State Representative Jennifer Konfrst, Democrat of Windsor Heights, was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in November 2018 from the 43rd House District of Iowa. But before she even claimed victory in her state legislative race, Konfrst found herself receiving calls and messages from major national members of her party, all of whom were interested in running for president.
Take a step back and think about that for a second: an ordinary state legislative candidate from a small state in the Midwest was being courted by major national political figures. Where else in the country does this sort of thing happen other than in Iowa? Being the state that’s home to the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, Iowans who are engaged in politics find themselves being widely courted by candidates in search of their endorsements.
On April 22, 2019, Konfrst posted a video to her official Twitter account announcing that she was endorsing U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, in his bid for president. She was only the second member of the Iowa legislature to endorse a candidate for president at that point.
“I decided to endorse early because I wanted to use my endorsement to help his campaign,” Konfrst explained. She said she did not want to “just add my name to a list.”
And it seems she isn’t the only one to endorse this early. According to a tally from Iowa Starting Line, over two hundred public figures and organizations in Iowa have endorsed candidates in the race for president. Of that list, seventeen are members of the Iowa General Assembly.
“I was hearing from campaigns and candidates…we were all hearing from them,” Konfrst said about the process she undertook to choose her candidate. She said she spoke with Cory Booker in October 2018 and that she wanted to elevate a candidate whose beliefs and values align with her.
She acknowledged that some might question whether endorsements matter at all. But she believes that by making a decision as early as she did, she was able to support Booker’s campaign in a concrete way by speaking publicly about why she supports him.
Elected officials like Konfrst may consider the political ramifications of endorsing a candidate for president. But, Konfrst said that she did not consider her constituents when making her decision because every engaged Iowan—including politicians—makes a personal decision in who to support.
“For me, it was just a gut decision. I wanted to make my voice heard,” Konfrst said.