Troy Price resigning; who will replace him as Iowa Democratic Party chair?

UPDATE: The State Central Committee elected Mark Smith on the first ballot. Three other candidates were nominated: Joe Henry, Bob Krause, and Gabriel De La Cerda.

Troy Price will soon step down as Iowa Democratic Party state chair, he informed some 60 members of the party’s State Central Committee on February 12.

In that letter (enclosed in full below), Price apologized for “unacceptable” problems with reporting the Iowa caucus results, adding that “Democrats deserved better than what happened on caucus night. I am deeply sorry for what happened and bear the responsibility for any failures on behalf of the Iowa Democratic Party.” He expressed a “desire to stay” on the job but recognized “it is time for the Iowa Democratic Party to begin looking forward, and my presence in my current role makes that more difficult.”

The State Central Committee will hold an emergency meeting on February 15 to choose an interim chair. They are expected to tap State Representative Mark Smith, who is not seeking re-election to the Iowa House this year. He posted on Twitter on February 12 that he’s running for state chair “to restore confidence in our party & bring the proven leadership needed to turn Iowa blue in 2020.” Smith noted that he has served as an activist, a county chair, and minority leader in the Iowa House. “It’ll require that breadth of experience to put us back on track to win–from the courthouse to the statehouse, Congress, and #IASen [the U.S. Senate race].”

Bleeding Heartland reached out to several people who ran for state party chair in 2017 or are rumored to be considering the position. Julie Stauch and Jackie Norris both confirmed on February 12 that they will not seek to lead the party. Sandy Dockendorff, who formerly served on the SCC, also doesn’t plan to compete for the position. In a Facebook message, she praised Price’s work, saying he has done well in the job.

I understand why Troy felt he had to take this step and I respect his decision to take responsibility for the fallout. While I do think we need a different kind of leadership, now – to refocus the current dialogue from responding to the demands of candidates to that of meeting the expectations of our voters…a difference that will be imperative to making sure our voters turn out in November – I have not taken any steps to fill that role.

Similarly, Blair Lawton told me he is “happy in my current role with the Iowa Democratic Party” (as party affairs director) and has no plans to run for state chair. UPDATE: John Norris, who chaired the state party in 1998 and is currently a partner in the State Public Policy Group, also told me he won’t compete for the job.

I will update this post as needed when I hear back from other possible contenders, including Kurt Meyer and Kim Weaver, who sought the top position at IDP in 2017. The SCC selected Derek Eadon at that time; Price replaced him later the same year after Eadon stepped down for personal health reasons. UPDATE: Meyer replied via email, “We desperately need a capable, experienced party chair, without much time for on-the-job training. (My calendar says we have vitally-important elections this fall!). I will give the matter much needed thought and let you know what I conclude.” LATER UPDATE: Meyer posted on Twitter February 13 that he was “very happy, very eager to defer to my friend Mark. I have great confidence in his leadership.” So he’s out of the running.

FEBRUARY 14 UPDATE: Joe Henry, a longtime leader of the League of United Latin American Citizens in Iowa, will be running for interim state party chair at the February 15 State Central Committee meeting. I enclose below the memo he sent to SCC members.

Henry appears to be Smith’s only competition. Many activists encouraged Deidre DeJear to run, but she is not seeking the position.

On a related note, the IDP announced on February 12 that its Recanvass/Recount Committee accepted requests from the Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg campaigns for a limited scope recanvass. The Buttigieg campaign asked for a recanvass of 57 precincts and all satellite caucuses, while the Sanders campaign asked for a recanvass of 25 precincts and three satellite caucuses.

State party officials did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiry seeking clarification on whether individual voters’ presidential preference cards will be checked during the recanvass, or only the caucus math worksheets submitted by precinct chairs. It’s also not clear whether delegate allocation errors identified by outside observers will be corrected during the recanvass, or only if campaigns later request a recount.

Appendix: Letter Troy Price sent to the State Central Committee on February 12

Dear Members of the Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee,

Serving as Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

When I took over this party, we were still reeling from a bruising 2016 election cycle. Many people locally and across the country believed that Democrats in Iowa were dead, and that we would never see victories again.

Over the course of 2017 and 2018, I was so proud to work with the members of our state central committee, our county chairs, activists, and volunteers to build real momentum across the state. In the end, we proved the naysayers wrong by flipping seven seats in the Iowa House, winning three statewide seats, and winning three of four congressional seats – sending the first women from Iowa to the House in the process.

