Caucusing for change: Iowa man leads his precinct with a personal mission

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DES MOINES, Iowa (Gray DC)-- While candidates are trying to hit as many Iowa counties as possible ahead of caucus night, folks leading precincts also have their work cut out for them. One Dallas County man is happy putting the hours in... because his neighborhood depends on it.

Matt Chapman, an Iowa Democratic caucus leader, shows Gray DC's Peter Zampa around his mobile park home in Waukee. (Source: Gray DC)

Trudging through snow cleared streets in his mobile home park, Matt Chapman tells the story of a troubled past.

"The opportunities were not there for me," Chapman said.

Homeless and hungry just after his 18th birthday, he tried stealing food from a school cafeteria: a felony conviction stripping him of his voting rights. In 2005, reversal of a state law restored those rights. He voted for the first time at the age of 45.

"It shaped me a lot," Chapman said.

Chapman threw himself into Iowa politics. He says that’s because his poverty fight continues.

"All we can do is keep pushing back," he said.

A private equity company recently bought his mobile home park in Waukee and is raising rates rent for residents. Chapman says most cannot afford the hike.

"The day we got that letter, he’s like I can’t do this," Chapman said of a neighbor.

So Chapman’s focus is to caucus for his community. He says he doesn’t have a choice... he's caucusing for the future of his home.

Chapman is leading his precinct in Waukee at an elementary school in the middle of an upscale part of town.

His preferred agent of change is Senator Elizabeth Warren, though he’s open to all the candidates.

"I just think she’s the one that really could do something for these inequalities." He said.

Issues dear to the heart are a common reason folks get involved in the caucuses according to Dallas County chairman Bryce Smith.

"When you can put the issues with the politics it really helps bring people out and you find better volunteers," Smith said.

Smith’s caucus operations rely on volunteers to help guide the thousands that will be the first in the nation to voice their presidential preferences Monday. He says his county is engaged because of these issues impacting their daily lives. His focus is on making the process easy for those trying to bring positive change to their communities.

"It’s meant to be a gathering of neighbors of people of likemind," Smith said. "I think that that’s important to make sure that we are constantly fostering that.

The caucuses begin across Iowa at 7 p.m. Monday night.
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