Troy Price, the Iowa state Democratic Party chairman who presided over last week’s disastrous precincts caucuses, submitted his letter of resignation on Wednesday.
“The fact is that Democrats deserved better than what happened on caucus night,” Price said in a letter delivered to state party’s central committee. “As chair of this party, I am deeply sorry for what happened and bear the responsibility for any failures on behalf of the Iowa Democratic Party.
“While it is my desire to stay in this role and see this process through to completion, I do believe it is time for the Iowa Democratic Party to begin looking forward, and my presence in my current role makes that more difficult.”
Price’s tenure at the helm of the state party, which began in 2017, was marred by a caucus that went off the rails and still hasn’t been resolved after more than a week. An app that was supposed to be used to submit results from the more than 1,700 precincts in the state failed, delaying the tabulation of results. A second black eye came when the results reported by the state party contained dozens of errors, both in the recording of results and apparent mathematical errors in awarding delegates out of the precinct caucuses.
Results reported by the state party late last week showed Pete Buttigieg narrowly edging out Bernie Sanders in the state delegate equivalent tally. But both candidates have requested partial recanvasses, and media outlets have not declared a winner in the race because of the close margin and and the recanvass expected to start this weekend.
The 2020 caucuses were held under new rules imposed by both the Democratic National Committee and the state party as part of a post-2016 reform package that added additional levels of transparency to the process. The new rules, which were pushed by Sanders allies after the Vermont senator’s narrow loss to Hillary Clinton, included the release of three separate sets of numbers: the state delegate equivalent tally (what has traditionally been released), the first alignment raw popular vote and the final alignment raw popular vote.
Ultimately, that plan backfired. The delayed results and confusion over whether precincts had been properly counted led to chaos on caucus night, angering presidential campaigns that complained they had no clarity moving into New Hampshire.
Price, an Iowa native who had worked for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign and Clinton’s 2016 bid, told colleagues of his plans last week, saying he wanted to see through the first precinct count to the end and take on initial requests from campaigns for recanvass requests. His resignation is effective Saturday, according to the letter, after an interim replacement is elected.
Both Buttigieg and Sanders’ campaigns submitted recanvass requests to the state party for certain precincts, the first step in what could eventually lead to a recount of the results in those precincts. A recount is a more intensive process, but the state party maintains that is the only way apparent mathematical errors can be fixed at the precinct level, because the form submitted by precinct leaders is, in the party’s estimation, a legal document.
In a pair of nearly identical letters sent to both campaigns earlier on Wednesday, Price wrote that the state central committee will send both campaigns “more details on Friday morning pertaining to the costs associated with the recanvass and the confirmed timeline,” after which the campaigns have 24 hours to decide if they want to continue with their recanvass request.
The letters said the party expected the recanvass to start on Feb. 16 and last for two days. After a recanvass, either campaign can ask for a recount.
In recent days, Price had clashed behind the scenes with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, who had given interviews deriding Price and the state party’s efforts. Some Iowa Democrats, however, have felt Perez failed to claim his own responsibility for failing to pay closer attention to how the caucuses were run, including the health of an app that went haywire the night of the caucuses, something Price alluded to in his resignation letter.
“I called for an independent review of the decisions and processes that lead [sic] to this failure,” Price wrote. “While this process is just beginning, know that the [state party] is not the only party to blame for what happened last week.
Jack Hatch, a former Iowa state senator and the party’s 2014 nominee for governor, teed off on Perez for his derisive remarks about Price.
“He got pushed by the national criticism and threw Iowa under the bus,” said Hatch, who had assembled a group of contractors that won a bid to create the so-called “virtual caucuses” for the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, only for the DNC to scrap the plan last fall.
“The other state parties chairs and the other states are in the same position: Can they trust the national chairman?”
Mike Kiernan, a former Iowa state party chairman, said Perez should have stood by Price, especially given the DNC’s involvement in security surrounding the caucuses. Kiernan noted that the DNC called for so-called virtual caucuses to be scrapped out of concerns about reliability and security but greenlit the reporting app. The DNC contends it did not have say in testing for the coding of the app, only helping with security
“He should step down. He should have shown more leadership as the chair of a national party,” said Kiernan. “He has completely signaled that he’s just going to throw them under the bus. If I were another state party chair in the country, I’d be worried about Tom Perez.”
For now, however, state chairs and some on the Hill appear eager to move beyond Iowa and help Nevada prevent a repeat of last week’s mess in their Feb. 22 caucuses.
The Nevada Democratic Party scrapped plans to use an app to collect results in early voting locations. The Nevada Independent reported that the party will instead use “scannable ballots,” with a Google check-in form with a paper backup.