Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann announced changes that the state party has made with the 2015 Straw Poll that eliminate the “pay to play” nature of the event that discouraged candidates from participating. In March, the party announced they had selected a new location for the straw poll – the Central Iowa Expo outside of Boone, IA. Today in an op/ed in Politico Kaufmann outlined additional changes to the event to entice greater participation for all candidates.
- They are getting rid of the “land auction” where the highest bidder could receive the best location. Now every candidate will be provided a space at no cost. Spots will be determined by a random lottery.
- Instead of candidates bring in vendors and food, the state party will be hosting Iowa State Fair-style vendors. Candidates used to woo attendees with the best food and entertainment which added significantly to the cost of the event for campaigns.
- Each space provided for candidates will be electrified already so campaigns won’t have to bring in generators, etc. to meet their infrastructure needs.
- Lots of parking will be available that is close, and the party will operate trams for those who need it so candidates won’t have to.
Kaufmann stated that even if all a candidate can afford is a plane ticket they can participate in the straw poll. I wholeheartedly endorse these changes. I made the following suggestions in December noting that the biggest drawback of the straw poll was the cost for candidates.
- Give campaigns space to mingle with supporters instead of having them bid for it. Place the campaigns in the same general area.
- Recruit organizations and sponsors to partner with the state party to hold the event. Who says the Republican Party of Iowa needs to do this by themselves?
- Recruit vendors to sell food, bring in inflatables, sponsors can host entertainers, etc. That way this is not done on the backs of the candidates.
- Incorporate a debate into the actual day of the straw poll, this provides an incentive for participation and opens up the debate to all who attend the straw poll not just a smaller number the night before. This would also provide more information for voters who attend when they can watch the debate live, mingle with the candidates during the day and hear their stump speeches. (RNC rules now prevent an additional debate in Iowa)
- Discourage campaigns from purchasing tickets by not selling the campaigns tickets. Focus on individual ticket purchases at the door, online and through sponsors. Keep the cost low in order to promote maximum involvement. It may require finding a different venue if necessary.
I’m glad to see they received similar feedback. Kudos to Kaufmann and the state party for making the changes necessary to improve this worthwhile event.