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Polls across Iowa close in just a few minutes, and I'll be updating this post with results throughout the evening. Any comments about any of today's races, in Iowa or elsewhere, are welcome in this thread.
Many races on the east coast and in the Midwest have already been called. As expected, Republicans picked up the U.S. Senate seats in West Virginia, Arkansas, and South Dakota. Louisiana will go to a runoff in December. Jeanne Shaheen held the New Hampshire Senate seat for Democrats, but Kay Hagan may be in trouble in North Carolina, and in a potentially stunning upset, Mark Warner is behind in Virginia. He needs a strong turnout in the DC suburbs.
The Iowa State Fair opened a few minutes ago and runs through August 17. I'm a big fan of the event, and after the jump, I've posted some of my favorite tips for enjoying the fair, along with the schedule for candidate appearances at the Des Moines Register's "soapbox" on the Grand Concourse. The Register will live-stream speeches by candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governor, as well as a few nationally known politicians from out of state.
No Republican stepped up to run against Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller in time to appear on the primary election ballot, but yesterday Adam Gregg announced that he will seek the GOP nomination for attorney general at the state party convention later this month. Gregg worked in private practice for the Des Moines-based Brown Winick law firm before joining Governor Terry Branstad's staff as a legislative liaison in 2012. (He's quitting that job to run for office.) His press release touted his work to help pass "the largest tax cut in Iowa's history, historic education reform, and a state based, Iowa alternative to Obamacare." The tax cut refers to the property tax reform approved during the 2013 legislative session. The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is more accurately described as an alternative to Medicaid expansion rather than an alternative to "Obamacare." Iowa is still implementing the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Gregg promised "to fight everyday for Iowa families, Iowa farmers, and our constitutional freedoms," to "be an advocate for open government," and to "hold Washington, DC accountable when the federal government oversteps its bounds." Around the country, many Republican state attorneys general have used the job to grandstand against federal policies they don't like for ideological reasons. Sounds like Gregg will be emulating that model.
I don't give him much chance of beating Tom Miller. Four years ago, Brenna Findley got in the race early and ran a strong and well-financed campaign, only to come up well short amid a huge Republican landslide. Running a statewide campaign will raise Gregg's profile, though, and possibly open doors to future political jobs. The Des Moines rumor mill expects Miller to retire rather than seek another term in 2018. In that case, Gregg could join Findley as prominent candidates in a much more winnable race.
Governor Terry Branstad's Republican challenger, Tom Hoefling, has qualified for the primary ballot after submitting his nominating petitions on March 14, the final day. I don't see any way Hoefling could win a primary, but it will be interesting to see how large the conservative protest vote is against Branstad. GOP turnout should be larger than usual on June 3, because of competitive primaries for the U.S. Senate seat and the first, second, and third Congressional districts.
Last night the Iowa Secretary of State's office indicated that Jonathan Narcisse filed papers to run for governor as a Democrat. However, his petitions must not have had enough valid signatures, because his name does not appear on the full candidate list (pdf). The other long-shot Democratic hopeful, Paul Dahl, apparently never filed petitions. That leaves State Senator Jack Hatch as the lone Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
In other statewide candidate news, no Republicans stepped up to run against Attorney General Tom Miller or State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald. By this time in 2010, Brenna Findley was already campaigning around the state against Miller, and two Republicans were running for treasurer.
Governor Terry Branstad's legal counsel Brenna Findley told the Des Moines Register yesterday that she has decided not to run for Congress in the open third district. She indicated that she plans to continue her work in the governor's office and teach a course at the University of Iowa law school.
Although Findley won't run for Congress or statewide office this year, I expect Iowans will see her name on a ballot again sometime before the end of this decade. We may have an open race for attorney general in 2018 if Tom Miller decides to call it quits after nine terms.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller launched his campaign for a ninth term today with events in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Dubuque. His official statement, posted below, elaborates on Miller's recent response to critics of his work and highlights the following "achievements for Iowans in the last three years":
1. Miller's "leadership in negotiating the national mortgage servicing settlement with major banks," resulting in "payment of more than $40 million to Iowa homeowners and funding the Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline, which has helped thousands of Iowans with mortgage foreclosure issues." (Roughly 6,000 Iowa borrowers received checks for $1,480 as part of the settlement--hardly adequate compensation for losses they suffered because of lenders' mortgage servicing abuse.)
