Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton), son of Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, is attempting to stop Iowa Democrats’ plan for a modified caucus that relies on mailed presidential preference cards.
The younger Kaufmann introduced a committee bill on Monday that prevents anyone who is not physically present at the location of a precinct caucus from participating in the caucus.
In a bid to keep its first-in-the-nation status, Iowa Democrats proposed drastic changes to the caucus including having it be conducted entirely by having participants mail in presidential preference cards and avoiding a physical gathering.
Were Kaufmann’s bill to become law, it would prevent Iowa Democrats from implementing those changes.
Kaufmann told Radio Iowa this bill is a priority because it protects the sanctity of the caucus and keeps Iowa’s process from being too similar to New Hampshire’s primary. In past years, the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office has vowed to abide by its state constitution to hold the first-in-the-nation primary, but that office has not weighed in on Iowa Democrats’ mail-in plan.
“When you have a system that strongly resembles a primary and the new New Hampshire secretary of state says: ‘We’re the first primary state, that’s long-held tradition, and we’re going to jump over you if you do that,’ I’m going to take that seriously,” Kaufmann told Radio Iowa, “so that’s why I’m doing it.”
In a statement to Radio Iowa, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart said she was not consulted about this proposal. She added that Democrats “will do what’s best for Iowa” and that means “moving forward with what she describes as an inclusive Caucus process.”
In a December op-ed, Jeff Kauffman told Iowa Democrats they should fight harder to retain their first-in-the-nation status for that side of the aisle.
“Iowa’s reputation is on the line and under attack,” he wrote. “The tradition of the Iowa caucuses, with both parties going first, allows Iowans to participate in the most basic form of our democracy.”
The elder Kaufmann also noted that if Iowa Democrats lose the fight for first in the nation, “the Iowa Democratic caucus is gone forever.”
Iowa law requires Iowa’s parties to hold their caucuses before any other presidential nominating contest in the country.
The national GOP is committed to Iowa retaining its first-in-the-nation status in 2024 for the Republican presidential candidate nomination process, but the Democratic National Committee officially booted Iowa from its long-held calendar spot in February. South Carolina, after an endorsement from President Joe Biden, was selected by the DNC to lead the 2024 presidential selection process for Democrats. However, South Carolina Democrats have not unveiled a plan yet and need state Republicans to agree to change state law to make the process work.
Besides killing off Iowa Democrats modified caucus plan, Bobby Kaufmann’s bill would also ice out independent voters from participating in either caucus.
Currently, voters can register for a party the day of the caucuses and participate in that party’s caucus, but Kaufmann’s bill would require a caucus-goer to be registered to a political party at least 70 days before the caucuses.
A subcommittee hearing for the bill takes place at noon on Wednesday, April 12, at the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines.
Correction: This story previously used incorrect language to describe the Iowa Democrat Party’s mail-in caucus proposal.
by Ty Rushing
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