Feb 16, 2021 - Politics
Former Iowa Democratic Party chairman speaks out on caucus chaos
Picture of Troy Price
Troy Price answered media questions in the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 7, 2020. Photo: Steve Pope/Getty Images

Iowa's first-caucus status was a target by those who wanted to butt ahead of Iowa long before the botched 2020 event, Troy Price, the former Iowa Democratic Party chairman who resigned under pressure, told Axios on Monday. That included some people from within Democratic circles, he said.

Driving the news: Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said Iowa's first-in-the-nation status is "unacceptable" in an explosive new interview published Sunday by the New York Times.

  • In response: “Everything could have gone swimmingly in the 2020 caucuses and we’d still be having this fight," Price said.

Why it matters: Iowa politicians from both parties are fighting hard to retain the state’s place as first in line.

  • Losing it would erode Iowa’s political influence and cost the state millions of dollars in future revenue generated from holding the first event.

Flashback: The Feb. 3, 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses were marred by technological glitches associated with an app that was to be used by roughly 1,700 precincts. And it was made worse by internet trolls who disrupted a reporting hotline.

  • Dozens of errors were discovered in the initial results reported by the party.
  • The final results showing Pete Buttigieg as the winner didn’t come out until days later.
  • Price resigned nine days later, on Feb. 12.

The problems fueled longtime arguments that Iowa is not representative of the nation, that its process is arcane, and that the state should no longer hold the first caucuses.

The other side: Price has not spoken much publicly since his resignation. His recent interviews — including one this month with BuzzFeed — give context about how the caucuses meltdown occurred, and the fight to do away with the process altogether:

  • Delays: Concerns about cybersecurity prompted the Democratic National Committee to add extra security to a reporting app a few days before the caucuses. That measure contained glitches that led to the delays in announcing final results, Price told Jason.
  • A target from the top: Soon after last year's caucuses, Perez said that it was time to resume discussion about getting “out of the business of running caucuses," the Buzzfeed article revealed. Price cited that comment as evidence of a long-running desire to shuffle caucus order.

What’s next: Members of Iowa’s political parties are both preparing for a challenge to maintain the state’s caucus status in 2024. Final decisions by the RNC and DNC aren't expected for months.

An Axios special event Thursday includes interviews from Sen. Chuck Grassley and State Rep. Ross Wilburn (D), who replaced Price as Iowa's Democratic chairman. Sign up here.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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