Democratic candidates met on Zoom for Johnson County’s 2022 midterm caucus, with about 200 people attending virtually, while Republican voters met in precincts in person.
In the off-year caucus, Johnson County Democratic candidates used Iowa’s first virtual caucus to rally support in the upcoming midterms, and county Republicans picked precinct leaders and set priorities for the left.
Johnson County Republicans and Democrats met in their respective caucus on Monday evening to organize the 2022 races.
For the first time, the Democratic caucus was held virtually due to the presence of COVID-19 in Johnson County. The Democratic caucus had more than 200 participants in its Zoom conference, which included every neighborhood in Johnson County.
Republican caucuses met in 19 in-person caucuses across the state, with many of the county’s 64 precincts clustered in central locations.
Iowa becomes the center of national politics every four years with its first nationwide caucuses, but during the midterm years the functions are typically smaller and serve to elect precinct leaders, help candidates stand for election and decide on the components of the county party platforms.
Iowa’s role as the premier presidential nominating contest of the past half-century is up for grabs among national Democrats, as the Democratic National Committee is considering changing the tradition.
Timothy Hagle, associate professor of politics at the University of Iowa, said The Iowan Daily to a Republican caucus located at Iowa City City High that Iowa Republicans are determined to have the Iowa caucuses because of the attention it brings to the state.
“As far as the Republican side of things goes, the leadership, especially in Iowa, is to make sure Iowa continues to be first as a caucus,” Hagle said.
At the Iowa Memorial Union, four people, including organizers and an observer who was not registered to vote in the county, attended the Republican caucus which represented a set of six Iowa City precincts. The organizers refused the Daily Iowan meeting request.
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Iowa State Senate Minority Leader Zach Walhs, D-Coralville, said it’s important to motivate Democrats in Johnson County because it’s a heavily Democratic county in a state with a Republican majority.
“You all know the battles we face every day at the State House, appreciate the support you give us, it helps the delegation to fight, this was the day we will continue to do so for each of you you,” Iowa State Senate Minority Leader Zach Walhs, D-Coralville, told Zoom participants.
No Johnson County Republican has yet announced plans to run for state legislative seats.
“It’s very hard to find Republicans to run for anything in Johnson County, because they’re going to get beat up hard,” Hagle said.
Voters in Johnson County will elect four new state lawmakers in 2022, as Democratic Rep. Mary Mascher and Sen. Joe Bolkcom retire, Bohannan seeks election to the U.S. Congress, and a new House district has currently no holder.
Andrew Dunn, candidate for Iowa House District 90, said it’s important to him that Johnson County’s Democratic candidates run on a platform of progressive politics.
“I run to be the change we seek. To use what I learned to build our party statewide and to ensure that our priorities on things like education and the environment, and all kinds of justice, social, racial and workers’ rights are being implemented by our government in a meaningful way,” Dunn said.
Gubernatorial candidate, Democrat Deidre DeJear, also appeared on the Zoom call and spoke with Johnson County Democrats.
“We now understand more than ever that the people of Iowa want to have reasonable demands across this state, whether it’s access to mental health care, child care, access to care health in general, stronger schools, collective bargaining rights, clean water.” DeJear said. “The people of Iowa have reasonable demands that our current governor is not responding to.”
Hagle said caucuses are great for getting voters involved in grassroots politics.
“People will often have particular issues that are close to their hearts, and they care about whatever else is going on,” Hagle said. “But sometimes you’ll have a situation where things are in the news and then translate to platforms.”