Mauren: Iowa Democrats face rough waters


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Columnist Jacob Mauren explains the precarious position Iowa Democrats are in.

Jacob Mauren

It is no secret that Iowa is becoming an increasingly conservative state.

Obama swept the state in 2008 and 2012 before Trump returned the favor in 2016 and 2020. Republicans also used 2020 to flip their 1-3 House of Representatives deficit on its head. The state is increasingly unfriendly to Democratic candidates, and the party isn’t doing itself any favors heading into the 2022 election season.

The most brutal news for Iowa Democrats has to be the most recent.

Late Sunday night, an Iowa court found that the campaign of Abby Finkenauer, the frontrunner to challenge incumbent Republican Charles Grassley, failed to secure the proper signatures needed to appear on the ballot.

While Finkenauer gathered the required overall number of signatures, her campaign was found to not have collected 100 signatures in 19 counties. It came down to just three signatures that had issues with the written date.

While Finkenauer’s campaign has appealed the decision and has secured a hearing in front of the Iowa Supreme Court, it is frankly ridiculous that her campaign allowed itself to be put in such a vulnerable position.

There is no reason that any campaign should stop collecting signatures when they have only crossed the threshold by two or three people. It is widely known that each will be scrutinized, and it should be assumed that some will be thrown out. Leaving this entire operation in such a perilous spot is an example of a severe lack of attention to detail.

Also concerning is the campaign of Deidre DeJear. While she claims to have seen an increase in fundraising following the conclusion of Ras Smith’s campaign, her 2021 report sent alarms through the party.

Her campaign had only raised $250,000 and had less than $10,000 on hand.

This was dwarfed by the Kim Reynolds’ campaigns and would have been disappointing numbers for almost any state-wide candidate. DeJear also is working from far behind in name recognition but had a stronger than expected showing in recent polling.

Her run is far from over, but it will need an injection of cash if it is expected to put up a fight against Reynolds.

Lastly is news that is less connected to the 2022 cycle but relates to the state party in general.

Following the mess that was the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses, which is the fault of both the DNC and IDP, the national party felt it was time to truly reassess its caucus calendar. Rumors had been mulling for years as Iowa slowly leaned redder and people pointed out that the state’s demographics hardly represented either the party or country, but plans for change have finally been put into motion. 

Should the DNC switch up its calendar, it is very likely that Iowa would lose its first in the nation status. While the tangible effects will be limited, the cultural damage will be real. For better or for worse, Iowa has become a staple in the political world and gives an otherwise flyover state some time in the spotlight. It is something many take pride or enjoyment in, and it is something that will be sorely missed.

While the situation is dynamic and politics always finds new ways to surprise us, things are not particularly bright for Iowa Democrats at the moment. They face an increasingly hostile electorate but cannot seem to get out of their own way first. If things are to turn around soon, the party will need to get itself together and forge a complete and comprehensive path forward.