Posted on December 17, 2019

As Iowa Grows More Diverse, Democratic Candidates Are Taking Notice

Juana Summers, NPR, December 15, 2019

Julián Castro went to Des Moines this week and told Iowans they shouldn’t vote first.

“I’m gonna tell the truth. It’s time for the Democratic Party to change how we do our presidential nominating process,” Castro said at a town hall dedicated to his belief that the party should shake up who has the first say of who should be president. Iowa holds its caucuses in less than two months.


Iowa is more than 90% white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But the state’s demographics are slowly changing.

The Latino population has been growing faster than the state’s population as a whole for the past decade. Since 2009, the Latino population has grown by 46%, according to census figures. And according to projections from Woods & Poole Economics Inc., by the year 2050, Latinos will make up about 12% of Iowa’s total population, roughly double the share today.

The state’s Asian population is also fast growing; it’s increased by more than 50% since 2009.

And Iowa’s black population, which is currently 4% of the population, has grown by slightly more than 46% since 2009.

Organizers and voters in Iowa say that, compared to previous cycles, the 2020 campaigns have expanded their efforts to court Latino, Asian and black voters in the predominately white first-in-the-nation caucus state.

One of those organizers is Camilo Haller. He’s a field organizer for former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign who’s based in Storm Lake, in the northwest part of the state. Storm Lake’s population is roughly 40% Latino.

That means organizers like Haller are not only explaining an unfamiliar, often-confusing process to would-be caucus goers who have never participated before, but they’re also working to demystify the process for some immigrants who may not speak fluent English.

“One of the biggest [challenges] is just a very simple language barrier. For example, the word ‘caucus’ doesn’t translate,” Haller said.


During Latinx Heritage Month, Stephanie Medina, the Latinx constituency coordinator for Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign in Iowa, drove around the state with a whiteboard. At the top of the whiteboard, she wrote: “What issues matter to you? ¿Que asuntos le importan a usted?”

She wrote in a recent post on Medium that the exercise was a way to start a conversation about the everyday issues facing Latino families in Iowa, and to introduce Warren to them.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign, which says there is “enormous untapped potential” in the Latino community in Iowa, circulated a Spanish language digital ad earlier this year. It talks about Sanders’ father’s personal story of immigrating to the United States.


Black voters have long been the backbone of the Democratic Party and in Iowa, like everywhere else in the primary landscape, candidates are working hard for their support.


Multiple organizers and voters in the area have said that the outreach to black Iowans in 2020, compared with past presidential cycles, has been “unprecedented,” and in Waterloo, voters have grown accustomed to seeing multiple candidates come to the city within the span of a week.