Caucuses utilize different formats for 2020

Bernie Sanders supporters (from left) Eric Green, Maxwell Burroughs, Deb Pingel, and Durene Tabor disuss issues during the Democratic Caucus Monday at Monticello High School. (Photo by Pete Temple)

Registering to participate in the Democratic Caucus at MHS are Melvin (left) and Betty Manternach. Seated at the table is Precinct Secretary Deb Pingel.

Caucus Chair Judy Tuetken leads the Castle Grove/Lovell/Wayne precincts at First Presbyterian Church in Monticello during the Feb. 3 Republican Caucus. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

Republican Caucus-goers sign candidate petitions for county, state, and federal offices.
Kim Brooks & Pete Temple
Express Editor & Express Associate Editor

Republican caucus-goers work to re-elect Trump 

Four years ago, the Republican Caucus site held at Monticello’s First Presbyterian Church was at capacity with 300 voters in attendance. 

The site, which includes seven precincts (Monticello 1, 2, 3, 4, Castle grove, Lovell, and Wayne), had roughly 80 in attendance on Monday night, Feb. 3 for the 2020 Caucuses. 

Before the festivities began promptly at 7 p.m., residents of each precinct showed up early to check in and/or register with the Republican Party. They also signed petitions of county, state, and federal candidates for office. 

“Our registration numbers have to match our voting numbers,” said Caucus Chair Judy Tuetken, who was also greeting people as they walked in the door. 

Just before 7 p.m., attendees were escorted upstairs to the sanctuary of the church where Jones County Republican Chair Gerald Retzlaff gave opening remarks. While many people didn’t know whether the Republicans were even going to caucus this year, Retzlaff simply said they clearly don’t pay attention to the local media, as in the Monticello Express. 

“It was in the Express for two weeks in a row,” he said. 

The business at hand for the evening included: 

• Electing delegates and alternates for the county convention. 

• Electing members for the Jones County Republican Central Committee. 

“We’re unique in the State of Iowa in Jones County because we have one of the largest central committees in the state outside of the major metro areas,” shared Retzlaff. “We have 45 people on our central committee.” 

• Forming planks/ platforms. 

With the U.S. Census taking place this year in 2020, Retzlaff informed everyone that the precinct lines would likely get redrawn by 2021. That means people might be sent to another location when the next caucus rolls around. 

While there are technically three Republicans running for president, 100 percent of those in attendance at the Presbyterian Church were in favor of re-electing President Trump, noted by a show of hands. The other two candidates are Bill Weld and Joe Walsh. 

“We are a party that supports freedom, not free stuff,” said Retzlaff as he promised he would not preach a sermon. 

He said several years ago there was talk about the effort to form a Communist Party in the U.S. 

“It didn’t happen, but it got close,” said Retzlaff. “There was a change in the politics and leadership and the country got excited.” 

He outlined several targets (issues) that this movement tried to take over: healthcare, education, religion, debt, poverty, welfare, class warfare, and gun control. 

“Their blueprint was to take over healthcare. The government has pretty much taken over healthcare. 

“Another target was debt. We certainly have debt. It seems to be growing, despite inflation. 

“They tried to split us by various actions, whether it be gay rights, or a number of other issues that are important in the church. 

“We’ve always had poor people, but they didn’t know they were poor. People keep telling them they’re poor, so they want free stuff here; they want free stuff there. 

“Welfare keeps growing, growing, and growing. Welfare issues are a big problem as well. 

“There’s all kinds of warfare going on, pitting people against people: poor people vs. people with money, whites vs. minorities, individuals vs. corporations, Christian vs. Jew, Christian vs. Muslim.” 

In terms of gun control, Retzlaff said, “That’s really the only thing that’s keeping us safe, in my estimation.” 

Following the opening remarks, several candidates were mentioned from the county, state, and federal levels: 

• Jeff Swisher, running for county supervisor in District 5 

Supervisor Wayne Manternach read a prepared statement on behalf of Swisher. 

• Lloyd Eaken, incumbent, running for county supervisor in District 5 

• Wayne Manternach, incumbent, running for county supervisor in District 1 

Manternach addressed the crowd on his own behalf. 

• John Schlarmann, running for county supervisor in District 1 

• Lee Hein, incumbent, State Representative District 96 

Hein addressed the crowd on his own behalf. 

• Dan Zumbach, incumbent, State Senator District 48 

Hein spoke on behalf of Zumbach. 

• Steve Bradley, State Representative District 58 

• Joni Ernst, incumbent, U.S. Senator 

Hein spoke on behalf of Ernst. 

