Interview Conducted by Crystal Defatte
I spoke with new Vice Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party candidate Jessica Fears to learn more about who she is, her desire to heal the divide within the IDP, and how to reach out to ensure victory in the future.
CD: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview; I know there is quite a lot our readers would like to know about each of the candidates. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?
JF: I live in Ames, IA with my 9-year-old son. I’m a waitress at a local restaurant.
CD: What kind of leadership experience have you had?
JF: Being a single mother means constantly being in a leadership role. I believe it’s all about initiative. I can’t wait for someone else to set a good example.
CD: As I a mother myself, I agree. What has been your involvement with the Iowa Democratic Party?
JF: I got involved in high school during Kerry’s ’04 campaign. I’ve always caucused and done a little door knocking, but it was Bernie that convinced me to do more. At our District convention I ran for State Central Committee and now I’m very proud to be one of the 4th district representatives. I serve as Secretary for the 4th District and I was recently elected to the Story County Central Committee.
CD: If you were to be elected, would you be considering a run for any other elected office during your tenure as Vice Chair of the IDP?
CD: As an SCC member, I’m sure you are aware that the members of the Democratic Party you would be serving fall all over the left half of the spectrum when it comes to political ideology. Would you consider yourself centrist, left, or far left leaning?
JF: I’d say left.
CD: Would you call yourself a progressive?
CD: What distinctions do you see between the policies and beliefs of those who refer to themselves as progressives and those who are less left-leaning or centrist?
JF: I feel like there’s a disconnect between the public good and corporate interests.The Democrats are the party of the People. That’s where our power comes from, not profits.
CD: So am I correct in thinking you believe one side of the party, presumably progressives, favor public good and the other, more centrist, side favors corporate interests?
JF: I dislike the idea of sides. I believe very few people intentionally vote against public interests, but if only the profitable have your ear it’s easy to lose touch. Policy can’t just look good on paper, it needs to have public support and a desirable outcome for the community.
CD: Whether you call it different sides or not, there does seem to be a rift in IDP. How would you find and advocate for compromise between progressives and those who are not? Is such compromise necessary to heal the divide?
JF: The compromises are already there: the issues. All Democrats want a healthy planet, prosperous economy, thriving public schools, stable jobs and a growing middle class. Even the Republicans want that. It’s how we go about it that is the conflict. Reach out on issues. You never know where an ally will turn up.
CD: How would you go about reaching out to people with all sorts of differing ideas?
JF: I’ve found a lot of great mentors among the “Establishment”. We don’t agree on everything, but we can work together on a lot of other things. I want to work with the counties and the caucuses to build similar relationships. I think it’ll be a great way to build the party too. People need to see us working together.
CD: Some of the division you’d be looking to heal seems to stem from the differing ideas of why the Democratic Party has suffered such huge losses this year. What do you believe were the biggest contributing factors to those losses?
JF: Again, there’s a disconnect. We failed to inspire the same hope and we took those voters for granted. Like a said earlier, our power is in the People. We have too many uncontested races in Iowa. There are too many counties where Democrats are going extinct.
CD: Running candidates in races that have gone uncontested in the past would require increased fundraising, how would you go about doing that?
JF: I’m all about grassroots campaigns and building from the ground up.
CD: You mentioned failing to inspire voters and taking them for granted. I’ve heard many people express that same idea, especially when it comes to two voting blocs the Democratic Party lost: people living in rural areas and working class Americans. How do you propose we reach out to them specifically in order to turn them blue?
JF: We have to go to those rural areas and reach out directly. We need to be continually involved, not just during election season, same with the middle class. They need to know that their Democratic Party and officials are there for them.
CD: Could you be more specific about what you mean when you refer to “reaching out them directly”?
JF: I think it’s more important for us to discuss what those communities need with them. What works well in one area could tank us in another. I want to hear directly from local leaders what the party can do to help them.
CD: You also mentioned building the party through working with the constituency caucuses. How would you work with them? What do you see as their role within the IDP?
JF: I think the Soup Suppers being hosted by the Women’s and Rural Caucuses are an excellent example of the sort of outreach I’d like to encourage throughout the party. I think it’ll do more to bring people to the party if we can show them that we not only care, but we take action. I want to people to feel like they have the same connection with their local Democrats as they do their elected officials. The Caucuses are a vital part of that connection. I see them as both growing the party and providing guidance on issues.
CD: When speaking of fundraising, you mentioned “building from the ground up”. Many may feel that includes encouraging people to run at their local levels. How would you do that and how would you help local candidates win their races?
JF: I often joke that I’d have been a great cheerleader. I advocate many causes and often look for other advocates as potential candidates. And again, every campaign and area have different needs. But I’m always willing to knock a few doors, ring a few lines, or attend a rally.
CD: Speaking of potential candidates, how committed are you to the current IDP platform and helping to recruit candidates who will support it?
JF: I’m incredibly pleased with the platform and applaud all those who served on the committee at various levels. I believe it’s critical that we nominate candidates who will best uphold it.
CD: We’ve talked about a lot of important issues and ways to work towards solving them. What would you say are your top 5, first 100 days goals?
JF: I hope to speak with all the SCC members and County Chairs while campaigning so we can hit the ground running. I want to identify all upcoming races and start working to find candidates, local elections and up. I want to find candidates who would be willing to run more than once in the event they lose. I want to work with county chair to identify potential leaders at the county level as well. Again, in some areas of the state Democrats are going extinct and we cannot allow that.
CD: I wish you luck in achieving those goals, should you be elected. Is there anything else you’d like us to know about yourself, your goals, positions, or candidacy in general?
JF: I’m always open to everyone’s input. Please, tell me what you think.
CD: I think the members of the IDP will be pleased to know they will be able to count on having their voices heard, should you be elected. Well thank you very much for taking the time to do the interview; it has been very enlightening. Good luck in the election.
JF: Thank you very much for taking the time to interview me this morning!
CD: You’re very welcome.
Crystal is a 32 year old mom with a passion for progressive politics and activism. She currently resides in Bettendorf, IA.