Government

Iowa Democrats get funding boost for rural voter outreach

National party awards $90,000 grant to state party

(File photo) Attendees listen to a speaker during the Iowa Democratic Party’s “Iowa Deserves Better Tour” at Karma Coffee Cafe in Hiawatha on Thursday, January 11, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
(File photo) Attendees listen to a speaker during the Iowa Democratic Party’s “Iowa Deserves Better Tour” at Karma Coffee Cafe in Hiawatha on Thursday, January 11, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Iowa Democrats have some new resources to help reach out to rural voters across the state.

The Democratic National Party announced last week it has awarded a $90,000 grant to the Iowa Democratic Party. The state party will use the grant to hire a digital director and grass roots organizers to expand voter engagement in Iowa’s rural communities.

Recapturing support in rural Iowa has been a priority of Democrats since their heavy losses in the 2016 elections. Fueled in large part by rural Eastern Iowa counties, Iowa went to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016 after going twice to Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

“As Democrats, we know that it’s not enough to just show up and ask for votes on Election Day — we need to engage the people of Iowa year-round in the fight for a brighter future for our state,” said a statement from Troy Price, chairman of the state party.

The grant comes from the national party’s State Party Innovation Fund, which encourages early organizing through state parties and supports efforts to engage local communities, according to a news release.

Through the national “Every Zip Code Counts” program, the national party also has sent to state parties $10,000 a month since October.

“This grant will help ensure that Democrats are talking to voters in every community, and make sure that activists and candidates have the new tools and resources they need to succeed,” national party chairman Tom Perez said in a statement. “The DNC is proud to partner with the Iowa Democratic Party through this grant to expand our engagement in rural communities and support Democratic candidates running up and down the ticket.”

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In addition to voter outreach, Iowa Democrats have increased their candidate recruitment efforts. There is a Democratic candidate in 95 of the 100 Iowa House races this year, the most in more than 30 years, according to House Democrats staff.

Perez said momentum for Democrats in Iowa is “palpable.”

“Iowa Democrats have been working tirelessly to recruit strong candidates, motivate voters to the polls and organize around issues that matter for Iowa’s future,” Perez said.

Iowa Republicans said its national party set up shop in Iowa in January 2017, just after the 2016 elections, and has been preparing to defend its victories in this fall’s midterm elections.

“Our early start and our strong candidates, combined with an agenda that is putting more dollars back in the pockets of middle class Iowans and expanding their health care options has put us in a strong position to defy history and not just defend, but grow, our majorities this fall,” state party spokesman Jesse Dougherty said in an emailed statement.

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