Friday, September 21, 2018

Young African American woman, a statewide Democratic nominee in Iowa, knows how to talk to rural voters: values

Deidre DeJear (Photo by Byron Houlgrave,
Des Moines Register, via Associated Press)
A teacher that some would find surprising is giving Democrats refresher lessons on how to talk to voters in rural Iowa, KNIA-KLRS News Director Robert Leonard of Knoxville writes in one of his occasional columns for The New York Times.

"It’s not just diverse urban areas where a person of color can run for statewide office," Leonard reports. "32-year-old Deidre DeJear, an African-American small-business owner, is the Democratic nominee for secretary of state. If Ms. DeJear beats the Republican incumbent, Paul Pate, in November, she’ll become the first African-American to win statewide office in Iowa. About 91 percent of Iowans are white; only about 4 percent are African-American."

At a statewide Democratic dinner in June, DeJear "drew the most applause while being introduced," Leonard reports. "I asked about a dozen people why they felt so strongly about her and her messaging. People spoke of her “charisma,” “quiet confidence,” “her passion”; she “makes us feel like family,” one said. Ms. DeJear has a skill that Democrats would like to have more of: She knows how to talk to rural Iowans. So did Barack Obama. They share some similarities: Their messages are about ideas and values. She told me she doesn’t care if someone she talks with in rural Iowa voted for [right-wing U.S. Rep.] Steve King, or for Donald Trump. People change and candidates change, she noted. “They may no longer share your values,” she said she tells voters. “That’s O.K. Vote your values.” Like Mr. Obama, Ms. DeJear hits a recurring theme: opportunity for all."

The Rural Blog asked Leonard to tell us more about DeJear, and he did in an email: "She became the Democratic nominee much to my surprise. Her opponent was a young veteran, Jim Mowrer, who had great name recognition. He had previously lost to Steve King, and then to Young. Mowrer said all of the right things, but when you looked him in the eye there was nothing there. . . .You could tell it was an act. A script. Or that is my opinion anyway. After all of the people I have interviewed over the years, I can tell in the first ten seconds if they are the real deal or not, D or R."

DeJear "has incredible warmth, and personality, and worked her ass off," Leonard wrote. "Mowrer was calling it in, and didn't try very hard. What Diedre had to do was meet a lot of people. Apparently she did. I've watched her work a room better than anyone, even Obama. When she speaks with you it's like you are the most important person she has met all week." And that transcends race.

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