The Iowa Caucus isn’t just about the presidential candidates. Every cycle a multitude of issue-based organizations pop up in Iowa to advocate for their priority. Some are just here for the caucus, while others use the excitement around the presidential race to build long-term movements in the state. Their tactics vary, but most all aim to meet with the candidates to discuss their issue while building grassroots organizations for the caucus. They use that ground operation to demonstrate to the White House hopefuls just how many Iowans will be turning out to the caucus who care about their particular issue.
Starting Line reached out to issue groups we see most out at various Iowa Caucus events to give them a chance to tell our readers a little more about their organization. And, most importantly, which color shirts they show up to events in.
(Also, I’m sure I forgot a few. If you aren’t on here and want to be, just shoot me an email at IowaStartingLine@gmail.com and I’ll add you in.)
NextGen Climate Action
Shirt Color: Orange
NextGen Climate Iowa is calling on the presidential candidates to be bold leaders and lay out plans to achieve a more than 50 percent clean energy economy by 2030, putting us on the path to a 100 percent clean energy economy by 2050.
NextGen Climate Iowa is building a broad coalition of elected officials, political leaders, business leaders, faith leaders, agricultural and environmental experts, community members, educators and youth voices to call on the candidates to build off of Iowa’s thriving clean energy economy.
Iowa is a clean energy success story with the wind industry alone providing over 6,000 jobs and over 25 percent of the state’s electrical needs—which is projected to increase to 40 percent in the next five years. Investing in clean energy benefits the environment and the economy and has bipartisan support.
Iowa Republicans—including Sen. Grassley and Gov. Branstad—and Democrats have embraced Iowa’s leadership on wind energy. Now it’s time for the presidential candidates to demonstrate real leadership and lay out plans to achieve #50by30.
NextGen Climate Iowa has 10 offices across the state with organizers talking to everyone about the urgent need to transition to a clean energy economy. There have been over 20,000 new Climate Action Voters in 2015 committed to calling on the candidates to achieve 50 percent clean energy by 2030.
We are also organizing on about 20 college campuses across the state. Young people are driven by the issues this caucus season and want to hear the candidates’ plans for a clean energy economy. For instance, Central College in Pella, Iowa, a college not typically involved in the political process, is the most organized it has ever been with over 30 percent of the campus signed on to the #50by30 initiative so far.
NextGen Climate Iowa wants to make climate change and clean energy a part of the Iowa Caucus narrative. We’re doing this by organizing across the state, signing up Climate Action Voters and building volunteer teams.
We’re also using local and national media to tell the story of those teams and the great work happening on the ground, as well as showcase our candidate engagement/influence on the candidates’ discussion on climate change.
All three Democratic presidential candidates have addressed climate change in debate/speeches and have all released clean energy plans. This is because the environment has become a top issue during the Iowa Caucus season, driving candidates to debate the issue and challenge each other to present even better and more specific plans than already released.
The signature orange shirts are visible at the majority of candidate events and around communities across Iowa. Community members, candidates and press are noticing the large coalition of Iowans passionate about taking action on climate change and building a clean energy economy.
Iowa Pays The Price
Shirt color: Green
Iowa Pays the Price is aimed at educating caucus goers, Presidential candidates, and the media about the urgent need for campaign finance reform before the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.
We hope that, through our educational outreach, caucus goers will be able to determine their vote in February with this issue at the forefront of their minds.
Our organization is comprised of 5 volunteer co-chairs, 10 steering committee members, 1 Director, and one full-time intern, all based in Iowa.
Our group finds supporters and volunteers by asking individuals to sign our petition to increase accountability in our campaign finance system.
We use the volunteer capacity that we have to ask candidates questions at Town Hall meetings and write letters to the editor on our issue, and to sign-up additional supporters.
Our message is spread mostly through our social media accounts where we report updates on the candidates’ policy positions, current news pieces on the issue, and photos of supporters as they join our coalition.
Our biggest success to date is that, with the help of our grassroots, bi-partisan volunteer network, we’ve been able to have success getting every major candidate from both parties on-record discussing campaign finance reform.
