CLINTON — It may be early in the election year, but organizers say Saturday’s Democratic and Republican conventions in Clinton County serve as pivotal kickoffs for races to come. Before county, state and federal candidates can be chosen, local parties must organize a platform, the purpose for the gatherings.
“We want that taken care of before the major campaigning begins,” Jean Pardee, Clinton County Democrat chairwoman, said.
“We organize the process by which the electorate can have input and eventually choose candidates,” Dan Smicker, Clinton County Republican chairman, said. “It is a process and it is grass roots. It starts at local caucuses that anyone can attend.”
Registration for both events begins at 9 a.m. The Clinton County Democrats will meet at Clinton Community College, and the Republicans at Jefferson Elementary School. Organizers expect each event to run until approximately 2 p.m.
Although several people have already filed paperwork for candidacies across all spectrums of governance, a true picture of their races is yet unclear. Smicker said after county chapters submit their platforms to respective state groups, candidates will campaign and participate in primaries before getting nominated around mid-June.
“In a lot of ways, the primary is more important than the general election because it decides who represents the interest of the parties,” he added. “Even if you’re an independent and you find a candidate you like in either party, you should declare a party and support a candidate to make sure they get on the ballot in the fall.
“People do not understand the process in this country and a small minority of people take part in those primaries and then the overwhelming electorate wonders, how did this happen?”
This election season presents some unique factors for Iowa voters. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat has not been an open race since 1960 when Jack Miller replaced a retiring Thomas Martin. With Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley announcing his campaign for the Senate, his District 1 House seat is also up for grabs.