Nineteen days ago, former Des Moines School Board member Jonathan Narcisse announced that he would challenge Governor Chet Culver in the Democratic primary this June. Following his announcement, Narcisse received weeks of favorable news coverage from traditional media outlets. Despite all of the attention, he was unable collect the necessary signatures to place his name on the ballot in the June primary, meaning Governor Culver no longer has a primary opponent.
Narcisse’s told Des Moines Register columnists Kathie Obradovich that he had the necessary signatures, but chose not to submit them after traveling the state and hearing from Iowans that they want an independent option on the ballot. Narcisse’s statement to Obradovich is interesting when you consider that he was collecting signatures at the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators’ (NICHE) forum in Des Moines just three days ago.
Narcisse was interviewed at the NICHE conference by Dave Davidson, a blogger for TheIowaRepublican.com, who was at the conference. In the interview, Narcisse said, “There needs to be those of us in the Democratic Party that have real Iowa values and are not afraid to stand up and be heard.” He went on to say that politics in the state would change if he were able to get on the primary ballot. He then asked for people to collect signatures to help get him on the ballot.
The inability for Narcisse to get on the Democratic primary ballot is a deadly blow to any credibility he may have had as a candidate. His tumultuous term on the Des Moines School board already raised questions about whether or not Narcisse had the temperament to serve as the chief executive of the state, but his three-week campaign as a Democrat makes him look foolish.
Narcisse’s flip-flop on running as a Democrat also raises questions about his ability to lead the state of Iowa. Just three days ago, he was a proud Democrat who was willing to primary an incumbent Governor. Now, he is telling a completely different story and claiming his decision was influenced by Iowans who want an independent choice this fall. Is that leadership?
As governor, would Narcisse be able to chart a course for the state and stick with it, or would the people of Iowa be subject to wild changes in positions on issues and policy matters? The platform that Narcisse is running on is very conservative and includes a number of things that can be found in the Republican Party of Iowa platform for the past decade. One has to wonder if these are his core beliefs, or positions based on convenience. It’s hard to believe that someone with such a conservative platform voted for Chet Culver in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2008.
Some of the notoriety that Narcisse has built over the years has come from his numerous appearances on WHO Radio. He is a frequent guest on Steve Deace’s afternoon radio program. Deace has stated that he believed that Narcisse was well known across the state and had a natural constituency group with African Americans. It now appears that either Narcisse wasn’t well known enough or couldn’t organize an effort to collect enough signatures to get his name on the ballot.
By failing in his attempt to challenge Culver in the primary, Narcisse has also severely wounded his independent candidacy. The most difficult thing that independent candidates have to overcome is being relevant enough to be included in joint media appearances with major party candidates and being covered by the media. By failing to get on the ballot, traditional media will now look at him in a different light. If a candidate can’t collect the 4200 signatures need to place his name on the ballot, you can’t really take him seriously.
This situation makes Narcisse look like more of a self-promoter or attention seeker than a serious gubernatorial candidate. While his passion for reforming state government is something to admire and his proposals deserve consideration, Narcisse is not ready to lead the state. Not only does he lack the discipline that a statewide campaign requires, but he has placed his credibility in question by not being forthcoming about his true reasons for changing course mid-race.
Instead of running for governor, Narcisse should have run for the State House of Representatives or State Senate. Not only would he have had a better shot at getting elected, but he also could have advocated for change like he did while on the Des Moines school board. While his time there was marred by controversy, he accomplished a lot of what he set out to do. It’s unfortunate that he was unwilling to do the same for state government.
Below is the interview with Narcisse that was conducted by Dave Davidson.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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