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Iowa Democrats at state convention pin 2024 abortion hopes, education issues • Iowa Capital Dispatch

Democratic elected officials emphasized Saturday at their party’s state convention that the issues of abortion and education could help the party regain ground from Republicans in the state.

Iowa Democrats face significant challenges in Iowa. After the 2022 midterm elections, the state’s congressional delegation will be made up entirely of Republicans, and all state-wide elected officials, except for Iowa Auditor Rob Sand, are also members of the GOP. In the Statehouse, Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives and a supermajority in the Senate.

At the Prairie Meadows Events Center in Altoona, Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Rita Hart called on Iowa Democrats to prepare for the 2024 general election and be ready for a potentially difficult road ahead. She talked about her experiences growing up on a farm in Iowa, where she and her siblings had to pick rocks on farmland.

“Sometimes I think we’re in a rocky place right now, right?” said Hert. “And we have to pick up the rock that makes the most sense to us. … Find what you can do, that you can contribute to this effort, and do it in spades. That is what we have to do from now until November.”

But House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst said she believed there was ample opportunity for the minority party to flip seats in the state this election. As Democrats prepare to volunteer, fundraise and knock on doors ahead of the Nov. 5 general election, Konfrst said “message discipline” should be at the top of everyone’s minds.

“Iowans are voting on two issues this year,” Konfrst said. “What they’re thinking about is public education and abortion – and reproductive freedom. Guess what? They are with us.”

Democrats should focus on abortion access and public K-12 education, Konfrst said, in light of recent GOP moves in both areas. This year, Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation making changes to Iowa’s Area Education Agencies, which received significant backlash during the legislative session. The agencies provide special education and other support services to children with disabilities and their families.

The year before, Reynolds signed the state’s Education Savings Account program, which allowed Iowa families to use public funds for private school education and related costs. Democrats say both programs are unpopular with Iowans and are hurting the state’s public school system, especially rural school districts.

Additionally, the state is awaiting a decision from the Iowa Supreme Court on the six-week abortion ban, which was signed into law during a special session in July 2023. The law was passed following a split court decision in June 2023, which banned a similar so-called “Fetal Heartbeat” Act of 2018.

The results of the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa survey show that a majority of Iowans support legalizing abortion in all or most cases, have a positive view of AEAs and oppose private school scholarships.

Senate Minority Leader Pam Jochum, who is not running for re-election, said it is up to Democrats in Iowa to focus on these issues as they hit the campaign trail. She said that because Republicans have focused on “culture war policies,” Democrats will commit to opposing Republican Party efforts on issues such as abortion and removing from school libraries books depicting sexual acts – another measure from 2023 that is currently being challenged in court.

“Iowans want us to focus on issues that impact their daily lives, like affordable child care and health care and housing, collective bargaining rights and public education,” said Jochum of Dubuque. “They don’t want us arguing about bathrooms, bedrooms and books.”

Speakers also called on Democrats to campaign and prepare to support President Joe Biden in the 2024 general election. At the convention, Democrats in Iowa officially announced delegates to send to the Democratic National Convention. This year’s national convention is scheduled for August 19-22 in Chicago to support Biden, the presumptive presidential nominee. Biden received the support of all 40 delegates in the Iowa Democratic caucuses, which were held for the first time this nomination cycle through a presidential preference vote by mail.

At the convention, Iowans heard Vice President Kamala Harris in a video message thanking Democrats for their support and emphasizing the need for Biden to win against former President Donald Trump in the Nov. 5 presidential election.

“Ultimately, we are all faced with one question in these elections: What kind of country do we want to live in?” Harris said in the video. “A country of compassion, freedom and the rule of law? Or a land of chaos, fear and hatred? We all have the power to answer that question with our voices, with our feet, and with our hopes. And together we will win.”

Democratic congressional nominees candidates Sarah Corkery, Lanon Baccam and Ryan Melton — the nominees running against incumbent Republican Reps. Ashley Hinson, Zach Nunn and Randy Feenstra, respectively — will also address the event. Democrat Christina Bohannan, who is running against U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, will not appear at the convention.

The Republican Party of Iowa held its state convention on May 4.