Iowa Democratic Party

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Iowa Democratic Party
ChairpersonRoss Wilburn
Senate leaderZach Wahls
House leaderTodd Prichard
HeadquartersDes Moines, Iowa
Modern liberalism
Political positionCenter to center-left
National affiliationDemocratic Party
Seats in the Upper House
18 / 50
Seats in the Lower House
41 / 100

The Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) is the affiliate of the Democratic Party in the U.S. state of Iowa.

While existing when Iowa was granted statehood in 1846, it has only had electoral success from the mid-1950s to the present day. The party organizes the Democratic Iowa presidential caucuses.

Current elected officials[edit]

Former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin

Democrats hold a minority in Iowa's U.S. House delegation, holding one out of the state's four seats. They hold three of the seven statewide offices and currently hold minorities in the Iowa House of Representatives and Iowa State Senate.

Members of Congress[edit]

U.S. Senate[edit]

  • None

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Statewide offices[edit]

Legislative leadership[edit]

Prominent former elected officials[edit]

Former governor Chet Culver

Vice President[edit]

  • Henry A. Wallace – 33rd Vice President of the United States, January 20, 1941– January 20, 1945


  • Harold Hughes – 36th Governor of Iowa, January 17, 1963 – January 1, 1969
  • Tom Vilsack – 40th Governor of Iowa, January 15, 1999 – January 12, 2007
  • Chet Culver – 41st Governor of Iowa, January 12, 2007 – January 14, 2011


  • Harold Hughes – January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1975
  • Tom Harkin – January 3, 1985 – January 3, 2015. He previously served in the United States House of Representatives from 1975 to 1985.

Iowa caucuses[edit]

Barack Obama strolls the Iowa State fairgrounds, August 16, 2007

Considered the official start of the presidential election season, The Iowa Caucuses have been the first official votes cast in the Democratic Presidential nomination process since 1972.[2] That year, the Iowa Democratic Party scheduled its caucus to occur before the New Hampshire Primary. South Dakota Senator George McGovern used his win that year to propel him to claim the party's nomination over Maine Senator Edmund Muskie. The Iowa Caucuses would also help Jimmy Carter claim the Democratic nomination in 1976.[3] From 1984 to 1996, the winner of the Iowa Caucus, excluding incumbents, did not go on to win their party's nomination. However, in 2008 then Senator Barack Obama won the caucus over Senator Hillary Clinton, and used the win's momentum to eventually win the Democratic nomination.

George McGovern

Past winners (excluding incumbents)[edit]

Party platform and legislative positions[edit]

Party platform[edit]

The Iowa Democratic Party re-adopts its platform every two years, most recently on June 16, 2018.[4]

Platform stances[edit]

Civil rights[edit]
  1. Marriage Equality or Gay Marriage;
  2. Habeas Corpus;
  3. Affirmative Action; and
  4. Title IX.
  1. Revoking tax breaks for and imposing heavy tax penalties on corporations sending jobs out of the country;
  2. Legalizing, taxing, regulating marijuana;
  3. Expanding "Earned Income Tax Credits" eligibility.
Social Security[edit]
  1. Removing cap on Social Security contributions;
  2. Honoring federal budget obligations to "Social Security Trust Fund";
  3. Social Security benefits for married same-sex couples.
Gun regulation[edit]
  1. Fair, responsible, reasonable gun ownership;
  2. Banning private ownership of assault-style weapons.
Agriculture and the environment[edit]
  1. Energy independence with locally owned renewable, eco-sustainable sources.
  2. Carbon/mercury sequestration; safe storage/disposal of coal ash and hazardous nuclear waste.
  3. Cap and trade on carbon dioxide emissions; fines on excess.
  4. National smart-grid with standardized interconnect agreement.
  5. Net-metering, front-end loaded and declining for consumer investment of renewable energy production.
  6. Improved "Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency" standards for all vehicles.
  7. Green public transportation.
  8. Passage of "Land and Water Legacy Constitutional Amendment".
  9. Industrial hemp production

Legislative accomplishments[edit]

Civil rights[edit]

