IA-03: More signs Chet Culver may run

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Former Governor Chet Culver "is getting closer" to joining the Democratic field in Iowa’s third district, Civic Skinny reports in the latest edition of the weekly Cityview.

He is looking at the numbers — the money numbers and the registration numbers — and lining up a staff. He is studying the issues and talking to longtime supporters. He is looking at the problems of running — and, he hopes, serving — while still being a good father to two teenagers and a supportive husband to a wife who works part-time as a lawyer in Des Moines. […]

Culver says he is getting in shape physically for a run and just got a good report from his doctor.

Last week, Culver made clear that he would enjoy returning to public service, views IA-03 as a "good fit," and is confident he could raise the resources to run a successful campaign.

Civic Skinny speculated that beating the other likely candidates in the Democratic field (Desmund Adams, Jim Mowrer, and Mike Sherzan) "probably wouldn’t be hard [for Culver], with his name recognition and zest for campaigning." But I would expect a battle royal in an IA-03 primary involving the former governor. Not only has Mowrer lined up support from many prominent local Democrats, he is rumored to have strong backing in labor circles. Culver’s uneasy relationship with organized labor dates to the 2006 gubernatorial primary, when some large unions including AFSCME endorsed his main rival Mike Blouin. The bad blood really set in when the governor vetoed a collective bargaining bill in 2008.

It’s also important to remember that for a Congressional race, Culver will not be able to collect very large donations from his strongest supporters. Individual contributions for federal candidates max out at $2,700 for the primary election and $2,700 for the general election (but that money can’t be used until after the June 2016 primary). During the first four months of 2006, Culver’s campaign for governor collected $25,000 gifts from three donors, $10,000 from five more donors, and $5,000 from more than a dozen others. Two more $10,000 gifts and some $5,000 checks came in during the final weeks before the 2006 primary. Culver’s 2005 campaign disclosure report included several $10,000 gifts and one for $15,000 as well.

Running a Congressional primary campaign will be less expensive than running for governor statewide, especially since about two-thirds of the registered Democrats in the district live in Polk County. Nevertheless, Culver will have a short time span to raise a lot of money in increments of no more than $2,700 from any one person.

Any comments about the IA-03 campaign are welcome in this thread.

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Loebsack, King cross party lines on bill halting refugees from Syria, Iraq


Today the U.S. House approved a bill that "would prevent any refugees from Syria or Iraq from entering the United States until the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence certify that none of them are dangerous," Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill. Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among 47 Democrats who joined 242 Republicans to pass the bill (roll call). Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) also voted yes, but Representative Steve King (IA-04) was one of only two House Republicans to vote no. His office has not yet responded to my request for comment or issued a statement explaining that vote.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, which according to White House would "’provide no meaningful additional security for the American people’ and impose new certification requirements that effectively end the refugee program" to assist those fleeing Syria or Iraq. Marcos reported, "GOP aides noted that because of absences, the vote would have met the two-thirds requirement to override a presidential veto if that vote had been held Thursday. Still, there’s no guarantee that Democrats would vote to override the president if the bill comes back to the floor." Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sounds confident the bill will not clear the upper chamber.

I will update this post as needed with comments from Iowa’s Congressional delegation or other reaction to today’s vote. The epic fail of the day goes to the Republican Party of Iowa for sending out the press release enclosed below. In that statement, Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann "applauds King, Blum, Young on Refugee Vote." Check the roll call first, guys.

Note: most of the perpetrators of last week’s horrific terrorist attacks in Paris were French citizens.

UPDATE: King’s office provided the following statement: "I voted against the American SAFE Act because it fails to restore Congress’ Article 1 authority over admissions of migrants to the United States. How can we trust this Obama Administration who will not utter the words ‘radical Islamic jihad’ to accurately screen Syrian and Iraqi refugees as required in this bill? For that reason, I submitted an amendment to rules, which was ultimately not adopted, that would create international safe zones for refugees in their homeland. The safety and security of the American people is paramount. I respect the House trying to find a solution but I do not believe this was the right or strong enough one."

The Iowa GOP issued a corrected press release, blaming "incorrect press reports of a unanimous Republican vote" for their error. Always wait for the official roll call. I’ve added the new statement below, along with a screen shot of a tweet (since deleted) from state party co-chair Cody Hoefert thanking all three Iowa Republicans "for voting to strengthen our national security."

SECOND UPDATE: Blum’s statement is below as well.

THIRD UPDATE: Added Loebsack’s official comment on the vote. When I asked whether Loebsack would vote to override a presidential veto of this bill, his communications director Joe Hand responded, "Will have to see what happens in the Senate before we talk overriding any possible veto."

FOURTH UPDATE: I’ve seen lots of progressives criticize Loebsack’s vote on social media, and some of that feedback must be getting through. On Friday afternoon, Loebsack for Congress sent out an e-mail blast with the subject line "my vote." Scroll to the end of this post to read the full text. Most of the commenters on Loebsack’s Facebook status update about this vote criticized his stance. As of November 21, neither Loebsack nor his staff had responded publicly to the comments.

