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The youngest state Democratic Party leader has a message for Iowa

Zach Spindler-Krage
Anderson Clayton, the youngest state party leader, returned to Poweshiek County on Monday, Feb. 19 to speak to students and community members about her experience as a political organizer.

Anderson Clayton, 26, chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party and the youngest state party leader in the country, spoke to a crowd of 20 at Saints Rest Coffee House on Monday, encouraging young Iowa Democrats to take action in support of their party: “I want to see Iowa put up a fucking fight.”

Clayton was elected to her two-year post in February 2023, despite North Carolina’s governor, attorney general and several congressmen endorsing her opponent. Her victory over the 73-year-old incumbent was covered by National Public Radio, Politico and The New York Times. 

I want to see Iowa put up a fucking fight.

— Anderson Clayton

During the 2020 election cycle, Clayton came to Grinnell around twice a week, working as an Iowa field organizer for the presidential campaigns of Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. 

“Poweshiek County was a treat for me to have as an organizer,” she said, explaining that she perceived the county to be a “blue bubble” among surrounding counties. 

In Iowa, she said she learned a persistent, year-round presence was needed to win democratic elections. Later in 2020, Clayton worked in rural eastern Kentucky for Amy McGrath’s campaign against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. During these campaigns, Clayton said she discovered a disconnect between national Democratic Party politics and the experiences of people in rural areas. 

“In 2020, I figured out the national party didn’t really give a shit about places that looked like where I was from, or places that looked like rural Iowa,” she said. 

“I credit you all with the fact that I knew that I could organize in rural places now. I didn’t really know that there were Democrats in rural places before I came out to Iowa.”

Clayton spoke to a crowd of 20 attendees at Saints Rest Coffee House. (Zach Spindler-Krage)

After the 2020 election, Clayton returned to Roxboro, North Carolina, home to about 8,000 residents. She was elected the chair of the Person County Democratic Party in 2021. There, Clayton worked to elect three Democrats to the five-member Roxboro City Council, including three Black Democrats, creating the first majority-minority city council in Roxboro’s history. The city is 34.6% Black, according to 2020 census data. 

For 2024, Clayton said she has plans to run Democrats in 168 of 170 seats in North Carolina’s General Assembly. 

“We believe in running someone everywhere,” she said. 

In Congress, North Carolina has two Republican U.S. senators and 14 U.S. house representatives, half of which are Democrats and half Republicans. Neither U.S. Senate seat is up for re-election this fall. 

North Carolina has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980, except for Barack Obama in 2008. For the last eight years, however, the state has been led by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. Limited to two terms, Cooper will not run for reelection, and part of Clayton’s job will be to help the party elect another Democratic governor. 

“We gotta revitalize our party, and it’s not just going to happen in North Carolina, but in Iowa as well,” she said. 

Attendees frequently applauded Clayton as she enthusiastically delivered her message. (Zach Spindler-Krage)

All four of Iowa’s U.S. House seats — each held by Republicans — will be contested this November. Within the state, all 100 Iowa House of Representatives seats and half of Iowa’s 50 state Senate seats will also be up for election. 

Iowa Republicans control the offices of governor, secretary of state, attorney general and both chambers of the state Legislature. Iowa House Republicans also hold a supermajority in the state Senate, a feat not achieved by either Iowa party in 50 years. 

Clayton had flown to Iowa to speak at a banquet hosted by the Ankeny Area Democrats on Tuesday. Two young organizers had invited her for the fundraiser. They couldn’t pay for her visit, but Clayton said she’d gladly return to Iowa and support young Democrats.

“I owe Iowa my life,” she said. “I was like, ‘I will do that happily for y’all.’”


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About the Contributors
Nina Baker
Nina Baker, Staff Writer
Nina Baker is a fourth-year Russian major with a Russian, Central European and Eurasian Studies concentration from Lakeville, Minnesota. When she's not reporting for The Scarlet & Black, she loves taking long walks, reading, and learning foreign languages.
Zach Spindler-Krage
Zach Spindler-Krage, News Editor
Zach Spindler-Krage is a third-year political science major and policy studies concentrator. He is from Rochester, Minnesota and has an unbelievable amount of state pride. Zach spends his time hiking, playing and listening to music, trying to submit op-eds for every class writing assignment, and wishing he was in Minnesota.
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