Iowa Dems Ask Sandy Dockendorff Questions

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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?

Advocating for our issues.  Training others to advocate for our issues.  Building capacity within our established structure… and finding ways to grow synergistically with our allied organizations.

Facilitating the development of a strategic plan and implementing it.  The plan should include, at a minimum:

  • The chair leading a listening tour of those who voted for us and those who did not, but who we thought would.
  • Conducting professional focus groups of Iowa voters to determine what Iowa voters think of us, issues of importance to Democrats, and how we can express our issues to appeal to the greatest number of voters.
  • The chair leading the fundraising efforts of the Party, including call time to donors, and developing additional funding strategies to include broadening our outreach to small donors. There is no substitute for being disciplined about doing this work.
  • A PR/social media campaign to be started early Spring 2017 that defines us as the Party with common sense solutions to everyday problems.
  • A team approach with the Constituency Caucus groups to define a strategy for their individual growth and interdependent reliance to withstand the onslaught of GOP attacks.
  • A team approach to working with our partners (Labor, Planned Parenthood, One Iowa) to bolster their membership and our mutual strength.

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?

The role of the IDP Chair is to project the unified voice of the Party, not their own ideology.  The Chair should serve as a conduit for the voices of the grassroots.  I see myself as a pragmatic progressive.  I know that we need every single one of our political allies to stand between the GOP and a lot of human suffering.  We can argue about specific legislation, but the principles that we all believe in should be the basis for holding us together.

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 raise money for the Des Moines County Dems, I’ve raised money as the Finance Director for the Alexandria Democratic Party, I helped build the non-profit membership for the National Captioning Institute.  There is no secret to fundraising.  It just requires discipline to spend the time on the phone and face to face with donors.  The other half of the equation is effective use of the revenue raised.  As President of the School Board, I helped to turn around a school district that was in financial disarray to one with a 25% unspent balance – without firing any teachers.

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?

I would like to do some issue-oriented events to fundraise around specific issues.  People who have an interest in a specific cause are more likely to want to donate to enact the change they want to see.  Fundraising events are also often Party Building events.  We should do multiple events in our red legislative districts to promote our issues.

It is easier to fundraise based on specific things like upgrading the data system (not sure how possible that is given that it is owned by the DNC) or a new headquarters or rural outreach or water quality advocacy.  We should use these tactics.

Monthly automatic deductions are one way to allow folks to donate a significant sum in smaller increments, increasing their likelihood to do so.  Once started, it is easier to encourage them to continue to do it from one year to another.

What would you do with an increase in funds to the state party?

This is a bit more complicated than it appears to be.  Let me just say that that depends on the source of the funds.  To the extent that the increase is from appropriate sources, I would add a Social Media PR person to our Communications Department, invest in training for our county and district central committees, invest in training for potential candidates and candidate campaign managers and treasurers, invest in an upgrade to our data system to provide accurate information for our candidates and other authorized users, invest in an office that is large enough and that reduces the need for using other space for SCC meetings and that is suitable for fundraising uses.

We can use federal funds for most everything but are limited by the source and amount we can accept.  We can use non-federal funds for specific things not associated with a federal candidate, but there are fewer restrictions on their source and no limit on the amount.  So, I would spend an increase of non-federal funds on a badly needed new office.

The real conflict lies in knowing if you have time to do the fundraising directed at non-federal sources or whether attempting to do so prevents raising enough federal dollars for the coordinated expenditures allowed by law.

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?

I don’t see people as “donors” vs “rank and file.”  I see Democrats – People fighting for our principles in the manner that makes sense for them.

We need people to help pay the bills and we need people to knock on doors and everything in between.  Some of those people have a lot of money but not a lot of time, some of those people have little or no money but lots of time.  Each person brings something different to share.  We need all of them.  Truly, there is not enough of either to do the job alone.

The Party should respect all.  The IDP Chair should reflect that respect in dealing with everyone.

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.

