Kim Weaver continues the series of guest commentaries by candidates seeking to lead the Iowa Democratic Party. -promoted by desmoinesdem
I’m honored to have an opportunity to outline my vision for the future of the Iowa Democratic Party. Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of talking with many State Central Committee members and will be reaching out to the remaining members before our election in January. Despite our devastating losses in November, I am excited about our future. Just like the Phoenix who rose from the ashes, we have an opportunity to re-build, but we need to take bold steps forward to do so.
As Democrats we basically have a mutually shared goal. I believe that goal is to strengthen the Party so we are able to get Democrats elected who support our visions, values, and beliefs. Where we get caught up is how we think we will reach that goal. Below is my vision of what the Chair, the SCC, and the IDP Staff can do to help us achieve this.
Who is the State Party Chair
There are very few people who would disagree that we need to seriously examine how we have done things up to this point. This means that it is important to look at the role the Chair plays in our Party. In the past, the Chair has been chosen based mostly on their ability to raise money for the party. While fundraising is critical, I believe this is view is somewhat shortsighted. At this point in our history, it is important that we choose someone who not only can raise money, but more importantly, someone who can motivate, excite, and encourage not just Democrats, but individuals who are No Party voters, and yes, even Republicans.
Our Chair must be the “face” of the Party. This means the ability to present well on television, radio, newspaper, and in person events. During my campaign I demonstrated my ability to do just that. You can view my Iowa Press interview here for an example of my experience doing just that.
While money isn’t the most important thing in the world, it certainly is needed if we are to hire critical staff, maintain our office, and expand our marketing outreach. I know how difficult fundraising can be, especially when there are many other time consuming duties. I desire to be a very hands on State Chair and just like I traveled the 4th District during my congressional campaign, I would want to be out talking to county committees and organizations as much as possible.
One way we can do grassroots fundraising is through my proposed addition to our monthly club memberships I’ve named the “Big Blue Tent” club. Individuals in this club would commit to a monthly donation of $27 per month. This would also require that every county and district committee set up an ActBlue account so they can participate and receive funds. My initial goal would be to have an average of 10 contributors per county. I propose the money would be divided as follows:
1. County Committees- $2.00
2. District Committee- $2.00
3. Constituency Caucus Fund (see below under “Constituency Caucuses)- $1.00
4. Inclusion Fund (see below under “Inclusion Fund”)- $1.00
5. Red to Blue Fund (see below under “Red to Blue”)- $1.00
6. State Party General Fund- $20.00
While the Chair would also participate in the traditional solicitation of larger dollar donations, I would also propose that we seriously look at hiring an individual who is able to be a professional fundraiser. Most large non-profit organizations depend on individuals who are trained and experienced in fundraising and don’t expect the majority of the burden to lie on the shoulders of their CEOs. It is time that the Democratic Party look at this option.
As the Chair of very rural O’Brien County, I know just how difficult it can be to operate without assistance. When I was elected in 2012 the committee met only once every two years, they had no Central Committee, and did no fundraising or outreach. I told my committee that it was my job to convince other Democrats in our county that it wasn’t a secret society. I did just that when I co-founded SOLO Democrats with the Osceola County Chair, Kathy Winter. This organization is comprised of four of the “reddest” counties in Iowa; Sioux, O’Brien, Lyon, and Osceola Counties.
I learned during this experience that there is minimal support from the IDP for counties unless we are approaching an election or caucus. Then the support is more in the way of assigning duties to the Chair to carry out to complete these tasks. Counties with more engaged Democrats and experienced Chairs may not need much support, but those counties are by far in the minority.
As Chair, I would commit to regularly scheduled meetings in regional areas to meet with Democrats. Times would vary to accommodate people who work on weekends and weekdays. It would be more than just attending a fundraiser, as there is very little time to discuss concerns or issues during those events.
Counties also need financial support to be able to function. Some counties are very good at this, but it is difficult for most. The Big Blue Tent Club would encourage counties to find individuals to contribute, so that they could also benefit. Donations from the Big Blue Tent Club could be used for a variety of things. These could include paying for a newspaper ad at election time with all area Democratic candidates included, parade entries, or paying convention fee for county delegates.
I would also propose we provide training for Chairs on a variety of topics and make these accessible through YouTube videos so that individuals who are unable to attend in person trainings can take advantage of them.
District committees are intended to be the main vehicle to disseminate information from the SCC down to the County Chairs. This is difficult to do if there are no representatives from the respective counties attending. Goal number one should be increased county participation. As the State Chair, I would ask the four committees to coordinate their meetings so I could attend each of them.
Donations from the Big Blue Tent Club could be used for a variety of things, including supporting their congressional candidate, decreasing convention fees, or providing some support for individuals who attend the Democratic National Convention.
