The Iowa Democratic Party’s state central committee has elected a former state senator who lost a 2020 congressional race by six votes as its chairwoman. Rita Hart was also the party’s 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor.

“My focus is squarely on helping our party begin winning elections again,” Hart said today. “…I’m under no illusions that this will be easy and I know that it will take time.”

Hart has been the leader of Clinton County Democrats for the past year. She said county parties need more support to be effective. “Serving as IDP chair has never been an ambition of mine, but I do care deeply about the success of Iowa Democrats,” Hart said. “…I’ve seen time and time again how the policies that our leaders implement affect everyday Iowans.”

Hart takes over as Iowa Republicans hold firm majorities in the state legislature and all six seats in Iowa’s federal delegation. Hart, a former teacher in two small school districts, won two legislative races in a predominantly rural district. “I’ve won two races in a state senate district that Donald Trump carried twice,” Hart said, “and in my 2020 congressional race, we raised $5 million and outperformed Joe Biden by more than any of the other Iowa congressional races.”

Hart’s election came in hour four of a sometimes turbulent meeting of the Iowa Democratic Party’s state central committee. Some members tried to delay considering changes in the party’s governing structure and questioned who was allowed by party rules to vote in the race for chair. Brittany Ruland, one of the other two candidates who sought the job of party chair, said today’s meeting had been “a bit more heated” than everyone might have been prepared for.

“Whatever differences we might have, you know they really pale in comparison to what we’re looking towards what the Iowa GOP is doing right now,” said Ruland, who ran a key 2022 race that saw a Democrat defeat the Republican who was president of the state senate.

Democrats held today’s meeting virtually and it took more than an hour to tally the electronic ballots in the race for chair, which Hart won with 69% support. Hart received 34 votes and 14 state central committee members voted for Ruland. Bob Krause, the other candidate for party chair, received one vote.

Radio Iowa