Dave Nagle

Dave Nagle

A former Iowa Democratic Party chairman says keeping Iowa’s Caucuses first-in-the-nation is a constant battle and all the 2016 Republican presidential candidates need to be asked to commit to keeping Iowa first in 2020.

“The best person to ask those questions is the governor. He would never want to go into the history books as the governor that presided over the losing of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status and the commitments of the candidates should be easy to get, but they should be obtained at once,” says Dave Nagle of Waterloo, a former Iowa congressman who served as chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party 30 years ago.

Nagle says Governor Branstad and other Iowa Republicans should feel a sense of urgency since the chairman of the Republican National Committee has been talking about holding rotating, regional primaries — and Iowa’s Caucuses would no longer be the lead-off events in the presidential selection process.

“Iowa’s status is always in danger,” Nagle says. “To be first means you always have to fight.”

The Iowa Democratic Party’s current chairwoman has gotten public assurances from Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley that they will oppose any change in the 2020 calendar that would no longer put Iowa’s Caucuses first on the schedule. Nagle says it’s time to secure those commitments from the leading Republican candidates.

“Clearly, once the candidates leave Iowa, you’ve lost your leverage,” Nagle says. “Do it now. Get it done and end the conversation about changing the calendar and removing Iowa and New Hampshire from being first-in-the-nation.”

Nagle says every candidate has a chance in Iowa and New Hampshire, and that’s important for the health of our democracy.

“If you go to regional primaries as the Republican chairman’s proposing, only the richest or best-funded candidates could compete,” Nagle says. “That’s very, very important not for Iowa and New Hampshire, but as a national function to see that the under-funded candidate, who might be the best candidate, to see that he or she actually has a chance to win the nomination.”

Nagle faced a fight over Iowa’s Caucuses when he was chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party in 1984. New Hampshire moved up the date of its primary, so Iowa officials moved the Caucuses ahead a week, too. National party leaders tried to deny Iowa delegates seats at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. The dispute ultimately was settled in Iowa’s favor, by a federal judge.