CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Knocking on doors in the waning days of the 2016 campaign, Andy McGuire didn’t find much support for Democrats.
That changed quickly after the election of Republican President Donald Trump. Campaigning in a special election a month later, people were asking her for absentee ballots for themselves, family members, friends and neighbors.
“It’s fired up people that this isn’t what they want,” McGuire said. “I can’t tell you how they voted last time, but the energy and intensity is really different than it was at the end of the election.”
That energy is carrying over into her campaign for the 2018 Democratic nomination for governor, McGuire, one of seven candidates for the nomination, said during a stop this week in Cedar Rapids.
She’s building on the relationships formed as a candidates for the lieutenant governor nomination in 2006 and as party chair in 2015 and 2016.
“When you’re in the trenches for two years like we were, the county chairs (and) the party activists, we’re all shoulder-to-shoulder, so there is a lot of goodwill from going through that together,” McGuire, 60, said about her tenure as chairwoman. “People know that I believe in what they believe in.”
That’s important because many Iowans lack trust in both the state and federal administrations, McGuire said.
“People trust me because I’ve been here fighting the good fight for years. They know I’m on their side,” she said.
The fight for the nomination also is about issues. As a physician, McGuire is concerned about reforms Congress considered that would shift health care responsibilities to the states.
“Health care decisions will become a big part of what a governor does,” she said, emphasizing her experience as a medical practitioner and in executive positions with Wellmark and American Enterprise Group insurance companies, and Medicaid-managed Meridian Health Plan.
Based on her visits with Iowans, McGuire said, mental health and substance abuse are becoming major issues.
“Opioid abuse is exploding and it’s only going to get worse,” she said, but Iowa ranks 50th among states in beds available for mental health care and lacks other resources. “We’ve got to talk about it. We have to have resources in every community.”
Democrats have taken a lot of criticism for their failure in rural Iowa, but McGuire sees potential. A recent Democratic meeting she attended in Sioux County, where voter registration is lopsided in favor of the GOP, attracted 70 people.
“We have got to get out and listen to rural Iowa,” she said. Rural Iowans feel they weren’t listened to in 2016, “but they’re not getting any help from what’s going on right now” under Republican leadership.
The state is not adequately funding schools, and proposed Medicaid reforms could result in the loss of 30 rural Iowa hospitals, she warned.
“That’s a really big deal because if you can’t get good health care, people aren’t going to come to a rural county,” McGuire said. “If you can’t have good education, people aren’t going to come to a rural county.”
If there is an upside to all-Republican control at the state and federal levels, it’s the passion McGuire sees in Democrats. The angst with the current administration “is already helping us because I hear about it everywhere I go.”
She shares that passion.
“When you talk to this many Iowans and you hear that they’re hurting, and they’re not getting what they need and they’re worried about their kids and they’re worried about their communities, it’s hard not to be passionate about changing it and leading them to a different priority system and some place where they are important ...” McGuire said.
“And I can beat Kim Reynolds,” she added.