The metric is tantalizingly backward.  I want a strong Party that accomplishes those things that benefit the people, builds the middle class, returns civility and respect to the public domain, and elects enough Democratic candidates so that we can set the legislative agenda.  Do we care if the voters call themselves Democrats so long as they vote for our candidates?

There is a group of people who are uncomfortable with the two-Party system.  We need their votes.  We should not be so focused on getting them to register D that we forget to reach out to folks to VOTE D.

Being elected to roles within the Party is a different issue.

I believe that we have not been successful in building the Party because we have abdicated our job of identifying who we are to the candidates at the top of the ticket.  This is a viable tactic when the job of the Party is simply to mobilize voters, but in today’s hyper-connected society, the Party has to constantly persuade voters that it is in their best interest to support our candidates.  We must, at least, make the case that it is okay to do so.  There just is not enough time between the conclusion of the primary election and the first day of voting in the general election for our candidates to do this.  It is this component that we have been ignoring.  In our zeal to leave a blank slate to allow the candidate at the top of the ticket a blank slate on which to paint their own picture, we have left the voters with no idea of who we are as Democrats and what we stand for.

Nothing in our Party structure works the way it is supposed to work when we follow this top-down paradigm.  Everything works better when we follow the bottom-up path.

My plan is to facilitate the development of a strategic plan.  The IDP Chair is not a despot.  They need to work with our partners to develop a plan that encourages the growth of each partner and they need to take direction from the SCC.  Without that feedback from the Districts and the Constituency Caucus groups, the IDP loses contact with those folks who are seeing and hearing what is going on across the state.  The chair needs to be working with each of our labor partners to encourage their growth and connection to the IDP.  The synergy between labor unions could be much stronger with someone working to make it happen.  We have left room for the GOP to drive wedges between unions and non-union workers… and between public and private unions.

I have already outlined what that strategic plan should include:  a social media/PR campaign to redefine the image of the Democratic Party as the one that supports common sense solutions to everyday problems, invests in training curricula for our county chairs, candidates, campaign managers and treasurers, and developing a database of issue advocates across the state.  I would plan issue-focused events in those places where we do not traditionally have candidates run for legislative seats.   I would spend my time as chair talking with allies and developing close ties with organizations with ideologically compatible agendas.  I would work with our Constituency Caucus groups to define specific plans to mobilize their members in support of policies that meet their needs.  I would work with allies to support other allies to gain strength and to limit the ability of the GOP to use one of our groups against another.

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?

Yes.

  1. Hold issue-oriented events in multiple sites in each District. This will help to get our message out to areas less likely to see/hear our message otherwise and will help to increase our small-donor fundraising base.
  2. Hold advocacy training in each county to train our members to be vocal advocates for the issues that brought them to the Party in the first place.
  3. Strongly encourage statewide candidates to visit each part of our state several times in the course of their campaigns.
  4. Encourage Democrats to run in every available race in each county, starting with the school board and municipal elections in 2017.
  5. Hold multiple trainings in each District for candidates and campaign staff like managers and treasurers (perhaps using Wellstone or DFA curricula).
  6. Personally work with each county to develop relationships with county activists so they know they can reach out to me with ideas or needs and so we can gauge capacity and determine where to deploy assets.
  7. Train issue advocates who will likely become candidates in the future.

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?

I suspect that there are some voters that identify with this statement.  I’ve read that upwards of 17% of the electorate feel this way, but not necessarily just rural voters.  From the hundreds of conversations I have had with voters (and folks who tell me they chose not to vote), for most, their issue wasn’t the “system”, it was the lack of focus on issues that affect them, specifically jobs.  For those voters who have discussed with me, at length, their discontent with the Democratic Party and their decision to leave the Party, I have suggested that their point of view could go a long way toward stabilizing the Party if they would choose to stay and participate.  Some chose to do so, some did not.  In either case, I have taken something positive from those discussions to help grow the Party and bring us back to our democratic roots.  There is a lot we can do to make our Party more open and welcoming and our processes less obscure.

