State political conventions wrap up


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DES MOINES — The political smoke, slander, and staunch sauntering cleared at least temporarily following the closure of Iowa’s final political party convention on the evening of June 21, with stark differences from its predecessor a week earlier.

The more than nine-hour-long 2014 Iowa Democratic Convention was marked in part by the induction of one of the nation’s longest-serving senators, a presentation by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, and the designation of a former Republican for the Democratic lieutenant governor campign.

And although it also centered on the state’s largest cluster of event space — the Iowa Events Center — its focus rarely mirrored the Republican gatherings from a week earlier.

The Democratic congregation inside the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center, 833 Fifth Ave., in downtown Des Moines, eschewed flash and extravagance at times.

One clear similarity stood in both party’s promotion of their U.S. Senate candidates — Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley.

Timothy Hagle, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science, said state conventions are often operated in a similar fashion despite the differing political viewpoints. This year, that similarity shone through with near-constant calls for “unity” by party voters and leaders to get behind a political slate of new candidates.

“That seems to be the hot race right now,” he said, noting that both parties have political question marks in their candidates — Jack Hatch and Monica Vernon for the Democratic gubernatorial ticket and Republican congressional candidates including Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

During opening remarks on both occasions, party chairmen took jabs across the political aisle.

“We have the opportunity to finally, finally kick Terry Branstad out of Terrace Hill,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan told the 429 Democratic delegates. “We have to be as committed as ever.”

That notion of commitment also rang true in Danny Carroll, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa’s address on June 14, albeit with no direct correlation to state Democrats.

Instead, he called for the need of a hands-off governing body in the United States.

“You know what, I have an idea,” Carroll said to the more than 1,400 Republican delegates in attendance. “Why don’t we call each other Americans. Isn’t that why we’re here?”

Chris Larimer, an associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa, said both Republican and Democratic party leaders and voters understand voter-registration numbers are lacking.

While some may question the appearance across the political spectrum for the visiting politicians to the Hawkeye State over the past month, Larimer said he wasn’t surprised by the big-name speakers.

“They had to be at those conventions now in order to start those relationships with people who don’t go to the conventions later on,” he said, pointing to O’Malley, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum. “It would’ve been silly not to come if they are considering a 2016 run.”

Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director Troy Price said the total budget from the two-day convention is still being completed.

A united party stood as the resounding theme, he said, maintaining that a higher delegate turnout was evidence of that.

A quorum of 40 percent of registered delegates must take place at each convention. This time, he said, that number reached 50 percent, higher than previous years.

“I think this convention certainly was a time for Democrats to refocus,” Price said.

Delegates left the convention with a positive outlook on the party’s chances from all levels of the ticket, from the Hatch-Vernon campaign to the congressional races.

Heading into the November elections, Price said to expect a strong ground game, with more campaign offices opening, thousands of door knocks, and expanded volunteer recruitment.

Danny Carroll, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, and other party members did not return calls or emails seeking comment as of Sunday evening.

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