The Iowa Republican Party’s “Straw Poll” this August will be held on the Central Iowa Expo grounds, near Boone. The Iowa Republican Party’s state central committee made the decision this morning, choosing a new venue for the iconic event. Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann said the rental prices for the site — where the Farm Progress Show is staged — were a key factor.
“That was only part of it,” Kaufmann told Radio Iowa. “I think we were looking for a site that resonated Iowa and our agricultural roots and our rural roots.”
Kaufmann expects candidates who participate in the event will rent tents for their own campaign outreach to supporters. At Straw Polls of the past, candidates have brought in musicians and food to woo would-be backers. The party will erect a tent where the candidates will be able to speak to the crowd from a stage.
“A very large tent,” Kaufmann said, laughing. “I’m talking about hundreds of feet in length.”
Kaufmann said it could be sunny and 100 degrees on August 8th, the day of the Straw Poll, and the shade of the tent will be needed for the crowd that will gather to hear the candidates. Now that the site selection has been made, Kaufmann said he and the party’s leaders will make some other decisions.
“Now comes the brass tacks. Now comes the actual details of how the voting will occur,” Kaufmann said. “How are we going to go about being fair to the candidates who decide to participate? How much we’re going to be aggressive toward sponsors all the way to exactly what is it that we are going to have to charge in order to be fair to the Iowa Republicans that want to attend, but at the same time making sure that our bottom line is guarded.”
The event has been a fundraiser for the party and the six previous Iowa Straw Polls had all been held in Ames, in and around Iowa State Center facilities, with candidate speeches happening inside Hilton Coliseum. Kaufmann said it was a “very difficult decision” to move the Iowa Straw Poll venue 10 miles west, in Boone, but the new site offers the party a kind of “blank slate” for the event.
“In terms of new beginnings, we have that as a bit of a theme,” Kaufmann said. “But I think more importantly whether we had this at the same site we’ve always had or a brand new site, the goal still remains and that is we cannot have another eight years of Obama/90s retro.”
The Straw Poll has been a stop for presidential campaigns since 1979. It has been held the summer before Republicans hold a contest presidential primary and caucus season. At the 1999 Iowa Straw Poll, candidate Steve Forbes wooed supporters not just with a steak meal and the performance of a country music star, the wooing took place in an air-conditioned tent.