Pressure's On as Iowa Politics Power Couple and First-Time Delegates Head to Democratic National Convention
Bob and Sue Dvorsky have been in Iowa politics since the 1970s. This will be their first time representing Iowa Democrats as delegates at the DNC, which begins on Tuesday in Charlotte, NC, and the stakes couldn't be higher for this battleground state duo.
Politics brought Bob and Sue Dvorsky together more than three decades ago when they were still getting their feet wet. This week, the Iowa Democratic Party stalwarts will represent their state and party as one of 78 delegates from Iowa at the Democratic National Convention, which begins on Tuesday in Charlotte, NC.
With Iowa's six electoral votes up for grabs in the 2012 election and their stature in the party, the pressure is on and the Dvorskys know it.
"This is a different kind of election," Sue Dvorsky says sitting on the back porch of their modest Coralville home in late August. "While most elections are a 'Muppet Movie' fork in the road, this is a hard 'T' intersection. This is an existential conversation about how we move forward. What is the relationship between government and private sector?"
"We have to get him elected. The country depends on it," she says of reelecting President Barack Obama.
Bob adds, "What kind of country do we want to live in? Is this the wild west of every family for themselves?"
With Iowa Up for Grabs, Pressure is on the Dvorskys
The Dvorskys are a power couple of sorts in Iowa politics.
Sue, 57, received an automatic spot as a delegate because she is the chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party. Bob, 64, a six-term state senator and chairman of the powerful appropriations committee, was elected delegate to represent Iowa's second district.
The Dvorskys' jobs as delegates aren't just for show.
Democrats will be counting on their leadership to turnout votes for races up and down the ballot, and especially at the top if Obama hopes to carry the Hawkeye State in 2012.
Iowa is one of a handful of battleground states upon which the 2012 election will hinge, and it remains very much in play. According to Real Clear Politics, Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney are both polling around 45 percent.
Obama and Romney have been going tit for tat in Iowa.
Each camp has visited several times, and more campaign stops are coming. Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden are in Iowa City on Friday and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday and Adel on Wednesday.
"There's a bigger sense of responsibility," Bob says of his job as a delegate from Iowa.
Hagle: Party Leaders Must Identify Supporters and Get Them to Polls
Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political science professor, said Bob Dvorsky and, perhaps more-so, Sue Dvorsky, along with the Iowa GOP chairman A.J. Spiker, are being looked to to deliver Iowa for their candidate on Election Day.
"As much as a good deal of attention is being paid to bigger states, Iowa may very well be the one state that both candidates need to get them over the top," Hagle said. "Not surprisingly, this in turn puts pressure on the state parties to do what they need to do in terms of identifying supporters and, in particular, getting them to the polls"
Given that Obama won Iowa by nearly 10 points in 2008, there's added expectation on Democratic leaders to do it again.
"There will be pressure on both party chairs," Hagle said. "My guess is that there might be a bit more on (Sue Dvorsky) given that Democrats are playing defense to keep Iowa in Obama’s column and to keep control of the state senate."
The Dvorskys, along with their children, made a family trip to the Democratic National Convention in Denver in 2008 as observers.
Tuesday will be their first time serving as delegates.
And, the Dvorskys couldn't be more giddy about their part in the process of officially nominating Obama for his second term and setting the party platform.
"I want to hear the president's speech. I want to hear the marching orders for where we are going to go," Bob says.
"It's so energizing, so exciting, so fun," Sue says. "We will meet people who have been doing the same we have been doing - multiplied by the entire country."
Rallying Voters is Nothing New for Dvorskys
The Dvorskys have been involved in Iowa politics since the 1970s.
Bob was elected to Coralville City Council in 1979, and Sue, a public school teacher who retired in 2010, served in every leadership position in the Iowa City area teacher's union, including president and chief contract negotiator.
The couple met in 1980 at a Democratic Party barbeque in Iowa City. Iowa House rep Mary Mascher played match maker, they say.
Sue has been active politically as everything from an education lobbyist to county coordinator for now U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's successful bid for Iowa governor in 1998 to co-chair of Johnson County for Obama in 2007-08.
Meanwhile, Bob left City Council after he was elected to the Iowa House in 1986 and won a special election for an Iowa Senate seat in 1994.
Former Iowa governor Chet Culver asked Sue to serve as vice chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party and she was elected party chairwoman in 2010.
"The Democratic Party across the state needed my brand of mom and cheerleader to get up off the mat," she says.
Since the early days, they have supported each other, whether for Bob's election bids or campaigning for candidates at the local, state and national level.
"This was always a family business," Sue says.
The next few months will be the couple's latest test, and the final leg begins this week.
Dvorskys Want to "Finish What We Started"
Hanging on a fence in their front yard, handmade letters read, "Hope" - the president's tagline from his 2008 election run.
The Dvorskys say they were among his earliest supporters in the state that began Obama's march to the presidency courtesy of a surprise win in the 2008 Iowa Caucus.
"I was the first state senator to support Obama back in 2007," Bob says proudly.
Adds Sue, "This family has been all in for a while."
Some feel that Obama wouldn't have become president without Iowa starting him down the path, and that is a point of pride for Iowans like the Dvorskys.
As party chairwoman, Sue has already been running back and forth across the state to rally the base and recruit new supporters. Her job is just as important delivering at the presidential level, but also for Iowa's four in-play congressional races and critical local campaigns. The races all tie together, she says.
The hard work will be needed.
Republicans walloped Democrats in Iowa's 2010 mid-term elections. Sue avoided blame because she was so new, but if Democrats do poorly again in Iowa in 2012, that will likely change, Hagle said.
"I know as chair of Iowa and a delegate of Iowa, we started it, we need to finish it," Sue says of getting Obama elected.