Iowa Dems Ask Derek Eadon Questions

For a large format version of this article click here.

The following questions come from a range of Democrats in Iowa. Some were candidates in the last cycle or worked on campaigns, others are activists or volunteers, some are lifelong Democrats, others are completely new to politics. I have tried to condense the questions that were similar in nature, though some have been left unaltered. I appreciate everyone that submitted questions, as well as the candidates that took the time to respond.

The Role of the Chair

The next IDP Chair will need to stand as the voice of Democrats in the State of Iowa. What are the responsibilities you will take up as IDP Chair? What do you see as the role of the IDP Chair?

I believe the IDP Chair acts as CEO for the party. The role specifically focuses on building an organization, fundraising, and holding the GOP accountable through messaging.

This is a unique time for Iowa Democrats in terms of leaders in the party, as we have less elected officials in key leadership positions, and the IDP Chair’s role in messaging will be more important than it has been previously.

What is your political ideology? Do you identify as liberal, progressive, neoliberal? Democratic Socialist, Social Democrat, New Deal Democrat, Clinton Democrat? What role do you think the IDP Chair has in pushing their own ideology as leader of the Party in Iowa?

I identify as both a Democrat and a progressive. I believe that the Chair’s ideology has little to do with the position of chair. The role is more organizational than policy based. We shouldn’t shy away from fighting Republicans on the issues.  Elected leaders are responsible for proposing legislation and there is no enforcement mechanism to have the Chair approve legislation or formally be involved in the process. For messaging to work, the Chair has to have a great working relationship with legislative leaders and candidate to ensure the message is coordinated.

The Chair as Chief Fundraiser

The IDP Chair has been the chief fundraiser for the party. What experience do you have as a fundraiser? What are some successes and challenges you’ve had fundraising?

I have had success at multiple levels fundraising. I have raised money for the Coordinated Campaign, political candidates, issue organizations, and non-profits. One best practice that I have used in Iowa is to ask donors to fund specific parts of the program, say a staff position for example, and keep updating donors with progress. Many groups will now be involved in Iowa on issue campaigns, and I believe they could be a potential funding source that we have not seen in recent years. One challenge I have run into is finding small donors in Iowa that are willing to give to the party, and they may be more interested in donating to a party that takes action on issues.

What are your plans to increase fundraising? What plans do you have that don’t follow traditional models used by the Party in the past?

The small donor list has to be improved, as well as the Party’s online presence. I have experience working in this field and would use many of the techniques I have used with other organizations. Organizing around legislative issues and using digital tactics for rapid response to GOP overreach can be very effective. Folks may not be interested in giving $10 to the Party right away, but if we can show we are actively fighting against the GOP and standing up for our economic values, that small donation could be easier to get.

Many people identified the conflict between neoliberal ideals and progressive ideals in the Democratic party. This played out not only at the national level between Sen. Sanders and Sect. Clinton, but in some state primaries and even the state convention. What do you see as the role of the donor class in the Iowa Democratic Party as compared to the rank and file? Do you think the party should prioritize requests from their biggest donors over the requests of the rank and file?

The goals of the party for an election cycle need to clearly be laid out for input from all members of the party, donors, and activists. Everyone has a seat at the table, especially the grassroots.

Party Building Role of the Chair

Party building has been a major point of discussion for years in Iowa and nationwide. There is some consensus that the Democratic Party hasn’t been successful in this effort in Iowa. The Secretary of State’s statistics for November 2016 show that 92% of Iowans are active voters, but only 31% of those active voters are Democrats. What are your plans to increase the number of registered Democrats? How do Democrats reach out to the majority Independent (No Party Affiliation) Voters? Please include specific programs or initiatives you would undertake as IDP Chair.

We cannot wait for the DNC, or anyone else to tell us what to do. We need to make a plan, build an organization, and move quickly. This includes electing a dedicated chair that has seen success in this type of role. I would initiative a program to help develop county parties. This program would provide training, tools, and financial resources for county parties that want to take party in voter registration, issue organizing, and party building. The focus of 2017 will be to build our list and to listen to our constituents.

There is also a consensus that the Iowa Democratic Party has focused on the most populace cities and counties in the state to the detriment of Rural Democrats. Do you have a plan to bring all 99 counties in Iowa into a statewide strategy moving forward? What is that plan?

A change in approach is needed across the state. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to campaigning. I would ensure staff coverage of all 99 counties, and I would do outreach to all 99 counties personally.

Many rural voters feel abandoned by the Democratic Party. As a result, many chose to vote for Trump in the last election. What policies would you propose to reach out to people who voted from Trump out of disgust with the ‘system’, rather than in support of his policies or personality?

Democrats have forgotten how to communicate our values. We are the party who stands up for those that feel they have been left behind or have no voice in the process. We are the party that fights for them. We believe in equal economic opportunity, regardless of where a person is born. Voters want to know how Democrats are going to improve their lives. This isn’t about press releases or cookie cutter ads from Washington. We need to communicate our values on an individual basis. Too often we may get caught up in party mechanics or a specific election or negative ads. Press releases, some hearings, and some mail pieces will not get it done.

