What’s Next: Iowa County Democratic Elected Officials Association

By Pat Rynard

November 16, 2016

Guest Post from John Murphy, Dubuque County Recorder

Given the elections results, Democrats across Iowa are asking “what’s next.” I want to provide my take as a county elected official who believes that a little structure and support of county office holders can help identify strong candidates moving forward. I have a long term approach to a problem that has hindered our party for years.

As a county candidate in 2014, I realized pretty quickly that you are on your own when running for office.  There is essentially no structure to help “build the bench” from a county perspective.  For legislative races, the House/Senate leadership (in addition to IDP) will work with you to build a better campaign and help you get educated on the issues (at a minimum). If you are a targeted race there will also be financial resources. I had a candidate for supervisor ask me to help build a list for him because “the IDP staff would not share any of their lists.” That is why I am in the initial process of creating a County Democratic Elected Officials group. We need unity as a party with the same goals from the Courthouse to the White House.

Let’s do something Measurable!

A former boss of mine once said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t prove it was successful.” There are 877 county elected officials in Iowa. Not including the elections results: 555 are Republican. 284 are Democrat. 38 are registered as No Party. It is probably safe to assume that Democrats lost more county offices last week; I won’t have that data until the early part of 2017.  If we can assist these elected officials retain their seats by being better campaigners and recruiters of other county candidates, we will have more Democratic county elected officials and stronger legislative, federal and statewide candidates in the future.

The initial impact would be to increase the number of Democrats elected in county government which will hopefully impact the way county government works in Iowa. Having county boards that are progressive enough to make social/economic change would be fantastic. The goal is to create comradery amongst county Democratic elected officials, better campaign mechanisms, better recruitment for local candidates and a pool of accomplished public servants that are better prepared to serve at a higher level of elected office in the future.

Every Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) meeting will provide an avenue for this group to have face-to-face communication.  The newly formed group will create a new way to allow statewide candidates more access to local officials and help statewide office seekers build coalitions across the state, let alone working on progressive policies that can move our counties and our state ahead (while this would be an essential component of the group, this article is focusing solely on the electoral aspects).

Let’s remember that our “bench” as we currently define it, can and has been wiped out in a single election cycle. We need to expand the bench to our county elected officials.  Hopefully, we will be able to cultivate relationships so that our democratic elected leaders at the top of the ticket will help build our bench in a way that hasn’t happened before. I want to turn this into an entity that can help identify, cultivate and elect Democrats at the local level because they will be our candidates for higher office in the future.

Where Did The Republican Bench Come From?

I have watched Republican county elected officials become the face of the Republican Party in Iowa: U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, State Auditor Mary Mosiman and their State Chair Jeff Kaufmann, who currently serves on the Cedar County Board of Supervisors. Not to mention the numerous state legislators who used to serve at the county level. Who would have guessed that a Clarke County Treasurer would serve as a future Lt. Governor? Who would have guessed that the Montgomery County Auditor would become a U.S. Senator and be on a short list to be nominee as Vice President of the United States?  Who is next… let’s make sure it is one from our side of the aisle.

Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party!

If you are considering a run for IDP Chair… I am looking for a leader to help us prepare for 2018 and beyond.  As Chair of the IDP, you are typically only remembered for electoral success during your tenure. The Iowa County Democratic Elected Officials Association can make your mark for decades to come. I would like to discuss how we move forward with this tangible initiative with any candidate for IDP Chair.

You can contact me at [email protected]


by John Murphy, Dubuque County Recorder
Posted 11/16/16

  • Pat Rynard

    Pat Rynard founded Iowa Starting Line in 2015. He is now Courier Newsroom's National Political Editor, where he oversees political reporters across the country. He still keeps a close eye on Iowa politics, his dog's name is Frank, and football season is his favorite time of year.

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