116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
NORTHWOOD — They like Deidre DeJear, two women say at separate political events, held 120 miles apart on the same autumn afternoon in rural Iowa.
They think DeJear is a great candidate. They think she would make a great governor. They just wish more people could hear her speak.
Such has been one of the challenges faced by DeJear, the Democratic candidate in Iowa’s 2022 gubernatorial campaign, the first Black woman to earn a major party’s nomination for Iowa governor — and Iowa Democrats’ latest hope of earning back at least some share of the state lawmaking process that they have been completely shut out of for six years.
DeJear came into the campaign with some statewide recognition, having run — unsuccessfully — in 2018 for Iowa Secretary of State. But DeJear had nowhere near the name recognition of Republican incumbent Kim Reynolds, who has been governor since 2017 and before that was lieutenant governor for six years.
DeJear’s muted campaign fundraising has stunted her attempt to broaden her message to Iowans with television ads, leaving her to campaign in true grassroots style, making political visits to all corners and all counties in the state, often in front of small groups.
That’s why, on one August day, she made appearances in the communities of Northwood in Worth County, Boone in Boone County and Harlan in Shelby County. Northwood’s population is just north of 2,000, and Harlan’s just a little more than 4,000. Roughly a dozen people saw her speak in Northwood.
“Connect with people. Engage them in this race. Fight for that common ground. Let them know that they’re not alone, and that the current governor’s complacent mediocrity and how she formulates policy no longer has to be accepted,” DeJear said. “We can go the distance for all Iowans. And again, nothing about that is easy. And it takes time and energy. But I’m willing to put in the work.”
Town of residence: Des Moines
Occupation: Owns a small business consulting firm
Political experience: DeJear has not held elected office. She was the Democratic Party’s candidate for Iowa Secretary of State in 2018, when she lost to Republican incumbent Paul Pate. Before that, DeJear worked on Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns in Iowa in 2008 and 2012.
Campaign website: dejearforiowa.com
A recent Mediacom/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll showed Reynolds with an expansive 17-point lead over DeJear, 52 percent to 35 percent. Rick Stewart, the Libertarian Party candidate for Iowa governor, polled at 4 percent.
That poll was followed this past week by the latest campaign fundraising figures, in which DeJear continued to struggle and lag far behind Reynolds’ pace. The incumbent governor has raised nearly $11 million this cycle, according to state records; DeJear has raised just more than $2 million.
The big-money Democratic donors are sitting out this campaign. DeJear has received 15 donations of $10,000 or more this cycle, according to state records; Reynolds has 338.
Despite those dispiriting numbers, DeJear’s optimism on the campaign has not waned. This past week, while speaking at Drake University, her alma mater, to a pair of student organizations, DeJear called on the roughly 100 students in attendance to vote themselves and persuade their friends to as well.
“Now is the moment — and I shared this with the team a couple of days ago — that we remember our why, and we remember what we’re capable of,” DeJear said after the event. “Remember your why. There’s no point of coming up with new things at this point in time, because we are not new to this in this state. We’re not new to progress. That’s what I’m reminding folks about all over the state.”
On the campaign trail, DeJear often highlights Iowa’s progressive history, how the state desegregated its schools and legalized same-sex marriage before the U.S. Supreme Court.
And in looking to the future, DeJear says the state is in need of new leadership.
“I see more people who know our current governor’s name then when I was helping to organize for (former Democratic Gov. Chet) Culver and when (former Republican Gov. Terry) Branstad was in office. We see more millennials and more Gen Z-ers knowing who this governor is, and the reason why they know who she is, is because they have some qualms with this current representation,” DeJear said. “So as I’m going out here, meeting people where they are, I’m talking to these folks and saying, ‘Go let people know that there’s another option.’ Because they know people that are unsettled about the disposition of our democracy right now.”
Perhaps emboldened by her large lead in the polls, it was only just recently that Reynolds began addressing DeJear by name in public remarks. In fact, during her remarks at a state Republican Party fundraiser in early August, Reynolds did not even mention that she was up for re-election.
Once it did turn its sights on DeJear, the Reynolds campaign’s most prominent criticism has been over DeJear remaining seated during a standing ovation for Reynolds when she talked about her support for law enforcement during her annual condition of the state address in January to the Iowa Legislature.
DeJear said she supports law enforcement as well, and has talked to officials throughout her campaign. However, she said she also believes that law enforcement should be a part of discussions about the criminal justice system, and that Reynolds should do more to support law enforcement than the one-time retention bonus she authorized — using federal pandemic relief funding.
DeJear has been critical of Reynolds’ education policies, including her proposal to start a program that would shift taxpayer funding for public schools into private school tuition assistance. DeJear has argued that Iowa’s public schools have been underfunded for years, and mirrored a proposal by Democratic state lawmakers to inject a one-time, $300 million infusion of state funding into the K-12 public school system.
DeJear also has criticized Reynolds on abortion. The governor has asked the state courts to reinstate a 2018 law that would ban abortions once a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected. DeJear has said she supports the legal structure that was in place federally before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year struck down Roe v. Wade and, in the process, shifted the issue back to individual states.
And DeJear has criticized the state income tax cuts signed into law earlier this year by Reynolds. The latest round of state tax cuts will phase the state’s tax on income down to a flat rate of 3.9 percent for most workers, which will eventually result in total taxpayer savings — and thus a reduction in state revenue — of nearly $2 billion annually.
Early voting is underway in Iowa. Election Day is Nov. 8.
Comments: (515) 355-1300, email@example.com