Democrats gather virtually to caucus, Republicans remain in-person

Democratic candidates met over zoom for the 2022 Johnson County midterm caucus, with an estimated 200 people attending virtually, while Republican voters met at in-person precincts.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Caucus organizers are seen during the Republican caucus at the Iowa Memorial Union on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.

Emily Delgado and Meg Doster

In the off-year caucus, Democratic candidates in Johnson County used the first virtual Iowa caucus to rally support in the upcoming midterms, and county Republicans chose precinct leaders and set party priorities.

Both Johnson County Republicans and Democrats met in their respective caucus Monday night to organize around the 2022 races.

For the first time, the Democratic caucus was held virtually due to the COVID-19 presence in Johnson County. The Democratic caucus had over 200 attendees in their Zoom conference, which included all Johnson County precincts.

Republican caucusgoers met at 19 in-person caucuses across the state, with many of the county’s 64 precincts consolidated into central locations.

Iowa becomes the center of national politics every four years with its first-in-the-nation caucuses, but during midterm years the functions are usually smaller and serve to elect precinct leaders, help candidates get on the ballot, and decide on components of the county parties’ platforms.

Iowa’s role as the first presidential nominating contest for the last half century is in contention among national Democrats, as the Democratic National Committee is considering changing the tradition.

Timothy Hagle, an associate politics professor at the University of Iowa, told The Daily Iowan at a Republican caucus located at Iowa City City High that Iowa Republicans are determined to have the Iowa caucuses because of how much attention it draws to the state.

“As far as the Republican side of things, the leadership, especially in Iowa, is to have Iowa continue to be first as a caucus,” Hagle said.

At the Iowa Memorial Union, four people, including organizers and one observer who was not registered to vote in the county, attended the Republican caucus that represented a combined six Iowa City precincts. The organizers refused The Daily Iowan’s request for an interview.

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Iowa State Senate Minority Leader Zach Walhs, D-Coralville, said it is important to motivate Democrats in Johnson County as it’s a heavily Democratic county in a Republican majority state.

“You all know about the battles that we’re facing every day in the State House appreciate the support that you give us, it helps the delegation fight it was the day we’re going to keep doing that for every single one of you,” Iowa State Senate Minority Leader Zach Walhs, D-Coralville said to Zoom attendants.

No Republicans in Johnson County have announced plans to run for state legislative seats yet.

“It’s very hard to find Republicans to run for anything in Johnson County, because they’re going to get beat badly,” Hagle said.

Johnson County constituents will elect four new state legislators in 2022, as Democrats Rep. Mary Mascher and Sen. Joe Bolkcom are retiring, Bohannan is seeking election to the U.S. Congress, and a newly drawn House district currently has no incumbent.

Andrew Dunn, a candidate for Iowa House District 90, said it is important to him that the Johnson County Democratic candidates run on a platform of progressive policy.

“I’m running to be the change we seek. To use what I’ve learned to build our party statewide and to ensure that our priorities on things like education and environment, and all kinds of justice, social, racial, and worker rights are acted on by our government in a meaningful way,” Dunn said.

Gubernatorial candidate Democrat Deidre DeJear also appeared on the Zoom call and spoke to the Johnson County Democrats.

“We understand now more than ever that Iowans want to have reasonable requests throughout this entire state, whether it’s access to mental health care, childcare, whether it’s access to health care in general, stronger schools, collective bargaining rights, clean water.” DeJear said. “Iowans have reasonable requests that our current governor is not responding to.”

Hagle said that caucuses are great for voters to get involved in grassroots politics.

“People will often have particular issues that they care about, and they care about and regardless of anything else that’s going on,” Hagle said. “But occasionally you’ll have a situation where things in the news, then result in platforms.”