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Deidre DeJear, the sole Democrat running for governor, discusses how to win in Iowa City


Deidre DeJear speaking in Iowa City, March 12, 2022. — Chad Rhym/Little Village

Speaking to a roomful of Democrats at The James Theater in Iowa City on Saturday night, Deidre DeJear said she knows every election year people say, “this is the most important election of our lives.” But she said this year, it’s true.

“We’re in a position right now, where we have a governor who is not seeing Iowa for what it is right now,” DeJear said. “She’s not looking at all of the challenges that Iowans are facing and all of the concerns. In fact, she’s perpetuating that everything is OK. That everything is good enough. But we know in this room that we can do better.”

“And we know that, because we’ve been better.”

DeJear has been the only major Democratic candidate for governor, since Rep. Ras Smith ended his candidacy in January. On Tuesday, she became the only Democrat to file the paperwork to join the governor’s race at the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.

Four years ago, DeJear, who grew up in Mississippi and Oklahoma before moving to Iowa to attend Drake University, made history as the first Black candidate of a major party for a statewide office in Iowa, when she became the Democratic nominee for Secretary of State.

Last July, DeJear began traveling the state in what she called a “conversation tour,” as she considered whether to run for governor. The following month, she officially announced her run.

DeJear said the time she has spent traveling the state has been essential for understanding what problems need to be addressed. She said Iowans have told her about a lack of affordable health care, affordable housing and affordable childcare. She said she’s spoken to frustrated teachers at underfunded schools, who are considering leaving the state to take better paying and better supported jobs at schools in other states. All these problems reflect a lack of investment by the state, according to DeJear.

“Yet we’re sitting on a surplus of more than a billion dollars that the current administration is calling a ‘trust fund,’” DeJear said. “I’m of the mindset that you have to be a position of privilege to have a trust fund.”

“That’s a rainy-day fund, and its raining in Iowa.”

Deidre DeJear speaking with attendees of a meet-and-greet at The James Theater, March 12, 2022. — Chad Rhym/Little Village

Gov. Kim Reynolds painted a very different picture when she formally kicked off her campaign with a speech at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on March 9. According to Reynolds, while the rest of the country was engulfed by “chaos” and “madness,” Iowans were safe and prosperous.

“Over the last few years, when you turned on the television and you watched the nightly news you’d see one America where cities were defunding the police and crime was rampant, businesses were locked down and kids were out of the classroom,” the governor said. “You would see a nation in chaos.”

Reynolds said that because of her leadership and the work of the Republicans in the Iowa Legislature, “businesses were open, kids were in school, law enforcement proudly and effectively enforced the rule of law, neighbors were helping neighbors.”

The governor also denounced “cancel culture” and COVID-19 public health mandates. The biggest applause at the fairgrounds came when Reynolds boasted about banning transgender girls form playing girls’ sports in school: “We’re preserving girls’ sports for girls.”

On Saturday, DeJear talked about Reynolds’ strategy of pitting groups against each other, and explained that she believes all people affected by a problem must have a voice in creating a solution to the problem.

An Iowa Poll published by the Des Moines Register on March 5, found Reynolds leading DeJear 51-43. That eight percentage point difference was “surprising,” according to J. Ann Seltzer, whose firm Seltzer & Co. conducted the poll, because only 31 percent of respondents said they knew enough about DeJear to form an opinion about her.

The poll of 813 Iowans, 612 of whom described themselves as likely voters, took place from Feb. 28 to March 2, a period that was advantageous to Reynolds since she was receiving a lot of favorable press surrounding her televised response to President Biden’s State of the Union Address.

In the poll, Reynolds had an overwhelming lead over DeJear among men, 60-35. DeJear, however, had a 10 point lead among women, 52-42.

Both candidates have solid support in their own parties, and among self-identified Independents, Reynolds was eight percentage points ahead of DeJear, 49-41.

At The James on Saturday, DeJear said the key to closing that gap will be registering voters.

“That is the entrance into having conversations with voters. Reminding them that we want them to be a part of the process… Finding that common ground and inviting them to be part of the process with their voter registration,” she said. “Obviously, the Democratic Party is going to be invested in that. Our campaign is invested in that. And we’re meeting people where they are.”

“We’re doing it in communities of color, we’re doing it among students, we’ve got our constituency outreach groups that are actively engaged in trying to find opportunities for us to meet people where they are. But we can’t expect for them to come to us.”

For groups including 18-to-24-year-olds, who often don’t participate in elections, “we’ve got to go find them,” DeJear said. “If our Latino communities haven’t found us yet, we’ve got to go find them. If our African-American communities haven’t found us yet, we have to go find them.”

“We go and build the bridge, we go and meet them where they’re at. Because we’re the Democratic Party, and that’s what we do.”

Deidre DeJear at The James Theater, March 12, 2022. — Chad Rhym/Little Village

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