To win, you have to show
BY ART CULLEN
Democrats cannot win statewide races without at least making a showing in western Iowa. That means showing up.
We hear that Andy McGuire stopped through town for lunch with Diane Hamilton last week. McGuire is the former state party chair who formally announced her candidacy on Monday. She is the only candidate from Northwest Iowa (Spirit Lake), and her surgeon husband Dan hails from Holstein. Andy was reared in Waterloo but understands rural. She owns BV County farmland.
McGuire shows up.
That’s why we gave her a special early introductory-out in an editorial awhile back, urging her to get the engines running while the Republicans are conducting an Armageddon against working people in Des Moines right now. We had hoped that she might develop a more full-throated articulation of the populist screed as envisioned by Tom Harkin. She must be working up to that.
Enter a man who knows the screed well: John Norris, who was twice nominated by President Obama to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). He quit when he ran into loggerheads with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, the man who lost the Senate, and anyone who takes on Harry Reid is a good man. Anyone who was involved in Prairie Fire and the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition during the Farm Crisis is a good man. His dad was in the National Farmers Organization, in case you wondered about his rural progressive bona fides. Norris knows ag. And he knows energy.
He should announce his candidacy from Buffalo Ridge just west of Storm Lake, Iowa’s first commercial-scale wind complex.
Any number of Democrats are running: Todd Prichard of Charles City, whose uncles Jim and John were from Storm Lake; Jon Neiderbach of Des Moines; labor lawyer Nate Bolton of Des Moines; Rich Leopold, former director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in the Culver Administration; Mike Carberry of Iowa City and Mike Mattson of Davenport. I may have missed a half-dozen.
McGuire and Norris should suck up most of what little big money is available to a Democrat. The others will have to run like Dick Clark, outsiders without a penny. That has strong appeal in the Iowa Democratic Party traumatized by insider Hillary Clinton.
The others I don’t know but for Leopold, who stood in the wings waiting while Patty Judge ran IDNR Director Jeff Vonk out of Iowa. Vonk was the best thing ever to happen to our lake.
We have had the opportunity to get to know McGuire and Norris.
John and Jackie Norris helped Obama win the Iowa Caucuses. He worked for Tom Harkin and was chief of staff to Tom Vilsack. He knows every Democratic activist of a certain age and knows how to cultivate the ones who never heard of him. They were a legitimate Washington power couple by virtue of their political organizing abilities for the Obamas. He can point to loyal service to the two Iowa Democratic heroes: Harkin and Vilsack.
McGuire is the former running mate of Mike Blouin, who was defeated in a Democratic primary by Culver. Culver’s election gave rise to the resurrection of Terry Branstad as governor.
Democrats have been trying to figure out what went wrong over the past eight years.
They never showed up here.
They think we are part of a vast right-wing conspiracy northwest of the I-35/I-80 interchange, or at least part of South Dakota.
Steve King has had free run of the district because Democrats are afraid to really take him on. Nobody gives his opponents five minutes of their time or a dime.
When Sara Huddleston ran for legislature, none of these Democcrats lifted a finger to help her.
They have problems of their own.
As a result, no Democratic state senator lives west of I-35.
If John Norris or Andy McGuire shows up in Storm Lake, Carroll and Spencer early and often, they have a chance. If they ignore us like Jack Hatch did, like Bruce Braley did and like Hillary Clinton did, they can expect more of the same.
McGuire is playing it cautious. No fire-breathing from her.
Norris knows how to breathe it, but he is biding his time. He should know that time is wasting. Republicans are gaining energy and momentum while the Democrats quietly whisper among one another.
One of them needs to show up and speak rural. Real rural, such as: We want our schools, we need health insurance and we can’t get by shoveling manure for a living anymore. Pocahontas, Sac City and Ida Grove are wasting away. What will you do about it?
Until they show up and answer that question, in Pocahontas and Sac City and Ida Grove, they will keep on voting for Branstad, even if it’s Kim Reynolds. Norris should know: He managed John Kerry’s Iowa campaign. Were it not for western Iowa, Kerry wins Iowa by five points. He lost. He never showed up.