Cracking the rural code by finding a successful message is essential to Democrats’ future elections. It’s not only critical in Iowa, but in much of the so-called red flyover country of the heartland. Iowa Democrats understand that they can’t win majorities in the Iowa House and the Senate or statewide elections without finding a message that appeals to rural voters. They are making serious efforts at rural outreach and that begins with determining the needs of the voters in these areas.
Local Democrats will hold a Reaching Rural Voters Forum this Saturday, April 27, 9:00 am to 12:00 in Stuart, Iowa, a small town about an hour west of Des Moines. It will be held at the Saints Center, 320 N Fremont. It’s sponsored by the Iowa Democratic Party’s Third District. The Third District includes 16 counties from Des Moines to Council Bluffs.
Al Womble, the Third District Chair, organized the Reaching Rural Voters Forum in an effort to focus on listening to rural voters that have sometimes felt like they’ve been ignored by Democrats. Womble wants to find areas where urban and rural Democrats can work together.
He describes the forum as an opportunity for Third District Democrats to articulate the importance of rural outreach, issues that are unique to rural communities, and how the Democratic party is working to elect leaders who will put farmers and rural communities first.
The forum will feature a panel discussion with five rural leaders that unsuccessfully ran in five rural, Republican-leaning House districts in 2018. Their campaign experiences should provide unique perspectives on running rural campaigns. The panelists include Warren Varley, Denise O’Brien, Ryan Marquardt, James Uhlenkamp, and Chuck Larson.
Warren Varley of Stuart is a local family farmer and attorney. His father served the Stuart area in the legislature in the past. Varley ran in House District 20 which includes Stuart, Adair, Panora and Casey.
Denise O’Brien of Atlantic ran for the House in District 21 which runs southwest of I-80 and includes Adams, Union, and parts of Cass and Pottawattamie Counties. O”Brien was the Democrats’ nominee for state agriculture secretary in 2006. She helped found the Women, Food and Agriculture Network and served as president of the National Family Farm Coalition.
Ryan Marquardt of Van Meter is a farmer and life-long Iowan. He ran unsuccessfully in House District 25 which is located directly SW of the Des Moines Metro and includes Winterset.
James Uhlenkamp of Mount Ayr is a former high school teacher and served on the local school board. He ran for the House in District 24 in 2018. District 24 includes part of Shenandoah, Clarinda and Mt Ayr.
Chuck Larson of Sidney is a member of the IBEW union and retired after 44 years with MidAmerican Energy. He ran for the District 23 House seat in far Southwest Iowa which includes Fremont, Mills and part of Montgomery Counties. The recent Missouri flooding has devastated part of this district.
Womble said the forum will strive to articulate the importance of rural outreach, discuss issues that are unique to rural communities and answer questions put to the panel by the audience.
The forum will feature visits from Presidential candidates Andrew Yang, U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and a surrogate on behalf of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.
by Rick Smith