Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn will not be seeking a second term as head of the state party.
Wilburn announced that decision this morning during the party’s State Central Committee (SCC) meeting in Ankeny.
“As the leader of the party, I have worked to stem external threats, listened to those who have felt left behind, and managed expectations about what we could do with the resources at our disposal,” he said in a prepared statement.
“After much reflection, I’ve decided that I will not be seeking another term as Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. My work is not done yet, but it is time to pass the torch.”
The SCC will elect new officers at its Jan. 28 meeting.
Wilburn’s departure will mean that Iowa Democrats will be electing their tenth new state party chair since 2010.
Wilburn, also a state representative for an Ames-area district, made history by becoming the first Black man to lead either of Iowa’s major parties when he was elected chair in January 2021. He previously told Starting Line he wanted to take on the role of chair after the 2020 election.
“I never imagined serving as chair of a political party at the county or state level,” he said at the time. “But after the November election, I just thought if there’s anything I can do to help us start winning back some seats in the Legislature to try and get a Democrat elected governor, then I’m willing to do it.”
Iowa Democrats also took a beating in the 2022 general election. Cindy Axne’s defeat left Democrats without a single representative in Iowa’s federal delegation, and the party also lost all but one statewide race. On top of all that, earlier this month the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to strip Iowa of its long-held first-in-the-nation status for selecting presidential candidates.
In his statement, Wilburn addressed the party’s recent defeats while also sharing optimism about the party’s future in Iowa.
“While national pundits are quick to write Iowa off, I am so thankful for every candidate who put themselves out there, every volunteer who knocked doors and made phone calls, and for all the voters who believed in a better future for Iowa,” he said. “While we have a few encouraging bright spots—the losses still hurt. But I have hope and faith in the people of Iowa. I’m even more committed now to doing the necessary hard work fighting for the Iowa values we all share.”
Wilburn emphasized the decision to step away from chair does not mean that he is giving up on fighting for Iowans or for Democrats to regain footing here.
“No matter what, I will always put people before politics,” he said. “If we want to make Iowa a place where folks want to live, work and raise a family, we have a lot of work to do and I’m in this for the long haul.”
“It has been an honor of a lifetime to serve as the first African American Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. While I may be moving on from this position, I will continue to assist our party as much as I can and I hope to work alongside you in the future.”
Both Don Ruby and Ken Sagar also will not be seeking reelection to the IDP secretary and treasurer positions that they both have long held.
by Ty Rushing
Iowa Starting Line is part of an independent news network and focuses on how state and national decisions impact Iowans’ daily lives. We rely on your financial support to keep our stories free for all to read. You can contribute to us here. Also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.