Iowa Senate primary has new front-runner, more level playing field

Former U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer made it official on July 22: she’s running for the U.S. Senate. And even though signs point to long-serving Senator Chuck Grassley seeking another term in 2022, at least two other people are poised to compete against Finkenauer and Dave Muhlbauer for the Democratic nomination.

Finkenauer will carry several advantages into the primary campaign. But compared to Iowa’s last Democratic race for U.S. Senate, the contenders will be playing on a much more level field.

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A new path for Iowa Democrats

Lori Hunt is a Democrat from Polk County, a member of the Planned Parenthood Speakers Bureau, professional cat wrangler, writer, breadwinner, and bread baker. -promoted by Laura Belin

The first time I got into a cab in DC, the driver asked me where I was from. When I said Iowa, he turned around and told me Senator Tom Harkin had ridden in this very same cab, and how lucky we were to send a very good man like that to Washington.

Since then, we’ve lost Congressional seats and state legislative chambers, watched Iowa Supreme Court justices thrown out for an unanimous ruling on marriage equality, and lost the governorship again and again.

My, how far we’ve come, Iowa Democrats. And not on a good path either. What can we do to turn this around? I’d be foolish to say this can all change in a cycle or two. The New Iowa Project is a fantastic start. It’s amazing to see activists fired up and ready to work year round to have the deep conversations needed to change hearts, minds, and votes.

Here are some things I’d like to see us focus on as well. It’s not exactly rocket science.

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What Iowa Democrats can learn from 2020 down-ballot candidates

A deep dive into the experiences of down-ballot candidates provides much food for thought for Iowa Democrats hoping to improve on last year’s dismal performance.

The authors of “Playing to Win,” released last month, are three activists with professional backgrounds in marketing. Dave Miglin was a candidate for the board of trustees for Polk County’s public hospital, Broadlawns. Kathryn Kaul-Goodman chairs the Mahaska County Democrats and ran for supervisor in that rural southeast Iowa county. Jean Kaul-Brown helped with both Miglin’s and Kaul-Goodman’s campaign and (along with Miglin) is communications co-chair for the Polk County Democrats.

I recommend downloading the full report. It’s a quick read:

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Stake out moral ground

John Tyson is a Mennonite pastor. He lives in Waukee. -promoted by Laura Belin

I am the pastor of a church in Des Moines that played a major role in Governor Robert Ray’s resettlement of Tai Dam refugees in Iowa in the 1970s. Although some Iowans voiced familiar concerns that new arrivals would take away jobs, Ray persisted regardless of political risk.

To justify his humanitarian welcome of refugee families, he put a stake in moral ground: “I didn’t think we could just sit here idly and say, ‘Let those people die’. We wouldn’t want the rest of the world to say that about us if we were in the same situation…Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

This is moral language in defense of policy – and from the vantage point of 2021, it is jarring to see it coming from a Republican.

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Combating voter suppression, "Iowa Nice" style

Bryce Smith chairs the Dallas County Democrats. promoted by Laura Belin

Iowa has a rich tradition of voting integrity, from the way we draw legislative districts, to our access to early voting, election day voting, and ways in which to register to vote. We might call the system the “Iowa Nice” part of the U.S. election system.

Sadly, Iowa’s GOP-led legislature recently approved and Governor Kim Reynolds signed yet another bill full of voting restrictions, labeled “voter suppression” by Democrats and hailed as “election integrity” by some Republicans. This comes just a few years after the GOP-led legislature in Iowa passed sweeping voting rights changes and restrictions in 2017.

Republicans across the country have no plan for how to become more competitive in the national popular vote, so they have focused on keeping power by making it harder for those who don’t support them to cast ballots.

With no clear path to enact a federal Voting Rights Act, given the Senate filibuster, how can Democrats defend democracy in GOP-controlled states?

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A path forward for Democrats

Rosanne Cook, Sarah Prineas, Emily Silliman, and Janice Weiner co-authored this post. -promoted by Laura Belin

November 3, 2020 was a kick in the teeth for Iowa Democrats. We lost in Iowa and we lost badly. What should we do about it, other than feel disheartened?

The Potluck Insurgency is a grassroots activist group based in Johnson County. After the 2020 election, four members of Potluck’s steering committee undertook a project to debrief candidates from urban, suburban and rural districts; former officials of the Iowa Democratic Party; and activists from other grassroots organizations.  Seeking to identify reasons for our losses in 2020 and to formulate recommendations for a path forward in Iowa, we interviewed 34 people over the course of three months, in hour-long interviews, working from questions prepared in advance.   

After these interviews, we drew some conclusions about next steps. The following advice is directed at everyone from Iowa Democratic Party leaders, to activist groups like ours, to candidates. These are concrete actions that all of these groups can take to improve our chances in 2022.

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