Bad weather, good turnout for 2018 Iowa Democratic caucuses

The worst-case scenario came to pass today: after months of below-average snowfall, a huge winter storm hit most of the state hours before the 2018 caucuses. According to anecdotal reports and a statement from the Iowa Democratic Party, turnout on the Democratic side far surpassed the level seen in 2010 or 2014. John Deeth estimated that Johnson County Democrats “at least doubled our previous governor year caucus turnout record.” But poor road conditions surely kept thousands of politically-engaged people home tonight. I had hoped good weather would reveal how many activists were “fired up and ready to go.” UPDATE: Added below a “soft report” from the state party: with 80 percent of precincts reporting, attendance was 8,599. “While we are still getting results in, we expect turnout will exceed 9,000, which far eclipses the 5,000 attendees in 2010 and the 6500 attendees in 2014.”

Barriers to participation are the worst aspect of the caucus system. Bad weather is only one hindrance; work or family obligations, physical or health limitations, and transportation problems prevent thousands of Iowans from spending an hour or more at a specific location on a Monday night. If state or district conventions end up selecting the nominees for governor or Congress–in the event no candidate wins the June 5 primary outright–a large number of Democrats will rightly feel they didn’t have an opportunity to make their voices heard. (At county conventions on March 24, the delegates chosen tonight will select district and state convention delegates.)

A runoff between the top two finishers would be a much better way to choose a nominee from a field where no one received at least 35 percent of the primary vote, but it’s too late to change Iowa law now.

This thread is for sharing stories about your precinct caucuses. At least 150 people showed up at the combined location for Windsor Heights, Clive, and the West Des Moines precincts in Iowa House district 43. Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly spoke to the whole crowd, as did gubernatorial contender Jon Neiderbach and state House candidate Jennifer Konfrst. Surrogates then gave short speeches advocating for Nate Boulton, Cathy Glasson, John Norris, and Fred Hubbell for governor, and for Theresa Greenfield, Cindy Axne, and Eddie Mauro for Congress.

Before caucus-goers went off to separate areas for each precinct, site leader Kerry Bowen recommended not breaking into preference group for candidates, “because it will add 30 to 40 minutes to the proceedings.” I also opposed preference groups, for the reasons Deeth expressed here.

None of the Windsor Heights precincts broke into preference groups. About 25 caucus-goers in my precinct went straight to electing county convention delegates and alternates. Everyone who wanted a slot got one, including me, so I’ll see some Bleeding Heartland readers at the Polk County convention. Some persuasion was needed to get volunteers for platform and other committees. We adjourned by 7:45, but quite a few of us hung around for another hour or so talking politics. The best part of the caucuses is the chance to connect with like-minded neighbors.

I enclose below statements from the Iowa Democratic Party and several campaigns. The party does not plan to collect or release figures on how many supporters of each gubernatorial candidate were chosen as county delegates. It appears that most precincts did not break into preference groups. UPDATE: According to the Iowa Democratic Party, 80 percent of precincts had reported by 11:30 pm, of which only 8 percent divided into preference groups.

However, Glasson seems to have done well in precincts where her supporters successfully moved for a division (see the comments in this thread and replies to this tweet). In a press release, the Glasson campaign said, “Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund PAC reported that Glasson won at least 49.4% of the delegates in seven counties (Story, Poweshiek, Adair, Boone, Guthrie, Hardin and Sac) where their members worked to turn out caucus goers. ‘Uncommitted’ came in second place in those counties with 24.1%.” (I am seeking to verify those figures; a source indicates that Sac County precincts did not break into preference groups and had low attendance.) LATER UPDATE: The CCI Action Fund numbers appear to reflect results for only 24 precincts across the seven counties, not all delegates elected from those counties as implied by the press release.

A Boulton campaign statement said “thousands” of the candidate’s supporters “were elected to be county delegates and fill important party leadership positions.”

UPDATE: Shortly before midnight, the Iowa Democratic Party forwarded an e-mail from executive director Kevin Geiken providing this information:

Currently 80.41% of precincts are reporting in with a soft report of attendance at 8,599. While we are still getting results in, we expect turnout will exceed 9,000, which far eclipses the 5,000 attendees in 2010 and the 6500 attendees in 2014.

In terms of preference group break out based off current reports, we know:
109 – number of precincts that broke into preference group (this represents 8.07% of precincts that have reported)
105 were Gubernatorial Preference Groups
4 were Congressional District 3 Preference Groups
All other reported precincts did not break into preference group.

These numbers are all unverified, soft reports.

Statement released by Iowa Democratic Party chair Troy Price on February 5:

“Tonight, we are incredibly grateful to the dedicated volunteers and Democrats who came out to participate in the Iowa Caucuses.

Based on preliminary results with only two-thirds of precincts reporting, we’re excited to announce that tonight’s turnout beat both 2010 and 2014 – making this one of our most successful mid-term caucuses.

We know the weather kept some people from coming out, and for those that weren’t able to attend they will still be able to engage in this conversation at the county level. But tonight demonstrated that, in spite of the challenges of the weather, Democrats are still energized about the future of our party. In all 99 counties, Iowans gathered across the state to engage in a conversation about the future of our party and our state.

We want to thank the thousands of volunteers, activists, and party leaders who have worked so hard to make this night a success. Tonight will go down as the night we laid the foundation for the great victories ahead of us in November.”

