As Iowa Democrats strategize on ways to rebuild the state party, they can begin by focusing on strengthening their county party foundation. The Democratic county parties – especially in rural areas – are the building blocks that the state party is built upon. It’s the county parties that recruit the local volunteers, fundraise, execute “Get Out the Vote” and win local elections.
Democrats recognize that their rural county efforts suffered huge setbacks in the 2016 election, and they need help in rebuilding. Democrats only won six urban counties out of the 99 county total.
Woodbury County Democrats stand out as they successfully helped elect/re-elect two State Representatives in 2016, Tim Kacena and Chris Hall. That election success provides a unique victory in Western Iowa. The Fourth District of northwest Iowa, Steve King country, stands out as the greatest challenge for Democrats.
Representatives Hall and Kacena were only two of four Democrats elected west of Des Moines. The only other Democrats elected in western Iowa were Rep. Charlie McConkey in Pottawattamie County and Rep. Helen Miller in Webster County.
The Woodbury County Democrats’ strong model of success indicate they may be on to something. That’s not meant to give all the success to the Democrats’ county organization; they were able field two exceptional candidates. However, Woodbury County leadership played a significant role.
Former Woodbury County Chair Penny Rosfjord – who had served since 2013 – didn’t run for reelection. Jeremy Dumkrieger was elected as the new chair this spring. Penny talked about her tenure as the county chair.
“My biggest accomplishment is bringing the party through the caucus to the general and keeping our party intact,” Rosfjord said. “Secondly, that we kept our State House seats. Our candidates worked extremely hard, but we also supported their efforts by making sure our volunteers knew our State House candidates and made sure to speak about Representatives Chris Hall and Tim Kacena on the phones and at the doors. Of course the regret is that we didn’t get more Democrats elected. In the end I felt we did pretty well considering the wave that came through. I will always work for and with the Democratic Party and candidates, because that is where my heart is, these are the issues I care about. I’m not going anywhere, just changing positions. I feel to be a good leader, you need to be a good team member and right now I am enjoying being part of this team!”
Jeremy Dumkrieger, the new Woodbury County Chair, is already proving his skills in continuing Rosfjord’s success. Dumkrieger has an important connection to the rapidly growing Siouxland Indivisible group. He co-founded the group but resigned following his election as Woodbury County Chair. His connection to Indivisibles will be extremely important going forward.
“I was just elected county chair – and in the month since – we have raised thousands of dollars with a mock graduation ceremony where we mocked Mark Chelgren,” Dumkrieger said.
Iowa Republican State Senator Chelgren was in the news in March after it was revealed he had misrepresented his business degree. Chelgren claimed to have a business degree from Forbco Management School. Forbco is the management company for the Sizzler Steak House.
Dumkrieger organized a Democratic fundraiser based on the Chelgren fiasco. Dumkrieger promoted the event as a way to “beef” up their degrees.
Woodbury Democrats’ fundraiser description:
“For a low fee (donation), you can get a “trumped” up Associates, Bachelors, Masters, or PhD degree. Chelgren had “Sizzler U” degree and now you can have a STEAKHOUSE UNIVERSITY degree.”
$10 for a 2 yr. Associates
$20 for a Bachelors of Arts
$40 for a Masters of Arts
$50 for a PhD
They held their fundraiser at the local restaurant and raised several thousand dollars. It was creative, fun and provided an event to poke fun at Senator Chelgren. They held a mock graduation ceremony for their donors at the end of the night.
Dumkrieger is reaching out to a variety of diverse groups in the Sioux City area. They participated in the Siouxland Earth Day “Progressive Festival” called Rise, Renew, and Rebuild. In addition, they held a “Know Your Rights” training with their local ACLU. This event was co-sponsored by the Woodbury County Democrats, the Siouxland Progressive Women, Siouxland Pride Alliance, and Sioux City Area – NOW (National Organization for Women)
Woodbury County’s successes shows that building the local county party is essential to electing more Democrats.
by Rick Smith