Living in Society

WYSIWYG — County Convention

Delegates and alternates arrive in the Liberty High School Commons at 8:10 a.m., March 24, 2018. Photo Credit – Lauren Whitehead

“The metaphor of WYSIWYG, taken from the advent of computer graphical user interface, is an apt model for what I’m doing. The operative function of building an electorate presumes nothing and is rooted in a belief the 2018 general election electorate is not pre-made. It is being formed as we proceed through time and events toward election day. We have to pay attention to what is happening in real time and modify our activities to create a successful process.” ~ February 9, 2018

NORTH LIBERTY — I had planned to spend the three dollars in my wallet on coffee at the Johnson County Democrats convention Saturday, March 24, at Liberty High School.

The arrangements committee selected the breakfast vendor with the largest coffee urns, so I was ready for the tedium and time-killing activities of a political convention with a cup or three of Joe.

I went home with those same three dollars in my wallet. It was one of the better conventions I attended since moving to Big Grove in 1993. There was plenty to keep a person busy with no time for a coffee break.

Solon, Iowa Grocer March 24, 2018 Photo Credit – Lauren Whitehead

Heavy snowfall Friday night made the roads passable but dangerous. A significant number of delegates did not brave the snow-packed highways creating seats for the alternate delegates who did. In all, the credentials committee seated 241 of 251 possible delegates. Desire for change in November trumped concern about road conditions.

Senate District 37 candidate Zach Wahls asked for a show of hands of people who were attending their first convention. More than half the delegates responded. Saturday’s convention was another example of the strength of the electorate we are building for November. It’s fine with me that new and younger people are joining the process. I’ll step aside, wear the LBJ for the USA button from my first campaign, and entertain delegates with my stories to avoid becoming irrelevant.

My fave memory from the convention was John Norris’ speech about his relationship with Harold Hughes, Tom Harkin, César Chávez, Paul Wellstone and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The gubernatorial candidate’s voice was a bit hoarse, but the message was strong. Norris is an Iowan with whom people in the general election can relate.

To win the governorship, Democrats need to win more than Johnson County as our last gubernatorial candidate did in 2014. We need to approach winning 68 counties like Tom Vilsack won in 2002. Norris is laying the groundwork for such a campaign, although that strategy is a bit dicey as primary votes are mostly in urban areas.

The other gubernatorial candidate to speak was Cathy Glasson who is running what she described as an “issues-based campaign.” Despite similarities between all six candidates on issues, her approach poses more liability than asset in the general election. What if voters who haven’t participated in the electorate yet don’t like the way she framed her issues? They could vote for the other female in such a hypothetical match-up.

First Alignment March 24, 2018

It was no surprise when a motion was made to form preference groups by gubernatorial candidate. Breaking into preference groups added about two hours to the day.

There were three preference group alignments and those viable after the second selected delegates to the district and state conventions in the third. The image shows delegate counts after the first alignment. It took 37 delegates to maintain viability. After the second alignment there were three viable groups. They elected district and state delegates as follows: Glasson (27), Uncommitted (25) and Boulton (23). Our Norris group joined Hubbell and Uncommitted delegates and sent nine of our delegates to the next level. Hubbell did likewise and Uncommitted took the balance.

The highlight of the first alignment was that after a contentious 2016, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters appeared to agree on something — to rebuke former Iowa Democratic Party chair Andy McGuire for her performance in the run up to that year’s election. She had zero delegates. I’m glad former Iowa City mayor Ross Wilburn had a few delegates. They were sanded off in the alignment woodshed.

In a 2018 oddity, one of the Kucinich delegates from 2008 had become a Hubbell supporter. A sign of the times.

I liked our Norris group. Our oldest delegate was octogenarian and former state senator Jean Lloyd-Jones and our youngest was a high school senior. Gender equity in our delegation to district was important to the group. We sent five women and four men. I am thankful to be going to district and state. I was prepared to argue a case why I should be elected, but we had exactly the number of people interested as we had slots.

Should the field of six gubernatorial candidates fail to produce a clear primary winner June 5 (35% of votes cast), the state convention will decide our nominee. If the nomination goes to convention, it is likely to be one of the four who garnered delegates statewide, Boulton, Glasson, Hubbell or Norris. However, it could be anyone. That’s why it’s important there be a clear primary winner. A contentious nominating process at the state convention would detract from the party’s ability to unite behind the eventual nominee.

Other highlights of the convention include:

State Senator Bob Dvorsky gave his farewell address which ended with passing the basket for State Senate District 25 candidate Tracy Freese who has a special election April 10.

Speeches by three of four candidates for Senate District 37, Eric Dirth, Zach Wahls and Janice Weiner. They are all becoming better speakers. In case you missed it, I’m with Wahls.

Speeches by the three current candidates for the county board of supervisors, Mike Carberry, Pat Heiden and Janelle Rettig. Incumbents Carberry and Rettig are well known, experienced public speakers. Heiden presented herself well with an impassioned speech. Many of my local friends are supporting Heiden. I’m with Rettig and another to be decided after the filing period closes and candidate lists are published by the county auditor.

The star of the show had to be the facility itself. Liberty High School was a project of the somewhat controversial facilities master plan of the Iowa City Community School District board of directors. It is a beautiful facility. If I had gone to such a school, I would not want to leave. We were lucky the school administration allowed us to use their facility.

After the slate of 75 delegate was ratified by the convention, things started winding down. Snow had piled up to about nine inches while we were inside. The roads were mostly cleared by the warmer temperatures and I made it home without incident.

The day made me feel positive not only about myself for being part of the group, but about our prospects in the November general election.