Governor Tom Vilsack issued a governor's order in 2005 that restored voting rights to felons who completed serving their sentences. The order's anticipated result would be returning the right to vote to over 80,000 Iowans.[5] In 2011, Governor Terry Branstand rescinded this order.[6]


Governor Tom Vilsack also signed a governor's order in 2000 that created the Iowa Food Policy Council.[7]

Social issues[edit]

In 2007, Governor Chet Culver signed legislation easing limitations on stem-cell research.[8]

Jobs program[edit]

Later in 2009 and 2010, Governor Culver signed into law $875 million to go towards the I-Jobs program.[9] Analysis from both Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and Southern Illinois University estimate that through 2011 the I-Jobs program will create 32,000–36,000 jobs.[10]

Renewable energy[edit]

Governor Chet Culver signed legislation in 2007 that created the Iowa Power Fund.[11] The fund spent a total of $70 million on 49 projects related to renewable energy. The largest project dealt with experimenting with cellulosic ethanol at an ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. In June 2011, the project was ended by Governor Terry Branstad.[12]

Military and veterans[edit]

Governor Chet Culver's first Executive Order in 2007 orders that the United States flag be flown at half staff to honor members of the Iowa National Guard, Iowa Air National Guard, or resident of Iowa who was serving as a member of the U.S. military and was killed in the line of duty.[13] In 2010, Governor Chet Culver signed House File 2532 which allows benefits paid for by the Veterans Trust Fund to be exempted from individual income taxes.[14]

Current political strength[edit]

Presidential level[edit]

From 1988 to 2012, Democrats at the presidential level had consistent success in Iowa. With the exception of the 2004 presidential election, when George W. Bush carried the state's electoral votes, Iowa's electoral votes went to the Democratic candidate in every election during that twenty-four year period. This reversed the trend of the prior twenty years, when Republicans had consistent success in Iowa's presidential elections. However, in the 2016 election, Donald Trump carried the state with 51.15% to Hillary Clinton's 41.74%. In the 2020 election Donald Trump once again carried the state with 53.2% to Joe Biden's 45%.[15]

Congressional level[edit]

Senator Tom Harkin was Iowa's junior U.S. Senator from January 3, 1985 to January 3, 2015, serving alongside Republican Chuck Grassley. Harkin previously served in the United States House of Representatives from 1975 to 1985.

In the 2006 U.S. House elections, Democrats captured Iowa's 1st congressional district and Iowa's 2nd congressional district from the Republican Party, which had controlled both districts for over three decades. When Senator Harkin announced his retirement, U.S. Representative Bruce Braley, from Iowa's 1st congressional district, announced he would run for the seat. In the 2014 U.S. House elections, Republicans re-captured Iowa's 1st congressional district, but Democrats retained David Loebsack in Iowa's 2nd congressional district. In the 2014 U.S. Senate elections, State Senator Joni Ernst beat U.S. Representative Bruce Braley. In the 2018 U.S. House elections the Democrats managed to retake Iowa's 1st congressional district with Abby Finkenauer and Iowa's 3rd congressional district with Cindy Axne, with the two of them being the first female U.S. Representatives from Iowa.

State level[edit]

Iowa Democrats held the Governor's office from 1999 to 2011. In 1999, Democrat Tom Vilsack was elected governor and served two terms. Following Vilsack's decision to not run for reelection then-Secretary of State Chet Culver ran in 2006 and won. However, in 2010, Republican Terry Branstad defeated Culver 52.9% to 43.3%.

Registered voters[edit]

As of July 2010 about 700,000 Iowans are registered Democrats compared to around 645,000 Republicans. Voters claiming independent outnumber both parties at just under 750,000 voters.[16]

History and past political strength[edit]

