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Midterm Iowa caucuses don't have the presidential year flash; it's all about party business

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate talks to caucus-goers during a Wapello County caucus on Monday February 7, 2022.
Clay Masters
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate talks to caucus-goers during a Wapello County caucus on Monday.

Republicans and Democrats across Iowa held midterm caucuses Monday night without the chaos that surrounds them on presidential election years. That’s because these caucuses are primarily for party business.

Caucus-goers submit platform resolutions, elect central committee members and delegates for county conventions. About 50 people showed up at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Ottumwa for a collection of caucus precincts in Wapello County Monday night. Trudy Caviness is chair of the Wapello County Republicans. She oversaw the meeting collection of county precincts. She said this is where ideas in the Iowa Republican Party start out.

“If we have people here tonight, that really, really want to talk planks and platform, they can be on the committee,” Caviness said. “Then that group gets together, and they will be spend a few hours or more. And they will put together the county platform.”

Caviness expected members of the precincts would discuss issues related to the pandemic as potential platform planks.

“Because if you look at what’s happened in the last two years: we're looking at masking, we're looking at COVID, we're looking at some of the things in the school, I expect to see some kind of planks on some of that added to it,” Caviness said.

Candidates for office, including Secretary of State Paul Pate and 3rd District congressional candidate Gary Leffler, gave speeches at the Wapello County caucus. Those in attendance also signed petitions to help candidates qualify for the midterm ballot. Iowa’s primary elections are June 7.

The majority of Monday night’s caucuses were held in-person.

The midterm caucuses come as the chair of Iowa’s Republican Party said this week it’s looking like the Republican National Committee will back the status quo nominating calendar for that party.

Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann is also chair of the national party’s Presidential Nominating Process Committee. Kaufmann said the group reviewed options for rearranging the timing of presidential primaries and caucuses, but the final report recommends that no changes be made.

“That, de facto, would leave Iowa as first-in-the-nation,” Kaufmann said.

National Democrats who set the rules for the presidential nominating calendar took aim at the Iowa caucuses during a Democratic National Committee meeting regarding that party’s caucuses on Jan. 29. The chair of the Iowa Democratic Party is working to secure the Iowa caucuses' place for the nominating calendar, too.

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Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.