Race for the Chair: Blair Lawton

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Blair Lawton wants to build an ‘army of organizers’ to bring the message of the Iowa Democratic Party to every corner of the state. “The loss [this year] was a wake-up call. We need to do the work of empowering Democrats around [Iowa], and organizing County Chairs and people in communities around the state is the way to do that. I’m excited about this opportunity. My background is in organizing and that’s what we need in the party.”

Lawton’s strategy to build the base is focused on developing activists, advocates, and officials around the state, with a focus on county parties to help develop and spread the message of the Iowa Democratic Party.

“The first step is getting county party organizations prepared for the County Caucuses and planning meetings that will take place from February to April. County Chairs are asking for guidance, [the IDP] needs to give them strategies and tools to do the work on the local level.”

This strategy would increase connectivity among county party organizations and staff at the state level.

“I want to have monthly conference calls with county chairs. County Chairs need to be a point of contact and a local organizer [for the Democrats]. The state party needs to listen to them, not dictate. They’ll bring in new ideas and new plans. I want to apply a ‘best practice’ model so we all can improve our operations.

The new Chair needs to support County Chairs and local organizers by providing training for everyone that’s interested, such as how to write a campaign plan, the best way to do door-knocking, and how to start fundraising. These are all things that can only be done at the grassroots. [The new Chair] needs to know how to do these things and how to teach others, so they can teach others.

County Chairs don’t need to be an expert in every area. More importantly, they need to be able to delegate. If every community in the state had eight to ten people dedicated to [the Democratic] message, and willing to put in the work, we’d start to see change.

 [The Iowa Democratic Party] needs to be providing training on these subjects for candidates on at least the state level. I want to see training for local races as well. [County] Chairs know their communities. They know who has the passion, and who will put in the work. We need their knowledge to start building for the future, and I want the party actively involved in recruiting our next leaders.

It all works together. This cycle many young candidates felt abandoned. The party need to provide guidance and assistance to our candidates around the state. We need to focus on more than just targeted races and find a path to victory. It’s easier to get excited when you have a local candidate, especially in rural areas. One of the best ways to help the county organizations is to make sure there is a Democrat running for every office.

The county parties, the identity caucuses, that’s where the work is being done to build the party. I want to make the next year about getting people more involved. We lose sight of the successes campaigns have in bringing out new people because we don’t work to keep them involved,after the campaign. It’s our duty to keep them involved. The best way to do that is to make people feel welcomed and valued. No one hates being listened to. I want to get out there and listen.”

Lawton emphasized that training wouldn’t only focus on electoral politics, but on learning to use the tools of party-building. He wants to see county organizers trained to use the VAN (Voter Access Network) and Vote Builder, as well as ways to effectively use Facebook and social media. Mr. Lawton recognized that “…though social media is useful in organizing it’s only a tool. For a lot of people, it’s not about the initial contact, it’s about following up.”

Fundraising would also have an organizer’s drive if Lawton is selected as the next Iowa Democratic Party Chair. “We need to be doing individual fundraising, not just working with big donors.  We can do a lot working on the grassroots level, bringing in $25 at a time.”

Blair Lawton’s background gives him the organizer mentality he sees as so important to the future of the Iowa Democratic Party. He worked as both a field organizer and a regional field director for Organizing for America. Lawton also worked as a statewide organizer for Progress Iowa and the state coordinator for Organizing for Action. Lawton was Iowa State Director for Run Warren Run before taking on the role of Iowa Political Director for Sen. Bernie Sander’s primary campaign. Most recently Lawton acted as Field Director for Iowa Congressional District 3, with a focus on assisting the Congressional campaign of Jim Mowrer. He was endorsed by Our Revolution earlier this month.

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