Bob and Sue Dvorsky: Iowa’s Political Power Couple

Posted: October 11, 2019 | By: Tanner Halleran Tagged: Blog

In politics, it’s all about who you know. Being active in Iowa grassroots politics, I’ve met a lot of people, but perhaps two of the most fascinating and enjoyable are Bob and Sue Dvorsky. The couple resides in Coralville and has been married since the late 1980s. Together, they have created a legacy that will last beyond their two daughters, Ann and Caroline. 


The day was January 9th, and it was the first day of the 87th General Assembly for the Iowa Legislature; it was my first day as a Senate Page, and while I was interested in politics, I was too far in over my head. While most of the specifics of that day are foggy due to an overload of information, I remember a few things, including meeting Senator Bob Dvorsky. I knew his district was north of mine, and that he was in close proximity to my hometown of Sigourney. What I didn’t realize was the magnitude of his career and his influence in Iowa politics. 


Meeting Sue Dvorsky was much less formal, in the sense that I can’t definitively pinpoint a time in which it happened. More so, it was one of those scenarios where proximity brought us to meet rather than an effort from one or the other. By the time of our official meeting, I had figured out the importance of the Dvorsky name in the Iowa political arena and knew that Sue also boasted an outstanding resume. 




At this point, I hope you’re asking yourself, who are these people, and why are they important? 


I believe there are two types of activists in politics. On one hand, you have those who advocate for a candidate and the policies they propose. On the other, you have those who are simply loyal to the party, its establishment, and its well being. I am of the latter and therefore find the Dvorskys intriguing as they both have a wealth of institutional knowledge built by the first-hand experience in Iowa.


Senator Dvorsky served a collective 32 years in the Iowa Legislature (8 in the House, 24 in the Senate). This achievement makes him one of the longest-serving legislators in state history. In those years, he enacted and changed policy, saw legislators coming and going with each election, and held leadership positions within the Senate Democratic Caucus. Before serving at the state level, he served multiple years in county-level politics and on many boards. 


Sue spent 36 years as a Special Education Teacher in Iowa City and has also spent countless hours advocating for candidates (beyond her husband) and the students and families whom she educated. Beyond her advocacy, she has a background with party organization as a National Education Association union member and leader within her school district. In 2008, she was elected to serve as the Vice-Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party and in 2010 and 2012, she was elected to serve as Chair. 


From these short career summaries, which only take the highlights from each, it’s easy to see how it was possible for the Dvorskys to gain so much institutional knowledge throughout their political tenure. They are able to translate their experiences to a deeper understanding of Iowa political events such as the Iowa Caucus. Within my limited memory of the Dvorskys’, together they have endorsed two of the eventual party nominees in the last 10 years: Sen. Barack Obama in 2008 and Secretary Hillary Clinton in 2016. This year, they have both endorsed Sen. Kamala Harris for President. While the Iowa Caucus doesn’t happen for another 4 months, it gives the Dvorskys plenty of time to help her whip up support in Johnson County, a Democratic stronghold, and the state in general. 


When I sent the couple questions to help better inform me for this blog post, I asked them to explain why youth should participate in politics and what they would say if youth were told participating wasn’t important. Here is what they had to say:


Bob:  “It’s their future. It always matters. So many stories of races won by a handful of votes. [The] 2016 Presidential [election] is the most recent (and most damaging) example. The capacity of Kinnick Stadium [69,250 seats] is the number of voters who led us to where we are now. The stakes are so high this time that it’s not hard to show people the importance.”


Sue: “…[I]t is true that in the living memory of most voters, our politics has never been more tribal. That is discouraging for many voters, not just young ones. But I believe that is part of a plan that includes voter suppression. So it’s important to continue to identify it, and resist.”