While we could have rested on our laurels, we got back to work. Over the last 15 months, Democrats across the state came together to build out our 2020 caucuses. Our amazing staff fanned out across the state to build infrastructure in all 99 counties – even in places where local parties had gone dormant or didn’t exist at all. We worked to implement sweeping changes to our process that increased accessibility and participation for Iowans across the state and the globe.

By all accounts, the precinct and satellite caucus meetings themselves went well. Over the last week, we have received positive feedback on these meetings – how smoothly they ran, how the new procedures helped to make the night move more quickly and efficiently, and how more Democrats of all backgrounds came together united in the goal of defeating Donald Trump and electing new leadership for our country.

However, there is no doubt that the process of reporting results did not work. It was simply unacceptable. It is why I called for an independent review of the decisions and processes that lead to this failure. While this process is just beginning, know that the IDP is not the only party to blame for what happened last week. We worked collaboratively with our partners, our vendors, and the DNC 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 the days following the caucuses, our staff worked under immense pressure to produce a complete report of results from the caucuses and was able to do so in 72 hours. Enduring threats to personal safety, taunts, and anger from people around the globe, our staff worked in a professional manner to produce a final result. I am incredibly proud of the work they did in those three days. These are people who are working hard towards our common goal of electing Democrats in November, and I deeply regret that these dedicated employees of our party had to endure such abuse.

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.

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.

Therefore, I will resign as chair of the Iowa Democratic Party effective upon the election of my replacement.

I will be calling for an emergency meeting of the State Central Committee on Saturday at 1pm to elect an interim chair. Whomever is elected will oversee the completion of the recanvass and recount process and begin the process of healing our party.

Our paramount goal must remain to elect Democrats at all levels of office that will bring the  voice of the people to our government.

In spite of the challenges these last few days, I leave knowing that the party is in a strong position to move forward. Thousands of new Democrats joined our party through our caucus process. The Iowa Democratic Party currently has more money than ever before at this point in an election cycle. The infrastructure built through these last few months will allow us to build an organization that will turn Iowa Blue in November. And Iowa still has the best elected officials, candidates, volunteers, and activists of anywhere in the country.

Leadership requires tough decisions, and this is one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make. Throughout my tenure as chair, I have always said I would do what is in the best interest of the party. 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.


Troy Price

Appendix 2: Memo from Joe Henry to State Central Committee members, February 14

To: State Central Committee

Fr: Joe Henry

Re: Interim Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party

February 14, 2020
Dear State Democratic Central Committee Members:

I would like to submit my name as a candidate for Interim Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party for the purpose of helping to build our party and believe that I can be of service.

I have led two successful battles against voter suppression in Iowa, working in 2012 with the ACLU of Iowa in a lawsuit against the former Secretary of State, Matt Schultz, and again in 2018, on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens, on a lawsuit against the Voter ID bill that was passed by the Iowa Legislature (…/the-lawsuit-fight-to…/).

I have been intimately involved in building voter engagement in Iowa’s Latino community. I co-organized the first-ever Latino Legislative Day at the Iowa State Capitol in 2013, led a successful Latino voter registration effort in 2012-2015, and oversaw the creation of the first-ever database of registered Latino voters in Iowa. The database identifies over 50,000 registered Latino voters by political party, residency and voting history. This information has been used by Iowa LULAC for its voter outreach and registration campaigns, which, along with the work of other Latino organizations, resulted in 10,000 more registered Latino voters in 2019.

Currently, I serve on the national board of the League of United Latin American Citizens as advisor to the national president on civic engagement and elections.

I am a 3rd generation Latino, raised on the Southside of Des Moines, Iowa. My maternal grandparents came to Iowa from Mexico in 1917. Grandfather, Joseph Enriquez, worked at a cement plant on the south side of Des Moines.