The Democratic Party existed in what is present day Iowa when it was still part of the Wisconsin Territory in 1836.[17] During the first election held in the territory Democrat Col G.W. Jones won 66% of the vote and the Whig candidate won just 57 votes in the county that today is the State of Iowa.[18] Iowa entered the union in 1846 and its first governor was Ansel Briggs. That same year Iowa would send its first two Representatives to Congress, both Democrats.[19] Two years later the Iowa Legislature would send two Democrats to represent Iowa in the United States Senate. However, with the rise of the Republican Party of Iowa, Iowa Democrats had very little political power for nearly a century. With the exception of the late 1890s and 1930s, during the Great Depression, Iowa Democrats did not become a major political force until the 1950s with the coordination of unions in Iowa's largest cities. Demographic changes in the 1940s and 1950s helped lay a foundation for Democratic success. During World War II thousands of Iowans flocked to large cities to take advantage of war time jobs. By 1960 more Iowans resided in urban areas than rural areas.[20] Iowa's industrial areas were not concentrated in one town, but spread out over the state's 15 largest cities. Along with industry developing across the state this led to Democratic strongholds spreading across Iowa as well. This demographic change translated into Democratic success first in Iowa's largest city Des Moines. There Democrats identified and registered thousands of new supporters. In 1954 Democrats "won control of the Polk County Board of Supervisors, every county administrative seat, and [...] all of Polk County's state legislative seats.[21] Taking advantage of internal Republican strife and backing from organized labor Democrat Herschel Loveless won an upset victory against incumbent Republican Governor Leo Hoegh in the 1956 election. Two years later Loveless would win reelection and Democrats would capture 50 State House members, 12 State Senators, and 4 Congressional Seats.[22] In 1960 Iowa's Government would revert to Republican control. However, during the 1960s and 1970s Iowa Democrats used their success in Polk County as model that was repeated across Iowa in organizing Democratic supporters. While Democrats would suffer large defeats in 1966 and 1968 Governor Hughes would go on to win three terms in office. Democrats were able to rebound electorally in the 1970s in part to John C. Culver and Richard C. Clark. They accomplished this by using computer models in a precinct by precinct basis to run issue driven campaigns.[23] Both would be elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972 and 1974, respectively. Republicans would once again regain party dominance in the late 1970s, but Democrats remained a competitive party in Iowa.

Presidential level[edit]

Democratic presidential candidates were historically unsuccessful in capturing the state's electoral votes. In fact the Republican Party's presidential nominee captured Iowa's electoral votes from 1856 to 1908. Democrat Woodrow Wilson won Iowa in the 1912 presidential election. Twenty years passed before another Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt, won the state. With the exception of Lyndon B. Johnson's landslide election win in the 1964 presidential election the Democratic nominee for president did not win Iowa's electoral votes from 1952 to 1984. Since the 1988 presidential election Democrats have had success in capturing Iowa's electoral votes.

Congressional level[edit]

Iowa Democrats were largely locked out of power at the national level until the 1930s. No Iowa Democrat served more than one term in the U.S. Senate until Guy Mark Gillette was elected in 1936. With Guy Gillette's defeat in 1944 Iowa Democrats wouldn't control a U.S. Senate seat until the election of Harold Hughes in 1969. From 1985 to 2015, Democrat Tom Harkin and Republican Chuck Grassley each held a U.S. Senate seat.

State level[edit]

In 1957 Herschel C. Loveless would break nearly two decades of Republican control by being elected governor. Two years later he was reelected to a second term. In 1963 Harold Hughes was elected Governor of Iowa and would serve from 1963 to 1969. On January 1, 1969 Hughes resigned to take the U.S. Senate seat he had just won making his lieutenant governor, Robert D. Fulton, governor. Fulton was the last Democratic governor of Iowa until Tom Vilsack was elected in 1999.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-04. Retrieved 2011-12-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^
  5. ^ Zernike, Kate (June 18, 2005). "Iowa Governor Will Give Felons the Right to Vote". The New York Times.
  6. ^[permanent dead link]
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-11-10. Retrieved 2011-11-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2011-11-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-07. Retrieved 2011-11-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Iowa Presidential Election Results | Des Moines Register". Retrieved 2021-01-19.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Iowa Journal of History, Volume 6. The State Historical Society of Iowa. 1908.
  18. ^ Iowa Journal of History, Volume 6 pg. 7
  19. ^ Iowa Journal of History, Volume 6 pg.51
  20. ^ Larew, James (1980). A Party Reborn: The Democrats of Iowa. Iowa State Historical Department Division Of The State Historical Society. ISBN 0-89033-002-6.
  21. ^ A Party Reborn pg. 45
  22. ^ A Party Reborn pg. 63
  23. ^ A Party Reborn pg.74

External links[edit]