We also got Faith & Freedom Coalition and Progress Iowa to cosign a statement of support together.
Shirt Color: none, but have their Latinos Like To Caucus stickers
The goal of Latino Vote Iowa is to educate the Latino population about the Iowa Caucuses and to energize them to participate. We want our people to know how important it is they be involved in the political process and help select candidates who address their issues and concerns. We want to encourage between 10,000 and 20,000 of our people to participate in the caucuses.
Our grassroots campaign includes four field staff and a communications director. National LULAC Vice President Joe Enriquez Henry, who has successfully mobilized several grassroots campaigns, oversees the campaign’s work, which is supported by dozens of volunteers from across the state.
Latino Vote Iowa’s outreach will draw from a pool of about 50,000 registered Latino voters statewide. The campaign will focus on the 14 Iowa counties that have the highest percentage of Latino voters, which represents about 29,500 registered Latinos. The campaign includes paid phone calling, mailings and door-to-door canvassing, where volunteers and field staff will talk to Latinos about the caucuses and issues that are important to them in the presidential race. We’ve also held several caucus training events throughout the state at public venues and universities, and will continue to host those, along with house parties in the months leading up to the caucuses. We have a strong media outreach program with great success in publicizing our work with local, state and national media.
All of our caucus training programs have been widely attended, but our biggest event was our caucus kick-off campaign event on Oct. 31 in Des Moines, which drew more than 300 Latinos from across the state to attend and support our efforts. Our biggest success will be on caucus day when our people stand up for their rights and voice their choice for president.
America’s Renewable Future
Shirt Color: none, but have their logo stickers
To educate Iowa caucus-goers and presidential candidates on the benefits of the Renewable Fuel Standard and turn out voters to caucus for a pro-RFS candidate.
25 staff members, 17 of those being field staffers spread across 7 organizing regions covering Iowa’s 99 counties. Our campaign is more extensive than most of the presidential campaigns.
Extensive grassroots field organizing combined with earned and paid media tactics including significant radio, digital, and direct mail efforts.
15 of the 16 presidential candidates or their campaigns have toured a biofuel plant or met with ARF leadership on the issue. Our organization has also surpassed 50,000 pledged caucus-goers who have committed to caucusing for a pro-RFS candidate.
Make It Work
Shirt Color: White and light blue
Make It Work Iowa is a grassroots campaign uniting people who believe that hardworking Americans shouldn’t have to choose between being there for family and earning a living. Our door-to-door canvasses in Iowa enable us to talk to voters, collect pledge signatures and enlist volunteers to engage as Make It Work ambassadors. Ambassadors work to engage members of their communities and ask the presidential candidates what they plan to do about the issues that impact them most every day, like affordable childcare, equal pay for equal work, paid family leave and earned sick days. Make It Work Ambassadors are educating voters, holding candidates accountable and leading the public narrative about what really matters to women and working families.
Make It Work’s state director is Iowa Representative Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque, and we have a number of field staff and organizers on the ground, reaching out to Iowans every day to empower them to tell their personal stories. We are also working closely with Progress Iowa and Bluprint Strategies as part of our Iowa team.
One of our best successes with Make It Work in Iowa has been our organizing work, bringing new people into the Iowa caucus process for the first time. Many of our volunteers have spoken directly with Presidential candidates, and our efforts to raise our issues to candidates during the Iowa State Fair earned us a rose from the Des Moines Register. In addition, we organized a campaign to win the Des Moines Register’s issue “mockus” where equal pay won as a write-in issue as the most important issue for the caucus!
Shirt Color: Red
Every Child Matters
Shirt Color: None, but blue and red stickers
Every Child Matters in Iowa, is working to make investments in children, youth, and families a national political priority. As a non-profit, non-partisan organization, we believe that helping children survive and thrive so that they have the opportunity to grow up to be contributing citizens must be a top priority.
