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Rising political newcomer Deidre DeJear stops by Charles City

  • Jim Davis welcomes Deidre DeJear to Charles City Saturday at his business office. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Deidre DeJear, Democratic candidate for Iowa secretary of state, talks to potential voters Saturday in Charles City. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Deidre DeJear, Democratic candidate for Iowa secretary of state, talks to potential voters Saturday in Charles City. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Democratic candidate for Iowa secretary of state Deidre DeJear talks to an interested voter Saturday in Charles City. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

By Kelly Terpstra,

Deidre DeJear doesn’t do a lot of scoreboard watching.

It’s just not in her game plan.

The Democratic candidate for Iowa secretary of state said she puts the pedal to the metal, regardless of the score.

“We have to play like we’re 20 points behind. That’s how we run our campaign,” said DeJear, a 32-year-old Mississippi native who has never run for political office prior to this current campaign to unseat Republican incumbent Paul Pate.

DeJear stopped in Charles City on Saturday to talk to about 25 interested people who met at Jim Davis’ Iowa Title and Realty Co. on Main Street.

Recent polls have the race toward the Tuesday, Nov. 6, election in a dead heat.

“When we got polling done for the first time in August that said we were tied with Pate 40-40 (with) 20 percent of folks undecided. I’m like, umm, at least we know we’re doing the right thing. Let’s keep going,” said DeJear.

Really, the polling doesn’t mean much to her, said DeJear, a Drake University graduate and small business owner who worked as a field organizer on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2012.

“Polling? Who cares?” smiled DeJear. “There is no amount of polling that can predict our mental consciousness.”

DeJear’s No. 1 message in her tour across the state is to get people to vote. She said that Iowa has 2.4 million eligible voters and that only 1.9 million are active and registered.

“I know we can do better than that. I think 450,000 votes can definitely swing an election,” said DeJear, the first black candidate in Iowa to win a major-party nomination for a statewide race.

DeJear squeaked by Jim Mowrer in June’s Democratic Party primary by just 3,800 votes. She said only 13 percent of registered voters participated in that primary and there is a feeling by some people that their vote doesn’t matter or that the system is rigged.

“It’s time for us to get back to basics. All of this politics that’s going on and this dissention and this division that we see, that spirit can be resolved if we just get people voting again and give people a reason to actually vote,” said DeJear.

DeJear is owner of Caleo Enterprises, a marketing firm that works with small businesses. Providing services for businesses is also a key component of the Office of Secretary of State.  

“I work in the realm of small business and non-profit development,” said DeJear. “We’ve got to ensure the secretary of state’s office is not a barrier for businesses.”

DeJear has been a fast-rising star over the last year and has received endorsements from political heavyweights such as Obama, Bernie Sanders and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California. She said she always used to work behind the scenes to get people out to the polls and knew how to get people elected. That changed when she decided to run for office herself.

“When we started this race it was a pipe dream because I had never run for anything in my entire life,” she said. “When I embarked on this journey, my mission was to increase voter turnout. My mission was to get someone elected. I had no idea it was going to be me.”

DeJear touched on the law signed in 2017 in Iowa that requires voters to show identification in order to cast their vote at the ballot box. The idea behind the bill is to stamp out voter fraud.

“It’s not necessary,” she said. “They spent almost half a million dollars only to find no intentional election misconduct.”

DeJear, a Des Moines resident, is also in favor of automatic voter registration.

“I think it’s important for us to protect the most essential mechanism of our democracy,” DeJear added.

DeJear helped the Des Moines East Scarlet girls basketball team win a state title in 2011 as an assistant coach. She hearkened back to that hoops mindset when reminding everyone in attendance at the gathering on Saturday just how important it is to have your voice heard with your vote.

“Voting is almost like playing basketball. Every shot in a basketball game counts, whether it’s a make or a miss,” said DeJear. “You’re either 0-1 or 1-1. We need people to actually get on the court and take the shot.”