By Brenden West Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — 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.
Locally, Democrat Dave Loebsack (House District 2) awaits a Republican challenger to filter through the primaries, and Clinton County Supervisor Brian Schmidt made his announcement last week that he will challenge incumbent Democratic state Sen. Rita Hart. Two Clinton County Supervisors seats also are on the line.
There’s room to be optimistic for a higher voter turnout despite a mid-term election, Pardee said. That’s why it’s important for citizens to start becoming informed today. On Saturday, citizens will have the chance to voice what they think should be the Clinton County platform.
“It’s part of their democratic constitutional rights to participate in the political process, which leads to voting,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize that this process is connected to voting. Knowing who and why you’re voting for someone. Even with Iowa’s better than average voting record, we have a ways to go.”
Guest speakers are scheduled to make appearances at both Clinton County events. Cedar County Supervisor Jeff Kaufmann will be the keynote speaker for the Republican convention, appearing with U.S. Senate and House candidates expected to make rounds throughout several simultaneous conventions held statewide. For the Democrats, Hart will speak alongside incumbent state House Rep. Mary Wolfe as well as local hopefuls at the county and state levels.
Both events are free to attend.