Starting Line is taking one last look at the most competitive Democratic primary in the state: the 3rd District race for Congress. Here’s a small bit on each of the three candidates of campaign accomplishments and stories you might not yet have heard about them.
Cindy Axne Closes Primary With 100th House Party
A recurring criticism of past Democratic congressional candidates in Iowa that have lost in recent years is that they simply did not travel their district enough. This is especially problematic in the 3rd District where incumbent Republican David Young visits all 16 of his counties every single month. Of course, there’s always the difficult balancing act of doing enough call time to raise money and actually spending enough hours traveling, but Cindy Axne was determined to not fall into the trap of getting stuck in a Des Moines campaign office too much.
To that end, she hosted her 100th house party in West Des Moines this past week, finishing out her district-wide goal to meet as many people in these small settings as possible. About 30 people packed into a living room, the kitchen and a hallway at this particular house party. A few attendees were ones that Axne had met several times on the campaign trail, but many were just seeing her for the first time, one week out from the election.
She ran through her biography, talked about her time in the Vilsack and Culver administrations, explained her effort to secure all-day kindergarten in West Des Moines and her ideas for Congress like paid family leave laws.
“I want to make sure we help our public schools grow and stay strong,” Axne told the crowd. “Secretary DeVos is trying to create a voucher program when our public schools need the help.”
When she opened it up to questions, she was asked about the SNAP program and what committees she’d like to serve on (she answers Energy and Commerce, Agriculture and one that focuses on government oversight). Another attendee gave her advice for the upcoming debate. And another questioned whether she’d live in D.C. if she gets elected.
“Well, if my 16-year-old has his way, I’ll be in D.C.,” she joked, adding that she’d probably get an apartment there to stay in for part of the time.
Axne later told Starting Line that these events often give her a chance to better understand individual people and communities’ struggles.
“People in Mt. Ayr told me they had to pool their money together to buy new street lamps for their town square because they don’t have the tax base in the community to support that,” she said.
She added that her last fundraising report shows the success of her outreach efforts. They had over 2,500 individual donors, many from all over the district, including plenty of small donors.
“All that grassroots momentum comes from having these meet-and-greets. We’ve had them in every county, multiple in most counties,” Axne said. “In a race when we were all starting as relatively unknown, it’s really helped us get our name out there. It helps people know I’m working incredibly hard, and if we want someone who will work hard out in Congress, that’s the woman to do it.”
Pete D’Alessandro Finds A Surprise In His Donation Lists
Thanks in part to some national help from Bernie Sanders, Pete D’Alessandro’s campaign has raised a significant amount of their funds from small dollar donations in Iowa and across the country. Many of those are from the progressive community, responding to D’Alessandro’s left-of-center policy ideas on things like the minimum wage and Medicare-for-all. But as the candidate was scrolling through some of those contributions, an odd thing caught his eye.
“There was a point where we were getting really interesting donations,” he told Starting Line. “An $8.24 donation. An $11.10 donation. Or a $12.30. Who donates that kind of money?”
After a certain point on the campaign, there were too many donations to send thank you’s to each one. But D’Alessandro picked out a couple of those with odd amounts, tracked down their phone number and gave them a call. It turned out the donation amount represented the hourly wage those donors made.
“What we realized was happening, which was really humbling, was because we were clearly saying $15/hour minimum wage, we were getting donations from Iowa and around the country of people who were giving me one hour of their work,” D’Alessandro said.
It appeared to be an organic movement. The campaign wasn’t sending out solicitations asking for people’s minimum wage or anything like that. Many progressives enjoy giving $27 to candidates in honor of Sanders’ oft-repeated line about that being the average donation he got on his presidential campaign. But these new types of contributions for D’Alessandro jumped after Sanders began sending out emails for his former campaign aide.
“I told that to Bernie Sanders when he was here and he was stopped in his tracks,” D’Alessandro remembered. “You could see he was really touched by it also. We were connecting with people and that’s what we’re trying to do … It brings you back to why you’re doing it. It reinforces you that you’re right for fighting for it. But it’s one of those cool stories where it’s a positive thing of what our politics should be.”
D’Alessandro found one donor from Alabama that gave around $3 or $4. It turned out that was the minimum wage for tipped workers in the state. All of it simply reaffirmed to D’Alessandro the importance of the cause.
“It’s heartfelt, it tells us our politics connects every now and then when we do it right,” he said.
How Eddie Mauro’s Work In Tanzania Shapes His Foreign Policy View
Win or lose on Tuesday, Eddie Mauro will be back in Tanzania in about a month’s time to continue his work on water purification projects. He already spent a month earlier in the campaign in Africa with the Purify Project, an effort undertaken by Christ the King Parish, which builds water systems that service tens of thousands of students at their schools.
Mauro had first made the trip a couple years ago, has been there six times now and helped by bringing some of his business knowledge to the cause. Where local contractors were once installing about four systems per quarter, Mauro helped increase the effort to about 40 at a time.
“We don’t know what real poverty is in America,” Mauro explained to Starting Line. “It taught me there are good people everywhere. There is no such thing as a ‘shit-hole’ country. It taught me that forward-thinking diplomacy is the path to bringing peace in this world, not bullying like our current president. He may get a result, but it’s only temporary because it comes with resentment.”
It also gave him a better view on a proactive foreign policy and the importance of foreign aid. While Republicans often enjoy attacking the foreign aid part of the federal budget, Mauro pointed out that it’s both a very small slice of the pie and ends up being extremely cost-effective for America and a moral force for good around the world.
“Do you want to spend some money up front on places like Afghanistan … or do we want to decide we don’t want to work in the world?” Mauro questioned. “If we want to be a superpower, that comes with responsibilities.”
He noted that America has been on the forefront of a lot of good in the world, from reducing extreme poverty conditions to better educating women to greatly reducing malaria deaths.
Mauro also added that he’s continued to raise funds for charitable causes even while on the campaign trail.
“For the grief I got for the amount of money I put into this campaign, a lot of people don’t know that I’ve raised over a quarter million dollars for other projects this past year,” Mauro said. “Raised money for this project in Africa, for Creative Visions, for the YMCA.”
Mauro’s next trip to Tanzania will be in late July.
by Pat Rynard