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Sandy Dockendorff has lived a life of service. She has worked as a nurse and empowerment coordinator for the Child Welfare Decategorization “Decat” Project. Dockendorff served on the Danville School Board for 2 terms, six of those years as President. She has a long history with the Iowa Democratic Party, as a precinct captain, Des Moines County Democratic Party Chair, Congressional District 2 Chair, and a member of the State Rules Committee since 2000, chairing that committee for several election cycles. She has also served on the Blue Ribbon Committee to Reform the Platform and is serving on the Caucus Review Committee. She represents the 2nd District on the State Central Committee and chairs the Policy and Programs Subcommittee. The next challenge Dockendorff wants to tackle is rebuilding the Iowa Democratic Party as Chair.
For Dockendorff, the message the Iowa Democratic Party presents to voters is the biggest concern.
“In the last four general elections [the Democratic Party] focused on candidates, not voters. We expect everyone to follow our message, or the message of our Presidential candidates, but that doesn’t work when the message isn’t clear or the candidate isn’t dynamic.
The party needs a message that resonates with folks when they discuss issues at their kitchen tables. The party loses its soul when the platform created by [rank and file Democrats] is at odds with the message coming from our candidates. We need to connect candidates, voters, and the Democratic Party message, a unifying message, to succeed.
That’s why I would go on a listening tour of the state as Chair. Not as a PR stunt, but to really develop the relationship between the state party and county parties and voters in communities around the state. [The Iowa Democratic Party] needs to listen to what voters need, what they’re concerned about, and create a message around those needs.”
Organized Labor Unions, historically an ally of the Democratic Party, were one of the constituencies that led to widespread losses in Iowa in the last election. Dockendorff is focused on the need to repair that relationship.
“How did Democrats lose labor? We talked a lot about what we were going to do, but we didn’t deliver. In Des Moines County, we used to be a blue labor county, and now we’re a red labor county. That’s because jobs weren’t part of our message. We need to reconnect with public and private labor unions, as well as ununionized labor. The Republicans have us working against each other because we’re easier to knock down that way.
I want to work with labor councils to rebuild that trust. We need to bring them back into the party. In the western part of the state we need to talk about economic development issues that all voters get. They think we don’t get it. We need to be able to say, in the next four months, what Democrats [in Iowa] stand for on the issues. We have a story to tell. It’s a good story, and the only way we win back the support of voters is telling it.”
Ms. Dockendorff plans to bring her experience, and lessons she has learned working in the IDP, to the role of Chair. Her strategic vision for the party would turn county parties around the state into a coordinated campaign, working together to share best practices and provide support for issues and candidates around the state.
“Is our focus electing candidates or creating change? My focus is creating change and fulfilling the promises our candidates and the party make. I want to focus on issue-based education, to build the party around issues not just candidates. If we teach community leaders how to advocate for issues that are important to them we begin creating the leaders the party needs. The people that stand up for issues in communities around the state will learn and be prepared to run for election. [The Iowa Democratic Party] can help them by providing training.
I want county party leadership to receive training so they can become local organizers. They can help candidates by driving the discussion on local issues because they’ve talked to people and know the local issues. We need to have conversations with voters at all times, not just during elections.
We should compete everywhere. We must get our message out. Anywhere we don’t get the message out is a desert. The best way to do that is to have people share that message with their neighbors. Whose responsibility is it to educate voters? The fourth estate isn’t doing it, so Democrats need to do it ourselves.
We have to be open to hearing from people that didn’t vote for our candidates. We need to know why they didn’t. We can’t guess. We can’t judge. We need to be honest and unbiased, we need to listen, but we also need to stand up for what we believe in. Nobody ever hates being listened to, but when it’s our turn we need to stand for the ideals that make us Democrats.”