2. Protecting consumers against various kinds of fraud.
3. Helping to prosecute both violent and white-collar criminals, strengthening laws against child pornography and enticement of minors, improving victim assistance services to Iowans who have suffered from family violence or sexual assault.
4. Saving millions of taxpayer dollars by defending the state in various lawsuits.
5. Protecting the environment through "18 enforcement actions during the last three years involving air pollution, water pollution, and illegal solid waste disposal."
Miller also promised to work on more issues during his next term, including "abuses by for-profit colleges," "shoddy debt collection practices," "ways to strengthen human trafficking and consumer protection laws," and "the challenges of the e-cigarette." UPDATE: Radio Iowa posted audio from one of Miller's press events today.
What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.
The Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was an entertaining affair. I've posted some highlights after the jump. The "news" of the evening was Senator Chuck Schumer of New York endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, but for my money that wasn't the most interesting part of his speech.
To defend his work and "set the record straight," Miller wrote guest editorials for various publications. You can read his specific rebuttals to Cullen here. I was more interested in the list of achievements he cited as proof that "in the last few years," the Attorney General's office has "done more than ever to serve Iowans." It sounds like the kernel of a stump speech or television commercial to me. I've posted those excerpts after the jump.
Please share any relevant thoughts in this thread. I haven't heard yet about a Republican challenger to Miller, but I would not be surprised to see his 2010 opponent Brenna Findley take another shot next year. She is currently Governor Terry Branstad's legal counsel and just completed a six-week stint as the governor's interim chief of staff.
Governor Terry Branstad announced yesterday that Matt Hinch will start work as his new chief of staff on October 14. A short bio of Hinch is in the press release I've posted after the jump. He has worked as a Congressional and campaign staffer to U.S. Representative Tom Latham, chief of staff to Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, and most recently as a lobbyist for the Greater Des Moines Partnership.
Branstad's legal counsel Brenna Findley has served as interim chief of staff since Jeff Boeyink left last month to start work as a lobbyist. She's more qualified to run the governor's office than she is for her current position, so I thought she might become the next permanent chief of staff. Perhaps she is gearing up for a second bid to become Iowa's attorney general. Running for statewide office is a full-time job.
Kevin McNellis of the National Institute on Money in State Politics published a report yesterday on Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller's 2010 campaign fundraising. The report connects Miller's contributions from out-of-state law firms and people in the finance, insurance, and real estate sector with the nationwide foreclosure investigation Miller has been leading since October. Miller objects that the report "is false or misleading from the start to the finish." More details and context are after the jump.
Time for a new thread on the statewide election results. I haven't dug into the county-level returns in the governor's race yet, but Chet Culver didn't even carry Polk County, which he won with a 21,000 vote margin in 2006. Culver did carry Johnson County, but by a much smaller margin than in 2006. What happened in your area, Bleeding Heartland readers?
UPDATE: Culver carried only eight counties: Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls area), Linn (Cedar Rapids), Johnson (Iowa City), Dubuque, Des Moines (Burlington area), Lee (Ft. Madison/Keokuk), Story (Ames), and Jefferson (Fairfield). Culver almost carried Floyd County, where Republicans easily won House district 14. I guess Charles City loves I-JOBS! LATE UPDATE: The unofficial results indicate that Culver did carry Floyd County (barely), by fewer than 100 votes.
Branstad carried Wapello County (Ottumwa) for the first time. In his 1994 landslide victory, Bonnie Campbell carried only four counties: Story, Johnson, Des Moines and Wapello.
The down-ticket Democrats had a lot of ground to make up with Chuck Grassley winning the U.S. Senate race 64 percent to 33 percent and Terry Branstad winning 53 percent to 43 percent. Secretary of State Michael Mauro outperformed Culver, which he wasn't able to do in 2006, but still fell short against Matt Schultz. It's a shame to see such a competent public official lose in a wave election. Iowa will continue to benefit from his work to make voting more accessible and secure, with paper ballots. I expect the new legislature to act on Schultz's top priority, photo ID requirements, and I wonder if they will also revoke same-day voter registration.
Iowa Republicans didn't miss many targets, but I think they overlooked an opportunity by not investing in the state treasurer's race. Michael Fitzgerald won his eighth term by an unusually narrow (for him) margin: just under 53 percent to 47 percent. A few hundred thousand dollars thrown toward Dave Jamison's campaign could have won that race. Jamison didn't have the resources to improve his name identification or make his case against Fitzgerald. Last year some conservative blogger, it may have been Krusty, said Christian Fong should have challenged Fitzgerald instead of running for governor as a 32-year-old. With his background in finance, his connections to major Republican fundraisers, and his roots in both eastern and western Iowa, Fong might have outperformed Jamison.
