Iowa’s “Super” Delegates

It appears delegate counting is a new pastime in America these days.  Iowa Democrats, like their counterparts in other state parties, have a group of so-called "super" delegates to their party’s national convention who get to cast their votes in Denver.  How will those 11 folks vote?

Governor Chet Culver is at the top of the list of super delegates from Iowa.  He confirmed during a recent appearance on Iowa Public Television that he was being lobbied by both the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama camps, but he is not ready to announce a preference. Culver’s wife, Mari, endorsed John Edwards in December at a rally in Des Moines. UPDATE: Culver endorsed Obama on Thursday, February 7, 2008. (Follow the link to read a transcript of Culver talking about his decision.)

Senator Tom Harkin is a super delegate.  Harkin stayed out of the endorsement game before Iowa’s 2008 Caucuses and has not indicated a preference between Clinton or Obama at this point. His wife, Ruth, endorsed Clinton in July, 2007. UPDATE:  On June 4, 2008 — the day after Obama declared he had secured the number of delegates necessary to win the nomination — Harkin issued a statement saying he would back Obama at the Democratic National Convention.

Iowa’s three Democratic congressmen are super delegates. 

Congressman Leonard Boswell endorsed Clinton before the Caucuses. 

Congressman Dave Loebsack endorsed Obama before the Caucuses. 

Congressman Bruce Braley endorsed Edwards before the Caucuses. Edwards is now out of the race, but Braley has not indicated whether he’ll vote for Clinton or Obama and I’m checking with his staff for a reading on Braley’s intentions. UPDATE:  At 1:15 p.m. (central) spokesman for Braley emails that Braley "is uncommitted at this point and has not decided whether to make another endorsement." UPDATEBraley endorsed Obama on 4/30/08.

State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald is a super delegate.  Fitzgerald, along with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, very publicly endorsed Obama at a rally in Ames during Obama’s first trip to Iowa in 2007.

State Senator Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, is a super delegate who has not announced a preference in the race.  His wife endorsed Clinton during a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in December — the rally where former Nebraska Governor/Senator Bob Kerrey publicly endorsed Clinton.  UPDATE:  A Gronstal staffer who earlier confirmed Gronstal was uncommitted called at 3:10 p.m. (central) to say Gronstal told aides today that he notified the Clinton camp a week ago that he would support her at the convention, but hadn’t announced that shift publicly — until now, of course.

Scott Brennan, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, is another super delegate.  He is "neutral" according to Carrie Giddins, the spokeswoman for the IDP. UPDATE on 5/20/08Brennan has endorsed Obama.

Sarah Swisher, vice chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, is a super delegate who supported Edwards.  I left a message on her cell phone this morning, asking her to call about this topic. UPDATE:  Thursday, February 14, 2008.  Swisher is in the statehouse for a lobbying event so I asked her if she had chosen a candidate to support.  Swisher is backing Clinton because Swisher likes the universal health care plan Clinton has advanced. Swisher apologized for not returning my call.  "Sometimes I’m not a good communicator," she said.  (UPDATE:  Swisher has told some folks she’s supporting Obama because SEIU, her union, has endorsed Obama.)

Sandy Opstvedt, a member of the Iowa Democratic Party state central committee and the DNC, is a super delegate who endorsed Hillary Clinton in December before the Iowa Caucuses.

Richard Machacek of Winthrop, Iowa, a member of the Iowa Democratic Party’s state central committee and the DNC, is a super delegate who endorsed John Edwards.  I left a message on his cell phone this morning, asking him to call about this topic.  UPDATE: "As of today I am completely and totally uncommitted," Machacek just told me at 11:30 a.m. (central). "…I think they’re both great and I think it’s a tough decision."  Machacek is waiting to get some sort of indication from Edwards.  "I worked for the guy for five years and I’m not going to just throw that away," Machacek said, suggesting an Edwards endorsement of Obama or Clinton would have "great impact" on his own decision-making. UPDATE:  Machacek has endorsed Obama.

For those of you counting at home, here’s the tally (updated as of 6/4/08 at 12:30 p.m.. central):

Hillary Clinton — two three two

Barack Obama — two three five seven

Neutral/uncommitted — four five six five four three one

Can’t classify as they haven’t responded to inquirythree two one

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Chris Haugen says

    According to the Iowa Democratic Party, a record 239,000 Democrats participated in the January 3rd caucuses, awarding a total of 45 delegates to the three top contenders. According to my calculations, that means each delegate represents approximately 5,300 ordinary Iowa voters. Each of the eleven so-called super-delegates, on the other hand, represents exactly one (1) Iowa voter–him/herself. In other words, a quarter of Iowa’s total delegates don’t represent anything but self-interest. Please tell me how, exactly, that is democratic. And why, then–if our votes are so inferior–why should we ordinary types even bother participating? If the Democratic party is serious about democracy, participation and fairness, this super-delegate business will be eliminated.

