvorsky

1st Vice Chair

Michael Kiernan

2nd Vice Chair

Chris Petersen


Ken Sagar


Don Ruby

DNC Members

Scott Brennan

Sandy Opstvedt

Linda Langston

Jan Bauer

Mike Gronstal

Affirmative Action Chair

Mary Lee Madison

Platform Committee Chair

James Sutton

Rules Committee Chair

Sandy Dockendorff

President of the Iowa Young Democrats

Gracie Brandsgard

American Indian Caucus Representative

Christina Blackcloud-Garcia

Asian/Pacific Islander Caucus Representative

Nicholas Kariya

Cyndi Chen

Black Caucus Representative

Tiffany Johnson

Ako Abdul – Samad

Disability Caucus Representative

Diana Coberly

Judy Schmidt

Stonewall Democrats Caucus Representative

Harvey Ross

Susan Webster

Latino Caucus Representative

Paula A. Martinez

Araceli Goode

Veteran’s Caucus Representative

Terry Philips

John Pomberg

First District

Michael D. Blackwell

Bruce Clark

Jane Lawrence

Jerry Lynch

Karen Pratte

Michelle Ray-Michalec

Norm Sterzenbach (the father of the outgoing IDP executive director)

RRS Stewart

Second District

Al Bohanan

Bill Hanes

Melinda Jones

Susan Frembgen

Jennifer Lunsford

Marty O’Boyle

Jean Pardee

Bob Thomas

Third District

Bill Brauch

Mary E. Campos

Marcia H. Fulton

Mike Harkin

Bonni Leiserowitz

Monica McCarthy

John McCormally

Carl McPherson

Fourth District

Louise Erbes

Chris Petersen

Georgia Robertson

Penny Rosfjord

Dennis Ryan

Sue Seedorff-Keninger

David Somsky

Selden Spencer

UPDATE: John Deeth points out that if Senator Tom Harkin plans to run for re-election in 2014, he will in effect get to name Dvorsky’s successor.

On a conference call with reporters today,

Harkin was asked if he would support state Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, for the chairmanship. Harkin said he has been missing calls with Olson and had no comment on whether he was best suited for the job. Harkin said he would consult Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and others before he would weigh in on the upcoming vacancy.

SECOND UPDATE: The Iowa Democratic Party sent out this press release on December 8.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky Announces She Will Not Seek Another Term

Sen. Tom Harkin, Democratic Party allies celebrate successful partnership with IDP Chair and Executive Director

Des Moines — The Iowa Democratic Party today announced that Sue Dvorsky will not seek another term as Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. The final day of her current term will be January 26, 2013.

Executive Director Norm Sterzenbach also announced that he will also be leaving the Iowa Democratic Party in the coming months to pursue other professional opportunities.

The official announcement regarding the departure of the two esteemed party leaders was made during this morning’s State Central Committee (SCC) meeting in Des Moines. Senator Tom Harkin was in attendance for the announcement.

Sue Dvorsky has served as the Chair since 2010, and Sterzenbach has served as Executive Director since 2009. Prior to becoming the Executive Director, Sterzenbach served as the organization’s Political Director (2006-2009), and played a significant role in the execution of the historic 2008 Iowa Caucuses.

In a letter to Iowa Democratic Party leaders and activists this week, Sue Dvorsky wrote the following:

“The state of this Party is strong.  We are ready to build on the successes of the last two years, and to support our elected officials as they go about the business of making Iowa an even better place to live and work.  Thank you, each one of you, for your support of this organization in general, and of me personally.”

The next chairperson will be selected by the State Central Committee during the January 26 meeting of the State Central Committee.

With Dvorsky and Sterzenbach at the helm, 2012 proved to be a particularly successful year for Iowa Democrats.

In addition to managing the coordinated campaign to reelect President Obama and two congressmen, preserving the fair-minded Democratic Senate majority, and picking up seven important seats in the Iowa House, Dvorsky and Sterzenbach worked tirelessly to help build an enthusiastic and diverse staff and voter base in Iowa.

State election officials confirmed this week that the 1,589,899 Iowans who cast ballots last month was a record turnout for a presidential election. A record 688,005 Iowa ballots were cast early or absentee in the 2012 presidential election.

Iowa was an anomaly in the 2012 presidential election with a higher turnout when most of the nation saw total votes decline from previous presidential years.

Additionally, between October 1 and December 1, nearly 30,000 new Democrats have been added to the voter rolls, according to the Secretary of State’s website. Overcoming a voter registration deficit from the summer of 2012, Democrats now lead Republicans by over 5,000 active voters.

Many of Iowa’s elected delegation, state party allies and partners issued statements upon learning of the forthcoming departure of Dvorsky and Sterzenbach.

Senator Tom Harkin said Sue Dvorsky’s “energy and vitality and spirit” pushed rank and file Democrats to work harder to elect Democrats. “She was just tireless,” he said. Today, Sen. Harkin called Sterzenbach “one of the most selfless, professional, and successful” party leaders he’s ever seen.

Congressman Dave Loebsack: “The passion and energy Sue displayed in getting Democrats elected and moving our party forward is second to none.  Democrats across the state and up and down the ticket owe her a true debt of gratitude.  I am proud to have her as a constituent and call her a friend.”

Iowa State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald: “Norm Sterzenbach and Sue Dvorsky’s unique and effective partnership brought a degree of professionalism and enthusiasm that will be very hard to replace.”  

Brad Anderson, State Director for Obama for America – Iowa: “Norm and Sue did an outstanding job leading the Iowa Democratic Party in 2012. Sue is a tireless champion for the President and was always there to fight for President Obama and Iowa democrats up and down the ticket. Norm is one the best political operatives in the state and ran a well-oiled machine that led to a lot of victories on election night. It was a pleasure to work closely with them both, and they leave big shoes to fill for the next leaders of our party.”

Scott Brennan, Former Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party (2006-2009): “Sue Dvorsky and Norm Sterzenbach have helped Iowa Democrats achieve great victories.  Both worked tirelessly to make Iowa a better place and deserve our heartiest thanks.”

Jill June, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland: “Sue Dvorsky and Norm Sterzenbach are true champions for women’s health.  It was Sue and Norm’s leadership that helped assure Iowa women knew what was at stake and why their vote must be counted. As a result they delivered a 19% gender gap – the largest of any swing state – in reelecting President Obama.  They will always be considered friends of Planned Parenthood; we wish them all the best in their future plans.”

Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of One Iowa, Iowa’s largest statewide LGBT advocacy organization:  “Sue Dvorsky and the Iowa Democratic Party has been an invaluable ally in the movement for full equality for LGBT Iowans. Sue has been a fearless advocate for One Iowa and for the issues and policies that directly impact Iowa’s LGBT community.  While Sue may be retiring from the IDP, we are confident that she will find new and creative ways to engage in our collective struggle for justice within the democratic process.  We celebrate all that she has done, and we look forward to all she will do.”

All inquiries regarding the selection of a new IDP chairperson should be directed to the Iowa Democratic Party’s Communications Director, Michael Hunt.  

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