2018 Iowa caucuses will be held on Monday night

I Voted Today stickers, shown Oct. 26, 2016. — photo by Zak Neumann

Update: An earlier version of the story misidentified one of the Democratic candidates.

Normally, Iowa caucuses during years without a presidential race are sedate, even dull, affairs focused on party policy issues and selecting local party leaders. But thanks to a crowded field for the Democratic Party nomination for governor, some of this year’s caucuses may prove to be more lively and important than normal.

On Feb. 5, the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties will be holding caucuses. No candidates for governor or any other office will be selected. Instead, party members will select delegates for county party conventions. It’s the first step in the process that leads to the state party conventions, which will be held after the June 5 primary election.

If no candidate gets at least 35 percent of the vote in the primary, the delegates at the state conventions will chose their party’s candidate for the general election. There are only three Republican candidates running for governor, and just two Libertarians, so it’s unlikely those party nominations will be decided at their conventions. But the Democrats have seven gubernatorial candidates, so there is a real chance no one will get the needed 35 percent of the vote.

That’s why the individual selected to attend the Democratic Party’s state convention may be extremely important this year.

The seven Democratic candidates are:

Nate Boulton, a first-term state senator representing Des Moines. Boulton is an attorney specializing in labor law.

Cathy Glasson, a nurse and president of the SEIU Local 199, which represents workers at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Broadlawns Medical Center and other employers.

Fred Hubbell, a retired business executive and philanthropist.

Andy McGuire, a physician and health care executive and past chairwoman.

Jon Neiderbach, a former president of the Des Moines School Board.

John Norris, former chief of staff for Tom Vilsack during Vilsack’s terms as Iowa governor and U.S. secretary of agriculture. Norris also served as U.S. representative to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Food Program.

Gary Wells, a first-time candidate for elective office, who has held a variety of jobs.

Ross Wilburn, a former Iowa City mayor and city councilman.

Writing on his political news site, Iowa Starting Line, former Democratic campaign staffer Pat Rynard laid out caucus strategies some of the candidates are employing to maximize their chances of having supporters selected as delegates.

According to Rynard, Boulton will rely on union members to organize delegates for him, and Glasson will rely on members from the progressive groups that have endorsed her. Norris, who has been involved in state campaigns in Iowa since the 1980s, has a team of longtime Democratic campaign veterans and activists training caucus volunteers. McGuire has multiple strong connections to county party chairs from her service as chair of the state party. Hubbell “appears to have the largest field team of any of the candidates, and those organizers making calls and building relationships with activists and supporters matter for competing in every precinct,” Rynard reported.

“Every campaign will probably be able to declare some sort of victory after Monday, but everyone also seems to realize that it’s still early on in the process,” Rynard wrote.

Stakes will be much lower at the Republican and Libertarian caucuses.

The three Republican candidates for governor are:

Kim Reynolds, the incumbent governor. Reynolds was in her second term as lieutenant governor, then Gov. Terry Branstad resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China.

Ron Corbett, the former mayor of Cedar Rapids.

Steven Ray, a member of the Boone City Council.

The Libertarian candidates are:

Marco Battaglia, a musician.

Jake Porter, a business consultant and co-founder of a web design company.

Information on the time and location of the caucuses can be found the websites of the parties.

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