Iowa Democrats held their district conventions this Saturday, the third step in their caucus-to-convention process. Unlike the precinct caucuses and county conventions, there were no blizzards.
The most consequential part of the day was elections for the party’s State Central Committee. That’s the board that nominally governs the Iowa Democratic Party and elects its chair every two years. This year saw a large turnover in members – only 11 of the 32 current district SCC members will return in their position (some simply didn’t run for reelection; others lost out to newcomers).
This part in the convention process didn’t have too high of stakes for the gubernatorial primary. Delegates to the district convention are the same as those already going to the state convention. The only way district conventions could choose a nominee for something is if no one got 35% in any of the congressional primaries, but that seems very unlikely at this point.
There were, however, elections for rules and credentials committees. Those people could have some influence over how the rules for a contested convention are laid out. The nuances and potential scenarios for complex convention rules make it difficult to analyze if any one candidate benefited from Saturday’s votes – or if it will matter that much.
But the dynamics surrounding the SCC elections were certainly interesting and could signal where the state party moves heading into the final months of the crucial 2018 election and the looming 2020 Iowa Caucus.
This year’s SCC contests were a sharp contrast to the pitched battles for control of the state party in 2016. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders factions fought for seats throughout the district and state conventions – barely anyone won if they were not supported by one of the two groups. By the end of the voting that year, the SCC was nearly evenly split between Clinton and Sanders supporters.
That ensured that both sides had strong representation on the state party’s decision-making board and brought in many new voices. It also led to lots of conflict. The first several SCC meetings following the 2016 races were extremely contentious, featured shouting matches and seemed to constantly stoke further division. Meetings intended to mostly handle logistical decisions for the party focused more on the national debate about the ideological divides for Democrats. Some grew particularly tired of several SCC members who seemed to constantly incite conflict. None of those people were returned to the SCC in Saturday’s votes.
Union members claimed the largest share of seats on Saturday, as a unified effort led in part by ISEA, AFSCME and Nate Boulton’s campaign ran slates of labor-friendly candidates for SCC spots. The entire labor slate swept all eight SCC seats in the 1st District. Notable labor leaders won in other districts, including Melinda Jones, Allison Ritchie, Ryan Drew and Marty O’Boyle in the 2nd District, and Mary Jane Cobb (ISEA’s executive director) and Paula Martinez in the 3rd. Most of the other successful candidates elected were backed by labor delegates.
In the 1st District, both the Nate Boulton and Fred Hubbell groups joined forces to vote in the labor slate. The left-leaning progressive activists appeared to only agree on three people to support, none of which got elected.
By Starting Line’s count, at least 19 of the 32 delegates elected on Saturday are Boulton supporters. There will be more elections for SCC members at the state convention to fill the leadership of various constituency caucus groups. When the sitting governor is a Democrat, he or she typically gets to select their choice for chair of the IDP. Were Boulton to win the primary and the governor’s office, he’d have an extremely friendly SCC board in place to support him politically.
A SCC made up of mostly labor members or labor-backed members will probably mean some stability in the party’s leadership and direction. That could be helpful for managing the Iowa Caucus in 2020, as there might be less ideological conflicts on the SCC and more of a focus on the nuts and bolts of organizing.
Here’s the full list of SCC members elected on Saturday. Those in bold are members who were reelected (a few were already on the SCC but in different positions – not as district members):
Mary Jane Cobb
by Pat Rynard