Des Moines Register endorses full slate of Democrats for Congress

Anyone who’s been reading the Des Moines Register for the past few years knows that the editorial board endorses incumbents more often than not, in state-level, city council and school board elections as well as federal races. They like seniority and experience in their elected officials.

For those reasons, the Register has typically endorsed a few Republican incumbents despite the editorial board’s generally liberal orientation. With neither Jim Leach nor Chuck Grassley on Iowa ballots this year, I was concerned that the Register would back at least one of the Republicans running for Congress–perhaps Tom Latham by virtue of his position on the House Appropriations Committee.

As it turned out, the Register endorsed every Iowa Democrat running for Congress for the first time that I can remember (going back several decades).

The endorsements were markedly different in tone, however.

A glowing endorsement of Bruce Braley argued,

this ambitious and energetic congressman sets the standard for what Iowans should expect from their representatives. […] We can’t fit everything Braley has accomplished his first term into the space of this editorial, but it’s obvious he’s worked tirelessly.

Their list of Braley’s achievements in his first term didn’t even include his work on bringing passenger rail to Dubuque and the Quad Cities.

The Register’s editors concluded that Dave Loebsack has worked hard and also deserves re-election in the second district, but it’s clear that they liked Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks a lot:

She’s smart, has in-depth knowledge of health care, has served in the military and has a compelling life story, which includes leaving home at the age of 16 and working her way through school.

Like most campaign newcomers, including Loebsack two years ago, her knowledge of many issues is shallow. But her background indicates she’d come up to speed quickly.

Dissatisfied with Loebsack, she says she took it upon herself to do something about it and embarked on the race without party recruitment.

If Miller-Meeks doesn’t prevail, she should consider running for another public office. Iowa has a shortage of women in politics, and Miller-Meeks’ life experience and potential for leadership could serve the state well.

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like the Register’s endorsement editorial for Iowa’s third district. The paper favored Leonard Boswell’s Republican opponent in 2006 and Ed Fallon in the Democratic primary this year, so I thought there was a decent chance the Register would endorse Kim Schmett, Boswell’s challenger this fall. Instead, they published this under the headline “Iowans deserve more from 12-year incumbent”:

Voters have a dilemma in the 3rd District.

After 12 years of light accomplishment and wrongheaded votes, Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell doesn’t deserve to return to Congress.

But his Republican challenger, Kim Schmett of Clive, also fails to make a compelling case that he deserves a congressional seat.

Iowans deserve better.

However, the Register’s editorial board subscribes to the philosophy that if voters must decide, so must we. So the Register gives a weak nod to Boswell, with a list of expectations:

– During his next term, Boswell should use his seniority and the experience he’s gained to take a more active role in representing Iowa’s interests.

– He should announce early in the term that it will be his last, retiring with Iowans’ thanks for a career dedicated to public service.

It goes on, but you get the drift. I hope Boswell will take the newspaper’s advice after he wins re-election next week.

Evaluating the fourth district candidates, the Register determined that Becky Greenwald has the potential to be a strong, energetic leader. Tom Latham has 14 years of experience and sits on the House Appropriations Committee (which is the main reason the Fort Dodge Messenger and Mason City Globe-Gazette endorsed him), but the Register’s editors found Latham “hasn’t developed the kind of in-depth expertise on issues or demonstrated the national leadership Iowans should expect from their investment in his seniority.”

Making the call in the fifth district race was easy for an editorial board that gave Steve King the benefit of the doubt by endorsing him in 2002 and 2004. The editors have had enough of King’s “divisive, fear-mongering commentary”:

Fifth District voters should not send him back to Washington. Fortunately, they have a promising alternative: Electing Democrat Rob Hubler, a retired minister from Council Bluffs who has brought himself up to speed and staked out reasonable positions on issues Iowans care about, including the Iraq war, energy and health care.

In the U.S. Senate race, the Register also had no trouble choosing a candidate and urged Tom Harkin to be ambitious in his fifth term:

Iowans should without hesitation cast their ballots to return Democrat Tom Harkin for his fifth term in the U.S. Senate. With that investment in seniority, however, comes heightened expectations for him to lead in shaping landmark legislation that will benefit Iowans and the nation for decades to come. […]

In his fifth term, Senator Harkin should aim high and set aside partisan sniping for statesmanship. On the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, he should channel his passions for wellness and nutrition into forging legislation that provides health care for all, at long last bringing America into the company of every other industrialized nation. On that same committee, he should shepherd changes in education policy to better prepare all American students for a competitive global economy. And as Agriculture Committee chairman, he should continue his work to expand agriculture’s role in producing alternative forms of energy, thus reducing dependence on oil, while protecting soil, water and air. He has the right vision for overhauling federal farm programs: Instead of paying farmers for what they grow, pay them for how well they grow it.

These would be transformational changes in American life and government: Providing health care for all. Expanding educational opportunities for all of America’s children. Lessening the nation’s dependence on oil while better protecting the environment.

Spearheading significant progress in these areas would create a more compassionate, just and prosperous society – and be crowning achievements for any senator.

I look forward to finding out what Harkin can accomplish as a senior member of a Congressional majority under a Democratic president. He’s been in the Senate for a long time, but Democrats controlled the White House and Congress for only two of those years.

The Register has endorsed some Republicans running for the state legislative or Polk County office, but they’d like to see a Democratic sweep in the federal races.

This is an open thread for discussing any significant media endorsements in races at any level this year.

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