Mr. Miller's status as a point man in the multistate investigation has been seen by many observers as a sign that the states will push for a sweeping settlement requiring lenders to implement mortgage modifications allowing homeowners to stay in their houses.
Mr. Miller, who has monitored mortgage-industry practices for years, had already begun discussions with some lenders, including Bank of America. In one meeting last week at Mr. Miller's office, he and officials from other states told Bank of America executives and outside lawyers that state attorneys general would like additional aid to be offered to borrowers, such as further principal reductions on certain delinquent loans where people owe much more than what their homes are worth, according to people familiar with the meeting.
Doubt Findley would have been interested in seeking concessions from corporations to people underwater on their mortgages.
Please share your thoughts about any of last night's election results in your town, county or beyond. Iowa City voters upheld the 21-only bar ordinance, by the way.
Feel free to comment on races from outside Iowa that caught your eye. A few U.S. Senate seats haven't been called, but the chamber seems likely to have 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. Republicans will pick up between 60 and 70 House seats, meaning they will hold 240 to 250 seats in the new chamber (218 are needed for a majority). Republicans are on track to hold about 30 governorships, although several states have yet to be decided. Republicans swept Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, assuring that they can replicate their successful gerrymanders of those states. Florida approved ballot measures that were designed to limit gerrymandering, but opponents may challenge those rules in court. Florida will still have a Republican governor and legislature, but if the ballot measures stand Democrats may make gains at the state level and in Congressional districts.
Democrats did better in some states (Connecticut, California, West Virginia) than in most others, but a common thread was Republican gains among independents, working-class whites and suburban voters. For instance, Joe Sestak fell just short in the Pennsylvania Senate race, losing to Pat Toomey 51 percent to 49 percent. He did as well in Philadelphia as Bob Casey did four years ago, but couldn't match Casey's performance in other parts of the state.
Television commercials on the Iowa attorney general race remain in heavy rotation statewide, and over the weekend both parties raised questions about how that advertising was funded. Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn demanded an investigation yesterday into loans received by Attorney General Tom Miller's campaign. The Iowa Democratic Party highlighted heavy spending in support of Republican Brenna Findley by outside groups, some of which don't disclose their donors.
The "newspaper Iowa depends upon" won't endorse a candidate in this year's races for attorney general, state treasurer, secretary of state, secretary of agriculture or state auditor, Des Moines Register editorial page editor Linda Fandel confirmed to me this week. Fandel told me the newspaper has been inconsistent about endorsing candidates for those offices in the past. She said limited staff time and resources lay behind the decision not to endorse this year. The Register did endorse candidates in the races for governor, U.S. Senate and all five U.S. House seats, as well as the Iowa Supreme Court retention vote, which the editors called the most important election in the state this year.
I understand limits on resources. Compared to previous election cycles, the Register's newsroom staff is smaller, and its editorial pages contain less content. However, a newspaper that claims to have a statewide profile shouldn't punt on elections offering such significant contrasts to voters. More thoughts on these campaigns are after the jump.
As a result, 30-second commercials during news and entertainment programs will be all most Iowa voters see about the attorney general race. This week new ads targeting Miller and Findley hit Iowa tv screens. To my knowledge, none of the video clips have been posted online, but I taped the ads. Transcripts and descriptions of the visuals are below. UPDATE: Scroll down for a description of the Findley campaign's latest commercial.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Republican challenger Brenna Findley debated at the University of Iowa law school on October 20. I read the news coverage of the debate highlights at at the Des Moines Register blog, WCCC.com, Radio Iowa and IowaPolitics.com, but I was anxious to watch for myself. This afternoon Mediacom showed the debate, and I was able to take detailed notes, which you can read below. Both candidates communicated their central message well. Findley tried to keep the incumbent on the defensive, but I thought Miller handled her points and defended his record well. He also noted several times when her ideology or lack of experience seemed to affect her views on the attorney general's proper role.
Unfortunately, Iowa Public Television isn't showing this debate, and to my knowledge Mediacom has not posted the full video. Miller and Findley appeared jointly on IPTV earlier this month (video and transcript here), but although they touched on some of the same issues, that discussion lacked the depth and intensity of the one-on-one debate. Mediacom cable subscribers have one more chance to watch the attorney general candidates' debate on Channel 22 this Sunday, October 31, at 7 am.
