News and Commentary

DNC Chief Tom Perez Suggests Remaining Caucuses Be Replaced By Primaries

"I think by 2024 we ought to have everyone being a primary state."
ANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE - FEBRUARY 07: Chair of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez speaks prior to the Democratic presidential primary debate in the Sullivan Arena at St. Anselm College on February 07, 2020 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Seven candidates qualified for the second Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020 which comes just days before the New Hampshire primary on February 11. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Iowa and Nevada — the two first-in-the-nation caucuses — may find themselves significantly less influential in the next round of Democratic primaries if Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez has his way.

In an interview ahead of the Democratic National Convention, which is taking place virtually this week, Perez told media that he’s encouraging the committee to put an end to caucuses altogether, replacing them with primaries that are more easily managed and produce results faster.

“I think by 2024 we ought to have everyone being a primary state,” Perez said.

“The chairman didn’t specifically name Iowa, which for decades has led off the nominating calendar, but his position could represent a seismic shift in the party’s traditions, and it underscores the pressure on the caucus structure that has intensified since Iowa’s count dragged out for days to open the 2020 nominating fight eventually won by Joe Biden,” The Associated Press reported.

Perez has been something of a reformer, taking the reins of the DNC from Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) who resigned her post after she was accused of rigging the 2016 nomination process in favor of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Since taking office, Perez has responded, at least marginally, to the more progressive wing of the party, undercutting the influence of so-called “super-delegates” and managing a larger field of potential nominees.

Unfortunately for Iowa and Nevada, the two states whose early caucuses often give early momentum to upstart candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the caucuses were especially problematic in 2020, with Iowa taking days to report an official winner, and then reporting a strange, disparate result that gave delegates to Sanders but the popular vote to former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, who’d made an Iowa ground game a hallmark of his early campaign efforts.

In Nevada, Sanders roiled the Democratic field yet again, dashing the more moderate Democratic establishment’s hopes of an easy primary win for former Vice President Joe Biden, who should have done well among Nevada’s blue-collar union workers.

Perez framed the issue as one of accessibility, suggesting that caucuses are much harder to attend and participate in, marginalizing those who might work long hours or at night.

“I want everyone to participate, and having a state-run primary is the best way to accomplish that,” Perez said.

Democrats will vote on Perez’s idea of replacing all caucuses with a primary this week, and some have already cast their ballots, given that the convention is virtual. The measure, of course, does not outlaw the caucuses altogether, but it does require “any state keeping its caucus to create a paper trail for the voting process.” Iowa, at least, has agreed to those terms.

The measure is expected to pass, as is a measure pushing “superdelegate” influence to the second round of voting, keeping Democratic bigwigs who aren’t bound by state primaries out of the initial nominee selection process.

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