Can Progressives Turn Iowa Blue?

January 3, 2018
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By Michael Sainato

Largely inspired by Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential Campaign and his formidable showing in Iowa against Hillary Clinton, high profile progressive organizations are beginning to put resources and endorsements behind progressive candidates in Iowa in hopes that they can turn the state blue by offering voters an alternative to both establishment Democrats and Republicans.

Historically a swing state, Iowa has trended away from Democrats over the past decade, with Republicans holding the state’s governorship, majorities in the State House and Senate, both U.S. Senate seats, and three out of four of the state’s congressional seats. Trump won the state in the 2016 Presidential election with the help of a decrease in voter turnout after the state voted for Obama in 2012 and 2008.

The Democratic Party in Iowa, like across the country, is still reeling from the shock of Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. Progressives feel that the Democratic Party establishment has let them down repeatedly, and turned off voters from supporting candidates up and down the ballot.

Now progressive candidates are starting to receive substantial backing from national organizations for their political campaigns in Iowa. On December 8, 2017 National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in the United States, formally endorsed Cathy Glasson, a Democrat candidate for Iowa’s Governor race in 2018.

“It’s very clear that we need something dramatically different in politics here in Iowa,” said Glasson in an interview with the Real News Network. A nurse herself, Glasson is President of SEIU Local 199 who was inspired to run for office in part due to the anti-union efforts and minimum wage reductions Iowa Republicans have made while in power. She’s running on a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, and a moratorium on the growth of factory farms until Iowa’s waterways are cleaned up.

“Moving to the center is a losing strategy in 2018,” Glasson said. “We’re doing movement politics where we’re engaging Iowans that have lost faith in politics to get them reinvigorated, energized and willing to wait in line at the polls again.”

National Nurses United also endorsed Pete D’Alessandro’s campaign for congress in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District against Rep. David Young (R-IO). D’Alessandro was Bernie Sanders’ first campaign staffer in Iowa during Sanders’ 2016 Presidential bid. The district swung from supporting Obama in 2008 and 2012 to Trump in 2016.

In 2016, Tim Kacena, one of the first candidates to receive an endorsement from Bernie Sanders’ organization Our Revolution, won his election for State Representative in Iowa’s 14th Assembly District. Our Revolution recently endorsed former Bernie Sanders staffer Pete D’Alessandro for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, as the organization’s first 2018 congressional endorsed candidate.

On October 17, 2017 Justice Democrats, an organization founded by former Bernie Sanders staffers, formally endorsed their first Iowa candidate, Courtney Rowe, who is running for congress in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District.

“Iowans want a Representative they can contact and who will respond. Someone they feel is a real member of their community, who shows up and is accessible,” Rowe said in an interview with the Real News Network, arguing that rural areas are often ignored by politicians, especially the grassroots activists in these areas. “Sometimes we write off an area too early. Votes count the same wherever you get them within your district. The Democrat or progressive in a rural area, is just as important as one in the city.”