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IA-03: Mike Sherzan sounds ready to seek Democratic nomination

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A third candidate may soon join the Democratic field in Iowa’s third Congressional district. Mike Sherzan confirmed by telephone this morning that he has been talking to potential constituents about the race and will decide whether to run before the end of the year. Sherzan was the first Democrat to launch a campaign in IA-03 in 2013 but withdrew from the race two months later, citing health issues. Asked whether he is seriously considering another Congressional bid, Sherzan said today he is "farther along than that." He noted that he recently stepped down as president and CEO of Broker Dealer Financial Services Corp. in West Des Moines (positions he had held since 1991). According to Sherzan, it is "not possible" to run a company and run for Congress at the same time, because a campaign "takes everything you have and more."

Key political issues for Sherzan include the "huge gap in income levels in this country" and the worsening economic position of the middle class. He supports raising the minimum wage and is concerned about the gap between men and women’s pay. Sherzan also said we "should be able to talk about gun control," namely common-sense measures most gun owners would support. He identified college student debt as a major problem as well.

Sherzan has been successful in the business world and argued that his background in negotiations would help him work across the aisle. But he emphasized that he "comes from a Democratic background" and urged people not to "judge my positions based on my business experience." For instance, Sherzan believes "government was never meant to be a business"—a contrast to rhetoric often heard from corporate leaders who run for office. Click here for more background on the likely candidate.

This summer, Desmund Adams and Jim Mowrer became the first two Democrats to declare candidacies against first-term Representative David Young. So far, Mowrer has raised more money and has more backing from Iowa Democratic insiders. IA-03 covers sixteen counties in central and southwest Iowa and contains 150,549 active registered Democrats, 163,411 Republicans, and 165,750 no-party voters according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

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Ray Zirkelbach becomes fourth Democrat to run for U.S. Senate--but why?


Former State Representative Ray Zirkelbach is officially exploring a candidacy for U.S. Senate in 2016, James Q. Lynch reported for the Cedar Rapids Gazette on November 7.

Although the field is getting crowded — former legislators Bob Krause of Fairfield and Tom Fiegen of Clarence, and State Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids have all entered the race — Zirkelbach, 37, believes he’ll be the Democratic Party’s best candidate to defeat [Senator Chuck] Grassley. His ideas will set him apart from the others, Zirkelbach said. […]

“It’s about progress,” he said.

First elected to the Iowa House in 2004, Zirkelbach served three terms before losing his 2010 re-election bid. He missed the 2006 and 2007 legislative sessions, because his Iowa Army National Guard unit had been called up to serve in Iraq.

I have not seen a website or Facebook page for Zirkelbach’s U.S. Senate exploratory committee yet, but will update this post as needed. In lieu of an up to date official bio, I have posted the "member profile" that appeared on the Iowa House Democrats website during Zirkelbach’s third term. Zirkelbach’s Twitter account hasn’t been active since 2009; his personal Facebook feed is here.

I struggle to understand why Zirkelbach would run for Senate when we already have three progressive Democrats in the field, including one (Hogg) with a much stronger background of legislative accomplishments.

Meanwhile, to my knowledge, Democrats have no declared candidate against GOP State Representative Lee Hein in Iowa House district 96, where Zirkelbach lives (a map is at the end of this post). Hein defeated Zirkelbach in the 2010 wave election, and Democrats didn’t field a challenger against him in 2012 or 2014. Taking on the incoming House Agriculture Committee chair would be a long-shot race; House district 96 leans to the GOP with 4,386 active registered Democrats, 5,761 Republicans, and 8,483 no-party voters according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. But Zirkelbach would be much better positioned to defeat Hein than Grassley.

UPDATE: Pat Rynard spoke to Zirkelbach about his Senate bid. Added excerpts to that post below.

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Paul Ryan elected House speaker: How the Iowans voted

Yesterday House Republicans elected 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan as House speaker to replace the retiring John Boehner. Ryan received 236 votes to 184 for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and nine for Daniel Webster, the candidate endorsed by the House Freedom Caucus and some other conservatives. For some time after the implosion of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s aspirations to be speaker, Ryan had insisted he would prefer to remain Ways and Means Committee chair, but last week he succumbed to an intense recruiting effortby senior Republicans.

Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for Ryan yesterday on the House floor. Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted for Pelosi. I enclose below comments from Blum and King after the speaker election. Both had voted for Webster rather than to re-elect Boehner in January. Since Boehner announced his retirement last month, King has been one of the loudest advocates for Webster as speaker. Blum belongs to the House Freedom Caucus, so I suspect he was among the 43 Republicans who voted for Webster in a closed caucus meeting on October 28. However, neither Blum nor his staff responded to my request for comment on whether he supported Webster or Ryan, who received 200 votes in that closed meeting.

I did not see any public comment from Young in recent weeks on whom he would support for speaker. I assume he backed Ryan in closed session as well as on the House floor, but his staff did not disclose that information when I sought comment.

Webster said on October 28 that

his campaign for speaker had been a game-changer, one that had all but forced Ryan and others to promise an overhaul of the culture of the GOP Conference.

“I think we have changed the debate, changed the discussion away from a power-based system, away from a top-down approach, to one that works,” Webster said. “And if we can do that, we’ll be successful. If we don’t, we won’t be.”

King’s case for Webster slammed the "abuse of power plays by leadership" under Boehner and the "schism created by leadership’s persistent and relentless punishment of principled Members who vote their conscience." Ryan promised yesterday to unify the GOP caucus, suggesting he will not seek revenge on those who opposed him as speaker, like Boehner did earlier this year.

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