Who Should Lead the Iowa Democratic Party?

(This guest diary raises important issues. A post is in progress containing the case for each of the four candidates for Iowa Democratic Party chair. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

On Saturday the IDP will elect a new state chair.  Douglas Burns has a useful summary of the candidates' positions and experience. I have the impression from conversations with a few members and other committed Democrats that all the candidates are viewed as capable and with their hearts on the left side.

I have a question:  should the IDP chair be a declared partisan for one (as yet undeclared) presidential candidate? That is Dr. McGuire, according to The Hill

A new Democratic Party chairman also will soon be in place in the state, and a Clinton friend, Andy McGuire, is in the running for the top spot, which will be decided in a Saturday election. 

A Bloomberg Iowa poll in October found the former secretary of State received support from 76 percent of Democrats who planned to participate in the caucus, a sign to Crawford and others that Clinton is right where she wants to be.

“What she needs to do is come to Iowa and use it to get very connected at the retail level, which will be good for her in Iowa and nationally, as well,” Crawford said. “Are there some activists who want another option? Of course there are. That will always be the case. But I’m not particularly concerned.”

The Iowa caucuses have been under assault in every cycle that I can remember, by people who would love to end the primacy of Iowa as a gate through which serious candidates must pass.  The Republican Party shot itself in the foot in 2012 with infighting among factions who favored Romney and Rand Paul. Tom Harkin did some damage in 1992 (thankfully temporary) by running for President himself and scaring away the rest of the pack.

If the chair of the IDP is in the bag for Secretary Clinton, what does that mean for the health of the caucuses on the Democratic side? Even some of the Secretary's supporters concede that a vigorous debate in the primary is healthy for the party and makes the nominee stronger.

Who should the IDP chair be?  The Central Committe will determine what qualities/job description it seeks, and who fits the requirements, but here are some qualities that may be important. 

Captain Obvious says: ability to raise money. That is a major job of the chair, but not the only job. If this is the only quality that the Central Committee cares about, we are not going to energize and grow the party.

The party has been primarily focused on urban areas, and less attentive to the rural vote. Bruce Braley's loss is instructive. We need to reach out to all 99 counties and adapt the 50-state strategy for county organizations.  What Kurt Meyer has done with his three-county organization, and what Dave Mansheim is attempting from Butler County, should offer a template for this outreach. The state chair should have the time, inclination and people skills to travel to the whole state and help people organize now, not in 2016.

We need a deeper bench.  I listened to a group of state reps in 2013 talking about who should run for which office in 2014.  There were not a lot of names.  We need to identify people with talent, help them develop, provide them with coaching in the basics, and help them get elected to the county offices that can be a springboard. A state chair should make this a priority.The Rs are already doing it.

Be accessible.  Scott Brennan has done a good job as far as I know, but I have never actually met him at any of the [many] party gatherings I have attended. He has a day job, so that is completely understandeable, but I would like to see a party chair who wants to know the troops and has time to get out and talk to people.

Inspire people. We are having a serious problem with getting people to vote.  We keep hoping our candidates can do the heavy lifting on energizing the base, but maybe we are the ones we have been waiting for. Should the IDP get behind a campaign  to raise the minimum wage in Iowa?  What other issues might help us elect good people if we take them on–doing well by doing good as the saying goes? It was dispiriting to see so many progressive measures pass in 2014, in states that elected Republicans.  People voted for minimum wage increases while voting for Republicans who opposed them.

The party of FDR has become disassociated with its roots in the minds of voters.  We need to fix that, and we need a party chair who cares about the foundational issues that have made Democrats winners in decades past.  It is always “the economy, stupid,” and how people are doing in their own lives that matters. We need to reconnect with our roots, and remind people that the Democrats are more than “not the Republicans.” We need to build from the ground up in every county in Iowa, and be present in the off-years.  We need leadership that understands these needs and can help us include all of our members in moving us forward.

My fear is that a partisan for one candidate at the top of the party will inevitably turn off people who might otherwise have participated in an open process, and will discourage candidates from coming here.  Everyone has preferences, but I do not know what the preferences of Mowrer, Meyer and Tracy are.  That is as it should be.


  • keeping the party leadership neutral

    in the Iowa caucuses is an important issue. Jim Mowrer and some of his supporters have hinted at it too.

    I’ll move this post to the front page later this morning.

    • Thanks.

      Even without this issue, I do not see how Dr. MacGuire can run her business during the day and be an effective IDP chair.

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