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‘Still in this fight’ for first-in-the-nation status, Iowa Democrats’ leader says

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Bettendorf Democrats gathered at the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf to caucus for their preferred candidates, February 2020. With 41 pledged delegates up for grabs Iowa residents gathered at nearly 1,700 sites across the state to tally support between candidates Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Michael F. Bennet, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer.

DES MOINES — Their state party leader is keeping hope alive as Iowa Democrats wait — much longer, now — to hear whether they will retain their enviable position as the first state to cast its preference for presidential candidates every four years.

National party leaders recently announced they will delay until after the November’s elections an announcement on its new presidential nominating calendar.

Iowa, which has been first in the nation since 1972, could get moved down the pecking order.

“We’re still in this fight. And we will continue this,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn said Thursday during a virtual news conference. “I’m committed to fighting for Iowa to maintain its position on the nominating calendar.”

Wilburn said that nothing has been decided by the national Democratic Party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, and in the meantime he will continue to make Iowa’s case.

“When I became chairman, we started this process, the word was Iowa’s done. I can’t speculate as to what the (national committee) members think, but no decision has been made. No calendar has been presented to the committee,” Wilburn said.

The national Democrats’ committee originally planned to make its recommendations this week for a new, early-voting schedule that will feature up to five states.

But last week, national party leaders announced that decision will be delayed until after the election so the party can focus on its candidates’ campaigns.

That pushes the new nominating calendar decision out at least another three months.

“My focus and our focus is on electing Iowa Democrats. We’re going to continue to press for that (early voting) waiver, and just continue to fight to maintain our position on the nominating calendar,” Wilburn said.

Iowa is among 16 states and Puerto Rico vying to be included in Democrats’ early presidential nominating window ahead of Super Tuesday in early March 2024.

The rules committee voted in April to reopen the presidential nominating window, forcing all interested states — including the current early-nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — to apply for a spot.

The move came after the current lineup of early-nominating states — led by the largely rural and predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire — came under increasing fire for a lack of diversity that many Democrats say doesn’t represent the party’s true strength.

And it follows a chaotic 2020 caucus night for Iowa Democrats when a smartphone app — meant to make reporting results easier — failed. As a result, the official Democratic caucus results were not reported for several weeks.

The DNC is considering factors like diversity, electoral competitiveness and logistical feasibility in making its decision.

Tom Barton contributed to this article.

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