Iowa Democrats

 Chris Madison, left, and Janet Mapel discuss their candidate preferences prior to the Feb. 3 event in Green Valley, one of 25 satellite locations in the U.S. where out-of-state Iowa Democrats can caucus. 

In February, the Iowa caucuses won’t just be in Iowa.

The Iowa Democratic Party will hold four 2020 caucuses in Arizona on Feb. 3, meaning ardent Iowa Dems who winter in the Green Valley/Sahuarita area can choose a 2020 presidential nominee without leaving the warmth of their second homes.

It’s nice to see democracy in action, said Lynn Swan, a Hawkeye state resident who lives in Green Valley November through April. She was instrumental in making sure local Iowa Dems were counted, nominating Green Valley to be included among 25 satellite locations in the U.S. when the Iowa Democratic Party decided to include out-of-staters with Iowa residences in the caucus process. 

“We thought, ‘Why not Green Valley?’” Swan said of the successful petitioning effort. Two sites in Tucson and one in San Tan also will host caucuses.

 “There may be 30 people here, there may be 50,” Swan said of the Feb. 3 gathering, which is sort of a different animal for those used to primary elections.

Iowa political parties hold caucuses – community meetings where people are sorted by who they support and their votes are counted by hand. For the Democrats, they debate the platforms of their favorite candidates and try to persuade others to come over to their side. After the tally, delegates are chosen who will eventually vote on a nominee at a convention in the summer.

Many consider the Iowa caucuses a bellwether as to who the Democratic nominee will be. Iowa Democrats hold a nearly perfect track record of predicting the eventual party nominee in six contested races, getting it wrong just twice, in 1988 and 1992.

As of Thursday, 24 people had signed up for the Feb. 3 caucus at Sunrise Pointe Clubhouse. Caucusing starts  at 6 p.m., but Iowa Dems who want to take part in their satellite caucuses have to register by Jan. 17. They can go to and click on caucuses.

Swan was prompted to throw Green Valley’s name into the ring with the encouragement of Bob Barnett, a former Iowan who now lives here. Barnett is the president of the Iowa Club of Green Valley, which has nearly 100 active members.

“I once caucused for Dukakis,” said Barnett, a former title insurance company owner who moved to Green Valley in 2000 with his wife, Peggy. 

“These (satellite) caucuses will be held from Paris to Palm Springs,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said, and will coincide with hundreds of caucuses held in Iowa. These locations include 71 in-state, 25 out-of-state and three international locations. Each satellite will have a trained captain who has pledged neutrality and is in charge of oversight and reporting results.

“Our goal has remained steadfast throughout the process – to make these caucuses the most accessible in our party’s history, and the satellite caucuses do just that,” Price said in a news release.

Republicans have listed 1,678 caucus locations, all in Iowa.

The satellite locations were chosen from a list of 192 applications. Swan, a former interior decorator, and her husband, Bob, haven’t been able to caucus since 2008, when they “stood up” for Barack Obama at their local precinct in Dickens, Iowa, where Bob, a farmer, grows corn, soybeans and has a cattle feedlot.

Candidates looking for last-minute traction invest heavily in advertising leading up to Feb. 3.

“It’s phenomenal the amount of money they spend,” Bob said, referring to non-stop TV spots, mailers, social media tweets, phone bank blitzes and candidates “showing up everywhere in person” to press the flesh.

While they get a bit of a break from election overload being in Arizona, Iowans stay abreast of the issues and candidates in their home state via newspaper websites.

Lynn Swan recently gathered with a couple of fellow Iowans as they debated the pluses and minuses of their favorite candidates and discussed current events. Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg are at the top of their lists so far. Joe Biden is also in the running, several said of the field of eight of candidates duking it out. They expect a national election will be hard fought for whoever the Dems nominate.

“At the caucus, you can make statements in favor of your preferred candidate,” Bob Barnett said.

While she doesn’t mind having to trudge to a caucus site in the cold this year, “We take caucusing very seriously in Iowa,” Chris Madison said. “Ever since I’ve been 18, I’ve voted." 

Steve Sinovic | 520-547-9728


Steve Sinovic is an Oregon native who has worked as a journalist all over the western United States.

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