Linn County Democratic politics lost a legend on the 4th of July, when longtime party activist Doris Peick passed away at age 78.
"Mother" Peick was an old-school lunch-bucket Democrat. She worked many years at Rockwell-Collins in Cedar Rapids and got into politics through her union, IBEW. She went to the Democratic National Convention in 1980, and to the Iowa House in 1982, when it was still a bit unusual to see women getting elected.
Peick's legislative career was brief; she lost to current Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett in 1986.But defeat didn't slow Doris down and by the time I joined the 1992 campaign as a twentysomething rookie staffer, her legend had preceded her.
And I was scared to death.
Mere words cannot capture the force of nature that was Doris Peick. She was gruff and abrasive, but had a big heart and a bigger mind and dominated almost any room she was in. Doris would laugh loudly if you were funny and cuss you out if you were wrong, and feed you dinner while she was doing it. She always wanted to organize things her way, and her way was usually more work and always more effective. If -- no, WHEN -- she bossed you around, it was because she loved you and loved the Democratic Party and wanted you to work your best and your hardest. (If she ignored you, that's when you were in real trouble.)
I'd come out of Johnson County where the principle of the time was that it was really rude to ask for money. Doris didn't have time for that; the headquarters rent needed to be paid, even if it was two bucks at a time. It was physically impossible to get into a Linn County central committee meeting at the RWDSU union hall back then without getting past Doris guarding the door, making sure you were dutifully depositing your two dollars into the jar. At the end of the night they'd do a 50/50 drawing: half the proceeds to the winner, half to the party. It was Doris who taught me that if you win you ALWAYS donate your half back to the party.
Doris also taught me that, as small as staffers paychecks were, everyone else was doing it for free so you had to work the hardest. She knew the ins and outs of the pre-computerized days of get out the vote, the arcane details of "throwing a walking deck" and "pulling cards," and she knew everyone in her precinct.
A bygone era? Not really. The tools have changed but the principles are the same: identify your people and make damn sure they get their votes in.
Doris Peick is no doubt already organizing her precinct in heaven and arguing with her cohorts who got there first, like Pat Marshall and John Glackin and Phil Brammer. Prayers and best wishes to her husband Dick, her children, and to all those who loved her.
And that was an awful lot of us.