DAVENPORT - Deb Sperry had a plan for Iowa’s caucuses, and a snow storm wasn’t going to stop her.
The rural Scott County woman got on the road early, got a hotel room for the night so she wouldn’t have to drive home. Then, she went to Davenport North High School, where about 300 Democrats gathered in the cafeteria for the 2018 precinct caucuses.
It was Sperry’s first caucus ever, and she was determined to show up.
“I’m the precinct captain, and I really care about the direction of our country,” she said Monday night.
Iowa’s caucuses, even in non-presidential years, are a key event in the state’s political calendar.
The Republican and Democratic parties both had caucuses this year. But for the Democrats, they were especially important.
If none of the seven Democrats running for governor gets to 35 percent of the vote in the June 5 primary, then state convention delegates will choose the nominee.
Monday’s caucuses were the first step in picking those delegates.
Iowa Democratic Party officials said that turnout was strong, especially given the heavy snow across the state. They said the expected turnout to exceed 9,000 people, which would be higher than in 2010 and 2014.
The party does not report delegates by who they support for office and none of the delegates are technically bound to anybody at county convention, anyway.
Still, some of the gubernatorial campaigns said they were pleased with how things went.
In a statement, Fred Hubbell, a Des Moines businessman, called the evening “an overwhelming success.”
Joe O’Hern, campaign manager for state Sen. Nate Boulton, also was pleased. He said the Boulton campaign had a “core group” of 700 supporters it wanted to get elected delegates to county conventions and accomplished at least that.
Roger Ouellette, a spokesman for Cathy Glasson, said the campaign “successfully turned out a large number of first time caucus goers and people getting involved in the political process for the first time.”
In a statement late Monday, John Norris expressed gratitude to his supporters who turned out and said “it is obvious all over the state that Democrats are fired up ...”
About 6,500 delegates were being elected Monday night to county conventions.
Unlike during presidential caucuses, the off year caucuses typically don’t break into preference groups to elect delegates based on the candidates they prefer.
However, the Glasson campaign was said to be encouraging it, and Ouellette said they were confident a “large share” of delegates selected that way would be her supporters.
The Iowa Democratic Party reported that it’s preliminary results showed 105 precincts, or about 8 percent of the total broke into gubernatorial preference groups.
Party officials seemed pleased with the turnout, which was undoubtedly held down somewhat by the several inches of snow that fell across the state.
Officials said late Monday that with 80 percent of the 1,681 precincts reporting, turnout was estimated at 8,599, exceeding the 2014 attendance of 6,500. Officials said they expected total turnout to exceed 9,000.
At North High School, Jo Lenker, of Eldridge, said she felt an obligation show up.
“You can complain. You can whine. You can be angry. At some point, you have to step up,” she said.