Tom Fiegen not planning independent campaign for governor (Update: or is he?)

Two-time U.S. Senate candidate Tom Fiegen, who left the Democratic Party after last year’s primary election, currently has no plans to run for governor in 2018 as an independent, he told Bleeding Heartland today.

Fiegen spent July 15 at the Iowa CCI Action Fund‘s annual convention in Des Moines, carrying a pitchfork “for the revolution,” he told Gavin Aronsen. (The progressive advocacy group’s theme for the day was “Revolution Iowa: From Protest to Power.”)

I caught up with Fiegen after Bernie Sanders’ keynote address. The vocal #NeverHillary voice (even calling for disrupting Hillary Clinton’s campaign events) has been rumored as a future independent candidate for statewide office. Asked if he’s running for governor, Fiegen told me simply, “No.” When I followed up to see if he would consider an independent candidacy, he responded,

I’m–let me just say I’m keeping my powder dry. I have a number of people talking to me about it. I want to see how the Democratic primary shakes out. The only person in the Democratic primary that absolutely could convince me to run as an independent is Andy McGuire. If Andy McGuire wins, I will go after Andy McGuire to keep her from being governor. The other people, we’ll see who wins. But I am so convinced that she is disaster, she would be a disaster for Iowa, if she wins the Democratic primary, I’ll give you my announcement speech.

As the Iowa Democratic Party chair in 2015 and 2016, McGuire came under fire from some Sanders activists, who didn’t believe in her neutrality and disliked how she handled the caucuses, convention process, and roll call during the Democratic National Convention.

Aside from McGuire, four Democrats are already running for governor (Jon Neiderbach, Todd Prichard, Nate Boulton, and John Norris) and three are likely to make their campaigns official soon (Cathy Glasson, Fred Hubbell, and Ross Wilburn). Fiegen said he won’t endorse any of the Democratic candidates before next June, nor does he plan to vote in the primary. What he heard at the CCI Action convention cemented his view that joining the party isn’t the way forward. However, depending on who wins the nomination, Fiegen did not rule out endorsing the Democratic candidate for governor next fall.

To my knowledge, Neiderbach is the only Democrat in the current field who endorsed Sanders before the 2016 caucuses. Other candidates have embraced elements of the Sanders platform; for example, Glasson supports single-payer health care (Medicare for all) and a $15 minimum wage, while Prichard has a plan for tuition-free community community college. Several former Iowa staff for Sanders are assisting the Norris campaign.

UPDATE: After reading Fiegen’s guest column in the Des Moines Register on July 18, I wonder whether he may be leaning more toward an independent candidacy than he let on. After castigating both parties for ignoring the “legalized bribery destroying our democracy that is sticking us with laws ‘purchased’ by the highest bidder,” Fiegen slammed pro-labor rhetoric from Democratic gubernatorial candidates as “a play for union campaign money.”

Democrats have been insisting they’re “fighting for working families,” which is code for giving back public employees their Cadillac health insurance and arbitrator-awarded raises. It may be a good primary strategy because unions write the big campaign checks. But it does nothing for the 90 percent of Iowans who are not union members, or for rural and low-wage workers who pay the taxes to support public union perks.

Where’s the bold vision to find and grow the next great Iowa company? What about requiring employee stock ownership or profit sharing for companies that get economic development grants and tax breaks?

Democrats are also talking about “adequate funding for schools.” That’s another play for union campaign money. Yes, some of our schools are slowly being starved for resources. But the “more money” chant does nothing to address current funding disparities, special-needs children getting passed along, the use of detention boxes, and shortchanging our children not going to college.

Feigen also criticized Democrats and Republicans for not talking about “the crises in rural Iowa that are killing us and destroying our quality of life: poisons in our water and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).” He concluded, “We need to find an alternative to an election model that allows wholesale purchase of politicians by a few families. If we do nothing, we will continue to be at the mercy of the 1 percent who own both parties.”

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  • Salute Tom Fiegen - you stood for core democratic values

    ​Thanks Tom for standing for something during the Iowa primaries. Your voice – one of millions – smartly and loudly opposed the corruption and dishonesty of the IDP and the DNC, HRC, DWS, John Podesta and dozens of other crooked insider Dem Pols and functionaries who ultimately led the party to where it is now. You stood apart from hundreds of media outlets that cavorted like giddy (and brainless) coronation cheerleaders instead of actual journalists. For future reference Heartland writers, civil protest at a political events – like the thousands of democrats who spontaneously walked out on HRC’s overcooked entrance at the JJ dinner a year ago – is a time-honored American tradition. These are moments we can all be proud of.

    Editorial suggestion for the sirs and madams of Bleeding Heartland: How about some journalism on the ongoing class action lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee & Debbie Wasserman Schultz for collusion and fraud. Many Iowa democrats are parties to this court action, which, to my knowledge, you’ve somehow ignored. I see lots of other lawsuit articles – but not one about this historic suit.

    Respectfully yours,
    An Iowa Democrat

    • walking out of a political event

      is very different from rushing the stage as Tom Fiegen advocated.

      Your editorial suggestions would carry more weight if you had any clue how much work is involved in producing original content almost every day for 10 years.

      I’ve written hundreds of posts this year but unfortunately not had time to write about hundreds of other political stories. There are dozens and dozens of topics I wish I had covered that were more significant in my opinion than the class action lawsuit against the DNC. I highly doubt that lawsuit will come to anything. But when there is a resolution (settlement or verdict) I plan to mention it.

  • Good comments

    I sometimes see Tom Fiegen’s comments on agricultural stories in the DES MOINES REGISTER. His comments show knowledge and insight, and I enjoy reading them.