Brown & Black Forums of America to hold presidential forum two days before caucuses

By: - November 16, 2023 4:11 pm

Brown & Black Forums of America co-chairs Wayne Ford and Mary Campos announced the organization will hold a forum with Republican presidential candidates on Jan. 13, 2024 at a Nov. 16 news conference in Des Moines. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The Brown & Black Forums of America will host their Republican presidential forum two days before the 2024 Iowa Republican caucuses, co-chairs Wayne Ford and Mary Campos announced Thursday.

The organization will hold the two-hour event at 7 p.m., Jan. 13, 2024, at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines. All Republican presidential candidates have been invited to participate, Ford told reporters at a news conference.

The Brown & Black Forums of America has staged eight presidential forums since 1976 — largely with Democratic candidates. Vice News’ presentation of the last such forum won an Emmy in 2021 for “Outstanding Graphic Design and Art Direction.” Ford said that the organization has played an important role in the Iowa caucuses, often hosting the final event before the Iowa presidential caucuses.

There have been some major changes to the presidential nominating process since the 2020 cycle. Iowa was stripped of its first-in-the-nation position in the Democratic nominating calendar. In 2024, South Carolina will hold the first contest, while Iowa Democrats’ will release caucus results on Super Tuesday, with the caucus itself conducted through a mail-in system.

Ford said the organization had to wait later than usual to announce its upcoming forum because of the calendar changes. While the Republican National Committee has kept the traditional calendar, beginning with the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary for the 2024 cycle, there was some debate over whether the Democratic caucus changes would force New Hampshire’s primaries for both parties to jump ahead of Iowa’s contests.

Both parties have now finalized their calendars. Iowa Republicans will caucus Jan. 15, 2024, and New Hampshire’s primary will take place Jan. 23 — in accordance with the Republican calendar, but defying the DNC’s proposed order.

“This is the latest that me and Mary have done this — in 34 years, we’ve never had to wait this long,” Ford said. “But we didn’t want to say anything until we were sure. And now we’re sure: Our legendary, historical, Emmy award-winning forum will be two days before the Iowa caucus.”

There are still some details to work out, Ford said. The group is looking for a media organization to sponsor the event and has yet to decide who will moderate the forum. The group is also working with former governor Terry Branstad to put together the event, as well as having the support of the Republican Party of Iowa.

“More dialogue is always a good thing in the political process – person-to person discussion is, in fact, what makes the Iowa Caucus so important in our presidential nominating process,” Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann said in a statement. “Republicans are especially keen to engage in conversations with groups such as the Brown & Black Forums of America about how bold leadership and ideas can benefit all Americans regardless of race.”

Republican presidential candidates will be invited to share their policy plans and positions on issues impacting Americans of color, with a focus on issues of criminal justice, immigration, education, economic development, and health.

The 2024 forum will be the first time the organization hosts a Republican presidential forum. While the Brown & Black Forums of America was set to host an event with GOP presidential candidates in the 2016 nominating cycle, the event was canceled due to “unresolved scheduling conflicts.”

While the forum has hosted Democratic presidential candidates in the past, the organization is non-partisan. Campos said the forum is a way to engage Iowans and people of color across the nation in the political process, using the influence of the Iowa caucuses to have candidates address issues that impact marginalized communities.

“I think that this is very successful event, and we need to realize once again how important it is to vote, especially right now,” she said.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.