Deidre DeJear, a candidate for Iowa secretary of state, laughs with Lakeside Village Senior Housing residents during a town-hall meeting Monday in Panora. DeJear met with residents at Lakeside Village to talk about voter registration and the importance of getting out and voting.
Deidre DeJear, a candidate for Iowa secretary of state, laughs with Lakeside Village Senior Housing residents during a town-hall meeting Monday in Panora. DeJear met with residents at Lakeside Village to talk about voter registration and the importance of getting out and voting.

May 3, 2018

PANORA

As a child, Deidre DeJear made signs to support her grandmother’s campaign for county elections commissioner.

She saw her grandma’s passion and fight to never sit on the sidelines and wait for change.

It wasn’t until her own campaign that DeJear realized she had the same drive in her.

A small-business owner and a former organizer for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012, DeJear is a Democratic candidate running for Iowa secretary of state against Jim Mowrer in the June 5 primary.

Born in Mississippi, DeJear moved to Oklahoma with her family when she was 11.

After the move, DeJear’s family was always on the road, traveling and seeing other family members, DeJear said.

“My parents were true road trippers, so every time during the summer we were gone,” DeJear said.

DeJear said she traveled to see family in Arkansas, Louisiana and, of course, to see her grandma in Mississippi.

“My grandma has always promoted me getting involved in student organizations and things along those lines, and so her doing that was not unusual because she’s always wanted to get people to participate,” DeJear said. “I think that has always been with me. Her encouraging me to get involved. My grandma has never been one to sit on the sidelines for anything, and I think that is the part that has truly stuck with me.”

When she moved to Iowa to pursue a degree in broadcast journalism and politics at Drake University, DeJear met her husband, Marvin.

After finishing her degree in 2008, DeJear found herself in the Secretary of State Office seeking to start her own business.

She started Caleo Enterprises to help connect businesses through marketing tools and business strategies.

“I was working at Bankers Trust, and we were doing some marketing and product creation around small businesses,” DeJear said. “I started to really develop a keen interest in entrepreneurship. I come from an entrepreneur family, and so I decided I wanted to help our businesses because we had more and more that were starting. It was the brink of the recession. They didn’t know how to market themselves, though.”

After working directly with the Secretary of State Office to start her business, DeJear learned how important it was to get people out to vote, she said. DeJear disagrees with a recent change to state law — pushed by current Secretary of State Paul Pate — to require registered voters to provide photo ID when they vote. Studies have shown that such measures disproportionately affect poor and elderly voters.

“I earnestly believe that we should be led by our secretary of state,” DeJear said. “When you think about the commissioner over elections and campaigns rather than commissioning bills that infringe on people’s right to vote that makes voting confusing, I think we should have the primary focus on including people in the process.”

DeJear said her goal, if elected, is to bring people together and get them excited about voting by finding common interests.

“Not every community in our state is the same, we have to make sure that we are aware of the strength and the resources, and we can’t do it unless we get out of Des Moines,” DeJear said. “We have to take a vested interest in getting out the vote and connecting people.”

DeJear’s campaign recently announced it will return a $5,000 contribution from a national political group, EMILY’S List, because such donations are illegal to candidates who are running for state office during legislative sessions.