Anna Ryon, an attorney with the Office of Consumer Advocate, launched her challenge to David Young in an underwhelming event at Streetcar 209 in Des Moines.
About 20 people gathered to watch what looked like an open mic night at a comedy dive bar. Local activist, Ben Gran, introduced Ryon amid an awkward stream of misplaced jokes and praise. “She’s a City Dweller. An Actual lawyer. We will have a lawyer making laws. Instead of these violent criminals…literally.”
Another family friend took the stage to discuss Anna’s experience as a high schooler when she would attend the United Methodist Conference and argue with the late Iowans For Tax Relief Co-founder, David Stanley.
For years Stanley was the conservative leader in the Iowa Methodist Conference. Anna’s father was a closeted homosexual who was part of a progressive push to turn the conference far to the left despite the conflict it made with the worldwide Methodist Book of Discipline and the political ideology of Iowa congregations across the state.
Anna assisted her father in church politics. In her stump speech she stated he committed suicide because he did not feel he could be accepted as a gay pastor in the Methodist Church.
Ryon stated that both African Americans and Women have made no progress in America. “John Lewis is still in Congress fighting the same fight he was fighting in the 1960s. The women that I fought with 25 years ago for equal rights are still fighting the same fights.”
She recounted her early days protesting and holding signs demanding changes to the Iowa Constitution. Her Facebook features a profile picture of her wearing a pink “pussy hat” which became popular in demonstrations following President Trump’s nomination. On her website she rebukes a conservative blogger mentioning the hat and framing it as an attack on her appearance instead of an obvious commentary that she is not in tune with the moderate district.
Her narrative seemed disjointed as she discussed her parents meeting and falling in love juxtaposed to minutes later discussing the tragedy of him being forced to live a lie as a gay man. She’s spent years giving speeches and pushing the Methodist Conference to accept gay clergy with methods that match the emerging pageantry of current overreactive demonstrations. Her tone and mannerisms are likely as polished as they are going to get. Her forced sincerity doesn’t resonate but it will likely find a following among the other progressive activists. She will have a difficult time matching resources with announced candidate and businessman, Mike Sherzan, who can self-finance a campaign.
Ryon is likely to draw the primary into a fight of identity politics. She has a resume of participation in antics that focus more on making a scene than making policy. Her antics could drive down Sherzan’s personal fortune and pull him to the left but her impact on the race will be minimal. Her success seems destined to do more to harm Democrats in the general election than it will to Congressman Young. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
John Thompson is a graduate of West Point and Harvard and serves on the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Iowa