Democrats’ 3rd District Field Developing For 2018

By Pat Rynard

February 28, 2017

Despite his comfortable victory in 2016, Democrats are eager to take another shot at Republican Congressman David Young. The Des Moines, Council Bluffs and Southwest Iowa-based district was won by Donald Trump 48.5% to 45%, but the recent Iowa Poll showed Trump’s approval in the Des Moines area at a miserable 31%. Young faced a rowdy town hall meeting last week where attendees were rather unhappy with many of the second-term Congressman’s answers, even on some where he gave off a more moderate reply.

Starting Line hears that retired businessman Mike Sherzan has been planning another run for the Democratic nomination for a few months now, and is expected to officially announce as early as this week. Sherzan ran briefly in 2014 and came up short against Jim Mowrer in the 2016 primary. But Sherzan was always seen as a strong potential general election candidate thanks to his business background and ability to self-finance a good portion of his campaign. Sherzan contributed about $700,000 of his own money to his primary race last year.

Sherzan ran several TV ads last year that highlighted how his business ensured equal pay for its female employees (read our profile of Sherzan from 2016).

But he may not be alone in the Democratic primary for long. Some recent rumors point to longtime Iowa political consultant Pete D’Alessandro strongly considering a bid as well. D’Alessandro served most recently as Bernie Sanders’ campaign coordinator for Iowa in the caucus. He’s been involved in nearly every major Iowa Democratic race in one way or the other for the past two decades, serving in key roles on Tom Vilsack, Chet Culver and Leonard Boswell’s campaigns, as well as Bill Bradley’s Iowa Caucus operation in 2000.

“I, like many people around the country who Bernie Sanders inspired, am trying to figure out what is the best way to move a progressive agenda forward,” D’Alessandro told Starting Line. “There are many ways to do that, and running for office is certainly one that is worth considering.”

A run by D’Alessandro would set up a fascinating primary and potential general election. Despite his long history with top Democratic campaigns, D’Alessandro maintains a very authentic outsider persona. He has a large and loyal following from his time on the Sanders campaign, and would likely bring a tough-talking, working-class message focus to a run for the 3rd District.

And a third potential candidate, Anna Ryon, an attorney for the Office of Consumer Advocate, is also thinking about throwing her hat into the ring. She was born in Creston, went to Drake Law School and has a strong background in fighting for consumer safety and justice. Ryon has already launched a website that describes her biography and a few reasons that motivates her to seek elected office.

How Democrats take back the 3rd District is an open question, and what activists and donors see as the best path could boost one of the candidates more than the others. Some believe that the party’s chances are best in the 3rd District because the Des Moines suburbs are trending against Republicans, and with no Hillary Clinton on the ballot this year, they’re poised to turn blue (or at least a much lighter shade of red).

A Sherzan candidacy might be best positioned to take advantage of that, with his business background more relatable to independents and moderate Republicans living in Johnston and Waukee. On the other hand, that’s also a demographic that the mild-mannered Young appeals to as well.

If Democrats see their solution for victory lying with winning back blue collar voters on the south and east side of Des Moines, the west end of Council Bluffs, and the smaller rural towns in Southwest Iowa, then a D’Alessandro persona may be better suited.

Or, of course, any of the three candidates could – and will – try to appeal to all those voting blocs. But a field of these Democrats will set up a very interesting contest for Central and Southwest Iowa Democrats. And if Democrats want to actually take back the U.S. House in 2018 – a real possibility considering the number of Republican-held seats won by Hillary Clinton – flipping a seat or two here in Iowa will play a central role in that effort.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 2/28/17

  • 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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