I have another post in progress on this campaign, because both candidates are running new negative television commercials this week. Also, the Progress Project, which is closely linked to the American Future Fund, is up on television with an attack on Miller.
My play-by-play of the Miller-Findley debate is after the jump.
The state party's massive support for Findley is striking. Republicans have not run a strong challenger against Miller for ages. The party didn't even nominate a candidate for attorney general four years ago. Also, the Iowa GOP did essentially nothing for state treasurer candidate Dave Jamison or secretary of state candidate Matt Schultz. Jamison received contributions from several of Findley's high-dollar individual donors and some of the same political action committees backing her (including those created by potential presidential candidates), but the only direct support from the Republican Party came from some GOP county central committees. Schultz received donations from some of those presidential candidate PACs but even less than Jamison from the county central committees and "usual suspect" individual donors.
One could argue that Findley earned the party's backing through her strong fundraising. She reported far more donations in May and July than the other Republican challengers for statewide offices. Without any financial support from the Iowa GOP, Findley would still have been competitive with her opponent's contributions and cash on hand totals. She has been an energetic campaigner all year, and serving as Representative Steve King's top staffer for seven years probably opened a lot of doors for her in terms of fundraising.
Jamison raised $60,479.25 between July 15 and October 14. That was more than the $32,070.52 State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald raised during the same period, but Fitzgerald had $94,073.48 cash on hand as of October 14 compared to $14,608 for Jamison. Schultz raised $25,903.60 since the July disclosure reports, while Secretary of State Michael Mauro raised $52,862.51. Mauro had $64,267 on hand as of October 14, while Schultz had $7,000.94 on hand and $18,174.77 in unpaid bills to himself. If I were Jamison or Schultz, I'd be upset to be ignored by the state party that gave Findley more than half a million dollars. A hundred thousand or two for Jamison and Schultz would have been enough for a bare-bones paid advertising campaign.
Bleeding Heartland readers, share your own thoughts about the Iowa Republican establishment's strong support for Findley in this thread.
Final note on the attorney general's race: Findley and Miller debated yesterday in Iowa City. You can read about the highlights at the Des Moines Register blog, WCCC.com, Radio Iowa and IowaPolitics.com. Unfortunately, the debate won't be broadcast on Iowa Public Television, but Mediacom cable subscribers can watch it on channel 22 at 2 pm on October 26 and 11 am on October 31. In the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City market, Mediacom subscribers can watch the debate at 7 am on October 24, 8 pm on October 25 or 7 am on October 31.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller started running television commercials this week. I didn't see the video on YouTube or his campaign website, but I taped it during the lunchtime newscast on KCCI. UPDATE: The video is now available on YouTube:
Male voice-over: His number one priority: protecting Iowans. Attorney General Tom Miller [photo of Miller, words "Tom Miller Protecting Iowans" on screen]
582 dangerous criminals sent to prison for life--Tom Miller. [Words "582 in prison for life--Tom Miller Attorney General" on screen]
84 sex predators and rapists kept in prison beyond their original terms. [words "84 predators and rapists kept in prison" on screen]
And he continues to lead the fight in the legislature for tougher laws on sex predators--Tom Miller. [photo of Miller, words "tougher laws on sex predators, Tom Miller Attorney General" on screen]
A mortgage hotline helping twelve thousand Iowans struggling to keep their homes. [words "12,000 home owners helped" on screen]
Cracking down on crime, standing up for Iowans. Tom Miller: A tough crime-fighter, a proven attorney general.
They certainly mentioned his name a lot of times, which is important for an incumbent who's not in the news every day. I would like Miller to emphasize his consumer protection work, but I'm not surprised he went with the "tough on crime" angle. Republican attorney general candidate Brenna Findley is running tv and radio ads emphasizing her commitment to locking up sex predators (which implies the incumbent is not doing that job).
The mortgage help hotline is important, and Miller should talk more about that kind of work before the election.
Speaking of foreclosures, the Attorney General's Office announced today that Miller "is leading a 49-state bipartisan mortgage foreclosure working group, as part of a coordinated national effort by states to review the practice of so-called 'robo-signing' within the mortgage servicing industry." The Wisconsin-based Daily Reporter has more on that effort. I've posted the press release from the AG's office after the jump.
UPDATE: The Iowa Student Bar Association of the University of Iowa College of Law is sponsoring a debate between Findley and Miller, now scheduled for October 20 at the law school in Iowa City. Law students will submit the questions in advance.