A group of ten African American leaders and elected officials are endorsing Sen. Elizabeth Warren for the Iowa Caucus, adding to her coalition-building efforts in the lead-off state.
North Liberty City Councilmember Raquishia Harrington and Ankeny School Boardmember Deshara Bohanna both signed on for Warren’s campaign.
“Elizabeth Warren is a progressive who leaves no issue undiscussed,” Harrington said. “I’m supporting her because her energy is electrifying, and because it’s time for a president who will stand up and fight for the change we need until we get it.”
The Warren campaign has made outreach to important Democratic constituency groups a main focus of their organizing efforts in Iowa. Early on, their Iowa campaign built out a large political outreach team, bringing on Iowa for Warren African American Outreach Coordinator Jon Jarmon in March.
Jarmon has held small roundtable discussions and one-on-one meetings with black community members throughout the year. While candidate visits to the state obviously get the biggest amount of press attention, it’s all the little meetings with five to a dozen people and a campaign staffer between those media moments that slowly build up a candidate’s support across every precinct in the state.
Thanks to everyone who came through to our Helping Minority Entrepreneurs Thrive roundtable in Cedar Rapids! It was great to talk to you all about @ewarren’s plans for our communities! pic.twitter.com/CUUrMe58TV
— Jonathan (@jonathanjarmon) July 24, 2019
As with every Warren staffer on the ground in Iowa, they’re able to come to meetings armed with policy plans that could fill a large briefing book. Warren has rolled out countless policy proposals, including many specifically aimed at African Americans. Among them have been a lengthy overall plan for black America, ensuring equal pay for women of color, a climate plan that links to racial justice, anti-gun violence proposals, and a way to end mass incarceration, among others.
“Educating folks about Elizabeth’s plans to address the challenges we face was the first step, and I was confident that once people heard what she wanted to do for the African American community, they would feel the same way that I do about her,” Jarmon wrote in a Medium post about his work recently.
“I started with a series of discussions about the racial wealth gap,” he noted. “Statistics on this topic are staggering. Between 1983 and 2013, the wealth of the median Black and Latino households declined 75 percent, from $6,800 to $1,700.”
Warren herself took part of an October trip to Iowa to court the black community in Waterloo, visiting several black-owned small businesses on a tour with Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart. She has a specific policy outline on how to help small business owners of color access more capital to help new startups.
The Senator is now at Brothaz Barber shop, down the street. She’s asking the owner why he opened this location. pic.twitter.com/VI02nTuFZe
— Isabella Murray (@ibellamurray) October 22, 2019
Although Iowa’s relative lack of racial diversity has come under closer scrutiny lately, there are still sizable contingents of African American voters in key counties around the state. And especially with the way a set number of delegates are apportioned in the Iowa Caucus, support from black communities is crucial to being viable in many precincts in Waterloo, Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.
Some of that support may be up for grabs now after Sen. Kamala Harris’ departure from the race, though Joe Biden has held his own with black leaders’ support in Iowa, much as he has elsewhere in the country.
Part of those battles will be won in the streets between competing field operations. Warren’s East Waterloo field organizer is Brian Gregory, a 24-year-old originally from Jacksonville, Arkansas. He’s written about growing up in a black family in the South.
“Iowa is a revival for the politically hopeless and the politically radical,” Gregory wrote. “The gospel it preaches: Talk to Iowans. You will feel their dreams, their pain, their struggles, and their fights, and come to think of them as your own.”
After meeting regularly with local black leaders like Terrance Hollingsworth, Gregory was well-versed on some of the unique housing and small business challenges that Waterloo faces.
“The discussion often turned to the issues we see affecting African-American communities across the country, including here in Waterloo,” Gregory said. “Candidates and campaigns must engage in work that provides equal access to all people, but especially to African-Americans, who have been left behind by Washington for far too long.”
The full list of Warren’s new African American endorsers is:
Deshara Bohanna, school board member, Ankeny
Raquishia Harrington, city councilor, North Liberty
Kevin Sanders, community leader, Iowa City
Vera Kelly, community activist, Davenport
Kenneth Cameron, mental health therapist, Altoona
Brandon Jackson, community activist, Cedar Rapids
Helen Redding, business owner, Waterloo
Lloyd Smith, community activist, Cedar Rapids
Vickie Smith, community activist, Cedar Rapids
LaSheila Yates, community activist, Marion
Warren made a quick trip out to Iowa at the beginning of December and will be back again for a three-day trip at the end of this week. She’ll be mostly in Southeast Iowa on this upcoming trip, visiting Clinton, Washington, Ottumwa, Keokuk, Fort Madison and Burlington.
by Pat Rynard