The case for each candidate for Iowa Democratic Party chair

State Central Committee members of the Iowa Democratic Party meet tomorrow to choose a new state chair for the next election cycle. Four candidates are seeking the job: Dr. Andy McGuire, Kurt Meyer, Jim Mowrer, and Tim Tracy. The competition itself is a welcome change from the Iowa Democratic Party’s standard operating procedure. For as long as I can remember, the State Central Committee has never considered multiple candidates for state chair. Members have merely rubber-stamped the choice of Senator Tom Harkin or the Democratic governor at the time.

Bleeding Heartland asked each of the candidates to make their best case for becoming the next Iowa Democratic leader. Some party insiders have also shared e-mail correspondence sent to State Central Committee members on behalf of one or the other candidates. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, Attorney General Tom Miller, Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and former Representative Leonard Boswell (IA-03) are among those who endorsed McGuire. Former Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director Norm Sterzenbach has urged party leaders to pick Mowrer.

After the jump I’ve enclosed the arguments for choosing McGuire, Meyer, Mowrer, or Tracy (listed in alphabetical order). I don’t know any of them well, but I’ve met each of them and think highly of all. If I were on the State Central Committee, I would lean toward Meyer. The party needs a full-time chair, rather than a leader who would have to juggle those duties with another job. Moreover, I think choosing another Des Moines insider with the strongest connections to VIPs and major donors sends a “business as usual” message. Bleeding Heartland 2laneIA raised another concern about McGuire: she is a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton for president. It would be healthier for the Iowa caucuses if party leaders remained neutral before a nominee is determined. Although I don’t expect any strong competition for Clinton here, I wouldn’t want other potential candidates to fear the state party will stack the deck against them.

We need the state Democratic leader to focus on building the party up at the county level. All of the candidates talked about that in their presentations to the State Central Committee. But Meyer has done the most work in the trenches, organizing and motivating activists in several northern Iowa counties. That work contributed to Mitchell County being the whitest county in the U.S. to vote for Barack Obama (and Howard County the fifth-whitest to favor Obama over Mitt Romney), as well as to State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm’s narrow victory over Republican Senator Merlin Bartz in 2012. Without Wilhelm, there’s no Iowa Senate majority. Mowrer and McGuire have strong records on fundraising too, but I don’t see fundraising as the most urgent task for the Iowa Democratic Party right now.

Andy McGuire

Dr. McGuire shared the text of her speech to State Central Committee members in December. Although she has been mentioned as a possible Congressional candidate in the third district, McGuire told me she will not run for any office in 2016 if elected state party chair.

Thank you for inviting all of us here today. I hope this helps you to make an informed decision about who you would like representing you as the next State Party Chair.

A little about myself.  

My name is Andy McGuire. I am a native Iowan born and raised in Waterloo, attended Waterloo public schools. After completing my medical school and nuclear medicine training my husband, Dan and I came back to Iowa in1990. We’ve raised seven children here with the youngest just graduating from high school.

I have been involved in politics for many years, first with Sheila McGuire’s, run for congress in Iowa’s old 5th Congressional District. I worked my heart and soul out for Sheila and for Democrats up and down the ticket, helping to organize all 33 counties in the district. And in 2006 as Mike Blouin’s running mate for Lt. Governor.  We raised $1.4 million and traveling to every corner of Iowa. We met with thousands of Democrats who told us their stories, their hopes, and their dreams of what they wanted Iowa to be like. Those people represent what we stand for and that message did not get out this last cycle.

What is that progressive message? We stand for equality and fairness for all Iowans.  We stand for everyone sharing in a growing economy.  We stand for public education, infrastructure and services that are important for Iowa families, children and students. We stand not only for the minimum wage, we stand for a living wage, and we stand for working men and women and all they have done to move our workplaces forward. That message is good for Iowa and we will win again!  That is why I would like to lead the Iowa Democratic Party for the next two years.  I would like to beat the drum for this progressive message every day, into every corner of this state.