Positions held:

• President of council #306 (1984) for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the oldest Latino civil rights organization in the country.
• Several elected union positions (Trustee, recording secretary, vice president and president) of Teamsters Local #90 in Des Moines, 1988-1996.
• Appointed by Teamster Union General President Ron Carey to the position of international representative in 1992 and held several department positions, assigned to Teamsters headquarters in Washington DC from 1992-1999 working on various organizing and strike actions, such as, the successful national strike against United Parcel Service in 1997 involving 186,000 workers.
• Field director for Iowans for Sensible Priorities, 1999, a statewide campaign to engage the presidential candidates during the Iowa Caucuses.
• Managed several successful city council candidate campaigns in 2000 – 2003 in Des Moines, Iowa.
• Executive Director for a nonprofit in 2002 that took on the tobacco industry, statewide, in Iowa
• Elected President of LULAC Council #307 in 2011-2015 and again in 2018-present.
• Elected State Director of LULAC Iowa, 2012-2015, increasing the capacity and number of councils throughout the state.
• Elected National Vice President, Midwest Region, LULAC, 2015 to 2018, responsible for overseeing 12 Midwest states.
• Recipient of the ACLU-Iowa “Louis Noun” Award, 2013 for work on successfully fighting voter suppression in the State of Iowa.
• Recipient of the LULAC President Honor Award (2013 and 2016) for work on mobilizing the Latino Community in Iowa on voter engagement, specifically the Iowa Caucus

About the Author(s)

Laura Belin

  • Alejandro Andreotti

    I know very little about Mark Smith. I know he endorsed Booker until Booker dropped out and then he jumped to Biden. That does not signal an anti-DNC-establishment stance, though I’d love to proven wrong (it doesn’t show much of a feel for the current zeitgeist of the rank and file either). The Dem establishment is rotten, full of incompetent grifters (I’m ok with some grifting, but be somewhat competent at least.) This recent caucus was such an unmitigated disaster, and an insult to all those who put the effort, time and money volunteering, donating, and eventually caucusing. The party establishment, to be honest, is just in the way of its members right now.

    My instinct has been telling me to not donate to the DNC, DCCC, DSCC, or the IDP for many years (though I’m happy to donate to candidates). Until I see a violently dramatic break with the usual cast of loser DC-affiliated characters, do not count on me or my money.

    • it's not realistic

      to think the Iowa Democratic Party chair is going to come out guns blazing against the DNC. The person will be fighting to keep our position at the beginning of the presidential nominating process.

    • Someone has to pay

      If no one donates to the IDP, how can we have caucuses on the scale of 2020? There is no good way to fund the caucus if we give money only to candidates, unless we want Bloomberg to do it for us.

      • ooof

        I apologize in advance for my bluntness. Why should I give a dang (I badly want to use another word, but it’s Iowa) about the IDP? The only thing not bad about most Dems is that they are not as horrible as Republicans. Is that the team I’m supposed to feel excited about and give my money to? Similarly, as much as I enjoy the caucuses, I deeply understand how grossly undemocratic they are. I would SO much rather have a party that wins elections (like the IA house and senate) than going to a political block party and being first in the nation. I don’t give a rat’s ass about first in the nation. That is part of the grift. F that. You want a party that has funds to do great things (win local and state elections)? Get people excited. Toeing the shitty DNC line with tepid lame-@ss centrist poop to keep your little first in the nation fiefdom will do zippo.

        And Laura: I think you are great and I just heard through @Taniel that you are raising money on Patreon and I will give you some because of all you do and have been doing for the not-demented in the state. All of us do, especially with local journalism cratering. But I’m not sure what your argument is supposed to be. It’s not realistic? What? To think that we could have visionary and competent enough leadership? Is the sole goal of the IDP to keep the first in the nation caucus? Is that it? Holy mother.

        • the purpose of the Iowa Democratic Party

          is to elect Democratic candidates at all levels.

          That may well not be your priority, but it is the role of the party.

          It is hard to argue that the goal of electing Democrats in Iowa would be better served by not having the first presidential nominating contest here.

          Thank you for supporting independent journalism.

  • This may sound like I'm being deliberately obtuse...

    …but that is not the case and my obtuseness is genuine. At some point, I would like to know more about why being first in the nation is so important to electing Democrats in Iowa, and how difficult it would be for Iowa to adjust to a new national system in which Iowa did not go first.

    Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, among others, succeeded in fighting off attempted Republican trifectas, and Iowa did not. In that sense, we already lost the fight. But I do know every state has a unique political culture. Is Iowa’s political culture such that if we didn’t go first in the nation, Iowa would become even more, politically, like Nebraska?

    If so, maybe other obtuse Iowa Democratic voters like myself need to learn that. And I would have said “Kansas” instead of “Nebraska” except that of course Kansas has divided state government. Iowa is now redder than Kansas.

    • in a word, money

      If we weren’t first, presidential candidates would not bother to come here and our state and county Democratic party organizations and down-ballot candidates would raise a lot less money.