116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
So it’s a runoff in Cedar Rapids’ race for mayor. Deep breaths.
Tiffany O’Donnell cruised, but didn’t top 50 percent of the vote. As for the second slot, according to unofficial results reported Tuesday night, Amara Andrews beat Mayor Brad Hart by 24 votes. But that could change as provisional ballots are reviewed.
O’Donnell would seem to be the favorite, but runoff elections can be unpredictable. If her slim lead holds, Amara Andrews still has a chance to make history as the city’s first Black mayor, and only second Black woman to guide a major metro area in Iowa.
“Despite the attacks on me we still have lots of support and so we will hope to prevail in 28 days,” Andrews said in a brief interview with The Gazette’s Marissa Payne on election night.
The prevailing wisdom in the Andrews camp seems to be that the media damaged her chances. She did have a bad week/weekend of news coverage before the election.
But the damage was also self-inflicted.
Payne wrote a detailed account of Andrews’ past and present financial and legal problems. She’s in an ongoing dispute with an Illinois homebuilder and is having her wages garnished after falling behind on payments called for in a settlement. The story first broke on the Republican website Iowa Field Report and was picked up later by KWWL. A delay in receiving court documents from Illinois delayed the release of The Gazette’s story, which included new information.
As news of Andrews’ finances circulated this fall, the campaign largely put damage control ahead of any candid explanation of the full story. One good news conference could have put it to bed weeks ago.
News also broke last week regarding Andrews’ campaign fundraising, showing she raised a lot of money out of state. Among the 42 donations she received of $1,000 or more, 10 came from Iowa. Californians provided 15 donations. Andrews is a Cal Berkeley grad.
Andrews’ opponents released campaign finance numbers weeks ago, but Andrews declined and instead waited for the state filing deadline on the Thursday before the election.
Those campaign numbers also showed Andrews’ campaign coordinated with a Democratic PAC to send out a mailer in the campaign’s closing days tying O’Donnell to Donald Trump, Gov. Kim Reynolds and U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson. The mailer was paid for by Iowa Voter Info, which it turned out was a PAC hastily constructed by local Democratic Central Committee members. So hastily they used the name of an existing organization, its email address and the central committee’s P.O. Box.
Asked by our editorial fellow Althea Cole about Iowa Voter Info, Andrews, her campaign consultant Stacey Walker and campaign chair Steve Shriver pleaded ignorance. Then the numbers came out, showing Andrews’ campaign donated $9,000 to Iowa Voter Info, which in turn spent $7,500 on the mailer. Shriver stepped down as campaign chair once the disclosure came to light.
Why go to the trouble of creating an arm’s length entity to deliver a message Andrews was already delivering? And with public disclosure looming, why not just tell the truth?
Am I shocked, shocked there’s partisan politics in this election? No. Andrews is seeking to tap the city’s large pool of Democratic voters. The strategy has been obvious. And O’Donnell, who uses a consulting firm headed by longtime Republican Party operatives, is hardly apolitical.
But it’s Andrews’ campaign’s efforts to pretend otherwise that have proved most damaging. If she holds on to the second slot, she has the rest of November to reset her campaign, fine tune her organization and maybe make history.
(319) 398-8262; firstname.lastname@example.org