Iowa Democrats take a victory lap

But do nonpartisan school elections predict more wins?

Troy Price, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party
Troy Price, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party

Another round of election results came in, and once more Iowa Democrats proclaimed a foreshadowing victory.

Local school board elections were held across the state Tuesday, and the next day the Iowa Democratic Party celebrated victories by Democratic and progressive candidates.

Party officials also said those victories suggest voter backlash against the Republican-led Legislature’s action earlier this year to strip most benefits for which public employees may collectively bargain.

The victories portend more Democratic success, they reasoned.

“Across the state, we saw Iowans stand up for public education,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said in a news release. “This is only the beginning. Democrats are ready to win at the municipal level this November, then take back seats from the statehouse to the courthouse in 2018.”

The victory proclamation is not unlike what Democrats offered after an August special election for a southeastern Iowa seat in the state House. Even though the seat had been held by a Democrat for years, Democrats celebrated the victory because President Donald Trump carried the district in 2016.

A political scientist I interviewed for this column said it is perilous to use a legislative election to predict future results, especially at the presidential level.

It similarly seems unlikely this week’s school board elections mean anything beyond who will serve on school boards — especially since school board campaigns are non-partisan.


But Democrats are reeling after disastrous 2014 and 2016 election cycles, and they feel some grass roots momentum in the wake of the 2016 elections and the actions taken by the GOP-led White House and Congress, and in Iowa the GOP-led governor’s mansion and Iowa Legislature.

So when Democrats celebrate school board elections, it may be more about keeping their voters excited. It’s probably not yet safe to predict Democratic waves in 2018 and 2020 based on a some local elections.

Ag secretaries in Iowa

Tom Vilsack, the Democratic former Iowa governor and U.S. agriculture secretary, will return to Iowa next month to participate in a panel discussion with the five most recent U.S. ag secretaries. The event is part of the World Food Prize’s Hunger Summit in Des Moines.

Vilsack will be joined by fellow former ag secretaries Dan Glickman, Ann Veneman, Mike Johanns and Ed Schafer. The discussion will take place at 9:15 a.m. Oct. 16 at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott and will focus on food insecurity.

“It is not often that you have so much experience in leading American agriculture in one place and at one time,” Vilsack said in a news release.

Those who wish to attend may register for the free event at

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is



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