Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
DES MOINES, Iowa – The Republican Party of Iowa's state central committee changed course Monday evening and voted to move the party's 2014 state convention to June 14 and to hold the GOP caucuses on Jan. 21 at the same time as when the Iowa Democratic Party conducts their precinct meetings.
Party leaders had talked about holding the convention in July and hosting their January caucuses on a Saturday, but agreed with only one dissenting vote to schedule the statewide convention on June 14 and to align with Democrats for caucuses on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
"I think it's essential that we get back on track," said central committee member Loras Schulte, who pressed the decision-makers to change the tentative GOP dates for the state convention and the 2014 caucuses.
Earlier in the day, Gov. Terry Branstad said he was pleased his party's governing board was making the changes, after having publicly called it "a mistake" when leaders of the Republican Party of Iowa decided to hold next year's state convention in July rather than the tradition time frame. The move created worries that the later date could hurt GOP candidates competing for the party's 2014 nomination in Iowa's U.S. Senate race.
"I think that's a positive step and I'm pleased to hear that," said Branstad, who likely will be a candidate on the GOP slate in 2014.
A separate controversy had flared over the possibility that Republicans could hold their 2014 precinct caucuses on a different date that Iowa Democrats – a change that would run counter to a tradition of both events being held on the same date to bolster Iowa's position as the lead-off state in the presidential selection process.
"It's vitally important that we be in tune with Democrats," Schulte said regarding the caucus date. "We absolutely have to be on the same page in 2016."
Some committee members argued that moving the caucus date could create some scheduling problems for counties that already had locked in a location, but GOP chairman A.J. Spiker noted that the 2012 caucus dates moved from February to Jan. 3 and local parties were able to adjust.
Branstad said Iowa managed to land the coveted first-in-the-nation position by having both parties work together and increase public participation by having their caucuses on the same night.
"I think that's a good tradition and, if possible, I'd certainly like to see that," the GOP governor said. "I know it's not as important in a non-presidential year, but I do think the history of cooperation between the parties in holding the caucuses on the same date has been a beneficial thing that has increased public participation and gotten the attention of national candidates to come and participate here in Iowa."
He said Iowa's 2016 precinct caucuses definitely should be held on the same date in a presidential election cycle where candidates will be competing for an open post when Barack Obama completes in second term and is barred from running for a third time.