# Urbandale



How a strong ground game helped turn Urbandale blue

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.

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Large Iowa cities spending more on police, less on social services

Iowa’s seven largest cities are spending more on policing per capita and a greater portion of their municipal budgets on law enforcement compared to the 1990s, according to a new report by the Iowa Policy Project. Over the same time period, spending on social services per capita and as a share of the municipal budget has declined in six of those cities.

Colin Gordon and Peter Fisher authored “Policing, public safety and community priorities,” published on July 22 (also available in pdf format). They examined budgets for the 24 Iowa cities with populations of at least 20,000, because “it is in our larger urban settings in Iowa that the problems with policing — including a well-documented pattern of disproportionate minority contact — are most acute.”

Seven of the cities studied are “metropolitan”: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, Waterloo, Council Bluffs, and Dubuque. Seven are suburbs in large metro areas: West Des Moines, Ankeny, Urbandale, Bettendorf, Marion, Coralville, and Johnston. Three are college towns: Iowa City, Ames, and Cedar Falls. Seven are micropolitan cities: Mason City, Marshalltown, Clinton, Muscatine, Burlington, Fort Dodge, and Ottumwa.

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Business community losing influence in Iowa local elections?

Rachel Junck‘s victory in the Ames City Council Ward 4 runoff election on December 3 was historic in two ways. The 20-year-old engineering major is the youngest second-youngest woman elected to any office in Iowa* and the first female Iowa State University student to win a seat on the council of our state’s seventh-largest city.

The outcome in Ames was also in line with a recent trend: candidates with strong ties in business circles have not performed as well in local elections in larger Iowa communities.

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Urbandale's longtime Republican mayor now a Democrat

Urbandale Mayor Bob Andeweg recently changed his party registration and will manage Democratic State Representative John Forbes’ 2020 campaign in Iowa House district 40.

Speaking at a fundraiser for Forbes in Lions Park on September 7, Andeweg said he’s “been a Republican my whole life.” Because he believes in nonpartisan local government, he has rarely spoken publicly about his party affiliation as mayor since 2005 or on the city council prior to that. Regarding his party switch, Andeweg said, “I truly believe this is where I need to be at this point in time.”

He and Forbes have been friendly since the early 1990s, and Forbes managed Andeweg’s first campaign for city council in 1999. He fell short in that effort but was later appointed to fill a vacancy, then won his next city council race and subsequently four terms as mayor. The two men “worked well together” when Forbes served on the city council, and Andeweg praised Forbes’ ability to get things done in a Republican-controlled chamber.

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