Iowans care about kids: 77% of Iowa voters believe the future president should address the health, education, and well-being of children. Our goal is to educate candidates, the media, and the public on issues affecting children so they are prepared to caucus for kids on February 1 and vote for kids in November 2016. We urge candidates to support, and the public to demand, greater investments in programs that address the needs of America’s children and families.
Our staff is comprised of Iowans. Two full-time staff include Kelli Soyer, State Director, and Jill Applegate, Organizer and one part-time staff member Stephan Blobaum. The work is guided by an advisory committee, made up various child- and family-centered organizations.
Candidate Engagement: Every Child Matters has been working to meet with the Presidential Candidates, from both sides of the aisle, in one-on-one settings while traveling the state. Meetings are opportunities to allow child advocates to meet with the candidates to have candid conversations about the future of our kids. To date, meetings have occurred with Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley.
Birddogging: Every Child Matters is working to let our presidential candidates know that Iowans care about kids. ECM staff and volunteers are attending candidate events and asking questions about making investments in kids and working families, including affordable child care, prioritizing early education, offering paid family leave, reducing childhood poverty, and closing the class-based opportunity gap so that every child can succeed. Candidate responses to our questions are available on our Caucus for Kids website, and further information on candidate statements on these issues can be found on our Digital Dialogue.
House parties: Every Child Matters, in partnership with MomsRising, released the house party program to encourage voters to have community conversations about issues impacting children, mothers, and families. Our goal is to engage parents, grandparents, child advocates, social service agencies, elected officials, and the general public to discuss ideas of how to stand up for our kids and working families. Want to host or attend a house party? Let us know!
Advocacy training: ECM staff are available to provide training on ways Iowa voters can get involved in the electoral process and be an advocate for kids and working families.
In partnership with the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement, Every Child Matters and several co-sponsors sponsored Harvard sociologist and author Dr. Robert Putnam to Iowa in July 2015. In his most recent book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, Putnam discusses why fewer Americans today have the opportunity for upward mobility.
The American Dream: get a good education, work hard, buy a house, and achieve prosperity and success – all possible in a nation of opportunity, constrained only by ability and effort. Yet, the growing class-based Opportunity Gap that curtails life chances for kids from less-than-wealthy families threatens the possibility of achieving this dream for many of our nation’s children. Putnam described the social collapse of working class families, the economic insecurity of poor families, the parenting-savvy “arms race” that less educated parents and kids are losing, and the frayed social safety net in working class neighborhoods.
Dr. Putnam drew a crowd of nearly 600 to his presentation at Drake University and urged audience members and presidential candidates alike to make our kids the priority during the 2016 election. Every Child Matters has been sharing the message of the opportunity gap as we engage with candidates to learn their plan to ensure that every child has the same opportunity to achieve the American Dream.
Save The Children Action Network
Shirt Color: Red
Established in 2014 to expand Save the Children’s capacity to transform young lives, Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that holds elected leaders accountable for investments in children from birth to age five. By focusing on key legislative policies and recruiting and engaging a state wide advocacy network of supporters, activists, and leaders, SCAN is the voice for kids, raising the visibility of early childhood education and maternal and newborn child survival as top priorities across the nation.
SCAN’s Iowa office is staffed by our Iowa Manager of Mobilization, E.J. Wallace, and our Canvassing Manager, Ashley Ferguson.
To raise the profile of critical kids’ issues, SCAN launched the High 5 for Kids campaign in Iowa and other key early presidential states. High 5 for Kids is a comprehensive, paid media and door-to-door voter education and engagement campaign in Iowa, which has included television, print and digital ads as well as a paid canvass operation and volunteer training program in five counties – Polk, Linn, Dallas, Story, and Woodbury counties. We know Americans support investing in kids – and so do elected leaders from both sides of the aisle. We plan to build on this significant support. We’re excited to work with Iowans who share our commitment to making kids our top priority in the 2016 election.
Save the Children Action Network is also investing in a comprehensive local electoral, legislative, and advocacy presence in Iowa that will carry on well past the 2016 presidential race, especially working to expand resources for Iowa’s high-quality early childhood education programs.
