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Auditor details mismanagement by Matt Schultz and Mary Mosiman

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 07:39:48 AM CDT

If you thought nothing could surprise you anymore about Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, I recommend reading the report Chief Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins released yesterday. Jenkins reviewed payments to Schultz's former chief deputy Jim Gibbons after Gibbons stopped coming to work. You can download a pdf of the audit here. I've posted the full text after the jump.

Key points: Schultz told Gibbons in May 2012 that his position would be eliminated at the end of the calendar year. Gibbons stopped coming in to work regularly the following month. Normal procedure calls for at-will state employees to be paid "until the end of the pay period, up to a maximum of 2 weeks after being notified their position is to be eliminated." After learning that state agencies are not allowed to make severance payments to at-will employees, Schultz decided to keep Gibbons on the payroll through December 2012. There are no timesheets or records of how often Gibbons came to work between June and December of that year. Former colleagues could not provide Jenkins with much information about anything Gibbons did for the Secretary of State's Office. Gibbons reported directly to Schultz.

The audit concluded, "Based on the lack of documentation supporting work performed by Mr. Gibbons, we cannot determine the public benefit of the Secretary of State's Office paying Mr. Gibbons $90,738.67 in salary, vacation, and benefits for the period June 8, 2012 through December 31, 2012." Jenkins also questioned the public benefit of paying more than $21,000 to two other at-will employees whose positions were eliminated.

Schultz is now running for Madison County attorney. That election will be a good test of whether Madison County Republicans care more about partisan allegiance or basic competence. A statement from Schultz tried to pass off Gibbons' work arrangement as something advised by the Department of Administrative Services. That spin is misleading, for reasons I explain after the jump.

Current State Auditor Mary Mosiman was one of Schultz's deputies during the period examined, and to put it mildly, this report casts an unflattering light on her. She has claimed that she warned Schultz that keeping Gibbons on the payroll was damaging to morale in the agency. But the bottom line is, she never blew the whistle on a colleague getting tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars for doing no work.

In addition, Jenkins found that neither Mosiman nor Gibbons submitted timesheets or "leave slips" documenting approval of planned time off. As a result, Mosiman "was paid for one week of accumulated vacation she should not have received" when she left the Secretary of State's Office for her current job. She has reportedly already returned to the state her excess payment of $2,500. No one knows whether that's the full extent of overpayments to Schultz's subordinates. Jenkins' report states, "Because timesheets and leave slips were not required to be completed and were not submitted by the Deputies, we are unable to identify any additional vacation hours used but not properly recorded for the Deputies."

The state auditor is supposed to make sure the public's money is well spent. How can someone do that job without understanding the need to record essential information such as time spent working and time spent on vacation? Even if Mosiman was not aware that she received too much vacation pay, she should have recognized and taken steps to correct the lack of record-keeping at the Secretary of State's Office. She should not have stood by and let Gibbons collect month after month of salary and benefits, long after he stopped coming to work.

After the jump I've posted comments from Schultz, Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis (who requested the audit), Democratic candidate for secretary of state Brad Anderson, and Democratic candidate for state auditor Jon Neiderbach.

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IA-03: Stick a fork in Matt Schultz--he's done

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 06, 2014 at 08:10:00 AM CDT

Be careful what you brag about in politics. Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz highlighted alleged cost savings to the state in his Congressional campaign's first television commercial. As journalists looked more closely at staff reorganization in the Secretary of State's Office, they discovered details that will likely derail Schultz's aspirations in IA-03.

Ryan Foley of the Associated Press was the first to report that Schultz kept his political appointee Jim Gibbons on the payroll for seven months after deciding to eliminate Gibbons' position. It's not clear what work, if any, Gibbons was doing during his final months as a state employee.

Yesterday Foley reported for the Associated Press and Jason Clayworth reported for the Des Moines Register on more political appointees whom Schultz allowed to work from home after requesting their resignations in 2011 and 2012. I've posted excerpts from both stories after the jump, but you should click through to read them in full. In a statement to the Des Moines Register, Schultz defended his actions:

"What the liberals in the media are ignoring as they level their attacks against me, is that the Department of Administrative Services, the state's personnel experts, advised my office that instead of severance an agency could keep an employee on payroll longer than they are required to come to the office, so long as the employee was available for phone calls and questions from home. [...] If the media had real integrity they would be thanking me for protecting Iowa's election integrity and finding ways to save Iowa taxpayers more than $200,000."

I doubt that excuse will fly in a GOP primary where voters have several other credible candidates to choose from. Schultz has some powerful backers and donors, but so do a few rivals with less baggage. Even if Schultz surprises me by winning the Republican nomination in IA-03, the latest revelations provide plenty of ammunition for Staci Appel in the general election--not that we needed more proof that Schultz has been ineffective in his current position. He pursued the wrong priorities and spent federal funds on his own crusade rather than how they were intended to be used.  