Boulton for governor press release:

Boulton Supporters Turn Out in Droves at Off-Season Caucus
Thousands of supporters elected as county delegates and to party leadership positions

Des Moines, IA- In precincts across the state, supporters of Nate Boulton braved the snow to participate in the Iowa caucuses. From Woodbury County to Des Moines County, thousands of Boulton supporters were elected to be county delegates and fill important party leadership positions. These Iowans will help support the over 700 Democrats already signed up to run as state convention delegates in support of Nate. For over nine months, Team Boulton has been organizing supporters to get involved in the Iowa Democratic Party through events, party meetings, and now the caucuses, because turning Iowa around and electing Democrats up and down the ticket will take a strong party structure.

“I want to thank the thousands of Iowa Democrats who braved the weather tonight to support Iowa Democrats and our campaign for governor,” said Nate Boulton. “I also want to thank the thousands of volunteers and Iowa Democratic Party for organizing a successful caucus night. Though the obstacles may have been great, people from across the state showed they are ready to stand up, fight back, and push forward for a better Iowa.”

The Boulton campaign’s strong statewide organizing effort and the organic enthusiasm from it’s supporters was highlighted tonight, as it has been at major events in the last nine months, including the Iowa Democratic Party’s Fall Gala where over a thousand Boulton supporters marched into the event. Even during a snowstorm, Iowa Democrats saw a record turnout for a non-presidential caucus tonight, so it is clear that, headed into the 2018 election, Iowa Democrats are motivated, organized to advocate for change, and ready to turn out at the polls for a new generation of leadership.

Norris campaign press release:

Democratic Candidate for Governor John Norris: Impressive Caucus Turnout Shows Democrats Are Ready To Take Back Terrace Hill

Waterloo, IA – John Norris, Democratic candidate for Governor of Iowa, today attended the precinct caucuses in Black Hawk County. Norris said:

“I am in Black Hawk where there is a great turnout, and it is obvious all over the state that Democrats are fired up and focused on returning our government to one that works for the people. I am grateful for all my supporters but also grateful for everyone who turned out for other candidates or just to learn more about all of us. We are going to need everyone to work together to defeat Kim Reynolds.”

Hubbell for governor statement:

Following a successful night for the Hubbell campaign at Iowa’s Democratic precinct caucuses, Fred Hubbell released the following statement:

“First and foremost, I want to thank every single volunteer, organizer, and supporter who braved the weather to stand up for an Iowa that invests and puts people first,” said Fred Hubbell. “Because of your commitment and dedication, tonight was an overwhelming success and we are one step closer to a victory in June and November. Together, we will keep building momentum, keep growing, and continue reaching out to every voter across the state. Finally, I would like to congratulate the IDP for putting on this massive organizational undertaking and working to build an energized Democratic Party that is stronger than ever.”

Glasson campaign statement:

Cathy Glasson’s movement shows up to demand bold progressive change at Iowa Democratic Caucus
ICU nurse & union leader moves towards primary with hundreds of committed delegates across Iowa

Despite a snowstorm and orchestrated establishment attempts to stop Iowans from expressing their early gubernatorial preference in precinct caucuses, Cathy Glasson’s progressive campaign for Governor surged to the forefront of the race. Based on early field reports to the campaign from precincts around the state, Glasson was the candidate who received the most delegates in at least dozens of precincts where Democrats broke out by gubernatorial preference.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund PAC reported that Glasson won at least 49.4% of the delegates in seven counties (Story, Poweshiek, Adair, Boone, Guthrie, Hardin and Sac) where their members worked to turn out caucus goers. “Uncommitted” came in second place in those counties with 24.1%.

Glasson’s campaign has focused its work on grassroots organizing and community building across the state racking up nearly 40,000 contacts to Iowa Democrats in recent weeks through its statewide network of over 1,000 volunteers. Many of the of supporters who turned out for Glasson tonight were Iowans new to the political process who participated for the very first time.

“Having a candidate I would brave the cold and snow to caucus for has never been a reality for me before.” said first time caucus goer and Glasson supporter Damien Williams. “Cathy Glasson’s willingness to fight for the issues I care about like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and bringing universal healthcare to Iowa really inspired me to step up and get involved. I know I’m not the only one either, Cathy is inspiring a lot of people from all over Iowa to step up for the first time. That’s why I think she’s the candidate who has the best shot to win in November.”

“I‘ve said from day one that if we led with the issues and let the needs of everyday people drive this campaign, Iowans would rise up,” said Cathy Glasson. “That certainly was the case this evening. Despite tough obstacles with snow and ice and cars stuck in drifts, tonight’s turnout proved that Iowans are ready for bold progressive change in 2018. Iowans want a $15 minimum wage, they want clean water and expanded union rights, and they know it’s time for universal healthcare. Tonight, Iowans rejected half measures and watered-down centrist policies. And let’s be clear: our bold progressive movement is just getting started.”

  • Not a huge turnout, but more than 2014

    With the weather, I wasn’t expecting a huge turnout. We had a big turnout for the last Presidential caucus, but my precinct only had 2 at the last midterm caucus (including me). Last night we had eight, so that was more than I expected (West Des Moines – Dallas County). Several other precincts were there, too, but when the precincts separately gathered to elect delegates, it looked like only 2 other precincts had actually shown up, and about the same number of people in each (each enough to fill a table in the cafeteria). No one came to speak. No one broke into preference groups. Our group talked briefly about the governor’s race, a couple of people spoke informally for Hubbell, but the primary sentiment was that it was important to choose the candidate that could win in the fall (which means being able to reach rural and swing voters). We didn’t discuss 3rd district. People volunteered for the delegate and committee positions. We all introduced ourselves and realized we had some kindred spirits in our heavily Republican neighborhoods. (Including my son, who will be 18 before the primaries in June. so he registered to vote last night. It took a little arm-twisting to get him to go, and it wasn’t as exciting as a Presidential caucus, but I praised him for participating.) We were home by 8.

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