- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Iowa Straw Poll is getting a facelift.

The Aug. 8 event, which has taken on a circus-like feel over the years, was moved earlier this year and Jeff Kaufmann, Iowa GOP chairman, announced Thursday that candidates will no longer be bidding for spots at the straw poll and no longer be responsible for engaging in “expensive culinary brinksmanship” for the poll attendees.

Instead, a random lottery will decide where candidates land on the ground and “State Fair-style vendors” and local civic groups will be dishing out some Iowa mainstays — including pork chops on a stick, corn dogs and Dutch letters.

“Simply put, it is time to relegate the pay-to-play nature of the Iowa Straw Poll to the dustbin of history. (We’ll leave the “pay to play” politics to the Clintons),” Mr. Kaufmann said in an op-ed that ran in Politico. “Here in Iowa, so long as a Republican candidate can afford the plane ticket to Iowa, they are welcome in Boone on August 8.”

As for the food, Mr. Kaufmann said, “We’re electing a president — not a Top Chef.”

Mr. Kaufmann announced earlier this year that the straw poll would be moved from Ames to the Central Iowa Expo location in Boone.

On Thursday, Mr. Kaufmann said the additional changes will help ensure the gathering serves as a showcase for the GOP’s presidential candidates.

“What is supposed to be a fun opportunity for Iowans and presidential candidates has turned into a high-stress and expensive endeavor,” he said. “Some candidates have expressed concerns about the cost, and Iowans have said they’d like to see the Straw Poll get back to it’s roots. We’ve been listening to voices here in Iowa and across the country, and we agree with much of what we’ve heard. Iowa Republicans understand dramatic changes are necessary to ensure our straw poll is affordable and fair for all presidential candidates.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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