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IA-03: Two windows onto Matt Schultz's management skills (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 14:45:00 PM CDT

Matt Schultz is touting his management of the Iowa Secretary of State's office in a television commercial promoting his campaign in Iowa's third Congressional district.

But new reports by Ryan Foley of the Associated Press indicate that when reorganizing the Secretary of State's office, Schultz showed preference to a political appointee and allowed him to keep collecting a large salary despite doing little if any work for the government.

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Brad Zaun higher ambition speculation thread

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 20, 2012 at 19:15:00 PM CDT

What's going on with Brad Zaun? This month he's stuck his nose into two Republican primaries that should be of little concern to a state senator from the Des Moines suburbs.
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Newt Gingrich slowly learning about fiscal responsibility

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 20:51:14 PM CDT

Good news has been in short supply lately for supporters of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's presidential candidacy. But Gingrich told Seema Mehta of the Los Angeles Times this week that he's turning things around:

"The fact is a month of media barrage is painful, and it slowed a lot of things down," [Gingrich] said, before marching in a Fourth of July parade in Clear Lake, Iowa. "Our numbers will not be as good as we would like, and candidly, the consultants left us in debt. But every single week since they left we've been cutting down the debt, and we raise more than we spend in a week."

Way to blame on the media for your own big mouth and lazy approach to campaigning, Newt. If you're asking people to elect you president, you should at least be able to keep your own organization's spending in line with its revenues.

Gingrich hasn't given up on competing in the Iowa caucuses. His new spokesman R.C. Hammond told the Des Moines Register's Jason Clayworth that the campaign will rely on the kindness of strangers volunteers. One of the most important free laborers will be former Representative Greg Ganske. He was part of the giant Republican "Class of 1994" in the U.S. House, taking down legendary Democrat Neal Smith in what was then Iowa's fourth district. Ganske stepped up to be Gingrich's finance chair in Iowa and is giving the candidate some money tips:

Ganske has already advised Gingrich to stop chartering expensive private planes and to instead fly commercial airlines, preferably in coach.  He's also advised Gingrich to skip the Ames straw poll, a major Republican presidential shindig that will be held Aug. 13th.

"It's basically who can buy the most buses to transport people in and then throw the biggest party," Ganske said. "Basically it's a fundraiser for the party."

When a campaign is flat broke, the candidate shouldn't need to be told to stop chartering planes. Then again, Gingrich developed an expensive airplane habit in his years running the American Solutions 527 organization.

Gingrich has no choice but to skip the Ames straw poll because he couldn't afford to put in a bid for a spot outside the venue.

Last time Ganske made Iowa campaign news, he was hosting a fundraiser for Jim Gibbons, the Congressional candidate who lost badly to State Senator Brad Zaun in the 2010 IA-03 Republican primary, despite support from power-brokers in Iowa and Washington. Ganske's been out of office for a long time, and rightly or wrongly, many Republicans feel his flaws as a candidate cost the GOP the 2002 U.S. Senate race against Tom Harkin. But beggars can't be choosers. Gingrich should be thankful that anyone with any clout in Iowa offered to assist his hopeless cause.

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Never mind the experts: Schultz keeps campaigning for voter ID law

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 09:47:07 AM CDT

In fewer than three months on the job, Secretary of State Matt Schultz has prompted the president of the Iowa county auditors association to express concern about being "dragged into a partisan fight." Jennifer Jacobs covered Butler County Auditor Holly Fokkena's extraordinary comments in Sunday's Des Moines Register. Not only is Fokkena a Republican like Schultz, she is from a county that tilts strongly to the GOP. Yet she is worried about Schultz's push to require all voters to show photo ID.

Background and recent developments on the photo ID controversy are after the jump.

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IA-03: Boswell-Vilsack primary coming in 2012?

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 29, 2010 at 17:10:35 PM CST

Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack has strongly hinted to local and Washington-based journalists that she is considering a run for Congress, perhaps as early as 2012. Vilsack lives in Polk County, which will remain the population center of the redrawn third Congressional district. Meanwhile, Representative Leonard Boswell has shown no interest in stepping aside for Vilsack. He told a reporter in August,

"Christie [Vilsack] is a smart person. I'm planning on doing this for a while, so I hope that she has got other things she likes to do for a while because I'm going to continue to do this."

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack did nothing to discourage the rumors when asked last week about his wife running for Congress in 2012:

Christie has extraordinary options. She is well respected and she has devoted most of her life to public service in one form or another and I think she has many options ahead of her. These are decisions that she has to make and I will support her whatever her decisions are.

