Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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March 19, 2016

Sullivan’s Salvos     3/22/16

In this edition:

*Sullivan for Supervisor Fundraiser!
*County Convention Thoughts
*Bernie Chair
*Did You Know?

*Sullivan for Supervisor Fundraiser!
We are having a Sullivan for Supervisor Fundraiser on Tuesday, March 29, from 5-7 P.M. at The Mill.

Please join us for pizza, beverages, and fun! Everyone is invited! Call 319-354-7199 or email for more information.

*County Convention Thoughts
         The Johnson County Democratic Party just held its annual Convention at Clear Creek Amana High School in Tiffin, and I thought I would share some of my thoughts from the day.

         First, it would unfair to begin this conversation without acknowledging the amazing group of people whose hard work made the event possible. Martha Hedburg, David Tingwald, Tom Larkin, John Deeth, Mike Jesse, Dennis and Robin Roseman… I could go on, but you get the idea. Political events happen because volunteers step up. Thanks to those who make things happen!

         Secondly, the numbers: The County Convention had 353 delegates; that number is pseudo-scientific. It is set at a level that is large enough to allow even the smallest precinct to get one delegate, but also small enough to fit comfortably in an auditorium. 353 gets the job done on both counts.

         Of those 353 delegates, the final breakdown was 208 for Sanders and 145 for Clinton. Moving forward, Sanders got 54 delegates to the District Convention, while Clinton got 38.

         Third, my own struggles with wearing too many hats: I am a candidate for Supervisor in a crowded Democratic primary. The Democratic Party convention is a great place to politic. I was also the Sanders Chair. This required a lot of running around, a lot of meetings, and a lot of organizing. Unfortunately, I don’t think I did my candidacy any favors by splitting my attentions in this way. I got to give a two-minute speech, for which I was unprepared, and then ran off without talking to many voters.

         Fourth, friendship versus politics: We avoided all of the horror stories we are hearing from other counties, and I chalk that up to friendship. The local Clinton Chair was Sue Dvorsky. I would crawl through broken glass if Sue asked me to. Credentials wizards John Deeth and Tom Larkin are longtime friends of us both. We were all committed to not only running a smooth convention, but to modeling respectful behavior every step of the way. I think we succeeded!

         Fifth, gender equity (1): The Sanders folks purposely divided by gender, and the exercise was telling. We were attempting to avoid a long, drawn out election by encouraging some folks to sign up as alternates rather than running as delegates. Interestingly, the women did this fairly quickly, while the men held their ground. This behavior demonstrates EXACTLY why we gender balance things in the first place!

         Sixth, gender equity (2): One of the Sanders delegates noted that ze did not conform to a binary notion of gender, and objected to selection based upon this criteria. I asked permission to bring it up to the crowd, and ze granted permission. So I explained the situation, and moved that ze be elected to the District and State Conventions, where ze could advocate for a change in the rules. I am proud to say that the vote was unanimous, 208-0! What’s more, there was loud applause! I cannot begin to describe how cool it felt to see a roomful of people step up and support a fellow traveler in this way. It was really moving!

         Interesting stuff, these County Conventions! The Democratic Party really is a big tent –some would say a circus - and it is on display every year at this event.

*Bernie Chair
         I had a couple people ask me how I got to be the Bernie Sanders Chair in Johnson County. One of the people asked innocently; another asked in a rather accusatory tone. Either way, I thought it might be a good idea to share the story.

         The story begins a couple years ago, in the spring of 2014. I was the person who first got Bernie to Iowa. I had heard him speak about income inequality on NPR. I thought he would hit the notes we needed to hear. I called his office, and finally got in touch with his Senate staffers. I spoke to them at length, urging him to visit our Johnson County Democratic Party Fall BBQ. We had some very frank discussions – they confided to me that Senator Sanders might be interested in running for President. I explained that there was no better springboard than Johnson County, Iowa. He needed to test the waters, and we all knew it. So Bernie Sanders headlined the 2014 JC Dems BBQ. (Not the 2015 event, mind you – he was there, too. We’re talking 2014!)

         Senator Sanders got an amazing reception, and his staffers and I kept in touch. They came back, and asked me to endorse the Senator. I said I would. I introduced Bernie at a rally in Iowa City, which turned out to be the first event following the hiring of Iowa staff. The Vermont staff looked at the Iowa staff and said, “This is your guy in Johnson County.” When local staff got hired, State staff said, “This is your Johnson County Sanders Chair.”

         So…I was never elected. And there were times when I thought about mentioning that fact; opening up the process, if you will. I mean, I can admit it – there was nothing democratic about the process.

         But you know what? Right or wrong, I decided that I had earned it. The “Bernie Bros” had already begun acting like asses online. A few folks looked to co-opt the leadership of the local Sanders group. It was extremely important to me that our group be pro-Sanders rather than anti-Clinton. (I think we achieved that.) I felt as though we had a very humanistic thing going, and I did not want that to change. So I stood my ground.

There are many instances where it would have been easier to just hand the responsibilities off to someone else. It was a pretty thankless task. But I decided to just keep claiming the title of “Sanders Chair” for myself. And I am OK with that. So there you have it!

*DID YOU KNOW?  This year marked only the second time ever that all the delegate seats were filled at the County Convention. The other year was 2008.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

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