How do we do that? It comes down to the nuts and bolts.  First, we need to have resources to make sure we can communicate all over the state and that means raising money.  As Chair, I would make sure the Iowa Democratic Party is financially strong. That must be a priority. I have a lot of experience with fundraising both for Democratic campaigns, and for multiple other charities and progressive organizations. I am not afraid to make the ask and I believe it is an essential part of the job as State Party Chair to raise the resources we need to make our message heard.

Second, we must build on the excellent structures of our local organizations.  I believe that a strong and successful Party starts with our county level organizations, with our local candidates, supporters and volunteers.  My style of leadership is very collaborative. I believe we must listen to each other and work together. We have to understand local challenges. And I know from talking to many of you over the last few weeks that each of your county parties is unique. One size does not fit all.  This means getting out to every corner of the state and top down management will not work.

Through analyzing data we need to understand What worked? What didn’t work?  What do we need to do more of? And what do we need to do less of?  We need to gather information, best practices and advice and then build our Party based on what we learn.  We need to run a flawless and impartial First in the nation caucus and build for a successful 2016 and beyond.  I believe my executive level management skills will be very useful in leading these efforts to make us successful.

And lastly-but not least-I want to thank you for your service to the party.  For all those nights and weekends that you took to help make Iowa better. I think part of the job of the State Party Chair is to make sure that all the individuals who make up our Democratic Party know how vital they are to our success. It’s important to thank volunteers and activists who make the phone calls, knock on the doors, bring the chili and cookies and to those who make sure the trains run on time.

I am proud to be a Democrat. And I want you to know that I share your passion and energy and I believe that a stronger Iowa Democratic Party makes for a stronger Iowa. And, if given the chance, I want to work with you over the next two years as your State Party Chair to get our message out and today I am asking for your vote.

Thank you very much!  

E-mail from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, former Representative Leonard Boswell, former Lieutenant Governor Jo Ann Zimmerman, and former Attorney General Bonnie Campbell to State Central Committee members:

Dear Friend-

We’ve been on a roller coaster ride the last few election cycles, but the Iowa Democratic Party has remained strong these last many years because of excellent organization, staff, and leadership. As elected officials, we’ve benefited from that organization many times over. And we know what sort of leadership the IDP needs to remain successful. In the upcoming election for state chair, you’ve got several outstanding individuals running, but in our minds, one candidate stands out among the others: Andy McGuire.

It’s true that each candidate brings unique talents to the race for Chair. Kurt Meyer has built a coalition of Democrats in three counties in North Iowa, Jim Mowrer has an extensive email fundraising list, Tim Tracy has a unique perspective of rural Iowa. But none of them has the combination of talent that Andy McGuire would bring to the Party.

Andy worked elections in Western Iowa for her sister-in-law, Sheila McGuire, and helped build a statewide network on her own when she ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2006. Andy has been a major supporter of the Iowa Democratic Party and candidates all across the state for many years, and she has close relationships with all of our major allies and donors. But a statewide network of political allies and donors isn’t the only unique thing she brings to the table.

Andy speaks all over Iowa and across the country about healthcare. She leads a business that provides the best healthcare options to women, children and Iowa families. Her close experience with one of the biggest issues in politics today, and her ability to speak to national audiences is a qualification that no other candidate has and is one that is very important during a high-profile Presidential Caucus Cycle.

Andy is a new, fresh face–and an energetic voice for progressive issues. You only need to speak with her or see her present to an audience to recognize her enthusiasm and natural talent for energizing a room full of people. And she’s raised seven children all while working full time as a medical professional. She’s not a practicing doctor anymore, and her seventh child is graduating this year, so we know she has not only the energy, but also the time to do this job and to do it right.

We know her. We trust her. But we don’t vote in this election. You do. It’s your vote and your decision. Vote with an open heart and a clear head and our future will be bright.

Sincerely,

Mike Gronstal, Iowa Senate Majority Leader

Tom Miller, Iowa Attorney General

Leonard Boswell, former Congressman

Jo Ann Zimmerman, former Lt. Governor

Bonnie Campbell, former Iowa Attorney General

E-mail from Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) to State Central Committee members:

Dear Friends,

Over the past few years, the Iowa Democratic Party has had its share of both disappointments and achievements, but one thing has always remained constant- our fight to strengthen the middle class and make sure hardworking families can succeed. And even throughout times of disappointment, our party has remained strong. Now that we have taken some time to look back on the past election and digest some of the issues that we as a party must address, it is time to look forward and work to bring our party to victory in 2016.

