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Kurt Meyer likes finding solutions to problems, and he believes he knows the salve for the Iowa Democratic Party’s woes. “We need to mine the lessons of 2016. It’s important to listen and assess and incorporate what we’ve learned as we move forward. We have taken it in the teeth the last two cycles. We need to begin doing things differently. We need to create a strategic plan for the party. That process should launch us for the next several years. We need to have goals beyond one cycle. We need to think big. Once we have a strategy we can craft messages that fit those strategic goals.”
Meyer’s strategy includes aggressive party building efforts, paid for by expanded fundraising efforts as outlined in the 2015 IDP Finance and Fundraising Task Force Report, a task force Meyers chaired.
“We need to engage in party-building. We have talked about it but we have not invested the resources in it. I would deploy people in each Congressional district to engage people in their communities. To learn the needs and issues of each community. We need someone to sit down with people in their own communities. That’s how we’re going to do party building. These organizers would be paid personnel to communicate from the grassroots up and the party leadership level down. We can move talent in before an election, but those people are there for a campaign not for party building. Had we made an investment in party building two, or four, years ago, we might have seen a return already. Until we do that it’s not going to happen.
We have lurched from election cycle to election cycle with little infrastructure in place at the start of every cycle. I think we can get smarter about that. I want to see talented people on the ground throughout the state. The needs of every county aren’t the same, and we need to recognize that. We can’t just talk about party building, we need to do it. I’m ready to do something about it.
I think in every cycle we have an overarching desire to be collaborative and coordinate. Yet, in every cycle, we tend to think that we work well together when we send messages down from on high, and I think we would work best together if we had a more balanced flow of information coming both up and down the pipeline. There’s a thought that the experts know best, but they don’t know what’s going on in Mitchell or Worth or Howard Counties. By not being attentive to the county parties we miss making the necessary adjustments in terms of message or strategy.
We are failing to make the half-time adjustments that allow us to come back and win the game.”
Training future leaders of the Iowa Democratic Party is also a major component of Meyer’s strategy.
“We talk about building our bench. That is worthy of some attention. With the help of the political organizers, I’d like to employ we can identify, recruit, train and support our future candidates. Some people think supporting existing candidates is the way to move forward. I’m on board with that. We do need to bring up people engaged in the process, to let them infuse us with their energy and for us to infuse them with our experience.
If we want to build our capacity as a party, we need to get people engaged if they’re willing to step forward. We need to offer high-quality training opportunities to people. And these opportunities need to be available around the state.
Training needs to give people a sense that they’re worthwhile. That they’re valued. We need to make the Democratic Party desirable.”
Mr. Meyer’s has experience in party building as the founder, and current Chair, of the Tri-County Democrats, an organization in northern Iowa that brings the Democratic Parties of Worth, Mitchell, and Howard Counties together. The Tri-County Democrats was created to allow the counties to share their ‘scaffolding’ and efforts. The need for the Tri-County Democrats was clear to Meyer, “If all your energy on the local level goes into supporting the scaffolding rather than using the scaffolding to do something you must evaluate whether that’s a good use of resources.” The group allows the three counties to coordinate campaign efforts on behalf of Democratic candidates, all are in the same Iowa House and Senate district, and to support the individual efforts of each county’s party apparatus. This collaboration has even included joint County Conventions, as in 2014, though in 2016 Worth and Mitchell held separate events. Perhaps most impressively the Mitchell County Convention finished in 90 minutes, while the Worth County Convention was completed in 75 minutes. According to Meyer, “Upfront effort and organization made the process more effective and less annoying. People like clear, decisive leadership. A lot of gatherings where we come together as Democrats are lacking in that.”
“My background has been as a person involved in the political process for a number of decades. Being involved in politics, particularly in the rural area where I now live, is one of the best ways to influence our political leaders and elected officials,” said Meyer. “In the last decade, I’ve worked primarily as a volunteer. It’s been a terrific expression of my faith in the electorate and the American government.”
Before stepping up as a volunteer, Meyer ran for Iowa House District 14. He worked as a staffer for Sen. John Culver, Congressman Mike Blouin, and State Senator Milo Merritt. Most of Mr. Meyer’s work life has been in the service of nonprofit organizations, including sixteen years as owner of Meyer Heykes Nonprofit Partnership, which served nonprofit clients throughout the upper Midwest. He assisted nonprofits in setting strategic goals, long-term planning, establishing the ‘story’ of the organizations, and helping them secure funding and resources to serve their communities and target populations. This experience will prove beneficial should Kurt Meyer be selected as the next Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.