The role of the IDP Chair is to facilitate, not dictate.  I would counsel candidates to focus their campaigns on defining for the voters why they are the best person to fight for policies that serve the people.  I do not believe that it is the role of the IDP Chair to define the legislative agenda, but I do believe it is the role of the IDP Chair to assist the SCC in choosing a message that defines for the voters who we are and the issues that we agree should be addressed.  In that regard, I suggest something along the lines of “Common sense solutions.”  This leaves a wide path for candidates to drill down to what those issues are, such as JOBS, access to healthcare, mental health services, education, etc.

I do believe that the IDP Chair must be able to advocate for our policy agenda.  I have the background to help crystalize for voters why they should support our policies:  I am a nurse and I have worked for a managed care provider in Iowa and know why this is a bad fit for our Medicaid population.  To help solve the lack of access to health care and dental services in my community, I advocated for a Federal Community Health Center and helped to write the grant that funded it initially.  I still serve on the Quality Assurance Committee to ensure best practices are followed and this, in turn, has been instructive in showing me exactly why the PPACA (Obamacare) is a flawed, but still extremely necessary first step toward universal, single-payer health care insurance.  I am a School Board member and served as President of the Board for six of the last seven years.  I have seen, first hand, the tremendous damage that continued budget shortfalls have done to our public education system – but have also been instrumental in turning around our school district’s financial situation in spite of that lack of funding… and did it without firing teachers.  I have had to deal with the emotional trauma of having my granddaughter bullied for her Hispanic heritage and confronted the blindness of our administration to the obvious need for cultural competency training in our school.  I have worked with our local social service agencies and the courts to provide needed programs to fight teenage pregnancy and child abuse, provide access to child care for children with disabilities and foster children, and to provide ESL programs.  I took a minimum wage proposal to our Board of Supervisors and that campaign has been taken up by other local groups.  I have stood with family as their loved ones passed from this world and I have held the hands of those who passed with no one to care.  As a candidate for IDP Chair, I bring more than knowledge about the Party, I bring a depth of understanding of the principles that this Party was built upon and a belief that we truly must be the Party of the People.

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?

If we are the Big Tent Party, then we have to understand that there will always be issues with which we disagree.

Dissent is not the enemy so long as respect for all is the norm.  There are valid arguments for different perspectives on many issues.  The IDP should focus on moving the state forward on those issues where we agree and to provide a forum for hearing different perspectives on those issues where we don’t agree.

The IDP should never take a position on an issue where there is significant opposition to one side or the other within the Party, and we should never attempt to silence those with a dissenting opinion.

“Polls don’t mean 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?

Building our organization’s capacity to meet challenges is what I have been doing since I started as a precinct captain for my precinct.  I have helped to grow my rural precinct, only to watch it decline in the last few election cycles for lack of interest of the Party in reaching out to those farm families surrounding my home.  There has been no candidate knocking on my door since 2004.  I have helped to grow my county central committee and it’s outreach… only to see many of those people refuse to help this election cycle… many who have said that they did not support the candidate at the top of the ticket and were told they could not carry campaign materials for other candidates on their local ballot.  I helped Kurt Meyers to work out the details and to stay within guidelines provided in the IDP Constitution and state law when he first thought about the Tri-County organization.  I helped Troy Price and Blair Lawton (and other campaigns) as they worked to build their coalitions for the last caucus to convention cycle. I serve as a District Chair working to focus on issues and building the capacity of our county organizations.  As State Rules Chair, I have assisted many county organizations to develop their own Bylaws/Constitution and to hold special nominating conventions.  As the Policies and Programs Subcommittee Chair of the State Central Committee, I suggested the language changes that resulted in the Constituency Caucuses’ biannual convention and workshop (and the addition of additional groups!) I traveled across the state to provide caucus training.  I have responded to thousands of calls and emails and text messages for information about how to do something or how to change something within the Party.  I suggested and followed through on holding an educational session before the last State Convention to make sure that EVERYONE came to the convention with the knowledge and confidence to participate fully.  I have been working to build this Party with each role I have had with the Party.  This will not change with IDP Chair.

