Living in Society

A Masked Evening Out

Official results of the Johnson County Democrats special convention May 11, 2021.

281 masked delegates to the Johnson County Democrats special convention to nominate a candidate for the board of supervisors after the resignation of Supervisor Janelle Rettig had a clear message.

We don’t want the kind of experience that comes from working for the county.

The convention picked Jon Green of Lone Tree over Meghann Foster of Coralville 139 to 137 in the third round of voting.

While Susan Vileta was well qualified to be a supervisor based on her work in the county public health department, her campaign flew under the radar and wasn’t noticed until many delegates had made up their mind. She got nine votes in the first round and was eliminated.

Scott Finlayson was also well qualified to be a supervisor with 14 years working for the county as an attorney and deputy treasurer. He is also a U.S. Navy veteran. In a tight race for second place he couldn’t best Coralville City Councilor Meghann Foster in the first or second round of voting and was eliminated. When he lost, a majority of his voters migrated to the Foster column in round three.

“Jon Green, who was endorsed by Bernie Sanders, ranked first through all three rounds of voting at the special nominating convention, beating Meghann Foster, who was the choice of establishment Democrats,” posted Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Adam B. Sullivan on Twitter.

Well that’s the easy analysis and I’d argue there are no “establishment Democrats” in Johnson County the way Sullivan’s characterization suggests. It’s more complicated than that, given the precinct caucuses since 2008, and the active division among Democrats they promoted.

I wouldn’t make too much of the vote counts. Last night’s convention took place at the Johnson County fairgrounds. Johnson County Democrats have been divided ever since a prominent slate of speakers, including Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, George McGovern (for Clinton), Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd and a surrogate for Barack Obama all spoke there on Oct. 6, 2007.

My analysis is Jon Green has become the establishment candidate for supervisor. The cigarette-smoking, whisky-drinking, old-hat-wearing, wood-burning IT guy, former journalist, and former mayor of Lone Tree represents county activists as well as anyone. That makes him the establishment candidate.

The key question in this race is will registered voters cast a ballot? After the disaster that was the March 5, 2013 special election, in which a former Democratic party county chair lost to Republican John Etheredge in a low turnout election, they might. Because of the constant turnover in the county seat, Democrats tend to have a short memory. If Green is smart — and I believe he is — he’ll take nothing for granted in the run up to the June 8 election.

I’ll be working for him in my Republican-dominated corner of the most liberal county in Iowa.