CEDAR RAPIDS — With four months left until Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Feb. 3 presidential caucuses, the state’s political party chairs said Thursday this represents a time when Iowans who get involved can really influence national policies going forward.
Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price and Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said Iowans oftentimes don’t realize the importance of their role in the political process — and why the rival parties put aside their policy differences and link arms to protect the leadoff spot in the presidential selection process.
“The caucuses have put us in the limelight,” Kaufmann told an audience Thursday at The Gazette’s Iowa Ideas symposium in downtown Cedar Rapids. “Let’s face it, Iowa would be flyover country if it wasn’t for two reasons — we’re first in the nation and the Electoral College. We lose either one of those, it’s gone and we don’t get it back.”
Price said his party will be making the process more inclusive and accessible in 2020 by expanding the Democratic precinct sites to include satellite caucuses at workplaces and other non-traditional venues — a development he believes will strengthen and improve the process.
With a double-digit field of presidential hopefuls vying for his party’s 2020 nomination, Price said Iowa’s importance will grow with each passing week leading up to the caucuses and his advice to anyone interested in getting involved is “now is the time to do it.”
“This is when we’re going to have the most influence on issues,” the state Democratic chairman said.
“Once they leave here, you’re not going to have these opportunities again. The next time our nominee comes back into the state, they won’t be going into the Blue Strawberry to have a cup of coffee, they’re going to be over in the arena here or the ballroom there and it’s going to be access passes and blah, blah, blah to get in.
“So this is our chance,” Price said. “Go see them. Talk to them, they want to hear from you and encourage your friends to get involved as well because this next four months is the time that we as Iowans are going to have the most influence in this process.”
Veteran journalist David Yepsen, who joined Price and Kaufmann to discuss the Iowa caucuses, said they have done much since 1972 to change the perception of Iowa as only a farm state.
He said the grass roots organizing energizes activists in both parties and he praised the two party chairs for carrying on a tradition of working together to preserve the leadoff position.
“The caucuses have helped in this state to build a healthy two-party system,” noted Yepsen. “There is a vigorous competition between the two parties and we’re all winners because of this.”
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