Rising Democratic star DeJear just wants Iowans to vote

Home / Rising Democratic star DeJear just wants Iowans to vote

DES MOINES, Iowa — Deidre DeJear, the first black candidate to win a major-party nomination for a statewide race in Iowa, is quickly establishing herself as an up-and-coming star in the Democratic Party.

She has received considerable attention and support from prominent politicians, most recently with potential 2020 presidential candidates Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (D-Calif.) campaigning for her earlier this week.

“Let me tell you, you guys have a rock star in her,” Harris said Monday at a rally here hosted by the Polk County Democrats. She added that DeJear has “got a vision not only for Iowa, she’s got a vision for the country.”


The 32-year-old nominee for Iowa secretary of state has big plans if she emerges victorious on Election Day, but her No. 1 goal is to boost voter turnout in a state that holds the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses in less than 16 months.

In an interview at a coffee shop before the rally with Harris, DeJear told The Hill that she thinks high-profile Democrats are helping her in order to “elevate the importance of what the secretary of state’s office does, and to re-instill the value of the vote for folks in Iowa.”

“Any time that they come, the biggest priority is to make sure that we’re giving them that platform to encourage people to participate and encourage people to get engaged, because we’ve got so many folks that aren’t participating in our elections,” she said.

“When we think about the progression of voting rights in our country, and in 2018, we have voter rolls being purged as an effort to clean the data, but the effort to connect with the voter is null and void,” she added. “We need to do better.”

DeJear is challenging the incumbent secretary of state, Paul Pate (R), who has held the post since 2015 after a previous sting in the 1990s. Governing Magazine contributor Louis Jacobson earlier this month shifted his rating of the race from “lean Republican” to “tossup.”

The secretary of state position is one of a number of offices in Iowa that Democrats hope they can flip in next month’s midterms. Iowa Democrats are also pushing to win the governor’s race and flip the three congressional districts held by Republicans.

DeJear said she wants to use the secretary of state’s office to boost voter participation. She criticized Pate for spearheading a 2017 law passed by the state legislature that requires voter identification and makes other changes to the voting process, and for not doing enough to educate the public and local officials about the statute — leading to confusion during the law’s “soft rollout” this year.

“An ID requirement I don’t believe is necessary,” she said.

Pate has defended the voter law, saying on Iowa Public Television last month that most residents wanted an ID requirement and that his office is sending free IDs to people who don’t have one.

“I wanted to make sure the bill itself was one that was doing the job and not disenfranchising but actually assuring them of the integrity of the system,” he said.

DeJear, who is originally from Mississippi and went to middle school and high school in Oklahoma before moving to Iowa to attend Drake University, first got involved in voting issues when she was in middle school. It was then that she helped her grandmother, a teacher, run for elections commissioner in Yazoo County, Mississippi.

“At that point in time in my life … she was the only woman that I had known to run for public office, but she wasn’t doing it in a political way. She was running for office because she thought it was important to engage her students in civics, engage them as it related to voting,” DeJear said. “And that’s how I think the seeds were planted in me as it related to voting.”

After the 2008 Iowa caucuses she became a campus organizer for the Obama campaign and later worked on his 2012 campaign as Iowa African-American vote director. She’s also managed successful campaigns for the Des Moines school board, and she founded a small business that helps small businesses market themselves.

DeJear said that being a woman and a black American — two groups that haven’t always had voting rights in the U.S. — has increased the importance in her life of expressing herself through voting, and she wants others to embrace the value of casting a ballot.

“For me, it’s less about me being black, it’s less about me being a woman, and it’s more about me being an Iowan, trying to connect with every eligible voter in our state and giving them a reason to vote again,” she said.

When asked if she thought Iowans would be receptive to Harris, an African-American woman, running for president, DeJear said: “I know they’ve been receptive to me. I think that right now what Iowa is receptive to is genuine, heartfelt people who have a vested interest in resolving the issues within their communities.”

In addition to participating in political events this week with Harris and Sanders, Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-N.J.), another potential 2020 contender, campaigned earlier this month for DeJear, who has been endorsed by former President Obama.

But the big names stumping for DeJear should not expect an endorsement in the 2020 caucuses if she wins on Nov. 6. DeJear said she has “blinders” on when it comes to the presidential race and would not back a candidate because she thinks the secretary of state’s office should be nonpartisan.

“What would my endorsement do? To me, it would skew voters,” she said. “You’re secretary of state. You should probably be quiet and just encourage voting.”

As for all the national attention she’s getting from the party, she says it’s not important to her.

“The title that I truly want is not rising star,” she said. “The title that I truly want is secretary of state.”

Click Here: Golf special

About Author