Three ways Mark Smith can restore faith in the Iowa Democratic Party

The Iowa Democratic Party released revised Iowa caucus results on the evening of February 18, following a recanvass of 79 precincts. Recanvass administrators changed delegate allocations in 26 precincts where the precinct chair did not properly apply the party’s rules on February 3, and revised results in three precincts after spotting data entry errors.

The adjustments shrank Pete Buttigieg’s delegate lead over Bernie Sanders to “almost nothing,” a Sanders news release declared: 563.207 state delegate equivalents to 563.127, to be precise. The Sanders campaign will request a recount in several precincts where results were not adjusted during the recanvass.

While the work of tabulating the Iowa caucus numbers nears its end, the work of restoring confidence in the process is just beginning. Events of the past few weeks exposed serious flaws in the party’s operations.

After being chosen to succeed Troy Price as state party chair on February 15, State Representative Mark Smith told reporters, “Priority number one is to get out across the state and to talk to everyday Iowans and restore the faith in the Iowa Democratic Party.” A few places he could start:

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Path to Iowa caucus victory hidden in plain sight

Aaron Belkin is director of Take Back the Court and a political science professor at San Francisco State University who spent 20 years working to end “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and the military’s transgender ban. -promoted by Laura Belin

With so much at stake in this year’s Iowa caucuses, the latest survey data indicate that the race is wide open, with any of the four leading candidates potentially able to win. As they seek to distinguish themselves from the pack, however, the candidates are constrained by the fact that their policy goals on health care, the economy, and the environment share many similarities. Given that they largely agree on policy, it has been difficult for candidates to distinguish themselves on the basis of distinct visions of what they would do once elected. 

Despite the similarity of their policy positions, however, there is one critical and high stakes issue—Supreme Court expansion—on which the candidates have expressed widely divergent views. Based on new polling data and new research, there is an opportunity during the waning days of the Iowa campaign for one of the candidates to break away from the pack by expressing strong support for court expansion and explaining that key Iowan priorities—in particular rural revitalization—depend on it.

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Democrats running for president must lead on the Supreme Court

Brian Fallon of Demand Justice: “Progressives need to hold Democrats accountable for their role in aiding and abetting Trump’s takeover of our courts and insist on a more aggressive response.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Our democracy is broken, and the Republican capture of the Supreme Court is a major reason why.

Over the last two decades, decisions like Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, and Shelby County v. Holder have betrayed the principle of “one person, one vote” and undermined confidence that our elections are truly free and fair.

With its decision this term in a high-profile gerrymandering case, the Republican majority on the court has gone further still, effectively given a green light to the partisan redrawing of maps.

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Lessons of 2018: Mid-sized cities bigger problem for Democrats than rural areas

Seventh in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections.

Fred Hubbell’s narrow defeat has generated a new round of conversations about Iowa Democrats struggling outside major metro areas. Although Hubbell received a historically high number of votes for a Democratic candidate for governor and carried Polk County by a larger margin than any previous nominee from his party, he finished 36,600 votes behind Kim Reynolds statewide, according to unofficial results.

Hubbell outpolled Reynolds in only eleven of Iowa’s 99 counties. In contrast, Tom Vilsack carried 48 counties in 1998, when he became the first Democrat elected governor in three decades. He won 68 counties when re-elected in 2002, and Chet Culver nearly matched that result, beating his Republican opponent in 62 counties in 2006.

While many commentators have focused on declining Democratic performance among rural voters, attrition in Iowa’s mid-size cities is a more pressing problem for the party’s candidates at all levels.

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Lessons of 2018: High turnout doesn't only help Democrats

First in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections. Since publication, I have updated numbers with official totals.

Fred Hubbell received more votes than any Democratic nominee for Iowa governor since Harold Hughes was re-elected in the 1964 Democratic landslide. He gained more votes than most of the candidates elected Iowa governor in the past 50 years, including Terry Branstad five of the six times he was on the ballot. Nevertheless, Hubbell lost to Governor Kim Reynolds by about 39,000 votes, according to unofficial returns (UPDATE: The final margin was about 36,000 votes.)

Anecdotal reports of long lines at Iowa polling places on November 6 cheered Hubbell supporters, but the outcome of the governor’s race is a reminder that high turnout doesn’t only help Democrats.

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Rest in peace, Leonard Boswell

Former U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell passed away on August 17 at the age of 84. He had long battled a rare cancer called pseudomyxoma peritonei. Boswell publicly speculated in 2015 that exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War could have caused his abdominal tumors. According to a former staff member, a link to the powerful herbicide was later confirmed. In a recorded message to Iowa Democrats last year, Boswell said his doctors agreed that his disease stemmed from getting “pretty well soaked” while flying a crop-duster mission.

Surviving two tours of duty as an assault helicopter pilot in Vietnam was itself beating the odds. Boswell received numerous honors for his actions in that extremely dangerous role.

Following 20 years of military service, Boswell became a cattle farmer in southern Iowa. First elected to the Iowa Senate in 1984, he served three terms in the legislature, the last as Senate president. He was well-liked in Democratic circles. When I met him briefly during the 1994 campaign (he was the lieutenant governor nominee on a ticket with Bonnie Campbell), he seemed to have a larger-than-life personality.

After winning an open U.S. House seat in 1996, Boswell represented parts of central and southern Iowa in Congress for sixteen years. His proudest legislative accomplishment was sponsoring the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, which President George W. Bush signed in 2007. Though he belonged to the conservative “Blue Dog” caucus, Boswell voted for the major legislation of President Barack Obama’s first term, including the economic stimulus bill and the Affordable Care Act.

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