The future of the Iowa Republican Party’s “straw poll” will likely be decided late this year according to the party’s new leader.
Since 1979, the GOP has held a “straw poll” in Ames on a Saturday in August to test support for the party’s presidential candidates, a few months before the Iowa Caucuses kick off the presidential nominating season. Jeff Kaufmann was elected chairman of the Iowa GOP on June 28.
“There is going to be a party event in the summer of 2015,” Kaufmann says. “I don’t know what that event will look like.”
Kaufmann hints the decision will be made soon after the November 4 Election, though.
“Right now the 2014 election is absolutely consuming my life. My wife will attest to that,” Kaufmann says. “…November 5th we’ve got two things right there on my plate and one of them is the Straw Poll and questions about that.”
His other priority will be ensuring the party has the aparatus in place to conduct the precinct Caucuses in early 2016.
Iowa Democrats hold a Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner before the Caucuses, in November, to showcases the party’s presidential candidates, but the party’s bylaws prohibit a straw poll at the event. While the Iowa Republican Party’s chairman isn’t commenting on the future of the Straw Poll, he is predicting some sort of gathering will be held where all the GOP’s candidates can speak.
“I cannot see a summer of 2015 without an event that highlights our diverse issues and our diverse candidates,” Kaufmann says.
Kaufmann made his comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program which airs tonight at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television.
Critics of the Iowa GOP’s Straw Poll say it allows Iowa Republicans to hold the first two contests which winnow the field of presidential candidates. Others complain there’s a “pay to play” angle as campaigns buy tickets to distribute to potential straw poll voters and the party auctions off tent space for candidate receptions. Supporters say the party has benefited from the money raised at the Ames Straw Poll.
The Family Leader, a Christian conservative group, appears poised to hold its own straw poll if the Iowa GOP does not. The group has held a Family Leadership Summit in Ames, in August, for the past three years and has reserved space to do so again on August 15th, 2015.