In my opinion, I believe Andy McGuire is person best suited to lead our party over the next two years. She will put the IDP in the best possible position to take back the state House, increase our majority in the State Senate, gain seats in the U.S. House, win the U.S. Senate seat and make sure Democrats carry Iowa in the Presidential election. The IDP has been well-run and well-served by outgoing Chairman Scott Brennan and I am confident that Andy will continue to make the decisions needed to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.

While there are other candidates who have strong qualifications, I believe Andy’s experience in Democratic politics, her work as a doctor and a mother of seven positions her to serve our party and state well. I am confident she will use this position to fight for progressive values, middle class families and building a strong Democratic party.

As you make your decision on this very important choice, I ask that you carefully look at the strengths that each candidate brings to the table. After you have done that, I am confident you will come to the same decision that I have- that Andy McGuire should be selected as the next Chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Thanks for all you have done and will continue to do for Democrats and the good of Iowa.

And, as always, take care,

Dave Loebsack

Kurt Meyer

Meyer shared the text of his presentation to State Central Committee members in December.

My name is Kurt Meyer.  I was born and raised in a union household on a farm in a rural township in Mitchell County, where I live today… where members of my family have lived for 160 years. My political lineage is that of a “lunch-pail Democrat,” which I attribute to my dad, now 85 years old, and his father before him, who both worked at the Hormel meatpacking plant, to the north, in nearby Austin, Minnesota.  

I’m a Democrat in large part due to three qualities our Party has always stood for: opportunity, hope, and compassion.  

-Ours is the Party of first chances and in some cases, second and third chances;  

-Ours is the Party of optimism… of better times ahead, soon and very soon;  

-Ours is the Party that cares… then ACTS to remedy the ills of this world, the Party for which “caring” is an action verb.

I am a proud and passionate Democrat… from the marrow of my soul to the core of my being.  I will always be a Democrat.  It’s how I see the world; it’s how I live my life.

A dozen years ago, our decision to move back to Iowa prompted a question in me that we should all ask of ourselves: “How can I make a difference in this world?”  Twice I thought this might be through seeking & serving in elected office. Twice, the voters of Iowa helped dissuade me of that notion.  I got the message.

In early 2013, after working with others across county lines to re-elect our state senator (successfully, might I add!), we created the Tri-County Democrats in Worth, Mitchell & Howard Counties.  I chair this organization.  It’s one way I seek to make a difference.

With the recent election, we have some early results. If you rank all 99 counties by population, from most to least, Bruce Braley carried two of the fifty counties in the least-populated half of our state. Two. Worth & Howard.  Aggregating votes from all three of our counties, Bruce won the Tri-Counties by 133 votes, even though Republicans outnumber us by 600 registered voters.  A positive result.      

Professionally, for more than 3 decades, I have consulted with nonprofit organizations, focused on fundraising and planning. I launched my own business in 1988 and, with my colleagues, have assisted 300 institutions, working with thousands of volunteers to generate $500 million. Again, positive results.  

My professional and political activities intersect in political fundraising.  For example, in this last cycle, Mitchell County Democrats – through our treasury and through direct campaign contributions – generated $15,000 for candidates.  This from a rural, Republican-leaning county.  More positive results.  

So, my priorities for our state party:    

*First, we must expand the Democratic vote in all 99 counties, which means we must reach out to, and be vital and visible in, all regions of the state.  

*Second, we must identify, enlist, and support new Party leaders. Recruiting talent is always at the heart of party-building.  We won’t “build our bench” until we first build relationships, always thinking several cycles out.  

*Third, we must implement approaches to expand as well as persuade our voter and volunteer pools.  This means dialogue… sharing our stories while hearing the stories of others.  Polling helps but conversation is even better.    

*Fourth, we must collaborate… the state party with district and county parties and with like-minded partners, old and new. We must work more effectively with candidates and campaigns at every level.  We must cooperate in fundraising and leadership recruitment.  We have no choice because, for good or ill, the voters do.

