Democrat Deidre DeJear announces exploratory committee, listening tour as she weighs a run for Iowa

July 12, 2021

Ames Tribune: Democrat Deidre DeJear announces exploratory committee, listening tour as she weighs a run for Iowa governor in 2022

By: Brianne Pfannenstiel

Deidre DeJear has formed an exploratory committee and is embarking on a statewide listening tour as she weighs a run for governor in 2022, she told the Des Moines Register.

The Democratic activist and small business owner said she has tasked a group of confidantes with analyzing the political and fundraising landscape to ensure there is a true path to victory open to her. 

“If we see that those things work for us, then we move forward,” DeJear said. “… I'm not here to take up space. I'm here to serve. And if the stars align for us, then I go and we don't turn back. But if they don't, I'm supportive of whomever else the stars align for.”

DeJear declined to name the members of the committee, saying the goal was not to create a group of endorsers, but rather a group of people willing to critically analyze her chances.

Although DeJear has not given the committee a deadline to make its decision, its formation allows her to begin fundraising. She's also not waiting for a decision before kicking off her listening tour, which begins Monday with a small business roundtable in the Drake neighborhood of Des Moines. 

DeJear is the founder of Caleo Enterprises, which helps small businesses with functions like marketing and project management. She said she's looking forward to beginning the tour by connecting with other small business owners.

“I believe small businesses are the bedrock of our communities and the bedrock of our state,” she said. “And they got hard hit last year. They got a really big, hard hit, and I want to talk to them about how they see our state playing a role in their success and how the state can be more of a support for them.”

DeJear said she's eager to begin having face-to-face conversations with Iowans after the COVID-19 pandemic forced campaigns online in 2020 and upended life across the state. 

“I want to be there in those moments where not only we're talking about our pain and our struggles and our challenges, but I also want us to recognize the good,” she said. “Because it's in recognizing the good in our community and talking about what motivates us, what moves us, what drives us — that's the energy that's going to help us resolve our challenges.”

DeJear ran for secretary of state in 2018

DeJear won a Democratic primary for secretary of state in 2018, but she ultimately fell short in her bid to defeat Republican Paul Pate. Still, her candidacy energized Democrats and elevated her status within the party. 

Ahead of the 2020 presidential caucuses, DeJear was tapped to help lead Kamala Harris's Iowa effort as campaign chair. 

She has remained engaged in Iowa politics since then, and earlier this year was named to Iowa's temporary redistricting advisory committee. She has stepped down from that bipartisan commission as she pursues a possible gubernatorial bid. 

If elected, DeJear would be Iowa's first Black statewide officeholder. 

DeJear's 2018 campaign manager, Cynthia Sebian-Lander, has rejoined her as an advisor. DeJear said she's had conversations with EMILY's List, a group that supports female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, and which endorsed her 2018 candidacy, but that it has not promised to back her possible 2022 bid. 

State Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, was the first major candidate to formally enter the race last month. And other Democrats, including state Auditor Rob Sand and U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, have said they are considering campaigns. 

Primary elections are scheduled for June 7, 2022. The winner of a Democratic primary will likely take on Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is expected to announce her reelection campaign this summer.