Organizing isn’t enough.  We need to coalesce around a set of principles that allow all of our disparate parts to work FOR those things that benefit all of us.  We simply cannot do the same thing we have done before (no matter how well we do it) and expect a different outcome.  We have to do more than build the Party.  We have to mobilize it to create change.

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?

My plan is to return the Party to its roots; to turn what is already a great GOTV structure into an advocacy machine for 20 months out of every two-year election cycle.

  • Precinct committee people taught to be advocates for issues and policies that serve the people, helping to train others in their communities to do the same. Doing the door -knocking in the off years to develop a database of issue supporters.
  • County chairs trained to be the organizers they were always meant to be, provided with the tools to grow their county organizations, and plugged into a coordinated campaign strategy AND a coordinated advocacy strategy that recognizes their value and knowledge.
  • District chairs trained to be the trainers they were always meant to be and provided with the tools to train county chairs, candidates, and campaign managers and treasurers.
  • Leading the SCC to develop a strategic plan built upon the knowledge of their Districts and Constituencies that provides those tools needed in the counties and districts, that includes a social media and PR campaign to define for the voters who we are and gives our candidates a framework within which to run successfully in every race for which we can grow a candidate, and that reviews our processes to ensure that they empower people rather than put up barriers to participation.
  • Our allies brought together in mutual support of one another to grow our strength in support of those policies that benefit each of us and defend us from the GOP attacks.

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?

In my experience, young people are not all that interested in attending meetings for the sake of belonging… they are interested in doing things that make a difference.  Issue advocacy is all about doing things that make a difference.  The need for every county and district organization to become effective consumers and users of social media is one area where the Party has the need for folks who have a natural talent in those areas.  Making our meetings to the point and short… and doing something fun during or after them… are some good ways of making it more likely that younger people will want to participate.

People who have learned to be effective advocates for issues are great candidates.  I am not convinced that our bench is as lean as folks like to complain that it is because I read and talk to many younger Democrats who are very good at advocating and will be awesome elected officials once they feel comfortable running for office.  In order to help that happen, we have to change the perception that all candidates are corrupt, that politics is nasty, that our Party is just like the other one.

This cycle saw a sharp rise in demands for ideological ‘purity’. Nationally and locally, Democrats saw Demexit occur, in part, because of conflict between members of the party that felt more beholden to ideas rather than party. There were also many people more established in the 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?

An interesting run-up to the question.

My perspective is that many folks from both sides had little understanding of the structure of the Party and a lot of media-fed misunderstanding of false equivalencies.  I was somewhat astonished to discover that even some folks who had been through several election cycles had just been going through the motions with little understanding of why we do the things in the manner than we have been doing them.  This is one area of blindness the Party must address:  IS the way we do things because of some good reason or is it just a tradition… and if it is just tradition, then would it help to move the Party forward to re-examine those things to see if there are better ways to do them?  Further, if we do things a specific way based on some democratic principle, are we educating our people on those principles well enough for them to understand why we do some things the way we do them?

In my county, I worked to ensure that everyone from all the campaigns understood what was expected of them during the caucuses and I did the same for the run up to the District and State conventions.  I have spent hundreds of hours talking with people and explaining the structure of the Party and why we do things the way we do.  I have been called an apologist for the Party and I have been charged with trying to destroy the Party for supporting changes that I believe move the Party forward.

My bottom line:  The function of the Democratic Party is to support those policies that serve the people and to provide a framework for enough Democratic candidates to be successful that allows us to set the legislative agenda.  Beyond that, it is all a distraction.  We can argue about whether we should change our policies to allow non-Democrats to participate in our Party-run functions, but as they stand at this point in time, if you want to hold an office in Iowa in the Democratic Party, then you must be registered as a Democrat.  There is no requirement, in Iowa, for a Presidential candidate to file any paperwork declaring their Party affiliation.  To change any of that requires a vote of the supreme decision-makers: state convention delegates for the first issue and a vote of the state legislature for the latter issue.

