AMES — Authorities are investigating threatening messages directed at Iowa Democratic Party chairman Ross Wilburn after The Des Moines Register published an editorial from Wilburn that criticized former President Trump.
Wilburn said he received two threatening voice mail messages and an email with racist language that referred to his editorial. Wilburn, who is black, said the first voice mail message referred to lynching.
“Unfortunately, these types of threats are not uncommon for myself or other people of color serving in public roles,” Wilburn said late this morning during an online news conference.
Wilburn, the former mayor of Iowa City and a current state representative, said it seems as if over the past few years there’s been an increase in the intensity of comments meant to intimidate public officials.
“I don’t want to see it become the norm, but it’s trending that way,” Wilburn said, “so that makes me sad to see that happen.”
Wilburn told reporters he’s experienced a range of emotions, including anger and exhaustion, as well as a sense of numbness over these recent threats. “More people need to come forward and say: ‘This is not o.k. This is not our community. We don’t want to see this,’” Wilburn said.
Wilburn intends to press charges if investigators find those responsible. Wilburn said made his report to police, in part, to encourage other public officials — like school board members — who’ve been threatened with violence to do the same.
“Look at what’s going on at some of the public meetings that are going on and ask yourself: ‘Is that o.k.?’ And I don’t think it is,” Wilburn said. “I’m encouraging others to step forward and say: ‘It’s not o.k.’”
Iowa Republican Party chairman Jeff Kaufmann issued a written statement this morning, strongly condemning the racist threats made toward Wilburn and adding that he hopes those responsible are held accountable. Kaufmann said Iowans “can have a spirited debate” about issues and candidates “without threats of violence.”
This spring, a permanent security fence was installed around the governor’s mansion in Des Moines after what the Iowa Department of Public Safety described as repeated threats against Governor Kim Reynolds. In September, the U.S. Capitol Police reported threats against federal lawmakers have doubled since last year.