Race for the Chair: Kim Weaver

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Kim Weaver, reflecting on her run against Steve “Cantaloupe Calves” King, “I knew when I ran it was a long shot, but I was more afraid of losing our voice than losing an election.” She wants to bring that passion to the position of the Iowa Democratic Party Chair in 2017.

Weaver is an AFSCME member who has worked for the Iowa Department of Aging as a Local Long Term Care Ombudsman since 2007. She has held the position of chair of the O’Brien County Democrats since 2012, when she helped found SOLO Democrats, an organization that works with the Democratic County organizations of Sioux, O’Brien, Lyon and Osceola counties. Kim was also a national delegate for President Obama is the 2012 election cycle. She serves on the IDP State Central Committee as a Congressional District 4 representative and was the CD4 Vice-Chair in 2014 until she stepped down.

On her choice to step down, “I wanted to serve the Democratic Party and Democrats in Northwest Iowa, but I also wanted to give other people the opportunity to participate. Those of us with experience need to reach out to people just beginning. I recruited Mason McCoy to run [in Iowa House District 3], and I helped build Sara Huddleston’s website [for her run in Iowa House District 11]. Both are working to make Iowa better, and I’ll do anything I can to help them and other Democrats succeed.”

When asked what she saw as missteps in the last election cycle Weaver said:

“We have to get away from thinking about Des Moines as the center of Iowa. We’re too focused on where we can win. We’ve let our rural areas die because the races there aren’t going to be easy. We need to run [candidates] not just to win, but to get the message out there.

People don’t know the Democratic Party anymore. We’re so focused on the candidates that the message, things like “Stronger Together”, become meaningless. We need to focus on what we’ll do in office, and then we need to do it. People don’t trust politicians because the talk doesn’t become action. We have to start keeping our promises if we’re going to win back voters.

And the IDP need to remind people why bad legislation is being passed, and who is passing it. I don’t think people understood the consequences of their votes [this year]. We’re going to lose Medicaid and Medicare coverage, there are going to be cuts to school funding, and we’re going to lose environmental protections. We need to make sure people understand the problems this will cause, and we need to have a plan ready to fix the mess the Republicans are going to create. We must change things. We must come together as Democrats or people are going to suffer.”

Ms. Weaver identified the needs of the Iowa Democratic Party for the next two years. “We need to do outreach, build a bench, and coordinate with county parties. We need to embrace technology, and we need to get our message out there.”

For Weaver, outreach doesn’t just mean talking to voters. “[The Democratic Party] needs to do volunteer work. We have to show people what we stand for by getting involved in canned food drives, cleaning parks, school supply drives, and getting involved in our communities. We need social functions, like regional and local picnics or barbecues, to help people build community. Republicans have church to connect, we need the same thing, and it’s something we’ll have to build. We need to act like Democrats, not just vote Democrat.”

Building the Democrat Party and its bench is another focus of Weaver’s campaign for IDP Chair.

“We need to recruit and develop candidates and we need to help them when they run. I know from experience it’s impossible to run without help from the IDP. [Candidates] can’t fundraise only to spend it all on VAN (Voter Access Network). The state party needs to support every candidate, not just the ones they think will win.

I want to work with counties and congressional districts to increase coordination with the IDP in Des Moines. I would attend the district meetings, and try to hold frequent regional meetings. I would also hold county party leadership accountable for finding local candidates. [Democrats] need to be running in races all the way down the ticket. The best way to learn how to be a good candidate is to run.

I would also make training a priority. Candidates need to learn compliance, web development, the VAN, and how to run their campaign finances. County party leadership needs support, and I think we can do that with workshops and trainings, not just on running candidates for office but in the ways we can make our communities better.”

Technology is an important tool in Weaver’s plan to reform the Iowa Democratic Party. She suggested that the state party maintain a website, tentatively called ‘Big Blue Tent’. It would be a gathering place online for Democrats around the state to find and share information, would host a comprehensive calendar of events, and would provide a resource for counties and Democratic organizations that need assistance with technological know-how. It would also host videos of trainings for people unable to attend in person.

A comprehensive message from the Democratic Party is Kim Weaver’s highest priority.

“We can turn into a red state permanently if we don’t change direction. We need to be more concerned about the party and the state than ourselves and our candidates. We need to motivate people, not just to vote but to support issues that are important to Democrats. We need to find solutions for the problems people are facing in Iowa and their local communities.

We’re only going to do that if we talk to people, if we listen. We need to ask about their issues and concerns. I know what I want from the Democratic Party, but even as Chair I would only be one person, one voice. I would be as visible as possible as IDP Chair, doing interviews, radio, television, whatever was possible to get the message out. But that message needs to come from every Democrat, and listening to people, developing that message, would be one of the first things I got to work doing.”

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