Photos by Nick Rohlman and Ting Xaun Tan, Graphic by Nova Meurice/The Daily Iowan

Democrats seek more inclusion

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Iowa Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg believes the future of Iowa Democrats lies in putting issues before party identification.

By Madeleine Neal

madeleine-neal@uiowa.edu

Iowa Democrats need to take a practical approach by talking to voters about what they want instead of simply leaning on the party’s label if Iowa is to turn politically blue, Iowa’s top elected Democrat said.

“I think to the extent that people try to put labels on where parties should move, to the left or to the right, they’re looking for that label, and I don’t think that’s the correct answer,” Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said in a Daily Iowan interview.

“I think the correct answer is, ‘Does the party do a better job of reaching out, listening, educating, and communicating with people?’ ”

After Republicans took control this year of both legislative houses, in addition to holding the governorship in Iowa, Hogg said he wants Democrats to push such initiatives as health-care expansion and boosts to public education.

“In Iowa, we want the best schools in the country, we want to expand health care — not take it away,” he said. “And we want safe, healthy, vibrant growing communities across Iowa. We want every corner of our state to succeed, and is that liberal, conservative, moderate, or progressive, or whatever way we want to put it?”

In an era in which people have a healthy sense of skepticism about the Democratic and Republican Parties, he said, some voters who are moderate or left-leaning moderate voters but who won’t identify themselves as Democrats also don’t identify themselves as Republicans. This could be an opportunity for Democrats to attract those votes, he suggested.

“I think the philosophy of Democrats is that both our state and our country do better when there’s more participation,” he said, referring to voting. “You don’t have to get involved in the party bureaucracy, but you should get involved, and vote, and get familiar with candidates in primaries because if you don’t get involved in the primary, you’re giving up basically half your rights as a voter.”

Iowa Democrats and Republicans will decide on their parties’ candidates for public office, including governor and the state’s four U.S. congressional seats, on June 5, 2018.

Campaign-office members for Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, who could lose his seat to Republican Christopher Peters in the 2018 election for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District seat, said Loebsack encourages an open dialogue among voters and politicians focused on issues instead of party affiliation.

RELATED: Peters officially set to face Loebsack

“Dave believes the best way to represent the people of Iowa, whether they are Democrats, independents, or Republicans, is to talk with them face-to-face and meet with them where they live, work, and play,” said Zachary Meunier, Loebsack’s campaign manager.

At least one of the eight Democrats expressing interest in running for governor next year, Cathy Glasson, said she wants Democrats to boldly enact left-wing policies.

“I think the middle-of-the-road voters have the same worries that the left voters and the right voters have,” said Glasson, a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics nurse and Service Employees International Union leader from Coralville. “The main focus is workers and families who, in our state, are struggling to make ends meet because of our local wages … in our state.”

She said Democrats want to capture moderate voters. “But I don’t think we want to compromise, because workers and families in Iowa have been waiting much too long to see the change that they haven’t seen from the past several election cycles.”

Riley Lewers, the president of the UI Democrats, said it is not necessary for 2018 Democratic candidates to move further left or to the center. Rather, she said, they should be clear in their positions about such topics as health-care and education policies.

“I think what we should do is focus more on picking quality candidates for every election who come off as authentic and are able to effectively tell their stories and sell themselves to voters,” said Lewers, a first-time voter in 2016.

Eleanore Taft, a member of Glasson’s campaign team who said she worked for numerous 2016 campaigns, said she found voters during the 2016 campaign cycle weren’t sure what the Democrats stood for.

RELATED: Fighting for the workers

“Something that people are really looking for from the Democratic Party is a candidate who is really looking to take a stand and have a clear position and not compromise on vital components of our platform that are crucial to improving the lives of people in our state,” Taft said. “I think we have to be clear and unwavering in our message, but we need to do a better job communicating our message — [2016 voters] felt like we weren’t communicating a core message.”

Hogg will try to build Iowa’s left-leaning voters by encouraging Iowa Senate Democrats to hone in on inclusion.

“It’s important that we build a more diverse and inclusive future for our state and our country,” Hogg said. “You hear some things from some people on the Republican side that are really quite discriminatory and hostile. I think about some of the terrible things that [Rep.] Steve King [R-Iowa] just said, and I think about the terrible things that Trump has said.”

In addition to some of the discriminatory comments made by Republicans, which he said do not reflect the beliefs of Iowa’s voters, Hogg also said moderate voters believe in such issues as fiscal responsibility, which, he said, does not exist on the Republican side.

Hogg hopes voters will see what he calls the Republicans’ mess.

“I see a budget mess at the state level, and I see continued fiscal irresponsibility at the national level,” he said. “Democrats believe in making investments but we also believe in doing it in a fiscally responsible manner — I think that’s what people in the middle want, and I think that’s what people who call themselves more liberal and more progressive want.”

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