DeJear stops in Marshalltown after gubernatorial debate
A standing room only crowd of at least 50 people filed into the Tannin Wine Bar Tuesday night to hear from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear on the heels of her debate against Republican incumbent Kim Reynolds Monday.
Before DeJear, a small business owner who previously ran for Secretary of State in 2018, took the floor, Marshall County Democrats Chair Jeannine Grady introduced several other hopefuls including County Supervisor candidate Linda Von Holten, incumbent Rep. Sue Cahill (D-Marshalltown), who is running unopposed, and County Attorney candidate Sarah Tupper.
Tupper’s husband Mike, the Marshalltown police chief, also stood up to say a few words in support of DeJear, calling himself a “moderate” who has spent much of his life as a registered Republican or independent.
“I vote for people. I vote for policy. My wife would tell you that when it comes to economics, I tend to be conservative, (and) when it comes to social issues, I’m very liberal. I’m a moderate, and we need more of that in our political system,” Mike Tupper said. “Right now it’s the extremes running everything, and I believe in Deidre and I believe in her message because I believe that she wants to do what’s best for Iowans.”
Tupper added that he didn’t question Gov. Reynolds’ support for law enforcement, but he questioned why the record budget surplus of nearly $2 billion wasn’t being reinvested in public safety, mental health services, affordable housing and public education. DeJear’s running mate and current Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker was the last warmup act before the main event, and he shared a bit of his own background while encouraging those in attendance to vote and touting DeJear’s recent endorsement in the Des Moines Register.
“We’ve actually traveled across this state and talked to Iowans where they’re at. Deidre’s been doing that for a whole year now, talking to everyone — Republicans, Democrats, independents, farmers, teachers, nurses, everyone, to find out what the issues are that they struggle with and what’s working with them and what’s not. And then working with them to come up with what I like to call Iowa solutions, because that’s what it’s all about,” Van Lancker said.
When her turn came, DeJear applauded the “mixed” crowd of Democrats, Republicans and independents for showing up and explained why she decided to run. She returned to several topics she has made core tenets of her campaign including increased funding for public education, mental health services and healthcare in rural areas of the state.
“When I launched the exploratory committee more than a year and a half ago, we didn’t just hop right into it and say ‘I’m running.’ I wanted to hear if Iowans were up for this task. I wanted to hear not only if they could identify the challenges that existed in the community, I wanted to hear if they saw good in their communities,” she said. “And everywhere I went, including in Marshalltown, I asked that question, and folks gave me answers. And what propelled me to actually put my foot in this race is because everywhere I went, people saw good that existed in our great state. People knew that our state was worth fighting for, but more importantly, they knew that they needed leadership that was gonna push us.”
She went on to cast Reynolds as a divisive leader who made policy for certain segments of the population but not the state as a whole and said Iowa was not “too far gone” to change course. DeJear shared data about a lack of OB/GYN services in over 80 of the 99 counties and an anecdote about an individual struggling with mental health issues who was told it would be a six month wait to receive care and may require him to travel from Dubuque to Sioux City.
“We have less than 750 mental healthcare beds in this state, and we have a population of more than three million people. We are literally perpetuating a crisis right before our eyes” she said. “This is a system that’s in need of major investment. We have to get more people in the field.”
From there, she took her opponent to task over the budget surplus and pledged to invest it if elected in November, arguing that while it may sound good on paper, it comes at a cost.
Before opening the floor up to questions, DeJear celebrated Iowa’s history by recounting the story of Susan Clark, a 13-year-old African-American student who sued the school board in Muscatine for its segregation policy in 1867 and won nearly 90 years before Brown v. Board of Education, and highlighted the fact that former President Barack Obama won the kickoff Iowa Caucus on his way to becoming the country’s first Black Commander-in-Chief in 2008.
“Here’s the kicker. The rest of the country listened to us. That’s the kicker. We have political power in this state that stretches beyond our state boundaries that has impressions that can be made all over this country,” she said. “That’s why I’m a firm believer that this election cycle is possible because we see the human being, we believe in the human being, and more importantly, we’re willing to put in the work to make sure everybody in this state has access to life, liberty and happiness. So let’s not forget what we’re capable of.”
The first audience question came from Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer, who asked DeJear how she kept her composure when Reynolds talked “too damn much” during the debate, and she responded that she chose to keep her focus on the people of Iowa. Cahill asked the candidate what she would do with the surplus money if she is elected.
“That’s not really a surplus as (Reynolds) would like to describe it. That’s your taxpayer dollars not going to work. That’s what that is,” DeJear said. “My difference is that we’re gonna have our rainy day fund, and we’re gonna make sure that our emergency funds are in the space in which they need to be. But we’re not just gonna hoard dollars for the sake of a talking point in a political campaign, not at the cost of Iowans.”
Other topics that came from the audience included reintegrating ex-felons into society and helping them find employment, the privatization of Medicaid, a proposed Constitutional amendment that would strengthen gun rights and require strict scrutiny for any alleged violations of that right (DeJear opposes it), improving Iowa’s water quality and stopping soil loss and the shortage of available childcare in Iowa.
Jeanine Stewart of Marshalltown shared what she called “more of a statement” than a question and asked everyone in attendance to listen and empathize with each other, recalling her experiences protesting in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
“There were people that came up to us right in our faces mad at us because we were protesting racism, (saying) there’s no racism. Well just because you haven’t felt it doesn’t mean it’s not real. Just because I don’t know your story doesn’t mean it’s not real,” Stewart said. “We have to stop and think and listen to each other what everyone is saying. It’s not just about me. It’s about everybody. Just because it doesn’t affect me personally doesn’t mean it’s not gonna affect someone else.”
As she wrapped up her remarks, DeJear took aim at the perception she supports efforts to defund police departments, disputing the characterization and insisting that “nothing is further from the truth.”
“I can’t believe in defund the police because police are part of our solution. The problem is (Reynolds’) failed policies, and what’s so hurtful about that is that it’s less about my reputation because, again, I know who I am, (and) I know what I’ve done in my career,” she said. “What hurts about that is that over the last two years, our communities all over this state, law enforcement in lockstep with community activists and elected officials trying to mend our differences and trying to strengthen our communities for good. Our law enforcement and corrections officers have been trying diligently to get people into the field, and with this message of defund that has no place in our state — no Democrat or Republican is even running on that message — to bring that back into our state causes harm and causes doubt because that is not a solution that means anything in this state right now… We can’t point the finger at law enforcement the same way we didn’t want (Reynolds) to point a finger at East High School when there was a shooting right around the corner. She’s the root of our challenges right now, and we have to remember that.”
Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or