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IDP Chair Urges Democrats To Stay Engaged In Party Conventions As Field Winnows

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The state Democratic party chair is encouraging Iowans to stay involved in the convention process even after most Democratic caucusgoers have seen their preferred candidates drop out of the race.

Iowa’s state parties will hold their county conventions later this month. The events come at a time when most Democratic caucusgoers’ preferred candidates have already dropped out.

The race for the Democratic nomination has changed considerably since the February 3 Iowa caucuses.

What began as a historically diverse field of candidates, including a slate of women and people of color, has been winnowed down to a largely two person race, between two septuagenarians: former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders I-Vt.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, is also still in the running, but has only earned two delegates and is not expected to displace the two men.

Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who won the Iowa contest with the greatest share of state delegate equivalents, suspended his campaign, just one day after the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee formally certified the results, which were plagued with reporting errors and inconsistencies and subject to a limited recanvass and recount.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has also dropped out, largely dashing Democrats’ hopes of seeing a woman nominated to the nation’s highest office, barring a female candidate being nominated at a (rather unlikely) contested convention. The candidate long-seen as having the most extensive field organization in the state seemed to lose her luster and failed to break through across the country. In the end, the Massachusetts senator only won one county: eastern Iowa’s Johnson County.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar from neighboring Minnesota has also suspended her campaign, despite making inroads with some moderate Iowans, particularly in rural areas. She was the only major candidate to hold events in all of the state’s 99 counties and touted her record of bipartisan cooperation in Congress, including her work with the state’s senior senator, Republican Chuck Grassley.

Despite a poor showing in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, Biden strung together a series of wins on Super Tuesday and is now seen as the front-runner. Sanders, who won the largest share of actual supporters in the state but fell short of the largest number of delegates in Iowa’s electoral college-like caucus process, is running close behind Biden in the delegate count.

Despite the marked changes to the primary field since February 3, according to party rules, delegates will still be awarded based on caucus night results.

“Iowa is a caucus/convention state. Accordingly, delegate and alternate positions shall be allocated so as to fairly reflect the expressed presidential preference or uncommitted status of the caucus participants in each district,” reads the state party’s Delegate Selection Plan in part. “Therefore, the national convention delegates elected at the district level shall be allocated in proportion to the percentage of the state delegate equivalents won in that district by each preference at the first determining step.”

State Democratic Party Chair Mark Smith wants Iowans to stay engaged in the convention process, even if their first choice has bowed out.

“So whether they’re in the race or not, those values being carried forward in the Democratic Party are very important and so I would encourage everyone to stick to the process and make their voices heard,” Smith said. “I believe that when [Iowa Democrats] think about how important this is and the work that’s done at the county and district and state conventions, they’ll stay the course.”

Delegates will be able to change candidates at the national convention in Milwaukee this July. But first, Iowa Democrats will go to their county conventions on Saturday March 21. Congressional district conventions follow on April 25 and the state convention on June 13.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter