(Des Moines, IA) Republican Party of Iowa chairman Jeff Kaufmann and a legal expert criticized a plan by Brad Anderson, a longtime Democratic operative running for Secretary of State, for suggesting that the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office should use its resources and staff time to muddle into the Iowa caucuses.
“Iowans of all political stripes expect the government to stay out of party politics,” Kaufmann said. “Anderson’s plan is a problem in search of a solution. We must maintain the separation of politics and state.”
Anderson’s plan says that “there is no formal role the state should play in the caucuses,” but he then he explains ways that the Secretary of State’s resources could be used on partisan political activity.
“Democrats are discussing various plans, sometimes behind closed doors, to change their party’s caucus process,” Kaufmann said. “Anderson’s idea is ill-advised, and I plan to discuss ways to protect Iowa’s first in the nation status with reasonable Democrats in the future.”
Kaufmann plans to meet with Iowa Democratic chairman Scott Brennan soon to transparently discuss ways for both parties to cooperate to ensure that Iowa’s precinct caucuses retain their historic status as the first test of presidential candidates’ strength.
Experts question Anderson’s plan to float a state role in the caucuses, which are internal party contests, particularly because of sensitivities to New Hampshire, whose Secretary of State Bill Gardner fiercely defends the “Live Free or Die” state’s first in the nation primary.
“It’s not appropriate for the Secretary of State’s office to play a role in the Iowa caucuses. The caucuses are governed by party rules as opposed to being regulated by the state,” said Charlie Smithson, legal counsel for the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office and an adjunct professor of election law at Drake University School of Law. “If government becomes involved with the caucus process, other states will argue that the caucuses have become the functional equivalent of a primary. That would create serious problems in Iowa maintaining its first in the nation status.”