“I’m am not running for political office of any kind. This is just simply something that I think is important and something that is very interesting to me,” said Patty Judge, a Democrat from Albia, who served two terms as Iowa Ag Secretary, then one term as lieutenant governor.
Her new group is called “Focus on Rural America” and it recently hosted focus groups with rural Iowans who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and then for Donald Trump in 2016.
“There were several ‘hit the forehead’ moments, believe me,” Judge said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “One of them that I think I can use as an example was minimum wage because both Hillary Clinton and I talked a lot about raising the minimum wage and we learned very clearly that did not resonate with those rural voters.”
Focus group members said they were interested in things job security, getting a raise and earning a “liveable” wage. Judge said responses from the focus group participants underscores how “dicey” the economy in rural Iowa is right now.
“People want to stay in rural Iowa,” Judge said. “They want to live there, but they also have to be able to make a living and they have to know that job is going to allow them to have a standard of living that’s acceptable and that’s going to be there next year.”
Focus group participants also indicated the Democratic Party had gone “too far” on social issues. Judge hopes her fellow Democrats take the data from these focus groups and start recruiting candidates from rural Iowa.
“We need to be paying more attention to grassroots and to building those leaders for tomorrow,” Judge said.
Judge noted Kim Reynolds, Iowa’s new Republican governor, started out in politics as the treasurer of a rural county, plus Republican U.S. Senator Joni Ernst was first a county auditor in rural Iowa.
Judge will host a series of public forums in rural Iowa over the next six months to gather more information about how rural voters react to “progressive” issues.