I want to build a Party that is accessible and accountable, innovative and inviting, savvy and strategic.  I want a Party as vital from the bottom-up as from the top-down; one as responsive to out-state concerns as to issues in our capitol; one victorious in all cycles because it’s built – and is always building – for the future.  I want us ALL to make a difference in the world.

My friends, we’ve got a lot of work to do, with daylight burning.  We face a bracing challenge… one that requires full-time, experienced, energetic leadership.  In ways I never envisioned, I’ve been preparing for this assignment for 40 years.  So let’s get started.  Thank you very much.  

Here’s one example of an e-mail State Central Committee members have received in support of Meyer:

Hello everyone,

  I want you to [know] that I support Kurt Meyer for our next Iowa Democratic State Party Chair. I feel Kurt has what it takes to make our party strong. He will work hard to help us all win back our congressional seat. We have to have someone that will help us expand our Democratic Party in all 99 counties. I think Kurt will help us all get out to our Democratic folks and get them involved. We have a lot of work to do and I no that Kurt will be their for us and will work very hard for all of our 99 counties.

  Lets make Kurt Meyer our next Iowa Democratic Chair.

Pat Sass, Chair Black Hawk County

Jim Mowrer

I don’t have the full text of Mowrer’s remarks to the State Central Committee, but he recapped his case in a YouTube video released on January 13. By the way, Mowrer has also said he will not run for any office in 2016 if elected state party chair. I was hoping he run in Iowa Senate district 24.

UPDATE: Added my partial transcript:

[…] Here’s what you can expect if I’m elected chair. Progress. Growth and advancement on every front. I will lead the production of a decade-long campaign plan to ensure that by 2024, we can win up and down the ballot in all 99 of Iowa’s great counties. There remain pockets of opportunity throughout the state, and we will locate potential supporters no matter where they are.

One of the most important jobs for the next chair is raising the money to win in the short, mid-, and long-term. We need resources to compete, build our infrastructure, and strengthen our foundation. I have a proven record of hard work and results when it comes to fundraising. My Congressional campaign in 2014 raised nearly $2.2 million, the most of any in Iowa. As chair, I will ensure that the Iowa Democratic Party always has the resources we need to be the best.

As you know, the Iowa Democratic caucus is the first nominating event in the nation. It provides us with a unique opportunity to vet and select our nominee for president. As Iowans, we treasure this responsibility and must make certain that we have a chair who will guarantee an open and fair process. Additionally, our chair must leverage the media attention and resources that accompany the caucus campaigns to highlight our Democratic values, and ensure that Iowa remains the first in the nation caucus indefinitely.

If the 2014 election showed us anything, it’s that we need to reach out to infrequent voters, to expand our coalition, and remain competitive even in difficult political environments. We need to not only speak to the people who have been reliably voting for decades, but also talk to the voters of the future. This means expanding outreach to our growing Hispanic community, young Iowans who haven’t yet voted, and other disengaged and discouraged voters, thus connecting to both our most rural and urban votes. We need to do better in 2016.

As Democrats, we’re right on the issues. Iowans agree with Democrats on Social Security, raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, and the many other things we stand for. That’s why it’s so frustrating when Republicans win. They’re winning even when voters disagree with them. That needs to stop. Our party and our chair is responsible for getting our message out to voters. If we do that effectively, then we will win on the issues. I want to be your chairman, and I want Democrats to win […]

E-mail from former IDP Executive Director Norm Sterzenbach to State Central Committee members:

SCC Members,

After the devastating elections of 2014, the Iowa Democratic Party is at a crossroads. We lack a clear statewide leader for our party. Without a Democratic US Senator or Governor, we will look to our state party Chair to set the direction for the future of our party. At this crucial time, the State Central Committee has before it one of its most important tasks of the last 20 years. It is your responsibility to set our party on the course it will take for the next decade.

Most of you know me well, so you can imagine that I have strong opinions on what that direction should be. I have outlined some of these opinions below, but ultimately, this is your decision. You should cast your vote on what you think is best for the party based on your experiences and those you represent.

