Rita Hart Elected As New Chair Of Iowa Democratic Party

The Iowa Democratic Party has a new chair: Rita Hart, a former state senator and farmer who was the party’s lieutenant governor candidate in 2018 and a congressional candidate in 2020. The party’s state central committee elected Hart in a three-way contest this morning.

“My focus is squarely on helping our party win elections again,” said Hart in her speech, citing her past wins in a state senate district twice that Donald Trump carried.

Hart, as she acknowledged herself, has a tall task ahead of her. Following the 2022 election, Iowa Democrats find themselves in their weakest position in decades. Republicans control all federal offices in the state, all but one of the statewide offices, and 98 of the Legislature’s 150 seats. National Democrats are also stripping Iowa of their first place status in the presidential nominating calendar.

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Further complicating Iowa Democrats’ efforts to rebuild is the national party’s recent abandonment of Iowa as a competitive state—very few campaigns last year saw serious financial investment from the usual national Democratic partners.

Helping Hart in her effort to turn the Democratic Party around in Iowa will be legislative leaders Rep. Jennifer Konfrst and Sen. Zach Wahls, and State Auditor Rob Sand, all of whom are contributing their time to assist in strengthening the state party. In years’ past, other top Democratic elected officials largely kept their focus to their own individual campaigns.

Hart will be Iowa Democrats’ tenth state party chair since 2010. The role has been particularly unstable for a wide variety of reasons, only some of them involving the party’s poor election results in most cycles during that time period.

But the constant changeover in state party chair has not helped Democrats as they struggle to adapt to Iowa voters’ hard shift to the right over the past decade. New leadership and staff have frequently cycled in and out of the party’s headquarters, each bringing with them new ideas and strategies to right the ship but rarely implementing them for more than one or two years.

Meanwhile, Jeff Kaufmann has been the Republican Party of Iowa chair since 2014.

There was a lengthy dispute early in the meeting over whether two proposed constituency caucuses created at the last state party convention should have been officially formed by this meeting and their members seated in order to vote. Outgoing Chair Ross Wilburn ruled, citing the opinion of the party’s attorney, that the way the new caucuses were written into the constitution about being elected in even-number years and that because they weren’t formed last year, they could not be elected this year.

About a third of the SCC members also attempted to delay or block a pending discussion about the creation of a new, smaller steering committee for the state party. It took the SCC over two hours to actually approve the agenda for today’s meeting and nearly an hour and a half to count the votes of 51 people in the chair’s race.

Brittany Ruland, a campaign staffer on recent state senate races, and Bob Krause, who has run the party’s Veterans Caucus, also ran for state party chair.

“With this new coalition, we will be able to wrestle our state from the hands of a reactionary Republican party,” Ruland said. “Their power really lies in division and Iowa Democrats will be the opposition to this. We will instead offer a message a hope, inclusion and solidarity.”

Krause cited his experience of serving on the SCC for many years and focused on Democrats’ rural outreach.

“If we don’t turn that around, we have no chance in getting margins in the urban and the suburban areas to carry us to victory,” he said.

Hart received 34 votes, Ruland 14 and Krause one.

As Hart takes over, the state party will also see another new group of staff come in, as most under Wilburn’s tenure already decided to depart.


by Pat Rynard

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2 Comments on "Rita Hart Elected As New Chair Of Iowa Democratic Party"

  • The Climate Change Caucus and Arab American Caucus were passed as Constitutional Amendments to the IDP Constitution at June 2022 State Convention by Unanimous Consent of the Convention Delegation and were affirmed by the body by a vote, as were all the new Constituency Caucuses, that directs us to organize. The Convention rules Supreme. The Rule the lawyer is interpreting, referring to elections in the first quarter of even numbered years was submitted at same convention. New rules for Conventions apply to the next Convention cycle, or else, every Constituency Caucus election at the June 2022 Convention, (not in the first quarter of 2022) could also be invalidated by applying a new rule backwards and superseding the authority of the vote of the body of the June Convention which ratified the formation and organization of these Caucuses.
    The SCC was not consulted about a lawyer and a parliamentary ruling after the Convention has been adjourned on a Constitutional Amendment already passed, cannot supersede or invalidate an entire Constitutional Convention delegation unanimously voted on creating of these two new Caucuses under our Constitution. What happened in this meeting was the IDP leadership refused to acknowledge and seat the duly elected leadership of the new Caucuses. The new Caucuses followed established rules for Constituencies Caucuses leadership of June 2022 Convention. Meetings were widely publicized and properly noticed and proctored by IDP rules committee members. Everyone had to attest to being a Registered Democrat. Sen. Rob. Hogg was duly elected to serve as the first Chair of the newly formed and organized Climate Caucus. It took nearly 4 years of efforts to achieve this point, and yet, Chair Wilburn would only refer to this Caucus as a group. We have a Charter and our IDP Platform covers Climate and Environmental Policy and Issues substantially. Our voters want these issues addressed. Our Children cannot wait. Our Disabled are most at risk in climate disasters. We are to give voice and empower the least among us and elect Representatives who will fight for us.
    Instead, we saw the Iowa Democratic Party deny voice to minority constituencies repeatedly while the SCC members tried to right the ship.
    What really happened was those who speak up for and fight for our minorities, did what they are supposed to do, while we sat in a heavily controlled and censored online meeting. Even Chat was disabled and censored. We couldn’t even speak to one another openly on a break.
    How was this democracy?

  • Wish Rita all the best as IDP chair as she has her work cut out for her. Iowa is getting deeper red as we have zero members of congress and taking back Terrace Hill seems like a longshot at best. Hope she does steer the party toward more focus on rural folks and economic challenges for the working class instead of pandering to the loons on the far left.

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