Our goal during the caucuses is to engage supporters and advocates around Iowa to make early childhood education one of the top priorities during the Iowa caucuses. SCAN is doing this by identifying supporters in communities around the state at local events and through our canvassing program, training them to bird dog candidates with our red foam hands, and turn out supporters to both Republican and Democratic caucuses to caucus for a candidate that they feel best supports investments in early education. In Iowa, our voices matter. Add your name to our pledge along with over 1,000 Iowan’s who have pledged to caucus for early childhood on February 1.
Let’s not forget about Palmer! Palmer is our High 5 for Kids Mascot. A big red hand, Palmer has traveled throughout Iowa to elevate the importance of investing in and voting for kids. If you see Palmer, or one of our volunteers with one of our foam hands, stop by and give a High 5 for Kids!
Since launching our canvass program, we have knocked on more than 7,500 doors across Iowa to engage voters on the importance of the next president prioritizing investments in high-quality early childhood education, and signing Iowans up to caucus on the issue. As of this month, we have identified over 1,000 supporters who have pledged to be a High 5 for Kids caucus-goer. Sign our pledge, and caucus to give a High 5 for kids!
We are also so proud of our great volunteers, who continue to press candidates on how they plan to invest in kids. To date, SCAN volunteers have attended dozens of small and large candidate event, submitted letters to the editor and op-eds, and have appeared on TV ads and interviews. Sign up today to be a volunteer, and help us grow our movement to help ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed.
Rural Power – Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives
Shirt Color: Green
The Rural Power program educates presidential candidates about Iowa’s rural electric cooperatives and the role they play in communities across the state, on behalf of co-op member consumers – customers who are served by and own their local, not-for-profit electric utility. It also engages candidates on their plan to ensure safe, affordable, and reliable power, delivered in an environmentally responsible manner.
The Rural Power program is driven by Youth Tour students from co-ops across the state and local cooperative staff on behalf of their member-consumers, with support from the statewide organization. Many of them proactively seek out candidate events in their community in order to engage candidates on their energy plan.
Rural Power has attended more than a hundred campaign events in Iowa. Some co-ops have even opened their doors for candidates to hold events. Ahead of the caucuses, Rural Power will communicate each candidates’ energy plan to the 650,000 member-consumers in the state.
Rural Power has interacted with every candidate who has held events in Iowa. Chris Christie recently spoke to Rural Power advocates at the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives annual meeting and many others have developed a relationship with Rural Power advocates on the campaign trail.
Governing Under the Influence (GUI) – American Friends Service Committee
Shirt Color: none, but they have green banners
The American Friends Service Committee’s Governing Under the Influence (GUI) project has a mission leading up to the 2016 presidential elections of shining a spotlight and changing the narrative on the excessive political influence of powerful corporations. AFSC is a Quaker non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to peace and social justice. Since October 2014, GUI has influenced the national conversation by training citizen volunteers in Iowa and New Hampshire to ask challenging questions of all presidential candidates about #whoprofits from corporations driving war and incarceration policies. Our questions include Pentagon contractors and the military-industrial complex, the $1 trillion nuclear weapons plan, private prisons, immigrant detention and the daily 34,000 immigrant detention quota, and the militarization of police. We educate the candidates, the media, and the audience by asking questions to all the candidates and posting video responses of our interactions on our website gui.afsc.org for more people to see.
AFSC has two full-time staff in Iowa located in Des Moines. Kevin Rutledge is the Grassroots Education Coordinator and a 2012 graduate from Iowa State University in Sociology and Criminal Justice. Kevin had previous internships with UFCW, Public Citizen, and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. Hector Salamanca is the Grassroots Engagement Coordinator and a 2015 graduate from Drake University in Law, Politics, and Society. Hector interned with Organizing for America and AFSC’s Immigrant Voice Program.
