by Jason Frerichs
For any readers who might not know this, I am the chair of the Progressive Caucus, which also makes me a voting member of the SCC. I initially came out as a Kim Weaver supporter before I’d heard from anyone else. A very wise colleague (Bill Brauch) of mine told me that it wasn’t progressive of me to do that before I’d taken the opportunity to hear everyone out. I mulled over his words and eventually came to the conclusion that he was right. It was a mistake on my part to make a public announcement without having given the other candidates the opportunity to be heard. I’m new to this position so I’m sure this won’t be the only mistake I make as I go along. I’m learning as I’m going and I’d argue I’ve made a lot more correct decisions than mistakes.
Deciding how to rank my choices was an extremely difficult decision because Kim Weaver, Sandy Dockendorf, and Blair Lawton are three of my closest friends in the party. I knew that no matter how I voted, I was going to disappoint at least two of my friends. I have the utmost respect for all three and feel that any one of them would do a good job as chair. I got to know Blair through the Bernie campaign. He is an excellent organizer and did an excellent job putting together a team and keeping us on track. Senator Sanders started out down 55 points in Iowa but ended up in a statistical tie with Secretary Clinton. That was largely due to the work of folks like Blair Lawton. The first time I met Kim Weaver was at the May 2016 SCC meeting. I wasn’t a member yet. I came to pitch my amendment to add a Progressive Caucus. There was considerable opposition to it but Kim Weaver argued passionately in favor of it as did Bill Brauch and Rick Smith. Kim’s persuasive argument helped pave the way for the SCC to grant us provisional status. I also met Sandy Dockendorf that same SCC meeting. I appreciated her letting me sit in on the rules meeting and allowing me to explain my amendment to that group before I went before the entire SCC. After the caucus was formed Sandy became a fairly active member. She has attended several of our events and was extremely helpful when we put together our priority planks that will be part of our eventual platform. Sandy is extremely knowledgeable about party mechanics and understands better than most what direction we need to take moving forward.
The procedure that we voted on at the 12/17/16 meeting was IRV or ranked choice balloting. Each candidate is ranked in order of preference by each voter. I supported the resolution because I felt that it would produce a candidate that the vast majority of the SCC would be comfortable with. I feel the results vindicated that vote, which was a result of Holly Herbert’s proposal. My ranked choices were:
- Blair Lawton: This was a really tough decision for me as I went back and forth between Blair and Kim several times. I didn’t decide until the Thursday before the vote that this was how I was going to go. I understood that as a caucus chair I had to weigh the desire of the caucus members with my conscience. I reached out to the caucus and had a large number of people reach out to me. The majority of caucus members ranked Blair as their first choice and Kim as their second choice. I decided that this would be how I would rank my choices as well.
- Kim Weaver: Kim is one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met. The race she was able to run against Steve King with very little help from the party was incredible. She outperformed our presidential candidate and senatorial candidate in nearly every county in the 4th district. Kim understands what it takes to run a campaign and what it takes to run in a very red area. I hope she decides to run again because now we have time to put a team together and learn from what worked and what didn’t.
- Derek Eadon: This was another very tough decision as I considered ranking him as my first choice at one point. Derek probably worked harder than any other candidate to earn my support. I was extremely impressed during our conversations and remember thinking to myself that this guy “gets it.” I spoke to several of my fellow SCC members in the run-up to the vote. I was undecided so I wanted to reach out and see what others were thinking. Nearly everyone had Derek in their top 3 choices. I predicted that he would win and would benefit the most from ranked choice voting. I am extremely happy he won. He was my full support and I think we’re going to do great things with Derek at the helm.
- Sandy Dockendorf: I’m a fan of Sandy. She is an invaluable resource to the party. I felt that she could do a good job as chair but that my top three choices were better fits. Sandy has been extremely graceful about not winning and I am glad she will continue to be active in the SCC and active in the Progressive Caucus. There is a lot we can learn from Sandy and it would be wise for people to listen when she has something to say.
- Kurt Meyer: I didn’t know very much about him coming into this process. I had a very productive phone conservation with him and I was impressed. He has an excellent fundraising background. I’m impressed with his work creating the Tri-County Democrats group and feel that would be a good model for other parts of rural Iowa. I just didn’t feel he was the best fit to lead the state party.
- Bob Krause: I don’t know Bob very well. He did participate in the candidate teleconferences and the Q&A at the 12/17/16 SCC meeting but he never reached out to me personally. I never got anything from him other than a mass email and he never called me on the phone. He also declined to participate in the in the survey put together by Progressive Voices of Iowa writer and Wapello County resident Alex Stroda. All five candidates ranked ahead of him did. Bob did not put forth the effort necessary to convince me he should have been ranked higher than sixth.
- Mike Gronstal: I want to equivocally state that I have nothing against Senator Gronstal as a person. In fact, I have the utmost respect for the work he did blocking the Republicans from overturning marriage equality and a host of other bad bills. The problem I had with Mike as a candidate was that I felt he was the one candidate who had the potential to cause an irreparable rift in the party. I think some of the older party members discounted how polarizing Mike is to the Bernie faction. I strongly disagree with his vote that cut property taxes. As a result, our schools are starved for funding. When he spoke to the third district central committee he was asked about some of the donors to his state senate campaign. I did not find his defense of those donations to be credible. In his speech, he talked about having long hair in the 1970s and things that happened in 1982. I didn’t come away with any idea of what he wanted to do now. He did not participate in any of the teleconferences. He sent a video to the 12/17/16 SCC meeting instead of dialing-in to answer questions. He declined to participate in the Progressive Voices of Iowa survey. I also never received anything more than a mass email from him. He never called me to try to convince me to vote for him. I felt like he was asking me to hire him for a job but didn’t want to come to the interview. Of all the candidates, he did the least amount of work to earn my vote. There wasn’t any way I could justify ranking him higher than 7th.
I wrote this article to try to shed some light on what my thought process was as I was deciding how to rank my choices. I also want to be open and transparent with the Progressive Caucus members who elected me and to anyone else who might wish to request my ballot in the future. This was a very difficult decision as we had some excellent candidates. In the end, we elected a chair that I feel that the vast majority of the SCC is happy with.