On The Road

February 7th, 2012

Lee County Republicans Bicker Over Iowa Caucus Chaos

There is a lot of blame to go around over the mishandling of the Iowa Caucus results. However, a good chunk of the blame lies with the Lee County GOP central committee. There were eight precincts in the state, out of 1774, that failed to turn in the necessary paperwork to have their votes certified. Four of those precincts were in Lee County.

The central committee met on Monday for the first time since the Iowa Caucus. Many in the crowd of 50 were eager to discuss the numerous failings. “We’re going to talk about the caucuses,” one central committee member said within seconds of the meeting’s start. “I’m still the president,” Chairman Don Lucas fired back. He had his own schedule in mind. Lucas pushed back discussion of the caucus until almost two hours later.

First, the group heard brief speeches from three congressional candidates, one local senate candidate, and two State Central Committee members. Then they conducted party business. Finally, the caucus came up for discussion. The fingerpointing quickly ensued.

Central committee member Matt Green, in particular, grilled Chairman Lucas over the mishaps. “Mr. Chairman, you shouldn’t have let anybody leave until every form was filled out,” Green said. The two debated various issues, part of which you can watch on the video below.

Green was the site chairman for two of the Lee County precincts that had issues. The paper required from each precinct to certify the votes, called Form E, disappeared from the Franklin-Cedar-Marion precinct. “We don’t know what happened to it,” Green said. “Before I even had a chance to get a hold of it, it was gone.”

Green says he and others spent 45 minutes searching for the form on caucus night, but failed to locate it. There is speculation that a media member or a campaign representative used the form to call in results and never returned it. Others suggest more nefarious motives.

The Washington-Green Bay-Denmark precinct turned in a blank Form E. “I signed it. It was blank,” Green said. “I placed it back into the pile. If I knew I could have filled it out, I would have.” That form also disappeared. No one can explain what happened to it.

The other two precincts in Lee County that failed to turn in the proper paperwork were Fort Madison 4A and 4B. Their Form E’s were mailed to RPI, but they were both blank. Don Lucas says the precinct site secretary refused to sign them because she did not want to be secretary, but no one else stepped up. She was not in attendance at Monday night’s central committee meeting.

Matt Green takes the responsibility for the two missing forms from his precinct site. He wishes Chairman Don Lucas would also accept some of the blame for Lee County’s failings. “I don’t have a vendetta, I just want to make sure we as a county take responsibility,” Green said. “I take responsibility for my precincts.”

Matt Green says he was a Rick Perry supporter. During Monday’s meeting, Green grilled Don Lucas over a Radio Iowa report that identified the chairman as a Mitt Romney supporter. “How’d they know you were for Romney?” Green asked. “Because I was Romney chairman four years ago,” Lucas responded.

“OK, well, if you would have gotten these precincts turned in, you would have had 25 more votes for Santorum over Romney. And from the outside, it looks bad,” Green said.

When TheIowaRepublican.com talked to Don Lucas on January 19, he denied supporting Romney. Lucas claimed that he was neutral in the caucus. “Romney fairly and squarely won the state of Iowa by eight votes,” Lucas told Radio Iowa on January 19. “But when they recounted all their papers and stuff like this and stuff like that, they’re saying now he lost by 34.”

Lucas says much of the controversy could have been avoided if the Republican Party of Iowa had accepted the Lucas County results without the Form E. “I’ve still got all the votes. I’ve still got the computer printouts. I just don’t have the white sheets of paper,” Lucas said.

Central committee member Beth Munson defends Don Lucas against accusations of wrongdoing. “There is no way there was foul play. I know for a fact that Lee County votes were called in correctly.” Munson says she was one of the volunteers who counted the votes and that they were double-checked by her and others on caucus night.

Other Lee County GOP central committee members cite a lack of proper training on their duties for the caucus. “I find out now there was training available that we were not informed of,” says Sandy Johnson, who was the precinct chair for Keokuk 7.

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn says they did four times more caucus trainings than in any previous year. RPI Executive Director Chad Olsen says some of those trainings were near Lee County and there was plenty of advance notice. During Monday’s meeting, Don Lucas told the central committee that he was not informed of any trainings in the area until the day of or the day after they were held. Chad Olsen also notes that Lee County was the only one in the state that had widespread problems with turning in the necessary paperwork.

Some on the Lee County GOP central committee who are upset with Chairman Lucas were not satisfied with Monday’s meeting. Lucas says there was an email campaign underway to oust him as chairman. Other central committee members told TheIowaRepublican.com that they wanted to censure Lucas. Neither happened.

“We want to move forward and help with the election in November,” Sandy Johnson said. “We’d also like our reputation back. We could lose our first-in-the-nation caucus because of all this mess and we don’t want that.”

It is unlikely we will ever know what happened to the missing paperwork from Lee County. What we do know is that Rick Santorum won the Iowa Caucus, officially by 34 votes and unofficially by 69. We also know the problems in Lee County could have long ranging effects on the future of Iowa’s role in presidential politics.

About the Author

Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor’s office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad’s 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.

blog comments powered by Disqus