A guest post from Andrew Turner, campaign manager for Rob Sand’s State Auditor race. Sand was the only Democrat to defeat a statewide Republican incumbent in Iowa this year.
November 6, 2018 will forever be a bittersweet night for many of us. There were great victories and great losses we will remember and learn from. I won’t, nor should any staffer, claim to have a secret formula on how to “Win as a Democrat in Iowa.” I’m simply going to tell you what I saw firsthand over 12 months of working with Rob Sand, and maybe that’ll answer the question of “How did Rob win statewide?”
Rob Sand as a person, candidate, and public servant can actually be broken down into three stories.
The first story has to do with fundraising. Rob is quite good at fundraising, as some of you may have noticed, but what struck me – more than his willingness to grind out call time for 6-hour car rides to and from Sioux City – was the way Rob valued every single contribution that came through the door.
Like the couple in Southern Iowa that made their first ever political donation to Rob for $10 that nearly caused him to cry, or the fact his high school best friend Andy (an auto-mechanic back in Winneshiek county) gave everything he could over 12 months, stepping up with a $50 here or a $50 there whenever we were short on a goal.
These were the people that fueled our campaign, and these were the people who kept Rob going.
Now, I would be misleading to imply we didn’t raise large contributions or that all our contributions came from Iowa. Sometimes due to the mistrust in elected officials, people see taking a large contribution as “shady” or as a “business transaction,” and as we’ve all seen, especially across the aisle, sometimes that is the case.
But not with Rob. I want to talk about a large contribution we received from the state of Maryland, $5,000 in fact, from a woman named Emily.
Rob met Emily while in college and, in typical Rob fashion, he saw her smoking outside their dorm building and wanted to talk to her about the potential health risks involved. Fast forward four years, the two became best friends and she to this day credits Rob for her being able to quit. Emily has been incredibly fortunate in her professional career and donated to Rob with what was in her means the second Rob announced without him asking.
Rob raised money, not because he was good at asking for it, but because he has been paying it forward his entire life.
Now, there has been a lot of hand-wringing about how Democrats can connect with people of faith. Republicans have, in many ways, successfully painted us as a secular party that opposes religious influence in the leadership of our country. But I think that Rob’s campaign demonstrated how the values of many religions can be effectively married with the values of the Democratic Party.
Rob is a very religious man, as Rob noted on the campaign trail all the time: “In the Sand household, we don’t say grace, we sing it.” Religion and his relationship with God is so important to Rob, it is what makes him a Democrat. Feeding the poor, treating your neighbor how you want to be treated, and welcoming in the refugee are the platform for the Democratic Party, yet we seem to concede faith in our arguments.
When the abortion ban was passed, with many Republicans citing their religious beliefs as reasons for voting for it, Rob began to make two things very clear on the campaign trail to voters:
1.) This is unconstitutional, they know it’s unconstitutional, and yet they’re willing to waste extreme amounts of your tax dollars to get an official ruling that it’s unconstitutional. Republican leadership is continuing to act fiscally irresponsible and we need to hold them accountable for that. A State Auditor should be very clear in letting taxpayers know this is a misuse of money.
2.) There are three verses in the bible that indicate life begins at breath, not conception. We as Democrats need to remind people that we have a religious argument too and we cannot let them take that away from us.
Religion may be important to you or it may not be, but the fact of the matter is it’s important to a lot of people and a lot of voters, and Rob made a point of reminding folks that faith does not belong to one party in this state.
The final thing I want people to know about this campaign and Rob is his work ethic. When we began our announcement tour last December, it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world for us to get press. Rob literally went to TV stations and newspaper offices, knocked on the door, and said, “Hi, I’m a candidate for statewide office, I just announced, would you please interview me?” And when you’re running for a race like State Auditor, if you want to be successful, that’s what you have to do.
We hit all 99 counties, stopped into nearly every local newspaper shop in the state, and if we didn’t get a good crowd at an event, then Rob would go around a restaurant shaking hands and make it an event.
In the final week of the campaign, it would have been easy for Rob to call it in and say he didn’t want to keep working anymore and say what’s done is done. Instead, Rob made the push to win over another county. Day and night, Rob began calling Independents and Republicans in Dallas County, then had a volunteer write hand-written letters to those folks asking for their support, which Rob and I personally delivered for the final four days of the campaign.
Rob was the only statewide or congressional challenger to win Dallas County. He won it by 425 votes.
Now, I’m not saying we have all the answers here, not by a long shot, but I hope Iowa Democrats will read these stories and think critically about how we can learn from this election to succeed in the future. Rome was not built in a day, this is going to be a process, but as someone who loves Iowa, I know we can and will unite this state once again.
by Andrew Turner