• Tom Hansen, U.S. Representative District 1 

• Ashley Hinson, U.S. Representative District 1 

Carrie Manternach read a prepared statement from Hinson. 

• President Donald Trump, incumbent 

Marv Dusanek read a list of Trump’s accomplishments since taking office four years ago. He also stumped for Trump during the 2016 Caucuses. 

“No one other than Donald Trump could have stood up to the left wing, radical Democrat socialists. Anybody else would have caved in a week. But he’s standing up to them,” said Dusanek. “To me, re-electing Trump is a no-brainer. But let’s not be complacent. The Democrats will do anything to defeat him. So let’s work hard to re-elect President Trump.” 

Retzlaff shared some statistics about registered voters in Jones County. There are 4,029 registered Republicans. There are 3,063 registered Democrats. 

“We have 6,550 people who don’t really care,” said Retzlaff. “Well they might care, they just don’t want the phone calls. Because if you’re registered with a party, you’re getting lots of phone calls, lots of mail. These people just register without a party. In some cases, those are people who really are leaving up to us to decide. They like to (complain), but they’re not going to take part in the process.” 

With that, Retzlaff thanked those in attendance for taking the time to caucus. 


New Democratic format produces balanced results

If the two Democratic caucuses held at Monticello High School Monday night settled anything, it’s that there is a whole lot more to be settled regarding the party’s nomination for President of the United States. 

Nothing had been settled as of press time Monday either (11 p.m.), as there were statewide delays in the reporting of Democratic results. 

Two of the 17 Democratic caucuses in Jones County were held at MHS, with the Precinct 3 caucus held in the high school library and Precinct 4 meeting in the band room. 

And while the two precincts came out with slightly different results – Precinct 3 had more Bernie Sanders supporters while Precinct 4 gave a slight edge to Joe Biden – the results in both rooms landed among four candidates: Sanders, Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. 

The Democratic caucuses used a different format for 2020 than in past years. Voters began by supporting a candidate in a process called the “first alignment,” which they did by assembling in groups. Any group that had 15 percent or more of those in attendance made their candidate “viable,” and made them eligible to elect a delegate for the March 21 Jones County Democratic Convention. 

For Precinct 3, there were 35 people in attendance, meaning at least six people needed to assemble in support of a candidate in order for that candidate to be viable. 

Before aligning themselves with a candidate, precinct chair Monica Lyons allowed one minute for a spokesperson to speak in support of each candidate. Eric Green of Monticello spoke in favor of Sanders, and Jess Paulson of Arlington, Va. spoke on behalf of Joe Biden; no other candidates had speakers on their behalf. 

The voters then moved to the groups of the candidates they supported. Thirteen of them settled in the Sanders camp, while Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar had six each. There were four supporters for Elizabeth Warren, meaning she was rendered no longer viable as a candidate for that Precinct. 

So, the four were given a choice, either to align with a different candidate, or none at all. Three of them joined the Buttigieg camp, one went to Sanders, making the final tally 14 for Sanders, nine for Buttigieg, and six each for Biden and Klobuchar. 

Precinct 3, with 35 people, was allowed four delegates. And since the Iowa Democratic Party rules state that each viable candidate should receive a delegate, Sanders, Buttigieg, Biden and Klobuchar each earned just one. 

Precinct 4 was similar, with one delegate emerging for each of the same four candidates. The alignment results were slightly different there among the 36 voters. In the first alignment, Biden had 12 supporters, Buttigieg eight, Sanders seven and Klobuchar six. Andrew Yang had three supporters, not enough for viability. Two of the three Yang supporters joined Buttigieg to give him 10, and one went to Klobuchar to give her seven. 

With that settled, the caucuses then adopted resolutions to be brought to the county convention. Precinct 3 advanced five of those: 

• Medicare for all. 

• Term limits for the Iowa Senate, of two, six-year terms. 

• Term limits for the Iowa House, of six, two-year terms. 

• Banning the import, distribution and manufactor of all assault weapons for non-military uses. 

• Supporting rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. 

Precinct 4 passed just one resolution, to get rid of the use of an app to report caucus results. The app was designed to replace the phoning in of results. 

The Precinct 3 caucus ended after about 90 minutes, but not before Nick Strittmatter offered words of encouragement to the Democrats in attendance. 

“Most of us here tonight, if not all of us, will be disappointed, because their person is not going to get the nomination,” Strittmatter said. “It’s possible that none of the people we’ve even voted for will be the nominee. And we have to remember, that just because we only agree with 70 or 80 percent of what they say, that doesn’t mean we don’t support them.”

Registering to participate in the Democratic Caucus at MHS are Melvin (left) and Betty Manternach. Seated at the table is Precinct Secretary Deb Pingel. 


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