With a whopping twenty-four Democratic and two Republican candidates running for president in the 2020 election, many Muscatine County residents may feel overwhelmed when it comes to figuring out who they would like to support. To help area residents better evaluate their choices, Karen Cooney created Project Muscatine, an organization working to make it easier for Democratic candidates to speak to Muscatine County voters. As the popularity of this program spreads, Cooney hopes to help other political organizations throughout the county and region use a similar strategy to help voters have more opportunities to interact with and learn about candidates.
A longtime resident of Muscatine, Cooney experienced annoyance every election cycle when candidates made a point of visiting cities outside of Muscatine County. “It can be frustrating to see candidates go to Des Moines multiple times or Cedar Rapids instead of going out to the smaller towns,” she shared.
In the spring, Cooney felt the time had come to make sure as many of them as possible came to Muscatine County and interacted with local voters. “This cycle, even before we knew they’d be such an enormous amount of candidates, we knew we wanted to make the process easier, for us and for organizers,” she recalls.
To this end, she began researching different sized venues in Muscatine County, compiling their contact information, and putting together a user-friendly document encapsulating all of it. Cooney also included information about Muscatine, and why candidates should want to come visit here. “We have a rich history . . .. We have such a diversity in Muscatine County, [ it helps candidates] see how things go on in the state,” Cooney elaborated.
As candidates began looking for places to speak near Muscatine, Cooney, and several other volunteers who she brought on to help with Project Muscatine, started distributing this information to campaign schedules and spokespeople. Impressed with the group’s organization and up-to-date information, ten candidates so far have taken the opportunity to hold events in various cities in Muscatine County. To date, every candidate that has visited has felt very impressed with the help they received from Project Muscatine. “I’ve had nothing but compliments,” said Cooney. “People ask why this isn’t available in every county.”
As the popularity of Project Muscatine continues to grow, Cooney hopes to extend its reach to state and even local races, as well as to other political organizations throughout the state. She also wants to create a system to better alert the local press of candidate visits, helping to further publicize them.
By creating more groups that actively promote Muscatine County and all of southeastern Iowa as a desirable place to visit, Cooney hopes more candidates will come and help actively engage area voters in the political process. Additionally, Cooney knows that by having more people visit the area, local businesses will see a boost in sales during campaign season. “It’s a win-win for us because it’s helping Muscatine. It’s a great way to explore and discover Muscatine,” she asserted.