Linn County Democrats say newly-elected party chair could bring much-needed change

The Iowa Democratic Party has a new leader tonight, as of Saturday. KCRG-TV9's Brian Tabick reports on the reaction from local party members.
Published: Jan. 28, 2023 at 11:39 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - After 2 hours of counting votes Saturday, the Iowa Democratic Central Committee announced former Senator Rita Hart was the new chair of the Democratic Party.

This comes after significant party losses during the 2022 election.

“It’s going to help us win more seats,” Rep. Sami Scheetz, of Cedar Rapids, and a freshman in this legislature, said.

On top of Hart’s experience running for U.S. Congress, lieutenant governor, being a former state senator, and the Clinton County Democratic Chair, Scheetz believes her being from a midsized town like Clinton can help plan for better elections in other midsized towns.

“Dubuque, Clinton, Ottumwa, Burlington, Democrats used to win handily eight years ago,” Scheetz said. “Now, we’re getting out butts kicked. That’s where our path back to power is going to be.”

That’s something Bret Nilles, a member of the Iowa Central Committee and the Linn County Democratic Chair, agreed with Scheetz on.

“We lost focus on how to reach out to {people} outside the metro areas,” Nilles said.

Nilles believes Hart can help the party win more races, and bring in more electable candidates to run for office, but also use her experience running for public office as a way to bring in more donations and support from the national Democratic party.

“Hopefully, with Rita as the state party chair, she can start building relationships at the DNC,” Nilles said.

That’s something Scheetz said needs to happen as Iowa Democrats could lose its first-in-the-nation caucus status.

“We’re going to have to start relying on ourselves to raise money, and Rita was able to raise $5 million when she ran for Congress,” Scheetz said. “That can’t go understated.”

Scheetz and Nilles agreed there was a lot of work that needs to be done, but said electing Hart as the chair of the party was a step in the right direction.

“The Iowa Democratic Party has a chance to start over,” Nilles said. “This is like hitting the reset button.”