I have had the distinct pleasure of working closely with the last five state party Chairs (six if you count Scott Brennan twice, which I do) from various perspectives: as a campaign operative, as IDP Caucus Director, Political Director and Executive Director, and now as an outside advisor. I have seen up close what it takes to run this organization in Midterm Elections, in Presidential Elections, during the caucuses and through the convention process. I have a unique and keen understanding of what the job of state party Chair entails.

I think there are four qualities that make for a strong Chair: vision, commitment, ability to articulate the Democratic message and experience with modern campaigns. In my opinion, there is only one candidate that embodies all of these skills and characteristics: Jim Mowrer.

Vision – Mowrer is the only candidate to lay out a long-term vision for the IDP. He has outlined a 10-year, 5-election cycle vision to win in all 99 counties. As a candidate for congress in the 4th District, Jim saw first-hand that there are strong county parties all across rural Iowa. He knows that with a focused effort we can build on those strengths and create a different landscape for Democrats that will secure our future. Jim also understands that we must focus on the entire ticket, not just one candidate or legislative chamber.

Commitment – Jim has committed to being a full-time chair for the IDP. The job in front of us is too big to be done on a part-time basis. We need a Chair who can make the growth of the IDP their primary focus for their tenure. Fundraising alone is at least a half-time job. Once that is complete, we need a Chair that also has the time to travel the state, recruit candidates, oversee the caucuses, represent Iowa on the national stage and drive the Democratic message in the media. There has never been a more important time to have a full-time Chair.

Communicator – Jim has strong, recent experience in making the case for progressive ideas. While running for Congress, Jim spoke to groups large and small, conducted countless newspaper, radio and TV interviews, and even debated (and held his own against) Steve King. Jim not only supports the progressive cause in his core, but he understands how to aggressively deliver the progressive message.

Modern campaigns – Campaigns have changed dramatically over the last decade. The fundamentals are the same, but the tactics are very different. Jim has worked on modern campaigns; he understands how to campaign in the digital age. Through his campaign, he built an active list of over

110,000 emails, a list he will donate to the IDP. In 2014, he raised over $2.2 million dollars (more than any of our other Congressional candidates), of which $750,000 was raised online through small donors. He has an active social media presence and understands how to use modeling to communicate more effectively to our voters.

This is a critical time for the IDP. As SCC members, I strongly urge you to thoroughly consider all of the candidates for state Chair. I know that when you do, you will see that Jim Mowrer is the best candidate to lead our party into the future.

Tim Tracy

Tracy shared the remarks he delivered to the State Central Committee in December. He emphasized how his background in communications and messaging could help Iowa Democrats.

Good Afternoon, Everyone.

My name is Tim Tracy and I am the Co-Chair of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee and an advertising manager with the Carroll Daily Times Herald family of newspapers in west-central Iowa.

I deeply appreciate your commitment to be here today – and appreciate this opportunity to speak with you about the future of the Iowa Democratic Party.

By now we have all had an opportunity to evaluate the results of the last election. November 4th is over. The future of the Iowa Democratic Party starts right now.

And that future is built on our core strength – that the Iowa Democratic Party cares about, and works to better the lives of all Iowans. We have the backs of Iowa’s working families, those who are doing well and those who aren’t doing well. Those who need help, and those who can help. We are the Party that includes all, welcomes all, and encourages all.

So why didn’t we do better in November? Frankly, we assumed too much. We took it for granted that Iowans understood that it was the policies of President Obama, Democrats in Congress and in our statehouse that brought our economy back from the brink of a Republican induced near-depression to where we are today. Every economic indicator, from jobs, to housing, to reduced unemployment, to record stock market levels, to growth in our economy are heading in the right direction. When President Obama took office he said “Our Road will be long, our climb will be steep, but I promise you we as a people will get there”. We didn’t hammer away at that message.

We also assumed that voters remembered that the Republican Party has done nothing for them over the past six years. They stood and threw rocks at every effort made by the Democratic Party. The voted over 50 times to take affordable health care away from hard working families without ever saying, to this day, what they would replace it with. And they have the Gaul to suggest that families who lost jobs due to their great recession should have food assistance cut, and workforce development centers closed down when they needed them the most. We didn’t hammer away at that message either.