  2. Chris – I think you should send your comments to Howard Dean …

  3. Francie Williamson says

    Sarah Swisher is supporting Clinton. We have a story on it tomorrow:

  4. As a state who blatantly and overwhelmingly choose Barack Obama in their caucus, I am quite confused about why our elected officials who are supposed to be representing Iowa can support a candidate other than the one Iowa’s people choose on January 3rd, 2008.

  5. Chris Haugen says

    Thanks, Francie. I did just that.

  6. chris valle says

    how can we contact theese people to let them know what the people they represent think of how they are voting?

  7. “How can we contact these people to let them know what the people they represent think of how they are voting?”
    Attend the Iowa Caucus.

  8. Michael Diver says

    Chances are the convention will not come down to the super delegates’ preferences — but on the possibility that it will, I intend to contact the Iowa super delegates and remind them, in a respectful manner, of their responsibility to represent the people of Iowa, who overwhelmingly showed their preference for Barack Obama at the caucus. (I say this as someone who supported another candidate at my precinct caucus.)
    If super delegates ignore the people, and go all party-hack at the convention to swing the nomination to Clinton, it will damage the party.
    They are easy enough to find via Google. They are reasonably prominent in their communities.

  9. Chris Haugen says

    Even if the race is decided long before the convention; even if the super delegates have a 100% record of supporting the people’s choice, it’s still an undemocratic, elitist mechanism that contradicts the fundamental values of the Democratic Party. It should be eliminated as soon as possible. Incidentally, the Obama campaign has requested that its supporters NOT attempt to persuade super-delegates (source: Talking Points Memo? Washington Independent? Daily Kos? I can’t remember). The thing to do, as Francie pointed out, is to contact Howard Dean and Co. so that we can get some action on this before the next election rolls around.

  10. Michael Diver says

    Chris Haugen, you are right, per Daily Kos. I will stand down.
    (Apologies to O. Kay Henderson. Not trying to turn this into a Democratic action site.)

  11. gary vanness says

    when i was reading paper today boswell and few democrates are using there super delegates for clinton even after us as people of the state of iowa have made our choice for obama which i guess is there choice but as i know some have a election this fall to so i guess we can change our choice too when it comes to voteing for them

  12. The issue of super delegates and the democratic party is unconscionable. Currently Obama is ahead in the popular vote and behind in the delegate vote. We can not have 800 party insiders decide the primaries for us! I have created a protest page here:
    If you think this is an issue please add a comment to the protest page of the website. I will print out all the comments and give them to the Democratic party.

  13. John Norwood says

    Today’s Sunday New York Times contained a story about Superdelegates, entitled, “Old Ties and Vote Tallies Tug at Superdelegates.”
    The more I read about this ridiculous behind the scenes 2nd election process, the more incensed I get. Eleven “party leaders” as superdelegates hold nearly 25% of the vote afforded to the rest of the electorate in this state (45 locally elected delegates)?
    I join Senator Harkin in his denouncement of this anti-democratic, unprincipled party election mechanism. It is all too ripe for buyoffs and special favors for those lucky enough to have picked a winner that makes it to the Whitehouse.
    Either those 11 superdelegate votes should be assembled and voted as a winner take all of our caucus, or divided according to the caucus vote with some consideration of what happens to the Edwards support.
    Moving forward,this system needs to be scrapped. There is nothing super about it. I’d encourage Senator Harkin to take a leadership position in caucusing among these 11 and having them reflect the will of the people of Iowa, rather than their own self interests.
    John Norwood

  14. Andrew L - Des Moines, IA says

    Most of the time, super delegates are not a “problem”. And, as I see it, they are not, even yet, in this nominating cycle.
    I don’t agree that they should be stripped of their intellect and simply vote the way their constituents did. This is wrong because it’s not what we hired them to do, to be a puppet on a string controlled by the whim of the people.
    No, Super Delegates should be allowed to use their own reasoning skills. As in Massachusetts where both Senior Senators support Obama but the state went to Clinton. I may disagree with Leonard Boswell’s decision to support HRC, and I may vote against him in the fall using that as my primary reason, yet I find no problem with him making a decision that disagrees with mine. He has his reasons, and I have mine. That doesn’t make either of us wrong, we just disagree.
    I think long before the National DNC convention, Obama will emerge victorious from this race. America wants change and he represents our only hope for real change.
    Clinton & McCain are part of the problem, not the solution.

  15. Marjorie Clemens says

    As a Super Delegate please continue to support Hillary Clinton. I WILL NOT vote for Barack Obama for President. Neither will I vote in future elections for any Super Delegate who supports him.