We have a “big tent” which means we have to keep that central pole that holds up the tent very strong in order to prevent the entire tent from falling down upon us.  For the rest, we have to make sure that we NEVER silence any of our members.  The role of the dissenters is to try to educate the rest so that their position on their issue becomes part of the pole in the center.  This is how we stay progressive.  When we silence the dissenters, we no longer have a tent big enough to stand the pole upright.

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?

By living up to our democratic principles.   I still keep in touch with many who left the Party because I value their point of view on issues.  We have to get back to being an organization focused on making a difference, not just electing the person at the top of the ticket.

We need to invest in the technology that will allow us to hold hybrid meetings effectively.  This is not just using C.A.R.T. for the hearing impaired, but a fully digital interface for those who cannot attend in person.

This is part of being a modern, professional organization with a diversified field operation.

We have to create a culture of respect, not just for different points of view, but different levels of ability to participate, whether that difference is due to economic or physical factors.

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?

The IDP should provide a level playing field for all primary candidates.

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 would like a candidate for Governor:

  • who has the capacity to understand both the big picture and the effect of legislation on individuals;
  • who is a caring individual with a firm grasp of the idea that there is a floor below which no person should have to endure and that there should be no limits to a person’s ability to rise;
  • who understands that equity is not the same as equality and that some folks just need a bit more help than others;
  • who understands how to use resources effectively;
  • who knows how to work well with others and how to bring people together;
  • who has their ego under control enough to put the good of the people above themselves; and
  • who believes in the basic tenets of Democracy and the Democratic Party.

It is not within the purview of the Party officials to choose nominees; that is the role of Democratic voters.

I would hope that by strengthening the Party structure, building a strong social media and PR campaign around our issues, and creating a database of strong issue advocates that we will be able to give each Democrat with a desire to serve our state in the capacity of Governor a firm foundation to run.  Let the voters decide which candidate becomes the nominee and then we must come together to turn out the voters.

In the meantime, we should not wait until a nominee is chosen to start educating the voters about the issues and we should not allow any candidate to define the Democratic Party to fit their image.  The candidates must figure out how to convince the voters that they can best fulfill the Party’s agenda… not how the Party can best fulfill the candidate’s agenda.

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

Build capacity for candidates to be successful:  Train them to be effective in communicating about the issues and fundraising.  Build the capability of candidate campaign organizations by training campaign managers and treasurers.  Build the Party structure by helping county party organizations to fill their central committee seats and to start identifying supporters by issue.   Improve the data accuracy and usefulness of VoteBuilder (or replace it).  Help to grow candidates by training those with a passion for issues, rather than searching for people who just want to run for office.  Hold issue-oriented events where potential candidates can work with other like-minded individuals to build a base of supporters.

Ask yourself this question:  If we do nothing different than we have been doing, no matter how well you do it, we still lose.  We HAVE to change from doing nothing 20 months out of every election cycle.  Not one other candidate is talking about or has defined a plan for doing anything different.  In 2015, we had paid regional organizers in each District.  Because staff did not understand that we already have District central committees tasked with training and helping to build our county organizations, we lost organizational cohesiveness.  We HAVE the structure we need.  We need to invest in training that force and pivoting from just a GOTV machine to an army of issue advocates.

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 all efforts to move to public funding of federal campaigns and would welcome a similar effort in state government.

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?

Senator Hogg and Representative Smith are quite capable of facilitating the development of a legislative agenda and have already addressed this.  What the next IDP Chair should do is develop a strategy to pivot our tremendous GOTV apparatus into an effective advocacy machine that supports our legislators in their attempts to keep Iowa from following in the footsteps of Kansas or Wisconsin.

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?

