DES MOINES — Nine days after the Iowa Democratic Party failed to report the results of who thousands of Iowans participating in the first-in-the-nation caucuses preferred to be president, state party Chairman Troy Price said Wednesday he has resigned.
He called for an emergency meeting this Saturday of the party’s State Central Committee to select an interim chair.
“The fact is that Democrats deserved better than what happened on caucus night. As chair of this party, I am deeply sorry for what happened and bear the responsibility for any failures on behalf of the Iowa Democratic Party,” Price wrote to party leaders.
“While it is my desire to stay in this role and see this process through to completion, I do believe it is time for the Iowa Democratic Party to begin looking forward, and my presence in my current role makes that more difficult.”
In a phone interview, Price said the decision to resign was his own, that he faced no pressure from Democratic state leaders or party officials. While he acknowledged he has faced severe criticism since the night of the caucuses, Price said none of that criticism has come from within Iowa Democratic leadership.
Myriad technical and human errors — particularly with a new computer program designed to help report results — led to a meltdown Feb. 3. The complete results were not finished until three days later, and questions still remain about potentially incorrect results at dozens of precincts.
The delay once again sparked a national debate about caucuses in general and Iowa’s role in particular as the leadoff state in the presidential nominating process.
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Price promised an independent investigation into what went awry. In his resignation letter, he said the interim chair will oversee the investigation, as well as a re-canvass and potential recount as requested by two of the campaigns.
“While this process is just beginning, know that the IDP is not the only party to blame for what happened last week,” Price wrote. “We worked collaboratively with our partners, our vendors, and the (national Democratic Party) in this process, and I am confident the review will be able to determine exactly what went wrong, what went right, and how we can avoid this from ever happening again.”
In his letter, Price wrote that in the days following the caucuses, state party staff worked “under immense pressure” to produce complete results and were subject to “threats to personal safety, taunts, and anger from people around the globe.”
In the phone interview, Price said his colleagues were saddened to learn of his resignation.
“I really can’t speak for what everyone said, but obviously folks were sad about my departure. And quite frankly I’m sad to be leaving them,” Price said. “This is one of the hardest-working teams I have ever worked with in politics. And I can tell you even when stuff went south last week, this team banded together, this team came together and worked tirelessly through the night for several nights and several days to make sure that we can get a complete listing of the results.”
Price became state party chairman in 2017. Previously he served as the state party’s executive director, and has worked for Democratic Iowa governors Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver and lieutenant governors Patty Judge and Sally Pederson, and on the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
In 2018, Price oversaw a mixed bag of midterm election results for Iowa Democrats. Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne defeated Republican incumbents and became the first women elected to the U.S. House from Iowa, giving Democrats three of the state’s four seats in Washington.
But while Democrats made some gains at the Iowa Capitol, Republicans won the governor’s race and maintained majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, sustaining their unobstructed control of the state lawmaking process.
“Throughout my tenure as chair, I have always said I would do what is in the best interest of the party,” Price wrote. “With my decision, I hope the party can regain the trust of those we lost and turn our attention to what is most important — winning in November.”
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Some prominent Iowa Democrats expressed support for him on social media when word of his resignation spread.
“I want the world to remember (Price’s) time as chair in a historic manner. Troy made so many groups that didn’t feel they had a voice in the past, heard. I’m lucky Troy was the chair when I put my name on the ballot. I wish you all the best in what comes next, friend,” Rob Sand, the Democratic state auditor, wrote in a tweet.
Also Wednesday, the state party said it accepted re-canvass requests from the Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders presidential campaigns.
The campaigns highlighted what they believe could be errors in the caucus results reported in a combined 143 precincts out of the more than 1,700 statewide.
The party said it will inform the campaigns the costs and timeline associated with a re-canvass, after which the campaigns will have 24 hours to make a decision whether to proceed.
If the campaigns do proceed, the re-canvass will start Sunday and last for two days, the state party said. Per party rules, the canvass would be conducted by appointed personnel under the supervision and direction of the state party’s leadership committee, and each campaign would be allowed two observers.
A re-canvass is not a recount, but under the rules the campaigns are required to ask for this reporting check first.
Sanders has said his campaign uncovered enough errors to show he should be awarded another delegate. Buttigieg, however, said a limited re-canvass would uphold and perhaps even extend his narrow lead.