Do you see a value in distinguishing between the progressive, or classical liberal, wing of the party and the neoliberal wing of the party? If so, what is the value? Do you have a plan to bring these two sides, which are often in opposition, together?

My plan is simple. Everyone has a place in the Iowa Democratic Party. We need a culture that respects those that have done this type of thing before but equally values newcomer’s suggestions and energy. The one things we can control is how we handle ourselves. Respect and inclusion are not a luxury, it will be one of my guiding principles. I am proud that support from many different cross sections of the SCC, and I plan to be a chair that unifies the party.

“Polls don’t mean The Disability Caucus of the Iowa Democratic Party sh!%. Organize!”                         – Robert Becker

Mr. Becker isn’t the only person interested in the role of organizing moving the IDP forward. Do you see organizing as an important tool in party building? What is your experience organizing? What are some successes and challenges you’ve had organizing in the past?

Organizing is the most important tool we have. I am an experienced organizer, having led President Obama’s 2012 Iowa Campaign, and worked for all three of his IA wins. I organized with the party in 2006 and 2010 and currently organize for progressive issues.

I have seen success on issue organizing, such as in 2009 on OFA’s health care program. In getting new voters to participate- in 2008 and 2012 with the Obama campaign, specifically with young voters. I am most proud of the extensive professional development and training that I have been involved with since 2008. As a manager, I have many folks that I worked with that have gone to work in the White House, run for office, run organizations, manage campaigns, and are still involved in the progressive movement. Organizing is about relationships, and I believe that applies to the party and the chair position.

I viewed these people as family, just as I view the staff I have worked with on campaigns as family. It is common sense that if you make someone feel valued and respect their time, they will continue to come back to your organization. The best organizers I have seen in Iowa have been organizers that have embraced the role and tried to bring in as many new people as they can. It starts with connecting on a social or informal level, and can soon turn into a working relationship. It just takes effort on the front end, it takes asking multiple times, and it takes respect.

What is your plan, if any, to improve organizing in the future? What specific steps will the IDP take under your leadership to turn voters into volunteers, allies into advocates, and citizens into civic leaders?

Our party needs to expand our efforts to bring people in. We need to have smaller, social events where people can learn about politics, candidates, and most of all learn about the other great Democrats that live in their area. We need to introduce and educate about policies that will directly benefit people and their families. We need to ask potential volunteers to take immediate, direct action so they feel their time is well spent and not ask them to sit at a meeting. We need to ask them what ideas they have and keep asking them to come back. This cannot just be an effort by out of state staff months before an election. The party needs to be in communities and engaging on a regular basis. Organizing builds relationships, and if our party does not have relationships with enough people, our party is not doing it correctly.

Our party needs to expand our efforts to bring people in. We need to have smaller, social events where people can learn about politics, candidates, and most of all learn about the other great Democrats that live in their area. We need to introduce and educate about policies that will directly benefit people and their families. We need to ask potential volunteers to take immediate, direct action so they feel their time is well spent and not ask them to sit at a meeting. We need to ask them what ideas they have and keep asking them to come back. This cannot just be an effort by out of state staff months before an election. The party needs to be in communities and engaging on a regular basis. Organizing builds relationships, and if our party does not have relationships with enough people, our party is not doing it correctly.

What do you see as the role of young people in the Party? Would you do anything to increase their participation or to motivate them to run for office? If so, what?

  • A new generation of leaders is emerging in Iowa we need someone that can tap into that energy. We cannot keep depending on failed candidates from the past to run for office or lead the party.
  • We shouldn’t just host big fundraisers and reach out to communities of color and young voters near an election, we need to have open communication and smaller community events. We need to prove to these communities that we support them.

This cycle saw a sharp rise in demands for ideological ‘purity’. Nationally and locally, Democrats saw Demexit occur, in part, because of conflict over members of the party that felt more beholden to ideas rather than party. There were also many people more established in party than some of Sen. Sanders’ supporters arguing that he wasn’t a Democrat and shouldn’t even be allowed to run as one. How important is political ideology to your worldview and any effort you might undertake as IDP Chair?

How do you propose to reach out to people that have left the IDP to become an Independent or Green Party member because they felt Democratic leadership had abandoned the ideals they thought represented the Democratic Party?

How can the IDP increase accessibility? This question came from people with a variety of perspectives. Some were concerned with accessibility in regards to people with disabilities. Others were focused on accessibility for people that can’t afford to travel to Des Moines to be involved in Party activities, both for issues of time and money. A few specifically reference the choice of venue, and that there often isn’t enough space for everyone that might like to attend an event, or that there isn’t enough information in the form of promotion or an agenda to let Democrats in Iowa better decide if the trip to the event is worth making.

