Staff Columnist

Bernie Sanders' bad night in Iowa

Tuesday was the democratic socialist movement's first test in Iowa since the 2016 caucuses.

Former presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a Repeal the TrumpTax Rally at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. Sanders was in Iowa as part of the 100-day, nationwide Repeal the Trump Tax Tour of the country to rally against the GOP's corporate and high-end tax cuts. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Former presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a Repeal the TrumpTax Rally at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. Sanders was in Iowa as part of the 100-day, nationwide Repeal the Trump Tax Tour of the country to rally against the GOP's corporate and high-end tax cuts. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Bernie Sanders had a rough night in Eastern Iowa this week.

The independent U.S. senator was not here, but several candidates with ties to his “democratic socialist” movement posted underwhelming primary results in the same territory where voters helped launch Sanders’ presidential campaign into relevance during the 2016 Iowa caucuses.

Sanders and the network of activists he built during the last presidential election have remained active over the past two years, including making endorsements through the spinoff organization Our Revolution. Tuesday’s primaries were the first real electoral test for the Sanders coalition in Iowa since the politician’s close second-place finish here in February 2016.

With a couple notable exceptions, the results were bleak.

Gubernatorial candidate Cathy Glasson was one of four Iowa candidates statewide endorsed by the national Our Revolution organization. Glasson finished a distant second in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, even falling 15 percentage points short of nominee Fred Hubbell in Johnson County, her home and the state’s prime hot spot for leftist politics.

Here in Johnson County, incumbent Supervisor Mike Carberry’s was endorsed by the local Our Revolution Johnson County chapter and circulated photos of himself and Sanders on campaign materials. He was soundly defeated in a race for two nominations against one challenger and one fellow incumbent.

In Eastern Iowa’s federal races, former Sanders delegate Courtney Rowe finished with just 8 percent of Democrats’ votes in the 1st Congressional District. U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, Iowa’s most prominent supporter of Sanders’ rival Hillary Clinton, ran unopposed for renomination and captured a higher percentage of the vote than the two incumbent Republican congressmen who ran unopposed in other districts, according to preliminary results.

The rest of the state offered mixed results. Deidre DeJear and J.D. Scholten, Our Revolution endorsees running for secretary of state and the 4th Congressional District nomination, won their primaries. Pete D’Alessandro, a former Sanders campaign leader, placed a distant third in his 3rd Congressional District race.

All in all, it was a disappointing performance for the political coalition which captured nearly 50 percent of Iowa Democratic caucusgoers’ support two years ago. Still, they vowed this week they’re not going away.

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“We can honestly say, we’ve built a bold progressive movement that is a force to be reckoned with. … Our movement isn’t going anywhere. I’m not going anywhere. There’s too much to be done,” Glasson said in a statement this week.

Ever since the Sanders-Clinton nominating contests of 2016, political insiders and commentators have pondered whether the moderate and far-left factions of the Democratic Party will unite again.

To the extent they have, it’s because the party was and is predominantly composed of Clinton-style Democrats. Maybe the one night half of them were Sanders-style Democrats was only a moment, and not a movement.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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