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Iowa Democrats pick ex-House candidate as new state leader

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Democrats chose a failed Congressional candidate to lead their state party as they grapple with a series of election losses and an effort from the national party to take away its first-in-the-nation status in the presidential race.

Rita Hart, the former state senator who lost a 2020 U.S. House race by just a handful of votes, was chosen Saturday over two other candidates

“My focus is squarely on helping our party begin winning elections again,” she said.

Hart said her experience raising $5 million for the congressional race and winning in a district that former President Donald Trump carried will serve her well as she works to help other Democrats win.

But she’ll also have to help the state party decide how to respond to the national Democratic Party’s decision to put the South Carolina primary ahead of Iowa’s caucuses, which have long been the first presidential nominating contest in the country.

If the state party doesn’t go along with the national party’s decision, Iowa Democrats will run the risk that its delegates will not count toward the national nominating total.

But there is a state law that requires the caucuses to be held at least eight days before any other presidential nominating contest.

The state party’s last leader decided not to run for another term.