Aside from staff and volunteers bird-dogging all the presidential candidates at events across the state, visibility is also a major aspect of our GUI campaign. Holding our seven-foot-tall green banners outside of presidential events and talking with attendees about our issues has attracted significant media attention. We host bird-dog trainings to learn how to ask good questions of candidates and caucus trainings to learn the caucus process and how to introduce our two new GUI caucus resolutions; one calls to end the daily 34,000 immigrant detention quota, the other for transparency and disclosure from corporate lobbying and campaign contributions. We have hosted presentations, workshops, as well as speaking tours across Iowa. These tours included Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking about “Are Pentagon Contractors Driving Foreign Policy?” and the AFSC Arizona Program Director Caroline Isaacs’ tour, entitled “Who Profits from Immigrant Detention and Mass Incarceration?”
We have asked nearly every presidential candidate about the immigrant detention quota and nobody knew about it. From continuously asking questions and educating the candidates, we helped bring this issue to light at the national level. Between Iowa and New Hampshire, GUI staff and volunteers have asked over 300 questions to presidential candidates and played a significant role in 21 major media stories, including coverage in news outlets like The Washington Post, Bloomburg, The Boston Globe, The Des Moines Register, Iowa Public Radio, The Huffington Post, and FOX News. For a full list of media appearances, visit our newsroom.
End ALZ (Alzheimer’s Association)
Shirt Color: Purple
Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America, costing $226 billion in 2015 alone; and it is the only disease amongst the top ten killers without a treatment or a cure. Given the trajectory of this disease, the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission with our Iowa Caucus Project has been to educate Iowans and presidential candidates on the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia by sharing our stories on the campaign trail and then asking each candidate what he/she will do to make Alzheimer’s priority.
I am the staff person coordinating and executing this project (Emily Holley, caucus project director), but our successes would not be possible without our advocates across the state. We have over 100 volunteers who have actively circulated our petition, staffed our booth at the Iowa State Fair, and have been birddogging candidates on the campaign trail.
Our main tactic has been attending small presidential candidate events throughout the state and asking each candidate to make Alzheimer’s a priority within their health care plans, how will they support research, and what their administrations would to do to support family caregivers. We have spoken with each candidate multiple times, which adds up to over 70 conversations since March. We have also circulated a statewide petition asking each candidate to prioritize Alzheimer’s and have collected over 12,000 Iowan’s signatures. Lastly, the Alzheimer’s Association conducted national survey that oversampled in Iowa. The results show that 50% of Iowa voters have had a close friend or family member with Alzheimer’s disease; and 60% of Iowa voters would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who has pledged to support a major national research effort to fight Alzheimer’s.
Our biggest success with this project has been our dialogue with presidential candidates. We have been sharing stories on the campaign trail for the past ten months; and in doing so have shown candidates that Iowans believe Alzheimer’s to be a public health crisis our next President must address. As a result, candidates have released plans to prioritize Alzheimer’s research, support family caregivers; and several now talk about Alzheimer’s in their stump speeches.
Shirt Color: Dark and light blue
Mission: Global Zero’s current work in Iowa is meant to fill the gap in the American understanding on nuclear weapons in a way that will shape the message, policy and politics around eliminating nuclear weapons. By engaging presidential candidates Global Zero hopes to make the threat of nuclear weapons more visible to the public and promote policies that will support the next POTUS in creating a plan to pursue the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
Iowa Operation: This work is being spearheaded by Iowa Field Fellow Brittany Kimzey and student volunteers. On November 8th the Global Zero team launched their “2016 Race to Zero” campaign in Des Moines with signatory Ward Wilson who authored “5 Myths About Nuclear Weapons”. The purpose of the campaign is to educate the public, teach volunteers to intercept candidates, and raise the profile of the Global Zero movement.
Caucus Tactics: We have been successful in all of our goals by organizing volunteers to attend candidate events and speak with candidates about their stance on eliminating nuclear weapons and the $1 trillion budget to rebuild the nuclear triad.
Biggest Success: Our most notable success occurred the week of December 13th when both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders agreed to support negotiations between the U.S. and Russian to cut both nuclear arsenals down to 1,000 weapons a piece.
by Pat Rynard