DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Democratic Party selected State Rep. Ross Wilburn, D-Ames, as its new chairman during a virtual meeting on Saturday. He replaces the outgoing chair, former State Rep. Mark Smith, who decided not to run for another term after the party suffered major losses on Election Day.
He becomes the first Black chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.
“I’m excited to get to work and lead Iowa Democrats for the next two years. With President Joe Biden, VP Kamala Harris, and DNC Chair Jaime Harrison at the top, Democrats are going to work tirelessly to bring people together, speak the truth, and build a more just society. We have aggressive plans to reinvigorate our party from the ground up and connect with more Iowans in communities small and large,“ Wilburn said in a released statement.
Wilburn, 56, represents Iowa House District 46 that consists of Ames in central Story County. He was first elected to the Iowa House in 2019 in a special election after State Rep. Lisa Heddens, D-Ames, resigned after her appointment to the Story County Board of Supervisors. He currently works as an associate director of community economic development for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
He grew up in Davenport, graduating from Davenport Central High School in 1982.
Wilburn earned his master’s in social work from the University of Iowa. He joined the University of Iowa’s School of Social Work as the graduate program director for its Quad Cities Center in 1997. In 2000, Wilburn left the university to join the Crisis Center of Johnston County as its executive director. He was hired in 2008 by the Iowa City School District to serve as its director of equity. He left to work for Iowa State in 2014.
He plans to remain serving in the Iowa House.
Wilburn also served as mayor of Iowa City from 2006-2007 and served as a city councilor for 12 years before that. He also ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, coming in 6th with 2.17 percent of the vote in the party’s primary.
He takes over leadership of a state party that experienced losses up and down the ballot in 2020. Wilburn also enters a fight to keep Iowa’s First in the Nation status after an app failure caused a major delay in releasing Iowa’s Democratic Caucus results, resulting in the state party chair’s resignation.
Iowa Democrats also re-elected June Owens as First Vice Chair, Tanner Halleran as Second Vice Chair, and Chris Adcock as Third Vice Chair.