My friends, that should never happen again. I am seeking the Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party to bring our party together to speak to Iowans with a clear and unified message that we’re on their side. As a Party, we must work together in every county in this state, to gather the input, raise the financial resources, and inspire the volunteer energy of our party to elect Democrats who will work to improve the lives of ALL Iowans.

The strengths I bring to this position include a lifetime of helping businesses, organizations, and communities tell their story and communicate their message. In the organizations I served, my skills for strategic planning, organization, inclusion, and management improved the effectiveness and profitability of those entities. And my ability to communicate our message and inspire people to become involved in our efforts made us stronger and more unified. These are the skills I believe are needed today as we move our Party forward.

We are the Party of the people. The affluent and arrogant think that people who have lost jobs, have family health problems, who have experienced any number of misfortunes – are just sitting around thinking they’re entitled to something. We know that those people want a hand to help them get back on their feet – not a hand-out. The true entitlements in this country go to the affluent and arrogant who think they are entitled to pay less in taxes, who think they are entitled to special treatment because of the size of their wallets, and who think they are entitled to buy your elected representatives to get what they want.

Enough is enough!

If chosen as Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, I pledge to you that I will work full-time to reinforce our party with a message that I will take to all of our counties – in person – to all of the various and diverse groups that make up our Democratic family, and to our County Central Committees. And, most importantly, to all the voters in Iowa. I will work to unify and spread our message, strengthen our organization, rally our volunteers, gather our financial resources and make sure that the people of Iowa know, and hear it loudly and proudly, that we are on their side, that we have their back, and that we are the party they can trust to help them build a better future.

We are Democrats – Together, we can do this!

Thank You.

  • When the white smoke clears the chimney on Walker Street ...

    It’s Andy McGuire in a blowout….bet da house…..as a Dem in the trenches, I would probably go for Meyer. We need something different…and I think it is important for the chair to be neutral going into the caucuses.  We need to shake it up…but not happening. Same old.  

    • maybe

      but some say it’s a wide-open race.

      If the past predicts the future, then SCC members will do what the VIPs tell them to do. But I agree with you, we need a different kind of chair.

    • betting the house

      is often a good strategy, but it wasn’t a blowout. McGuire over Meyer in the third ballot, and supposedly by a narrow margin (though the party didn’t announce the vote totals).

  • Understanding needs

    The letter from Dr. MacGuire tells me she does not fully understand the task. The local organizations are not all “excellent structures.”  Many are struggling. They need resources, and not just money.  If the party is not done “analyzing the data” or whatever by by now,it is behind the curve. The new chair needs to dive in.

    • some of the county parties

      are extremely weak, and not just in small rural counties. We need to solve that problem.

      No doubt valuable data analysis can still be done on the 2010 and 2014 results, though.

      • True, but...

        Her letter makes her sound like a very top-down person who thinks that the bottom is ready to go.  

        The county parties are not in great shape, partly because of the apparent indifference or lack of awareness by the IDP of their actual condition.  My observation is that the local chair is expected to scare up a crowd when a candidate visits, and to hand out call lists and walking packets at election time. Other than that, I have not seen much effort to reach out and ask questions like: “what do you need?”    

  • Mowrer

    Mowrer would be interesting.  His ties to Biden are pretty strong as well.  Andy McGuire should run for Congress if my preferred candidate Matt McCoy defers again.  I don’t she’ll do that though, and will get elected party chair.  

    • I hope he runs again.

      He has been part of the most top-down organization in the world, but I am not sure he’s ready to manage an organization. This does not seem like a good fit for him. I like him very much, and admire what he did in his congressional race.  I wonder how much of the money he raised came from the Biden connection, also veterans.

  • McGuire

    I’ve been a fan of Andy McGuire since she ran with Mike Blouin in 2006.  She’s got the fundraising connections and believe she’d put in time like a full time chair would into this.  She was Chair of Prairie Meadows’ grant committee and I know she was out to organizations all around central Iowa at their events, meetings, etc.  I really hope she wins because she’ll do great things as Chair.  

  • And the status quo carries the day

    Although it took a few more ballots than I expected.

    Move along now. Nothing to see here.  The Party has just kicked in to Hillary mode.  Thats where the focus will be. Don’t expect much more.

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