Attorney general candidate Adam Gregg becoming Iowa's state public defender

Governor Terry Branstad has often appointed unsuccessful Republican candidates to state positions, and this week he named Adam Gregg, the GOP nominee for Iowa attorney general, to be Iowa State Public Defender. I’ve enclosed the press release after the jump. It contains background on Gregg, who worked as a staffer in the governor’s office before running against longtime Democratic incumbent Tom Miller. I don’t anticipate Gregg having any trouble being confirmed by the Iowa Senate.

The Des Moines rumor mill says Miller will retire at the end of his ninth term as attorney general. An race for that position would likely attract many candidates in both parties. I expect Gregg to seek the office in 2018, along with Branstad’s legal counsel Brenna Findley, who was the GOP challenger to Miller in 2010. Several Republicans in the Iowa House or Senate might give this race a look, especially if there are no open Congressional seats on the horizon.

For those wondering whether Gregg or Findley performed better against Miller, the answer depends on how you look at it. Both of the challengers raised quite a bit of money for first-time candidates seeking a statewide office. Gregg raised $191,359 in his first month and a half as a candidate, then nearly another $200,000 before the election; see here and here. Findley also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for her 2010 race; see here, here, and here.

Both Gregg and Findley campaigned energetically around the state, visiting all 99 counties and attending hundreds of public events. In 2010, when total turnout was 1,133,429 for the midterm election, Miller received 607,779 votes to 486,057 for Findley (there were a smattering of write-ins and 38,605 “under votes,” meaning voters left that part of the ballot blank).

This year total turnout was a bit higher at 1,142,226, and Miller received 616,711 votes to 481,046 for Gregg (there were more write-ins and 43,016 under votes).

So Findley received a slightly higher share of the two-party vote, but she also had way more help. Branstad talked up her campaign all year and appeared in one of her television commercials. She was able to run far more radio and tv ads statewide, thanks to more than half a million dollars in transfers from the Republican Party of Iowa. Gregg didn’t get anything like that kind of assistance or exposure, so arguably he got more bang for his campaign bucks.

I’m intrigued that an ambitious young conservative politician wanted to serve as the state public defender. It’s an important job, and I hope Gregg does it well. Some of my favorite people have worked as public defenders. But there’s no getting around the fact that his office will be defending some unsavory characters. The job is risky in that next time Gregg is a candidate for public office, rivals could run “Willie Horton” ads against him highlighting onetime clients who committed horrible crimes.

December 8 press release from the governor’s office:

Gov. Branstad names Adam Gregg Iowa State Public Defender

Gov. Terry Branstad today announced that Adam Gregg has been named as Iowa State Public Defender. Gregg replaces Sam Langholz, who left the position to pursue a new job in the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.

“As the Governor’s Office’s legislative liaison, Adam had a reputation of working with legislators of both parties as historic legislation passed both chambers,” said Branstad. “As State Public Defender, I’m confident that Adam will work to represent and defend individuals who otherwise couldn’t afford legal representation in our legal system.”

The Iowa State Public Defender coordinates the constitutional right to legal representation for those who come under arrest and cannot afford their legal representation. Either the State Public Defender’s offices or private attorneys who are contracted by State Public Defender’s office provide the representation for these individuals. The State Public Defender position is outlined in Iowa Code 13B.

“I am humbled and honored to have been asked by Governor Branstad to serve Iowans as the State Public Defender,” said Gregg. “I am eager to begin my work ensuring that every Iowan is provided the constitutional right to counsel and has fair representation in our justice system.”

Gregg graduated in 2009 with high honors from Drake University Law School, where he received the institution’s most prestigious honor, the Opperman Scholarship. While there, he earned the faculty’s William and Ellen Cooney Hoye Award, given to the student who demonstrates the greatest promise as an advocate, public servant and practitioner.

While in school, Gregg conducted legal research in his capacity as an Iowa Supreme Court scholar with Justice Mark Cady and was a staff member for the Drake Law Review.

Gregg earned his B.A. from Central College in 2006, graduating first in his class as Summa Cum Laude in Political Science and History.

Gregg’s experience includes internships with the U.S. Dept. of Defense, U.S. Congress and United Kingdom Parliament. From December 2012 – June 2014, he served as the legislative liaison in the Governor’s Office. Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, Gregg practiced at a Des Moines law firm. He was the Republican nominee for Attorney General in 2014.

Gregg is married with two children, a four-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. They reside in Johnston, Iowa.

The position of State Public Defender is subject to Iowa Senate confirmation.

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