The Iowa Democratic Party has a new first vice chair: June Owens.
Owens was elected on Saturday after Andrea Phillips, who had held the first vice chair role for several years, stepped down to run for the Iowa House in Ankeny.
She’s the first African American woman to serve in the position.
“What I’d like to continue to see us do is continuing to reach out to all sorts of constituency groups, whether that’s African Americans, whether it’s LGBTQ. I have that experience with reaching out and registering voters,” Owens said. “We need to continue to do that work.”
Owens served as the second vice chair for the party before today, and has been involved in Iowa Democratic politics for years. In 2017, she was elected the third vice chair for the Iowa Democratic Party and in 2016, she was elected to be the Affirmative Action Chair for the Polk County Democratic Party.
She said she wanted to keep the party focused on voter registration, education and outreach, and she wants to offer mentorship opportunities for people who want to get involved in the party.
Owens also said the party should focus on diversifying the donor base to increase the number of resources available to the party.
She also said she would be an advocate for the Iowa Caucus at the national level (Owens will now be a voting member to the DNC).
“You know, the Iowa caucuses, we get a bum rap and we need someone who’s going to go to the DNC and advocate for why Iowa should keep its first in the nation status,” Owens said. “And having had the trained experience of going and unfortunately not being able to vote, I could tell you, I have a working knowledge of some of the things that they do at the DNC and no one will fight harder for you, looking at things through a lens of equity and inclusion, to advocate for this great state that I’m proud to call my home.”
The other nominees for the vice chair position were Prakash Kopparapu, the co-chair of the Asian-Latino Coalition and director of the Indo-American Association of Iowa, and Kelli Harrison, a political coordinator of the United Auto Workers for Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas.
The votes went to a second round of balloting because no candidate got a majority of the vote, with Kopparapu being eliminated after the first ballot.
Because Owens was elected, a following election for the second vice chair position took place.
After two rounds of balloting, Tanner Halleran, the youngest Democratic county chair in the state, of Keokuk County, was elected to the position.
Halleran said one thing he wants to focus on is outreach to young voters and strategies to recruit them.
“Every election, we ask young people to volunteer, to knock doors, and all these things, but we don’t do a good job of retaining them in the party,” he said. “Going forward, we need to do a better job of doing that. I think I can help implement that change.”
Halleran also said more should be done to support the Democratic party on the county level.
“Oftentimes, it seems like there’s a disconnect of sorts. Part of that would be to unify county parties so they’re working together in collaboration as well as providing resources,” he said. “By being able to share these resources across party lines, going forward, would be beneficial.”
by Nikoel Hytrek