In the past, the Iowa Democratic Party has underutilized the various constituency caucus. We can’t continue this if we are to strengthen our Party. As Chair, I would expect and anticipate feedback, advice, and suggestions from each of our constituency caucuses. I would also work with them to determine a strategic plan for increased outreach as well as candidate recruitment and training from each of the groups. I understand that each group has varying needs and wouldn’t begin to outline what I would do for each. As Chair, I would operate from the perspective that they know more than I do what needs to be done in each of their areas.
The funds for the caucuses would be pooled and each one would have a budget. Funds can be used for a variety of items, such as building rental for events, mailers, or other items determined to be necessary by the caucus itself.
In the many conversations I’ve had, it is apparent that we can challenge ourselves to be much more inclusive in regards to individuals with varying challenges that keep them from fully participating in the Democratic Party process. Donations from the Big Blue Tent fund that are earmarked for Inclusion could include purchasing CART services, sign language interpreters, higher building rent for ADA compliant meeting venues, and even babysitting for the caucuses or other large meeting.
Red to Blue
As a resident of the “reddest” district in the state, I have seen firsthand how we, as a Party have basically given up in areas we deem to be “unwinnable”. I believe this is a critical mistake. By not running candidates in these areas we are not only losing an opportunity to have our voices heard, but we are increasing the gap between registered Democrats and registered Republicans. I often heard from Republicans I knew that they registered that way because they didn’t know any Democrats.
I would propose that we immediately begin recruiting forward thinking candidates to run for all State House and State Senate seats as well as Boards of Supervisors, and other local races. The Red to Blue fund could be used to help candidates in districts with less than 30% registered Democrats to purchase literature and provide them with tools to canvass. By doing this, we will amplify not only our voice, but our “boots on the ground”. This will only serve to help our district wide candidates and our statewide candidates.
We need to be reminded that the end goal isn’t JUST to elect a Democrat. We are electing Democrats so that they will pass legislation that will support our beliefs and values.
The Next Statewide Race
The off year election cycle of 2018 will prove to be very interesting. Our top of the ticket will be our Governor's challenger. On Insiders on 12/18 you will hear me mention Liz Mathis. That certainly isn't an endorsement, but merely a mention of one of the few names I've heard. We are fortunate to have some very progressive individuals who I've been told are considering running. So for I've heard mentions for Mike Carberry from Iowa City, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, Iowa House member Todd Prichard, and Senator Pam Jochum. I'm sure as we approach the time to announce, we will hear even more names. As Chair, I would pledge to be neutral through the primary.
Our Message and Branding
Many people have talked about our message and not really branding ourselves so that the general population knows who we are and what we are about. I would agree with that. Because of this, I believe it is important for us to not only send out press releases, but to actually be visible in our communities as we continue to do the many things we already are doing. Many of us already volunteer at homeless shelters, collect clothes for individuals who need them, and many other much needed activities. I’ve never been one to be overly visible when doing something charitable, but perhaps we need to start thinking about doing just this.
Like many of you, I’m not a Democrat because of a loyalty to a Party. I’m a Democrat because my personal beliefs and values match up to the goals and values of the Democratic Party. We need to be better at communicating that we ARE the people who care.
I would like to take a moment to discuss the role of the 1st Vice-Chair. This position is an important one and should be occupied by someone who is able, willing, and capable of stepping in and becoming the Chair if the Chair is unable to fulfill their duties or if the Chair is called away from a meeting. While I have no intention of resigning, we have had this happen in two out of the last three cycles. One situation involved a health issue and the other when the Chair decided to run for statewide office.
If elected Chair, I would look at the 1st Vice-Chair as a partner and would expect that they would be an active participant in carrying out our strategic plan, fundraising, and outreach to the counties. This position isn’t just a figure head position and the candidate you choose should be carefully considered.
I realize that all these ideas seem impossible to accomplish in just two years. I’ll assure you, some of them will be, but that doesn’t mean we give up. We need to have a two year, four year, and even 8 year plan. It won’t be easy, but I assure you, it will be worth it.
Kim Weaver is a native Iowa who was born and raised in Des Moines. She graduated from Des Moines Roosevelt and Iowa State University where she earned her Bachelors of Science in Interpersonal and Rhetorical Communication.
Kim has resided in Sheldon, Iowa for the last 25 years where she raised her three children as a single mom since 2002. Kim is in her 9th year as a Long-Term Care Ombudsman for the State of Iowa, protecting the rights of individuals in nursing homes, assisted living programs, and residential care facilities. Prior to that, she worked for the Iowa Department of Human Services as a Targeted Medicaid Case Manager, assisting people with chronic mental illnesses and developmental disabilities receive the supports they needed to be as independent as possible.
Kim was the Democratic challenger to Steve King in the 2016 to represent the 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. While Kim’s bid to take the seat wasn’t successful, she received a higher percentage of the vote in all 39 of her counties than both Hillary Clinton and Patty Judge. Because she was working full time while campaigning, she was unable to raise millions of dollars like other candidates. Despite this, she ran a campaign where her final dollar per vote was only $1.22. This is compared to $14.00 per vote in the 1st District and just under $10.00 per vote in the 3rd District. This shows just how well a true grassroots campaign can work.