116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
So the porches beat the dive bars. And it wasn’t even close.
Cedar Rapids mayoral candidate Tiffany O’Donnell, who said her family’s various porches are her favorite spots in the city, defeated Amara Andrews, a fan of dive bars, by a more than two-to-one margin in Tuesday’s runoff election. More than 6,000 fewer ballots were cast in the post-holiday runoff than in the general election, but O’Donnell increased her vote total.
Andrews, at least, will know a good joint where she can drown her sorrows.
She ran as an unabashed progressive, welcoming endorsements from Democratic politicians, working with progressive groups and raising money across the country. She teamed up with a consulting firm owned by Democratic County Supervisor Stacey Walker. Andrews ran an unusually partisan campaign for a nonpartisan job, although party politics has long been a factor in mayoral races.
But she stumbled when faced with questions about reports of personal financial problems. And Andrews’ campaign was embroiled in a fiasco involving a PAC hastily created by local Democrats that sent a mailer tying O’Donnell to Donald Trump and other Republicans.
O’Donnell, a Republican, insisted her true party is “the party of Cedar Rapids,” including residents of all political stripes. She decried the partisan tone of the election campaign and pointed to her past support for some Democratic candidates. She sold T-shirts proclaiming “Potholes don’t have parties.” She pledged to promote unity.
But with regard to our ongoing red-blue wars, O’Donnell was hardly Switzerland. She hired a consulting firm, the Concordia Group, run by longtime Iowa GOP operatives Craig Robinson and Nick Ryan and Jill Ryan, and used Brooklyn, IA.-based Campaign HQ, which bills itself as “The best conservative call center in America.” Among her final donors disclosed this week was CRST Chairman of the Board John Smith, a major GOP donor, who contributed $10,000.
O’Donnell also spent nearly $15,000 on advertising with Maryland-based Mentzer Media, which was paid tens of millions of dollars by various GOP Senate and House campaign committees in 2020 and once made $8 million working with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which smeared John Kerry’s war record in 2004.
So what’s that all mean? Maybe something, maybe nothing. O’Donnell’s agenda is hardly radical. She wants downtown development, including housing, entertainment and a state-licensed casino. She wants more development in core neighborhoods, with a focus on walkability and bikeability. She supports the city’s ambitious climate action plan. O’Donnell, like all candidates, wants to address workforce needs and train under-skilled workers to fill openings.
Mayor O’Donnell will, technically, be one vote on the City Council. But she’ll have a lot of latitude in shaping the office and her role. Former Mayor Ron Corbett made the mayor’s office into a City Hall power center, driving the council’s agenda, taking the public lead on numerous initiatives and influencing policy far beyond casting a single vote. Based on her campaign, it appears O’Donnell is hoping to follow that Corbettian model. Yes it’s a word.
Corbett, incidentally, left the mayor’s office to run for the GOP nomination for governor. Maybe that’s why Republican activists on social media were applauding O’Donnell’s victory Tuesday night. If you can put a former news anchor in Congress, where else might one go? They call it building the party’s bench.
Or in this case, maybe it’s a porch.
(319) 398-8262; email@example.com