Iowa delegates see out presidential nominating process at national party conventions

Iowa delegates, both Republican and Democrat, adapted to not-so-conventional national party conventions over the last two weeks, wrapping up the presidential nominating process after a tumultuous Iowa caucus season.


Iowa delegates saw out the presidential nominating process at both the Democratic and Republican national conventions after a tumultuous Iowa caucus season, trying to energize their respective parties through computer screens across the country in lieu of a physical convention.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced speakers and candidates to give speeches from their own homes, to a room full of press, or to a limited audience — eliminating the opportunity for the presidential nominees to show off an engaged and excited audience.

Both conventions held over the last two weeks have featured a lineup of pre-recorded and live speeches from politicians and political figures. Party conventions are held largely to energize party bases around a candidate, once delegates vote.

“It’s too bad — we’re really disappointed that we can’t have that again,” said David Barker, a national delegate from Iowa and a member of the state Board of Regents.

Barker drove from Iowa City to North Carolina on Aug. 21 to attend a Credential Committee meeting. Only Republican delegates on convention committees made the trip to Charlotte, and the other 34 remained in Iowa.

Barker said the limited number of people attending the convention were tested twice for COVID-19, and said people were social distancing and mask-wearing was enforced. Still, he said he was able to meet with Republican Party leaders from around the country to learn about how the Party operates in other states.

“It was nice that we were able to have an in-person convention even though it was limited,” Barker said. “There is such a value in being able to interact with people and to be introduced to people that you would in random ways, sometimes that just wouldn’t happen in a virtual setting.”

Unlike Iowa’s Democratic delegation, Iowa Republicans did not have daily Zoom meetings to talk about the happenings of the day. Trudy Caviness, an Iowa delegate and Republican Party chair in Wapello County, said Republican delegates on the Platform Committee will reaffirm the Party’s long-standing platform.

“The United States is one of the few countries where we have a peaceful exchange of people in power, and I just think it’s important for everybody to realize how important it is to vote,” Caviness said.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden accepted the Democratic nomination on Aug. 20 from a Delaware convention center, and President Trump, incumbent Republican nominee, will give his official acceptance speech from the White House on Thursday.

Trump challenged the concept of a virtual convention in July, suggesting moving the Republican National Convention to Jacksonville, Florida after North Carolina’s Democratic Governor, Roy Cooper, asked the Republican Party to scale back the convention. A full-scale convention was ultimately called off, and the convention is still taking place in Charlotte this week.

Of Iowa’s 49 Democratic delegates, 38 casted a vote for Biden and 11 casted a vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-V.t. Sanders campaigned heavily in Iowa and had the most people in his corner on caucus night. Iowa Republicans unanimously voted to renominate Trump.

Delegates usually cast their votes from the convention floor, but Democratic delegates across the country casted their votes in a virtual roll call, putting the party’s diversity on display as delegates tried to tap into the various cultures of their state in their 10-second clips.

The Republicans also did a roll call, but most delegates announced their state’s votes in front of a white backdrop reading #RNC2020.

Anthony Marlowe, a delegate from Iowa City, announced Iowa’s votes at the Republican convention. He touted a strong economy under Trump and thanked Trump for providing funds to Iowa for relief from the derecho that hit the state in mid-August.

“Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, you’re rehired,” Marlowe said.

Sandy Dockendorff, a Democrat running for Iowa’s 88th House District and a delegate at the Democratic convention, said the amount of content available to delegates was more than would be available in an in-person convention.

Along with the main televised events, the Democratic convention also included broadcasts of committee and caucus meetings all day available both to delegates and the public.

Dockendorff said she also has a disability, and the accessibility of a virtual convention was a benefit to her.

“Being able to participate here, without having to worry about whether I can walk far enough to get to the next event, whether I’ll be able to hear, whether I’ll be able to be close enough to understand what’s going on ­— those are all benefits,” she said.

Still, she said there’s a loss of community and interpersonal contact that comes with an in-person event — a sentiment that delegates echoed on both sides of the aisle.

“Some of the feeling of the energy that comes from being in a room with a couple thousand people, you miss that, and there’s no way to recreate that online,” she told *The Daily Iowan* on Aug. 20.

Andrew Coghill-Behrends was looking forward to returning to his home state of Wisconsin as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He said he was disappointed that he missed out on an in-person convention, but realized that it was the right move given the prevalence of the coronavirus in the U.S.

Coghill-Behrends said he was enjoying the amount of content provided through the convention, and that the chief drawback was the loss of networking.

He said delegates have been able to connect in other ways, however, and maintain some of that sense of community.

“There’s a lot of good social media connections that are being made among delegates and I think that has facilitated the process of getting to meet some more people even though it’s virtual,” he said.

The Iowa Republican Party is hosting a watch party in Des Moines on Thursday night, the final night of the Republican convention, for delegates and alternates. Caviness said this will be a way for Iowa Republicans to get together and celebrate Trump’s nomination without physically being in Charlotte.

There have not been any committee or caucus meetings via Zoom for the Republican convention, and Caviness said the delegates in Charlotte have been texting the other Iowa delegates with updates.

Iowa’s Democratic delegates held nightly delegation meetings to hear from speakers such as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg — both former Democratic hopefuls that organized heavily in Iowa before the caucuses in February.

Reps. Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, and Democratic Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield, also met with Iowa Democrats virtually.

“We probably wouldn’t have that sort of direct contact with folks when you’re there with thousands of people,” said Ed Cranston, chair of the Johnson County Democrats. “Cory was just inspirational. He’s very motivational, and he really knows Iowa.”

At the Republican National Convention, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, are among the other keynote speakers this week. Reynolds gave a speech Tuesday night, and Ernst will speak on Wednesday.

With Election Day less than 10 weeks away, both parties are turning their focus to energizing people to get out and vote on Nov. 3. Some are also encouraging voters to seek information about mail-in voting deadlines in their home states.

“Our conventions — both the conventions — show how important it is to have citizens get out and vote on Election Day and to make our voices heard through the ballot box,” Caviness said.

Facebook Comments