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Political Mercury

New state chair: Democrats on all-Iowa connection mission


New Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Derek Eadon, a veteran of the Obama campaigns with family ties to Tama, says an aggressive economic message will help his party win back rural reaches of the state. Eadon met with this newspaper for an hour-long interview about the future of his party in Iowa following a drubbing in the 2014 and 2016 elections.

New Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Derek Eadon, a veteran of the Obama campaigns with family ties to Tama, says an aggressive economic message will help his party win back rural reaches of the state. Eadon met with this newspaper for an hour-long interview about the future of his party in Iowa following a drubbing in the 2014 and 2016 elections.

Party can’t just bash Trump, Reynolds and expect to win, Derek Eadon says

The key to resurrecting the Democratic Party in Iowa in the wake of two devastating campaign cycles in which presumed favorites Bruce Braley and Hillary Clinton fell on the swords of their own poor messaging is greater connectivity with voters on the basics — the economy and historically popular programs ingrained into daily life, says new Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Derek Eadon.

“Our message has been: ‘Don’t vote for this Republican’ or ‘this Republican is bad,’ ” Eadon said.

That’s changing. And fast, he said.

Eadon, who caucused for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, said many of her closing advertisements focused on attacking Donald Trump, which proved politically fatal.

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Intensity on issues, not identity politics, is the way back for the party, he said.

“We didn’t talk about the economy,” Eadon said. “The candidates who saw traction, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, this cycle, were tapping into this populism, this economic frustration. People kind of felt the system was rigged against them in some way.”

Threats to Social Security and more school consolidation, forced by Republican policies, could emerge as major talking points for a re-energized Democratic Party in the Hawkeye State with the 2018 election already well underway, Eadon said.

In an hour-long interview with this newspaper, Eadon, 33, a West Des Moines political veteran with deep ties to the campaign machinery of former President Barack Obama, said mobilizing the liberal base is vital. Social media and more online engagement is central to reach party activists interested in issues, not high-dollar fundraisers, he said.

The immediate focus: the 2018 gubernatorial race in Iowa that will pit Republican Kim Reynolds against a Democrat yet to emerge.

“This is going to be a very state-based organization,” he said.

Holding Reynolds and state legislators accountable is a first order of business, Eadon said.

“What I think they are doing is destroying economic opportunity for this generation and potentially future generations,” Eadon said.

In addition to Statehouse races, county contests and even school board elections will help stock Democratic benches for future elections, Eadon said, adding that candidate recruitment and training at all levels will be part of the Democrats’ rebuilding.

Both Reynolds and GOP U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst rose through county government to statewide prominence.

“We seem to be a party that’s just invested in the election that’s just ahead of us,” Eadon said.

Resources and time need to be dedicated to building a sustainable party — in rural, urban and suburban Iowa, one that is developed with the funding and sweat equity of Iowans, not outside campaigns, he said.

“We’re very dependent on out-of-state campaigns, out-of-state organizations coming in and dumping in resources a few months before the election,” Eadon said. “We have to be more self-reliant moving forward as a party.”

Why did Trump achieve high margins in rural Iowa?

“It was a change election,” Eadon said. “I think there was an economic frustration.”

Eadon added, “People are mad.”

Eadon said he’s encountered a number of Iowans who voted for both Trump and Obama over the past decade.

“I’ve been going to the same labor halls across the state,” Eadon said. “I’ve been going to the same Maid Rites across the state for 10 years. I’ve also been going to the same African-American churches. I’ve been going to the same Latino gatherings. And they are all peeved at Democrats because we are not talking about the economy.”

Eadon said there isn’t a map for political success in Iowa without rural Iowa.

He understands that many rural Iowans have a cultural connection with Republicans that cuts deeper than the issues.

“I think Democrats kind of take an us-versus-them tone,” Eadon said.

That considered, Eadon said Iowa Democrats, for example, must accept members and candidates who are pro-life on abortion.

“We have to,” he said. “I think we’re a big-tent party.”

A Catholic himself, Eadon said the state party has to recognize that large Catholic communities in Iowa are opposed to abortion rights, but are with Democrats on a host of other issues.

Something big to watch in rural Iowa, Eadon said, is whether Republicans, including Trump, hold true to promises they’ve made about the Iowa-commodity-boosting Renewable Fuel Standard.

Trump’s cabinet appointments, with ties to oil-rich states, are not encouraging for the future of renewable energy, Eadon said.

“I think Iowans could take a hit in this situation,” Eadon said. “A lot of Republicans are taking Donald Trump at his word. We’ve seen what happens if you take Donald Trump at his word.”

Eadon added, “Farmers are going to keep a close eye.”

The Derek Eadon file

• Derek Eadon was elected chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party in January.

• Originally from Elmhurst, Illinois.

• University of Iowa alum.

• While a student at the University of Iowa, he started his career in politics as a driver for Democrat Art Small’s long-shot campaign against U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley.

• In 2006, he worked for the Iowa Democratic Party in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. He worked for President Barack Obama’s successful Iowa campaigns, including serving as Iowa general election director in 2012. He also served as state director for Organizing for America in Iowa and as the 2010 Iowa Democratic Party coordinated campaign director.

• He worked as an adviser on progressive initiatives related to climate change, clean energy, gun control, child poverty, early-childhood education, paid leave, pay equity, organized labor, campaign finance reform, fair courts, anti-fraud and anti-smoking.

• He lives with wife, Melissa, a Tama native, in West Des Moines with their children Aubrey and Maddox and their bulldog. ♦

burns doug 12-10-25Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.







  1. Susan Olesen says:

    This guy sounds like the real deal. Thanks for this fine column, Doug.

  2. C. Osborne says:

    This letter is in reference to the conflict between North High School and Valley High School and the fans wearing patriotic colors.

    I am writing to you today to encourage you not to be ashamed of our country. .

    I myself am a child of immigrants. My father and his family came to the United States of America

    after World War ii. They were forever grateful to the U.S.A. for allowing them into this wonderful,

    plentiful and peaceful country! And by the way, they had to be sponsored and show

    they would not be a burden on our country before they were allowed in. We should start these

    policies again so we can have only people who want to be here and are thankful and want to

    contribute positively continuing the American way of life.

    If someone is not happy living here in the U.S.A., they should leave.

    The safety, protection and the freedoms we have here should not be taken for granted or taken

    advantage of.

    Countries are not obliged to change because certain immigrant groups find our ways, symbols or

    motifs offensive. That is ridiculous! Could you even imagine any other country changing for incoming immigrants?

    It would never happen.

    We have no reason to be apologetic or ashamed of our nation.

    We are the United States of America, One Nation under God! Our Judaeo Christian foundation is

    our bedrock, it is our foundation. We have a history of welcoming foreigners to become

    Americans, to assimilate and contribute to our society.


    C. Osborne

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