Agriculture is the only industry that I know about where the principals have no control over either the cost or quality of their inputs or the price of their products.  As an industry, agriculture provides a cushion against economic stress as a net exporter gains from a relatively weak dollar, but as US consumers, farmers face the same hurdles as everyone else when the economy is shrinking.  Further, as manufacturing has seen most of their job losses due to technology advances, so too has agriculture seen major shifts.  What was once a family business has become a mega-corporate entity and we’ve lost the connection to the land and the people around large swaths of our state.  When the people who own the land no longer live on that property, they have less incentive to care about the sustainable nature of their agricultural practices.  When the owners of the land do not even live in Iowa, we also lose tax revenue.

I live on a bit of acreage in the middle of farm country in unincorporated Des Moines County.  Here, we face the problems of trying to prevent rich cropland from being parceled into small homestead lots and hog confinements from popping up in close proximity to homes and water sources, while in far southwest Iowa, they are facing large agricultural corporations from out of state buying up land and destroying communities.

My family chose to live off the pavement in a rural community.  My husband grew up on an Iowa farm, one that is still in trust and owned by the grandchildren of the man who built that farm into a prosperous business.  We knew that this meant an increase in costs to keep our cars running (gravel is hard on tires and the grit from road dust is hard on everything mechanical).  We knew that we were responsible for maintaining the quality of the water from our wells.  We knew the kids would ride buses to school rather than walk. We also believed that living in a rural area outside of the city meant we had more latitude on how we used our land.  We did not want to live where the city council chose the maximum height of the grass or the neighbors would get cross about listening to the livestock or the dogs.  There were no hog confinements in the area when we bought this land.  The farmers who have sited their hog confinements within a mile of my home are friends and neighbors.  Their point of view is that they own the land and have the right to determine what they do with it, just as I do.  They are not heartless beasts, but they do have a different perspective about their businesses.  They view their manure as gold and I view it as industrial waste.  The wear and tear on the roads from transporting the manure is hard to understand until you have gravel delivered at 10:00 AM one morning and come home five hours later to sand because your neighbor chose to move manure right after the gravel was laid.  There is no adjective to describe the stench.  The waterway that runs under our land resurfaces two miles south of our property into a dead pool that even the wild animals don’t disturb.  We are just outside the watershed for the Skunk River.

We’ve had some rip-roaring discussions in our family about what should be done … and whose problem it is… about everything from animal husbandry to water quality.  I am not an expert, but this is what I have gleaned from many of these conversations:

  • Most farmers would be happy to use fewer chemicals if they could get the same yields doing so. They are interested in profit, not buying unneeded chemicals and throwing them on the land.
  • Diversification of crops is good for everyone…except the immediate bottom line of any farmer attempting to do it.
  • Sustainable agriculture has the same stigma as alternative medicine.
  • Slowly, we are seeing more cover crops and less tilling. Slowly, we are seeing the use of GPS and computers in tractors to pinpoint the need for and application of soil amendments.
  • There is a role for public education in this discussion – everyone should be educated about these issues.
  • Water quality is not just an agricultural issue, but the agriculture industry needs to take ownership of their share of the problem. At the same time, regulation of home and leisure business use of the same chemicals must be part of the solution.

State government must accept the role of regulating animal confinement operations based on facts, not political expediency.

The problems farmers face and the issues of sustainable farming are complex.  Unfortunately, our legislators have been more comfortable kicking the solutions to the problems down the road than facing the issues head-on.  I would like this to change.  Ultimately, however, while I feel comfortable discussing many of the issues associated with this topic, I am not running for a legislative seat.  The chair of the IDP needs to facilitate the discussion of how we, as a Party, can best make a positive difference and how to educate both the public AND our elected officials.  In other words, we can advocate and educate, but, for now, the GOP gets to set the agenda.

I have been working with the local Chamber on the water quality issue.  This cannot continue to be kicked down the road.  The infrastructure for the water supply in Burlington is 150 years old and folks around here are looking at an upwards of a $50/month increase in their water bills before we even start the discussion about the city shouldering the cost of cleaning up the quality of the water running through those pipes.

Do you support allowing Iowa farmers to grow industrial hemp?

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?

To vote for the nominee of the Party.  I think the whole framework of superdelegates will change.  I would support the Unity Commission’s efforts to reform this policy.

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