Week 3:
Media Relations and the Start of Caucus Season

Ringgenberg Fellow in Legislative Affairs

Iowa State Senate Democratic Research Staff | Des Moines, Iowa

January 26, 2019

My third week in the State Senate started out with the continuation of planning a multi event trip for one of our senators, State Senator Zach Wahls of Coralville. He is having 7 events in 2 days in his district and after coordinating with venues we were able to make a schedule. Next, I had a nice foray into press relations in the political world. It is important that Sen. Wahls is able to talk to numerous constituents no matter if they are supporters or opponents. Many towns in Senator Wahls’ district are towns that number in only a few thousand, if not in the hundreds. In order to reach constituents in these small communities, local media outreach is a necessity. This consisted of researching the local papers in towns like Clarence, Mechanicsville, and Tipton and calling the reporters about the event. After talking to these papers, I was tasked with drafting a press release for each event for each town. While these papers may not have a large audience, they are the lifeblood of information in these towns.

After sending out press releases the next step was ensuring that local leaders who know the need of their communities knew of, and hopefully attend, the event in their town. This consisted of me looking up every member of the city council, school board, and county board of supervisors for the towns where the events would be. After compiling a list of those individuals, I drafted an email outlining what each listening post event would consist of and why it would be important for them as community leaders to attend. Overall, I sent about 80 emails that will hopefully ensure that Senator Wahls will have productive meetings in the communities of his district that will lead to a better life for the Iowans he represents.

Another major task I did this week consisted less of organization but is still important for reaching out to constituents. Senator Rich Taylor from Mt. Pleasant likes to use radio ads; a direct way of reaching out to those that he serves. We recorded a minute-long ad talking about the start of the legislative session and some policy goals Sen. Taylor hoped to achieve. Sen. Taylor read a prepared statement that I drafted and after getting his sign-off, we went ahead and recorded the ad. It ended up being longer than one minute so I then had to edit the audio to not only shorten the clip but enhance the audio. Sen. Taylor enjoys doing radio ads as they reach a large number of those in his district and he gets a lot of positive feedback from the ads back in his district. Next, came distribution of the ad, which consisted of finding the station managers of his local radio stations, sending them the audio clip, and talking about distribution of the ad.

Outside of work, I was able to go to a pretty cool event this week. California Senator, Kamala Harris, held a town hall at Drake University that was hosted by CNN and moderated by Jake Tapper. The event was live on CNN across the world which was incredible to think about. I thought Sen. Harris did a good job, even answering tough questions about her past beliefs when it came to criminal justice, as she used to be the Attorney General of California. Iowa always holds a important place in American politics but 2020 will be one of the most saturated with the number of Democrats running for the nomination. Being in Des Moines allows me to see numerous candidates and hear their message first-hand.

Myself and fellow State House Interns at the CNN Townhall with Senator Kamala at Drake University.

Alex Salisbury '19

Alex is a history and political science major from Iowa City, Iowa.