Government

Democrats to honor Cedar Rapids couple for activism

Cindy and Elwood Garlock say their years of teaching were good preparation

Cindy and Elwood Garlock listen to introductions during a Thursday organizing meeting at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. The Garlocks will be presented the Outstanding Activists award at the Iowa Democratic Hall of Fame event Sunday afternoon, which also will feature 19 Democratic presidential hopefuls. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cindy and Elwood Garlock listen to introductions during a Thursday organizing meeting at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. The Garlocks will be presented the Outstanding Activists award at the Iowa Democratic Hall of Fame event Sunday afternoon, which also will feature 19 Democratic presidential hopefuls. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — It wasn’t the way they anticipated spending their retirement, but the election of Donald Trump changed their plans.

Cindy and Elwood Garlock both were involved in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign — Cindy introduced the former U.S. senator at one of her last rallies in Cedar Rapids before the election.

“When she lost,” Cindy begins to say before Elwood interrupts to say, “She was beat, but she really didn’t lose.”

Either way, Cindy said the election of Trump made them realize that they either had to completely walk away from politics “or do something to counteract Donald Trump.”

They chose the latter because “we feel the country is not moving in the right direction,” Cindy says.

On Sunday, the Cedar Rapids couple will be honored at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Celebration as the party’s Outstanding Activists.

For the Garlocks, the highlight of their efforts was the defeat of 1st District Republican Rep. Rod Blum and election of Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer in November 2018.

They believe their Blum Thursday events — where they wrote postcards, interviewed potential Blum challengers and shared information and coordinated with other groups, such as Indivisible Iowa — laid the groundwork for flipping the congressional seat.

“Sometimes we were lucky to have four people show up” for a Blum Thursday, Cindy says. Over the course of the campaign, their numbers grew. They thought they were having an impact, “but we felt like we weren’t going to know until election night.”

The goal for Blum Thursdays — and the current generation of their grass-roots campaign effort of Oust Ernst, which attracted 25 people on a weekday morning — wasn’t so much about supporting a candidate as raising issues that matter to voters.

Although political activism wasn’t their retirement plan, the Garlocks say their careers as teachers were good preparation. Teaching is intensive, time-consuming and involves personal interactions.

“You have to be prepared” for tomorrow and the day after and the next week and two weeks down the road, Elwood adds.

“So we’re using the skills we used as teachers,” Cindy says. “They’ve served us well in the political arena. Teaching is just a different kind of organizing.”

Elwood taught science — “everything but physics” — at Taft Middle School and Jefferson High School for 36 years. Cindy taught biology at Taft and Kennedy High School for 33 years. They met at Taft and have been married 39 years and have one daughter, Elyse, an architect in Cedar Rapids.

The other honorees Sunday will be Fred and Charlotte Hubbell, Outstanding Supporters; Olivia Habink and Meg Card, College and Young Democrats of Iowa, Outstanding State Central Committee Members; Sioux County Democrats, Outstanding Democratic Party Chair; and state Rep. Ras Smith of Waterloo, Rising Star.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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