In what could easily become the most interesting 2018 campaign to watch, Pete D’Alessandro filed papers today to form an exploratory committee for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. D’Alessandro is a longtime Iowa political operative, with a resume that includes prominent campaign positions for Tom Vilsack, Chet Culver and Leonard Boswell. His most notable recent role was Bernie Sanders’ state coordinator for the Iowa Caucus.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face two-term Republican David Young in a swing district that covers Des Moines and Southwest Iowa.
D’Alessandro remains well-connected with the national Sanders and Our Revolution operations, and has been encouraged by Iowa progressive activists to seek the seat.
“For the past several months, progressives throughout Iowa’s Third Congressional District have contacted me and have asked me to consider running for The U.S. House of Representatives,” D’Alessandro said in a statement. “The many offers of support have been humbling. It is clear that a great many people believe it is not possible to change the clutter in Washington D.C. if we choose our candidates from the same failed pool that we have in the recent past.”
Mike Sherzan’s departure from Democrats’ 3rd District race two weeks ago left the field wide open, with only Anna Ryon, an attorney for the Office of Consumer Advocate, as the other person publicly discussing a run. D’Alessandro’s background and connections place him in the driver’s seat for now.
D’Alessandro will start with easily the largest volunteer base of any candidate (probably larger than the gubernatorial hopefuls’ initial recruits) and a decent-sized small donor network. If he can tap into Our Revolution’s national network and receive significant funding from there, he’ll have the funds needed to put together a real operation early on.
“Over the course of the next few months, I will be traveling to all 16 counties in our district listening to everyday people, talking with activists, and engaging with community leaders to gather their views on the condition and the direction of the district and our country,” D’Alessandro said. “Iowa’s strength has always been found in the values of its people. I look forward to the discussions ahead and hearing ideas of how we can begin the process of once again bringing those values to our government.”
The biggest problem D’Alessandro will run into, of course, is whether a biography comprised mostly of campaign and government work will resonate with voters. But his candidacy is certain to be nontraditional and creative anyway, and will likely be the least-predictable in terms of success, or at least moreso than your usual DCCC-run campaign.
Many Republicans (and some Democrats, for that matter) may see D’Alessandro’s Sanders connection and dismiss him as a far-left ideologue that couldn’t win a general election. That would be unwise. D’Alessandro was in part responsible for turning Sanders’ underdog run in the Iowa Caucus into a real movement, and knows how to turn unconventional campaigns into legitimate efforts better than most in Iowa. He’s also rather personable, and should do well while meeting voters face-to-face in the district.
But D’Alessandro may have more company in a 3rd District race by this summer. Starting Line hears that Theresa Greenfield, president of the major real estate company Colby Interests, is seriously considering a run, and will decide in a few months. Greenfield, who lives in Windsor Heights, has been making low-key appearances at Democratic gatherings in the Des Moines metro for over a month now. While she’s not well-known yet in activist circles, her standing in the business community would give her district-wide credibility and an important fundraising network to start off with.
The 3rd District will almost certainly be a top target for national Democrats looking to retake the U.S. House.
by Pat Rynard