Going into the 2019 elections, Urbandale’s city council consisted of five Republican men with backgrounds in legal or real estate work. This suburb to the west of Des Moines was a GOP stronghold for decades. But Matt Blake and Bridget Carberry Montgomery won two of the three council seats on the ballot two years ago. On November 2, Amy Croll and Larry McBurney won the Urbandale city council races with 5,044 votes and 4,207 votes, respectively. Once they are sworn in, four Democrats and one Republican will serve on the council of Iowa’s twelfth-largest city (around 45,000 residents). Democrats Jason Menke and Rachel Kent won two of the three Urbandale school board seats on this year’s ballot.
Urbandale’s longtime Mayor Bob Andeweg (who was unchallenged for re-election this year) is a Democrat these days, having changed his registration in 2019.
Many suburbs around the country have undergone political transformations as their populations diversify, and college graduates increasingly favor Democrats. But winning a local election in a purple area still requires hard work. McBurney finished just 27 votes ahead of the third-place candidate, Republican John Bouslog.
Each of the winning city council candidates knocked thousands of doors. In addition, Urbandale area Democrats have built a phenomenal volunteer organization to support local candidates by knocking doors, making phone calls, and sending postcards or text messages.
When I reached out to Croll and McBurney this week, both credited the grassroots effort for their wins. McBurney noted, “27 votes means that every door mattered.” Carberry Montgomery agreed, “the bottom line was organization” in each of the last two cycles. Blake estimated that volunteers helped his campaign knock nearly three times as many doors in 2019 as he could have managed on his own.
The late Jerry Tormey was among the most influential activists who helped change Urbandale. Two other superstar volunteers, Donna Richard-Langer and Dave Langer, agreed to a telephone interview on November 4 to discuss their methods.