State Central Committee members heard from eight candidates looking to be the next Iowa Democrats chair at their meeting this Saturday. They also saw speeches from four people hoping to become a vice chair of the IDP.
Currently, the party elects a 1st, 2nd and 3rd Vice Chair to go along with their state leader. Their roles vary from year to year, usually depending on who was actually elected. Some help with fundraising, some help with messaging by doing media appearances. Others disappear from the role after getting elected and don’t accomplish anything.
Either the 1st or 2nd Vice Chair automatically becomes a member of the DNC (it goes to whoever is of the opposite gender of the chair – typically members elect a 1st Vice Chair of the different gender, but they aren’t technically required to), which gives that job extra meaning.
Mika Covington, Jordan Pope, Jack Schuler and Shelly Servadio (standing in that order in the photo) all spoke to the attendees, though more candidates may emerge before the January 21 meeting where the SCC will vote on everyone. Usually the vice chairs are nominated and speak at the actual election, but with the extra interest this year, several were given a chance to speak at the December SCC meeting. There may yet be many more candidates to jump in the race.
“I want to fight for the party that has fought for my rights, that fights for healthcare,” Mika Covington, who spoke first, told the crowd. “I want to help rebuild the party. My passion stems from the fact that I am transgender and I live with a very rare disorder that causes my organs to fail. Because of that I need to have health insurance and the Democrats have fought for that.”
Covington spent several years in Council Bluffs, where she served as the affirmative action chair in the county party. She grew up in small town Nebraska and moved to Iowa to work for President Obama’s campaign. She went to school at Iowa Western Community College and now attends the University of Iowa.
“[I want a] 99 County strategy that takes statewide elections out to the rural communities,” Covington added. “These communities are as vital as the cities … We need to have events outside of Des Moines. We need to make sure we have offices open in most every county. We can’t expect volunteers to show up to our offices if they have to drive hours.”
Jordan Pope addressed the crowd next. He’s originally from Albia, moved to Leon and became the youngest county chair in the state at age 18 in Decatur County.
“I think I’m a unique candidate because I’m young, I’m from rural Iowa and I’m a minority. I think that’s three key groups we need to attract,” Pope said. “I know especially in rural areas and to some young voters, they know the wrong thing about what Democrats stand for. They think Democrats stand for wanting to take away your farms, take away your guns, and that we’re unaffordable. That’s not the truth. In fact, when you have a Democrat in office you’re more likely to have money in your pocket.”
Pope says he wants to help with fundraising and is willing to help out with donor calls, but also thinks the party needs to increase their direct mail solicitation, social media and email fundraising. He was asked by one SCC member about identifying as progressive.
“I wouldn’t avoid that label,” he replied. “I would say that we’re all progressives, we’re all Democrats. We believe that when Democrats are elected we’re going to have a better economy, we’re going to have more rights for workers. And I think that as a party, especially after a very divisive primary, it’s more important that we work on unity … I think that we’re all Democrats, we’re all here to better the party, our mission is to get Democrats elected.”
Jack Schuler addressed the crowd as well, relating his background of serving in Marine Corps, going to college at Briar Cliff University and teaching English at Lincoln High School in Des Moines.
“That day after the election I was in shock as everyone else. I was in despair. I was afraid,” he said. “And I wasn’t quite sure what to do. But then the students in Des Moines Public Schools staged a walkout at East and Roosevelt, and my own students at Lincoln staged a rally in the commons.”
Schuler told questioners that he backed the many ideas to increase the party’s small donor pool. He hoped he could help better reach out and listen to the voters who abandoned the Democratic Party this year, as well as better incorporate the party’s constituency caucuses in the party to unify the IDP.
“As a transgender male … I have a lot to lose these next few years and so do other people,” Schuler said. “As I was thinking what is my life going to be like from now to 2018 and 2020, I realized I couldn’t wait to sit around and wait to see what happens.”
Another veteran, Shelly Servadio, followed Schuler. She’s the vice chair of the party’s Veterans Caucus and the co-founder and director of the Iowa Hemp Association, where she’s been working with legislators on potential bills for this session.
“I am an activist, I am progressive, I am diligent, I am truthful and honest, and I will work hard,” Servadio said. “As Democrats, we are the party of inclusion. We must not turn and look the other way in the face of bigotry and racism … We must not allow disenfranchisement in our state.”
Just like many of the candidates for chair, Servadio was concerned about the buy-in costs for the VAN (the party’s voter database) and hoped to find ways to make it more affordable. She also hoped that the SCC’s work on policy issues could get better incorporated to what happens at the Statehouse.
“The party platform is ideas and guidelines that should be a basis for legislation. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it should be what guides legislation,” she explained. “I wrote the platform for medicinal cannabis and it is now the most progressive party platform in the United States of America on medicinal cannabis.”
The 49 voting members of the SCC will meet on January 21 to hold the vote for chair and vice chair candidates.
by Pat Rynard