Iowa Dems caucuses get fair hearing after a rocky start, says state party leader

Scott Brennan, an Iowa and member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee, speaks about the Iowa caucuses during taping of “Iowa Press” at the Iowa PBS Studios in Johnston, Iowa on Friday, November 18, 2022 . (Iowa PBS screenshot)

JOHNSTON — At first, Scott Brennan wasn’t sure Iowa would get a fair shake.

When the National Democratic Party announced its plan to review the order in which states select the party’s presidential nominees, Brennan, an Iowan and a member of the national party’s Rules Committee, felt the national Democrats were simply trying to choose Iowa for the Caucuses 2020 Penalty Program designed to report results was not working properly on caucus night.

“As the trial began, it seemed like a lot of people were looking for a pound of flesh and retribution for failures in 2020,” Brennan said Friday while taping this weekend’s episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS.

With a decision on the Iowa Democrats’ first-in-the-nation status imminent — the Rules Committee is scheduled to meet the first week of December — Brennan said he now feels that the Iowa Democrats’ arguments to remain First, heard and given a fair hearing.

“I think we got a fair hearing and now we’re working on all the angles that we have,” Brennan said.

Iowa Democrats and Republicans were the first to vote their presidential nomination preferences every four years since 1972.

While the Iowa Republicans will once again take first place in 2024, the Iowa Democrats’ spot is up for grabs as the national party reconsiders its nomination calendar.

The National Democratic Party’s rules committee voted in April to reopen its presidential nomination schedule, forcing all interested states — including the current states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — to apply for the early presidential nomination window .

Iowa is among 16 states and Puerto Rico that have applied for an early voting seat.

National party leaders have said early voting should include states that have primary elections and no caucuses, have diverse populations, and are competitive states in the presidential election.

Iowa doesn’t fit that mold well at all. It nominates presidential candidates through caucuses, not primaries; It has the sixth-lowest minority population in the US, and Republicans have dominated Democrats in most of the last five elections here.

To address caucus concerns, the Iowa Democrats proposed a dramatic overhaul of the presidential election system that would make it much more like a primary and address many of the accessibility concerns raised by caucus critics.

Brennan, who is also a former party leader, was asked during the Iowa Press taping whether national Democrats are fair in considering keeping Iowa, with its proposed changes, as the preferred voting state, or whether national leaders have decided at the outset, Pushing Iowa off its envied First-in-the-Nation perch.

Brennan said he believes Iowa received “a very fair hearing” after that questionable start. His concern now is whether a decision on the nomination calendar will be made publicly and transparently, or whether it will be the result of backroom deals.

“Eventually we’ll find out — if the process is as open and transparent as they keep claiming, then that’s fine,” Brennan said. “If it turns out there was a lot of business done behind the scenes, that’s a problem.”

Brennan was asked what he thinks the national party will ultimately do with Iowa.

“I have high hopes that we stay in the (early voting) window. Whether we’re first or not remains to be seen,” Brennan said. “I think we have a chance to stay first.”

“Iowa Press” airs Sundays at 7:30 p.m. and noon on Iowa PBS and can be viewed anytime at

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