Bernie Sanders is back on the airwaves in Iowa. This time it’s for Pete D’Alessandro, a top adviser for Sanders’ Iowa Caucus operation in 2016. D’Alessandro is running in a competitive three-way Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District nomination to face Republican David Young in the Des Moines-based swing district.
Sanders narrates D’Alessandro’s first TV ad and appears in it at the end, promoting D’Alessandro’s support of equal pay laws, paid family leave and a Medicare for all system.
“Pete helped lead my campaign here in Iowa. Now, we need him in Congress to stop Donald Trump,” Sanders says. “So, please, vote for Pete D’Alessandro.”
It’s another serious investment from Sanders in his former campaign adviser’s campaign. The Vermont senator endorsed D’Alessandro back in January, held a Des Moines rally for him in February and has used his massive email list to help fundraise. D’Alessandro’s donations jumped significantly afterwards – he raised $149,108 in 2018’s 1st quarter, more than doubling what he’d brought in during the previous two.
D’Alessandro, a longtime political operative who’s worked in the Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver administrations, is just one of five congressional candidates that Sanders has endorsed this cycle. There’s a lot of progressives, including many first-time candidates, running on the party’s left this year for major offices, but Sanders’ operation has been selective in who they’ve gone all-in for. Several other national progressive organizations, like National Nurses United, Justice Democrats and Our Revolution have also backed D’Alessandro.
It’s been difficult at times for progressive candidates to compete with better-funded contenders, but Sanders’ help has kept D’Alessandro close in the money race. That should get him on TV for the final weeks of the primary, crucial in a race where none of the three Democrats were very well-known before this year.
Sanders’ face reappearing on Iowa TV stations could have a fascinating impact on turnout for the race. It’s one thing to get endorsed by Sanders, but it’s been a tricky task to motivate the former Sanders coalition of voters to turn out to the polls. After the 2016 Iowa Caucus saw a turnout of about 170,000, the Democratic primary for Iowa’s U.S. Senate race several months later only reached 100,000. Turnout among young people, who came out in large numbers for Sanders in the caucus, was down significantly in that primary.
Sanders personally appearing and asking for people to vote could bring a lot of his former voters out (which could also impact the gubernatorial primary). Most of the lingering division from the 2016 primary has died down in Iowa, but it’s likely some Democrats who weren’t big fans of Sanders won’t be swayed by the ad. However, that’s where D’Alessandro’s work with popular Iowa Democratic figures like Vilsack has helped him bridge that old divide in the party (he often notes he has the backing of his counterpart from Hillary Clinton’s caucus campaign).
Another member of Congress, Tim Ryan of Ohio, stumped for D’Alessandro in Des Moines yesterday after endorsing him earlier this week. Ryan made a pitch to progressive activists that Congress needs more left-leaning members like D’Alessandro to move the party forward and reconnect with voters.
D’Alessandro faces Cindy Axne, a small businesswoman who worked for the Department of Natural Resources, and Eddie Mauro, a small businessman and former coach and teacher, in the June 5 Democratic primary.
by Pat Rynard