Government

With name change, progressives' target shifts to Ernst

Cedar Rapids-area group relishes Blum defeat, moves on

Cindy Garlock of Cedar Rapids speaks in January in Hiawatha. The retired Cedar Rapids educator belongs to a Cedar Rapids-area progressive group that has set its sights on defeating U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst when (and if) she runs for re-election in 2020. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Cindy Garlock of Cedar Rapids speaks in January in Hiawatha. The retired Cedar Rapids educator belongs to a Cedar Rapids-area progressive group that has set its sights on defeating U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst when (and if) she runs for re-election in 2020. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Still relishing their role in Democratic success in the midterm election earlier this month, a loosely organized group of Cedar Rapids area progressives has set its sights on 2020.

“I savor that victory every day,” Cindy Garlock, a retired educator from Cedar Rapids said about the defeat of Republican Rep. Rod Blum by Democrat Abby Finkenauer.

Other than a name change — from “Blum Thursdays” to “Oust Ernst” — Garlock and like-minded progressives plan to continue to make their voices heard by demonstrating, writing postcards and visiting elected officials’ offices.

First-term Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, who will be up for re-election in 2020, “has made some bad decisions,” Garlock told about a dozen people who met over coffee and sodas at NewBo City Market on Thursday.

The discussion focused on votes by Ernst and fellow Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley against a Senate resolution calling for an end to U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

“There literally is blood on their hands,” Bill Aossey of Cedar Rapids said.

Sharon Poplawski of Cedar Rapids, who a day earlier visited Ernst’s Cedar Rapids office to express her disgust that the senator had campaigned in Mississippi for Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, said she “lacks good judgment.”

“Campaigning for that gal in Mississippi who is clearly a racist doesn’t send a message that she’s representing Iowa,” Garlock added.

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The group started meeting in January 2017, “and we haven’t missed a Thursday except Thanksgiving,” Garlock said.

It may seem early to begin a campaign to defeat Ernst, Garlock allowed, “but she is not representing us, and whether it is this November or next November, it is important to speak up. We can’t wait until the last three months before the election to try to explain this to voters.”

“Elections are a continuous cycle,” added Bob Spengeler of Cedar Rapids. “They never stop, so we can’t stop.”

Garlock believes the efforts of Blum Thursdays was effective. Weekly visits to his office, demonstrating outside the federal courthouse and Blum’s office, and extensive use of social media “was instrumental in making clear to the public that he wasn’t talking to us, he wasn’t listening, that he wasn’t meeting with the public.”

The work included lengthy interviews with each of the four Democratic candidates who sought to run against Blum. After the primary, the members collaborated with Democratic and progressives groups to aid Finkenauer’s election.

Oust Ernst has no formal organizational structure, with no officers or dues. The weekly meetings attract a dozen or 15 people, but Garlock estimates its Facebook group has about 400 members.

“We’re the core group who know how to be activists, who know about the issues when the campaign starts,” she said. “We’re an organization that branches off where the issues take us.

“It’s democracy, I guess,” she said.

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

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