After only five days on the job, Price emceed the party's Hall of Fame event.
The Iowa Democratic Party’s new chairman, Troy Price, walked on stage to the theme of the TV game show “The Price is Right.”
That’s the last time he lets the staff pick his walk-on music, he joked.
Price, emcee for the party’s Hall of Fame awards event, had been on the job less than a week. He was elected last weekend to take over from Derek Eadon, who served a year as chairman before resigning for health reasons.
“Six months ago, people were writing the obituary of the Iowa Democratic Party,” Price said during his opening remarks at Thursday’s event.
“Yes, our party faces some challenges. There’s no question about that,” he said. “We’re going to have conversations in the coming weeks about how we move our party forward. How we rebuild our party.”
Other Democrats at the podium — including some of the seven candidates for governor — and in the audience had plenty of advice about what the party needs to do to win in November 2018.
“Democrats have always been and always will be the party that has pushed people to do the right thing. The party of big ideas. The party that lifts people up. We’re also the party that took a beating in the last election cycle,” state Sen. Matt McCoy of Des Moines said, after collecting an award for “outstanding elected official.”
McCoy’s advice: “The first thing we should do, is we should listen. Listen to what everyday Iowans are facing,” he said.
He talked about bringing in a consultant, Red Shoe Media, to redesign his website, email system and social media strategy. “As a result of that, we were able to reach more than 2 million Iowans a month, as we worked with Facebook Live on all of our public forums, hosted virtual town-hall meetings answering Iowans’ questions live and giving information to Iowans about everything that was happening at the Statehouse,” McCoy said.
Democratic National Committee member Sandy Opsvedt, who attended Thursday’s event, also talked about the need to engage voters — and not just during election season.
She said DNC chairman Tom Perez spoke recently about the need for Democrats to move past the “last-minute mobilizing” around elections. He called for employing a 12-month organizing strategy that keeps people engaged and brings new people into the party, she said.
“I think that message resonates extremely well to Iowa and I think that’s the kind of opportunity that we have,” Opsvedt said.
Former Senate majority leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs said there’s “a lot of cynicism going on right now with the public at large. Both parties face this.”
He said Democrats need to hit Republicans on workers’ rights but also offer a positive alternative. “I think Democrats need to talk not just about the bad things (Republicans) did but what we’re selling. And I think what we’re selling is an economy and state government that helps invest in workers’ skills more than they spend their time and energy looking for how to give some company a bribe to stay in Iowa,” Gronstal said.
Fred Hubbell, one of seven gubernatorial candidates who spoke Thursday, highlighted the need to organize in all 99 counties.
“We need to invest in a strong ground game all across our state,” Hubbell said. “We need everybody in this room, and all of the other activists across the state, need to band together and create strong county parties all across our state.”
Just as an aside, Democrats should take note of how well the non-politicians in the gubernatorial field connected with the audience. First-time candidate Cathy Glasson was a standout, using her labor-organizing chops to strong effect. But one of the best speeches of the night didn't come from a candidate at all. Ann Prichard, wife of state Rep. Todd Prichard, stood in for him while he's deployed with the U.S. Army Reserves in Bulgaria. She was charming and genuine — I agree with those who tweeted that she should run for office.
Price said in an interview after the event that his first goal for organizing the party is to get all 99 counties “field-ready.” That means bringing on organizers in every congressional district who can manage data, recruit volunteers, set up phone banks, etc.
“Some counties are in great shape, others need a little extra help,” he said.
Year-round organizing is ideal, but for now it’s a race to get that ground game in place by the June 2018 primary, he said. His first job is to raise the money to help pay for district organizers and county party buildups.
Price is the former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party and he also worked on the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns. He was successful in getting Bernie Sanders supporters behind his campaign for chairman. Party members seem grateful and relieved he stepped up after Eadon’s departure.
Price may not always be right, but the Democrats I’ve talked to seem to think he’s the right guy for the job.