Democratic candidates for U.S. House, U.S Senate, and governor were given speaking time at the Iowa Democratic Party's annual Liberty and Justice Celebration on April 30.
But the party's three statewide elected officials and candidates for other statewide offices were relegated to pre-recorded videos. Even worse, those videos seemed designed for comic relief, rather than as a way for candidates to connect with hundreds of activists who attended the Des Moines fundraiser.
The missed opportunity was especially regrettable for Joel Miller and Eric Van Lancker, who are competing against each other in the June 7 primary for secretary of state.
The Iowa Democratic Party did not post the videos online following the event and declined my request to provide copies of the files. I pulled the clips enclosed below from the live-stream; although the sound quality was poor for the first video, there are subtitles.
A skit featuring State Auditor Rob Sand, State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, and Attorney General Tom Miller ran early in the evening's program—"because no one can warm up a crowd like a lawyer, an auditor, and a treasurer," Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst joked.
The script had the three Democrats chatting over the phone about organizing a carpool to the Liberty and Justice event. Fitzgerald touts his office's programs encouraging Iowans to save money for college or retirement, and find unclaimed property that might belong to them. Miller talks about his office's consumer protection work. Sand displays his trademark love for efficiency, hunting, and Casey's breakfast pizza.
The Jason Momoa references allude to Sand's recent encounter with the movie star at the Waveland Cafe in Des Moines.
I understand why the event organizers wouldn't want to overload the program with too many speeches. And in fairness, most of the 400 to 500 attendees had probably heard from Miller, Fitzgerald, and Sand at past events.
But the three officials are on the ballot in what may be a tough year for Democrats in Iowa and around the country. The party could have given them each a few minutes to hit key points: what they've accomplished, why they're running again, what's at stake if Republicans win their races, and how activists can help them get re-elected.
The second video was more unfortunate. Even in activist circles, many Democrats know little about secretary of agriculture candidate John Norwood and the secretary of state contenders, Linn County Auditor Miller and Clinton County Auditor Van Lancker.
This clip had some laugh lines, but asking about the candidates' preferred state fair food, karaoke song, or first concert was nothing close to an adequate way to introduce them to the audience.
They should have each had a few minutes to speak directly to these highly engaged Democrats. Lots of primary voters may be asking local contacts for guidance soon on which candidate should face Secretary of State Paul Pate. What could anyone say, based on this video? Pick the guy who grew up on a dairy farm over the guy who worked at a drive-in?
The Iowa Democratic Party could have shaved some time off state chair Ross Wilburn's opening remarks and the various "pass the helmet" fundraising breaks. Norwood, Miller, and Van Lancker deserved a chance to make their case and inspire potential donors or volunteers. They won't have another opportunity to speak to such a large audience before the June primary.
P.S.—Bleeding Heartland published background on the non-incumbent statewide candidates when they launched their campaigns: Van Lancker and Miller last September, and Norwood in February of this year.
UPDATE: After this post was published, Joel Miller commented via Twitter, "The recording was a compromise. The initial plan was worse: no recording."
Top image: Screenshot from video featuring State Auditor Rob Sand, State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, and Attorney General Tom Miller, prepared for the Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration on April 30.
Importance of Statewide Positions
If we stop and think, it’s the statewide positions that have the most profound impact on Iowans everyday lives.
The Secretary of State protects the foundation of our elections.
The Attorney General who protects the rights of Iowans.
The Auditor who is the peoples watch dog over government chicanery.
The Treasurer who protects the retirement funds of IPERS employees.
The Secretary of Agriculture, along with the Governor, are the two most important positions when it comes to our economy, our environment and human and animal welfare.
Do you care about clean water, healthy food, nutrition, rural redevelopment? Then the Secretary of Agriculture should be of interest to you.
Do you care about how $1.5 billion in federal ag funds are spent annually in Iowa? Then the Secretary of Agriculture should matter to you.
Do you care about the foundation of our economy which is built on agriculture and the almost 70 rural counties which are in population decline as our commodity systems scale VC and you wonder how we build diversity, resiliency and inclusiveness into our way of life? Then the Secretary of Agriculture might be of interest to you.
What’s the bottom line? The Secretary of Agriculture matters. As do all of our statewide positions. DC is where the prestige lies and there’s a national scrum, called Congress, to move policy and money up or down the field.
But it’s our statewide positions that impact Iowans most directly - for better or for worse.
Since you may be wondering, my vision if I’m elected in November as Secretary of Agriculture, is to create an “Iowa Built to Last.” Clean water, healthy soils, diverse landscapes, rural communities which begin to grow again as we reimagine agriculture to include providing food to 3.2 million Iowans and 80 million Americans who live within a day’s drive of Iowa. - John Norwood, Candidate Secretary of Agriculture
This is a great example of why I read BLEEDING HEARTLAND
It's so I can benefit from information that I don't get elsewhere, even when that information is disappointing.