State Rep. Mark Smith of Marshalltown, elected Saturday as chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said his first job would be to “restore the faith in the Iowa Democratic Party.”
He said he would travel across the state to hear and address concerns by Iowa Democrats in the wake of harsh national criticism about the conduct of the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.
“We’ve endured enough negative. We must now focus on what is positive and what we can do to make life better for Iowans,” Smith said during remarks to the party’s state central committee before the vote.
Former chairman Troy Price stepped down after a breakdown in the reporting of results from the Feb. 3 Iowa Caucuses. The failure of a reporting app and other errors has left Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus status in jeopardy.
“I walk out of here obviously a little bruised, a little battered, but proud of the work I’ve been able to do with all of you,” Price said. He said he was resigning so the party could turn its focus from “recriminations” over the caucus difficulties and toward winning elections in November.
Members of the state central committee gave Price a standing ovation as he ended his tenure.
Smith said he will move forward with plans for an independent review of the caucus process and the errors that occurred. He said he’ll also work to defend Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus status. “It will be a strong and loud argument that we in Iowa are people who are committed to this process,” he said.
The party has granted requests from the presidential campaigns of Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders for a partial recanvass of the results reported by the party for 143 precincts. That process starts Sunday and is expected to last two days.
Party officials have said this would be a review limited to addressing errors the results reported by the party but would not change results on paperwork signed by precinct officials and representatives of the campaigns on caucus night. Campaigns may still request a recount after the recanvassing process is finished.
Smith, 68, is serving his 10th term in the Iowa House and was House Democratic leader for five years. He had already announced plans to retire from the Legislature at the end of this term. He’s a licensed, independent social worker who serves as a consultant at the Substance Abuse Treatment Unit of Central Iowa in Marshalltown.
“I’ll be putting every working hour into this endeavor,” Smith said, saying his work in the Legislature would not hamper his efforts.
He won the election on the first ballot over three other candidates: Joe Henry and Gabriel De La Cerda of Des Moines and Bob Krause of Fairfield. His term will extend until after the November 2020 elections.