Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said that Iowa’s lack of diversity makes it harder for candidates of color to break through the presidential field and that a state with more black and Latino voters would better represent the party.
The former U.S. secretary of housing spoke at a town hall at Drake University Tuesday night to follow up on his comments questioning Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status among presidential primaries and caucuses.
The Iowa caucuses reward candidates for earning broad support across the state, but Castro said that limits the influence of Iowa’s black voters because they are largely concentrated in a small number of counties and precincts.
“I don’t think somebody should get elected just because they’re black or Latino or because they’re white,” Castro said. “But I think that everybody ought to have a fair shot at making their case. And right now, the way that it’s structured, not only is there not a fair shot, I don’t think there’s a fair shot for voters themselves in this process.”
Castro was appointed to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by Barack Obama, the first black president, who won the Iowa Caucuses in 2008. But Castro said that was an exception. “That’s what gave him more support down the line but, again, one person’s ability to do that in one moment in time does not disprove that there’s an issue here,” he said.
After 2020, Castro said the Democratic party should create a task force to re-order state nominations based on factors such as diversity, voter access, and the mix of urban and rural residents.
“I think that every 50 years in our democracy, when our country has changed so much and our party has changed so much, that it’s worth taking a look at,” Castro said. “And when we look at it, if we’re true to our values, then we will say, ‘Yes, we can make an improvement.’”
Castro said Iowa has some advantages as a small state. Campaigning tends to be more affordable and voters are engaged on the issues. But, he said, accessing the caucuses on one night at one time creates obstacles for growing voter participation. If Iowa keeps its role in choosing a nominee, Castro said it should happen through a primary election with early voting.
Moving to a primary system in Iowa would cause New Hampshire to move its own presidential primary even earlier.
The Iowa Democratic Party attempted to expand voter access with a virtual caucus, but the plan was blocked over concerns the system would be vulnerable to hacking. A plan for satellite caucus locations is still in the works.