Tactics, message, candidates, and operations can always be improved. There are great ideas being discussed and some past best practices we have chosen to ignore. There is one factor that will be harder to change. There is one factor that we cannot lump in with these others: our party is not accessible enough to the people that we need the most.

I have heard stories about people not feeling welcome in the Democratic Party too many times in the past few years. I have heard it from students on campuses. I have heard it from young people in rural communities who just moved back home.  I have heard it from grandparents who are getting involved for the first time because a caucus candidate has inspired them. I have heard it from my African American precinct captains who went to their first convention. I have heard it from people who were referred to as “Obama”, “Sanders”, or “Bradley” people. I have heard it from county party members that feel campaigns don’t respect their opinion or contribution. I have heard it from counties who feel ignored. I have heard it from candidates who feel the party didn’t give them the time of day. I have consoled crying staffers who have been on the receiving end of vicious insults.

As a party, we need to be more accessible and more respectful at all levels. Since the election of Donald Trump, and with upcoming GOP overreach on women, voting, immigrant, and worker’s rights coming up, we will have more people than ever who need the Democratic party. We have so much to accomplish, we cannot afford to leave any potential volunteers out of the process. I believe the Iowa Democratic Party has failed at creating a culture that embraces the grassroots.

This isn’t about getting more people to show up to meetings or join county parties. This isn’t about platform planks or committees. We have thousands of Iowans who feel like they need to act, and they don’t feel like the Democratic Party is an outlet for them to act. People are not skipping our events because they are apathetic. They are skipping our events and not participating because they see no reason to go.

Political Role of the Chair

What role does the state party have in the primary process? Should the state fund a single primary candidate to the disadvantage of another?

All candidates who put their name on the ballot should receive a set of materials. A handbook on filing/deadlines, information on the voter file, contact information for central committees, and a copy of the platform. I would also hold open trainings for anyone interested in running.

The party should not pick the side of a specific candidate.

Many people are concerned that the IDP does not have a solid candidate for Governor in the upcoming election. What qualities would you like to see in a candidate for Governor? Would you involve the party in advocating for one candidate over another in the primary? Once a candidate is selected, how would you like the IDP to assist that candidate?

I do not think the party should assist one candidate, but should be viewed as a resource for anyone thinking of running. I would counsel any candidate in the process, what it would mean to be the nominee, and what the process could look like.

It is not the IDP Chair’s position to pick a specific candidate or type of candidate.

What are your plans to help the IDP retake the House in 2018?

  • Recruit, develop, and support candidates across the state. Provide them the tools and confidence they need to put their name on the ballot.
  • Provide training, incentives, and resources for local Democrats who want to begin to organize in their communities and develop their skills. We need to rebuild at the local level.
  • Develop a concise message on economic fairness and aggressively highlight the Iowa GOP’s tendency to help their donors and take away opportunity from Iowans.
  • Use the state’s organization to respond to GOP overreach aggressively and in real time. This upcoming legislative session is crucial.
  • Through specific initiatives on candidate recruitment and local organizing, expand our local and national donor pool with a sponsorship program.

Do you support HJR 2009, the bill before the Iowa Legislature to call for a limited Constitutional Convention to address the issue of money in politics, specifically intended to counter the ‘Citizen’s United’ SCOTUS ruling?

I support public financing of campaigns, but an Iowa law would not be the best way to address the need to overturn Citizen’s United. It would have to be addressed at the federal level.

The next IDP Chair will likely have to take a public stand in support of legislation in the coming Legislative sessions. This has not traditionally been the role of the Chair, but with no other high profile leader it will be a new responsibility thrust on the chair. What legislative agenda would you like to help Democratic Legislators in Iowa develop? How would you support their agenda?

My candidate development program would help those that are thinking about running for office at any level. I do not think it is the Chair’s role to pick certain candidates for seats, but to encourage more Democrats to run and provide them all the same set of resources. We can be more helpful to local level candidates who put their names on the ballot.

Iowa is, at its heart, an agricultural state. What problems do you see in Iowa’s current attitude toward regulating agriculture? What changes would you like to see made at the legislative level?

Iowa is both a state with a great history of renewable energy and a growing water problem. Farmer’s that have cover crops, are good stewards of their land, and are being pushed out by large corporations need to be supporters. There is promise in our energy future in Iowa, we can ensure more policies to encourage wind, solar, and biodiesel production. We also need a long-term solution for clean water, which as Chair, I would strongly be pushing for.

Do you support allowing Iowa farmers to grow industrial hemp?

I admittedly am not an expert on the topic. As long there is no current federal law preventing it, yes.

As IDP Chair, you would have a vote as a superdelegate. If this system continues for the next Presidential primary cycle, how would you use your vote as a superdelegate?

I believe we should get rid of superdelegates. This would not be an issue during the upcoming Chair’s term, as we are in a mid-term election.


One Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s