The Iowa Democratic Party announced today that they will be postponing their county conventions, originally planned for next weekend on March 21, for a future date that is yet to be decided.
“After extensive consultation with County Chairs, the State Central Committee, party leaders, and public health officials, we have come to the determination that the spreading coronavirus poses a risk that outweighs a temporary delay in moving the caucus-to-convention process forward,” IDP Chair Mark Smith said in a statement.
The party had been discussing with local activists and leaders for several days this week, with the anticipation that a postponement was likely given other cancellations and closures around the state due to the spreading coronavirus pandemic.
The county conventions are the second step in the state’s nominating process, which began with the precinct caucuses on Feb. 3. Local delegates elected at each precinct go on to the county convention. There, they elect delegates to the district and state conventions, where national delegates to the DNC convention in Milwaukee are chosen.
All of those proceedings, obviously, involve dozens to hundreds of people meeting at a school or community center, sometime discouraged during the current pandemic.
Due to the new rules in this year’s delegate selection plan, candidates’ national delegates are set from the precinct caucus, so any changes in the timing of the later conventions shouldn’t impact the standing of the candidates in Iowa.
“Our volunteers and campaigns have spent a great deal of time and effort putting together what would have been a successful convention, but the safety of our attendees and Events Center staff is far more important to us,” said Polk County Democrats Sean Bagniewski in a statement. “We hope all political parties in Iowa will show the same regard for the safety and security of our communities.”
The Republican Party of Iowa, meanwhile, is moving forward with their county conventions, though those are being held tomorrow.
“After consulting with the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Governor’s office, the Republican Party of Iowa has decided to move forward and hold our county conventions this Saturday, March 14,” the party said in a statement yesterday.
As of yesterday, the IDPH stated there is currently “no known community spread of COVID-19” and that they weren’t making “recommendations to cancel planned events and mass gatherings at this time.” As of yesterday, 16 Iowans had tested positive for the coronavirus, almost all of which originated from people who returned from a cruise in Egypt.
Gov. Kim Reynolds will hold a press conference today at 4:30 with new updates.
The DNC has indicated in recent days that they will offer state parties flexibility in how they gather to determine their delegates to the national convention.
While the caucus-to-convention process for the parties may hit some complications and delays, it is likely fortunate that the coronavirus did not come to the United States several weeks earlier. Wyoming is the only remaining caucus state on the Democrats’ nominating calendar; theirs is currently slated for April 4.
by Pat Rynard