Iowa Caucus Watch corrals events in crowded field

Lauren Johnson, a former campaign assistant during her time working in South Carolina, came back home to Iowa knowing she would be witnessing the forefront of the election cycle.
Now working in the nonprofit sector, Johnson didn’t realize she would struggle to keep track of all caucus events once they kicked off the 2020 cycle.
“In early January, I found it very difficult to find information about caucus events because there are so many going on around the metro and around the state. And they’re just going to get crazier and crazier as time goes on,” she said. “I thought that there was a necessity for a very simple, streamlined website that had no spin, no political affiliations, that just listed all the events and listed all the candidates, as a resource for caucusgoers.”
With $10, Johnson bought www.caucuswatch.com and launched Iowa Caucus Watch in early February. She kept it simple: The calendar sits on the main homepage, and browsers can filter caucus events by city to see which candidates are coming to their part of the state. The candidates page lists every individual who has declared candidacy or formed an exploratory committee.
As of the start of April, Iowa Caucus Watch can be hosted on other websites as well — expanding access to Johnson’s curated calendar for Iowans. Iowa Caucus Watch is now hosted by the political blog Iowa Starting Line, and Johnson is in discussions with other potential entities, she said.
“It’s a resource for Iowa caucusgoers so that they can be informed when they make their decision next January,” Johnson said.
As of the start of May, 22 candidates were listed; only Bill Weld, former governor of Massachusetts, is vying for the Republican nomination against incumbent President Donald Trump. The remaining candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination.
Keeping track of them all is Johnson’s second gig outside her full-time work.
She searches campaign events through social media and has been in contact with campaign staff members to receive event notices. Events can also be submitted online, and followers can subscribe to a Friday newsletter announcing campaign events.
“I knew that when I moved back to Iowa I wanted to be involved in some capacity, but I wanted to be a little bit more of an independent capacity and in a way that I felt I could be helpful to people. I think this simple website might do the trick for now,” Johnson said.
Closer to the 2020 caucuses, Johnson hopes to add an address search to help visitors identify where their caucus location will be. For now, the response to her tracking calendar has been positive, she said. About 3,000 viewers a month have been tracking Iowa Caucus Watch since its debut, mostly from Des Moines, followed by Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
“Every week is a new adventure, but it’s been growing and growing,” she said. “I don’t profit off the views on the website, because I won’t sell advertisements or anything. … It’s just interesting to see how many people are engaged this election cycle.”
Event submissions to Iowa Caucus Watch can be sent to laurenrayj@gmail.com