Des Moines, IA- Today the Latino Political Network (LPN) announced a first-of-its-kind initiative to elect more Latinos across Iowa through non-partisan education and empowerment. The Latino Political Network offers classes focused on all facets of political campaigning and elective service. LPN will also connect existing Latino elected officials and Latinos with political aspirations in a way never before seen in Iowa. LPN will offer mentoring, coaching, and support as more Latinos make the leap to run for public office.
LPN’s first event will be a class for Latinos interested in running for public office. The class will be held on Saturday, June 20, from 1:00 to 7:00 at the Simpson College campus at 1450 SW Vintage Parkway, Suite 220 in Ankeny, IA. The class will include in-depth information on building and running a campaign, an overview of elected offices in Iowa, and a panel discussion with current Latino elected officeholders. The panel discussion will feature the largest gathering of current Latino officeholders. Scheduled to attend are: Rita Vargas (Scott County Recorder), Jose Zacarias (West Liberty City Council), Pedro Rodriguez (Denison City Council) and more. Dinner will be provided for participants and panelists. Media and visitors are invited to a meet-and-greet with panelists and participants as well as introductory comments from the founders from 1:00 to 2:00.
Why now? This initiative happens at a high-profile time in Iowa politics with the 2016 Presidential caucus campaigns in full swing. Despite Iowa’s well-earned reputation as an incubator for future Presidents, the state has minimal representation of Latinos in elected office. Fewer than 20 of close to 2,000 elected officeholders are Latino. There is only one Latina currently elected to county wide office and there have been no Latinos elected to the State Legislature in Iowa history.
“It is clear to me that politics can no longer be an optional item for the Latino community; we have to become involved,” said Omar Padilla, a co-founder of the LPN. “Through the Latino Political Network we will train, connect, and empower Latinos to run for office. LPN graduates will help shape the legislation and government of the near future, and make Iowa an even better place to call home.”
“While many current officeholders represent the issues of the Latino community well, there is no substitute for direct participation of Latinos in the political process, particularly by running for and holding elective office,” said Rob Barron, a co-founder of the LPN.
The Latino Political Network was founded and is run by Rob Barron, the first Latino elected to the Des Moines School Board, and Omar Padilla, a first-generation Latin-American who currently serves as Third Vice Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.
More about the founders of the Latino Political Network:
Rob Barron is the Vice Chair of the Des Moines Public School Board. In 2013 he became the first Latino to win elected office in Polk County, Iowa’s largest county. He served Iowans for 13 years in the office of Senator Tom Harkin, concluding as Harkin’s State Director from 2009-2014. He was named one of the “50 Most Wanted Democrats” by the Des Moines Register in 2014 and is one of 50 Iowans contributing to Politico’s weekly Caucus reports.
Omar Padilla is a first generation Latin-American. He is the son of working-class immigrant parents. Omar was the first person in his family to go to college. His work experience has allowed him the opportunity to travel extensively around Iowa and gain a first-hand understanding of the Latino community’s most pressing needs. Omar’s introduction to politics came as a member of Senator Tom Harkin’s staff, and later as the 3rd Vice Chair for the Iowa Democratic Party. He believes that for Latinos, becoming involved in politics is no longer an option; it is a responsibility. As a result of this reality, Omar agreed to partner with Rob Barron to create the Latino Political Network.