Iowa Democrats demand Arab, Climate caucuses be seated on governing body

Brian McLain chairs the Iowa Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus.

In a letter finalized on January 14, several Democratic leaders called for a special meeting to challenge the refusal to seat the Iowa Democratic Party’s two newest constituency caucuses on the State Central Committee.

According to a letter from outgoing state party chair Ross Wilburn, the Iowa Democratic Party’s attorney and co-chairs of the Rules and Nominations Committee Co-Chairs “all reached the same conclusion”: there is no legal mechanism for the Arab-American Caucus and Climate Change & Environmental Caucus to elect representatives to the State Central Committee.

However, the State Convention of 2022, which is the party’s supreme governing body, officially recognized both new constituency caucuses last July. In the interest of transparency, these leaders have chosen to make this letter publicly available.

Dear SCC Members & IDP Officers:

This e-mail constitutes notice from the undersigned SCC members pursuant to Art. VI, section 2 (e) of the IDP Constitution and Article III, sect. 2 of the SCC Bylaws that allow a special meeting of the IDP State Central Committee, to take place January 21st, 2023 at 11:00AM.

This meeting is to discuss, entertain motions, and remedy the current interpretation of the Iowa Democratic Party Constitution regarding the election of Chair and Vice Chair of the Arab-American Caucus and Climate Change & Environmental Caucus, having been duly approved and ratified at the 2022 IDP State Convention. 

With IDP State Officer elections to take place prior to any other business at the next SCC meeting scheduled January 28th, it is necessary to resolve this issue prior to that meeting. To wait until the regularly scheduled meeting would unintentionally disenfranchise entire Constituencies that the delegates of the 2022 State Convention clearly wanted to see take part in guiding the Party. 

Recently Chair Wilburn informed members of the State Central Committee that there is no “mechanism” that exists in the IDP Constitution to elect a Chair and Vice Chair of the new caucuses prior to the first quarter of 2024.  We believe this delay is in opposition to the spirit of our Party and the leadership of these caucuses have an important role to play in the near future.

The email goes on to detail that the vacancy clause “(Article VI, Section 2, subsection C, paragraph 2 – found on page 18 of the IDP Constitution)… does not provide for the scenario of electing the initial slate of officers.”

However there is nothing in the vacancy clause that defines under what circumstances the vacancy occurred. Only that a vacancy exists. 

“3) A Constituency Caucus Chair or Vice-Chair vacancy must be filled at a meeting of the Constituency Caucus scheduled with at least five days notice to its members clearly stating that an election will take place.”

Meanwhile both Constituencies are using the mechanisms in the Iowa Democratic Party Constitution and have officially announced their intent to hold their official elections well prior to this meeting. Therefore the only question that will be left to answer is do we do the right thing and seat their duly elected leadership on the SCC.

In no way is this a charge or declaration of malice. However, the undersigned members reject construing the IDP Constitution in such a way that it would automatically disenfranchise entire Constituencies nearly two years after they won recognition by the Party.

As the Democratic Party, we should strive to be as inclusive as possible, especially during a time when we so desperately need to broadly build coalitions to turn the tide of multi-cycle losses. With regard to constituencies that should have been part of our structure years ago, we need to allow them the full power of their voices on the State Central Committee.

If we are to err, then let us err on the side of democracy and empowering others. 

In solidarity,

Brian McLain – Chair of the Progressive Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party

Tracy Murphy – Vice Chair of the Progressive Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party 

R.R.S. Stewart – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Vice-Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party

Terry Stewart – Chair of the Senior / Retiree Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party 

Anton Benjegerdes – College and Young Democrats of Iowa President

Julie Russell-Steuart, Chair of the Disability Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party

John Dabeet – 1st District SCC Member

Kelsey Bracket – 1st District SCC Member

Jennifer Winn – 4th District SCC Member 

Michelle Servadio Elias – Vets Caucus Provisional SCC Member

Holly Herbert – State Platform Chair

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