Meanwhile, many central Iowa Democrats (including myself) received an invitation this week for a Boswell fundraiser on January 7 in Des Moines. Senator Tom Harkin is headlining the event, and since it's scheduled a week into the 2012 election cycle, maxed-out donors from 2010 will be able to contribute. It's possible that Boswell has debt to retire from his hard-fought campaign against Brad Zaun, but I agree with Civic Skinny that it looks more like a sign Boswell isn't afraid of Vilsack in 2012.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Would Christie Vilsack run for Congress even if Boswell doesn't retire, and if so, who would win the Democratic primary? Also share any thoughts about who would stand better chance against Republican Tom Latham. I expect Latham to run in IA-03 even if the new district doesn't include Story County. Latham won't want to roll the dice on a Republican primary against Steve King in the new IA-04.

P.S. Last month I pondered whether Boswell might have lost if he had faced Jim Gibbons rather than Brad Zaun. One big question mark was whether Boswell would have had enough negative material to "win ugly" against Gibbons. This week Civic Skinny published some unflattering background on Gibbons that surely would have come out if he'd been Boswell's opponent. Excerpts are after the jump.

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New Secretary of State Schultz hires Jim Gibbons, Mary Mosiman for top jobs

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 07:31:38 AM CST

Secretary of State-elect Matt Schultz has announced several important hires in the past week. Former Republican Congressional candidate Jim Gibbons will serve as Chief Deputy and Director of Business Services, while longtime Story County Auditor Mary Mosiman will run the Elections Division.

Follow me after the jump for background and analysis on those appointments.  

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Alternate history: Jim Gibbons vs Leonard Boswell

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 06:20:00 AM CST

Time for another Bleeding Heartland foray into counterfactual history, inspired by conversations with many Democrats and a few Republicans during the past week.

In early 2009, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee included Representative Leonard Boswell on its list of 40 "Frontline" Democrats, incumbents acknowledged to be vulnerable. House Democrats lost more than 60 seats on November 2, with most "tossup" seats falling to the GOP. Chet Culver lost the governor's race by more than 100,000 votes, and Democrats fared worse than expected in the Iowa House and Senate races. Yet voters re-elected Boswell in a swing district (partisan voting index D+1). Not only that, he won by a larger margin than Bruce Braley. Who would have predicted that six months ago?

All of the above raises an obvious question: would Boswell be heading back to Congress if Republicans had nominated Jim Gibbons rather than Brad Zaun?  

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Branstad transition update

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 10:25:17 AM CST

Governor-elect Terry Branstad announced yesterday that David Roederer will serve as his budget director, in charge of the state's Department of Management. Roederer has been part of Branstad's "inner circle" for decades. The Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont wrote in September,

Roederer, a lobbyist from Johnston, is a multi-faceted troubleshooter, a role he carved out serving in several key posts for Branstad, including chief of staff and campaign manager, during a difficult stretch of the administration.

A serious problem-solver with the ability to bring people together, Roederer is often at work behind the scenes on key campaign issues and has worked on presidential and congressional campaigns since Branstad left office.

Roederer was a key sounding board for Branstad in June as the Republican nominee evaluated a list of prospects for his lieutenant governor running mate.

Jeff Boeyink will be Branstad's chief of staff in the new administration. Boeyink spent many years working for Iowans for Tax Relief. He served as the Republican Party of Iowa's executive director for a few months in 2009, but left that position to manage Branstad's gubernatorial campaign.

Tim Albrecht, who handled communications for the Branstad campaign, will be communications director for the new administration. Since September, Albrecht has been running the right-wing news aggregator The Bean Walker in addition to dealing with the media on behalf of Branstad. No word on how long he plans to combine those jobs.

I've been waiting to see what position Branstad would give to Jim "Burn the Boats" Gibbons. He lost to Brad Zaun in the third Congressional district primary but had major donors and supporters who are also close to the incoming governor. Yesterday Matt Schultz announced that Gibbons will chair his secretary of state transition team, "advising on issues and personnel decisions related to the business services division of the office." Maybe Schultz will give Gibbons a senior staff position. Incidentally, Story County Auditor Mary Mosiman will advice Schultz "on issues and personnel decisions related to the elections division."

UPDATE: Todd Dorman cracks a few jokes about Branstad taking his wife Chris on a "much-deserved" 10-day vacation in France. I don't begrudge them their trip, but can you imagine what conservatives would say if a newly-elected Democrat took off for Europe?

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NRCC looks unlikely to get involved in Iowa races

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 21, 2010 at 17:14:27 PM CDT

The National Republican Congressional Committee has put all three Iowa GOP Congressional challengers "on the radar," the bottom rung of the three-tier Young Guns program. Challengers who appear better positioned to win may be bumped up later this year to "contender" or "young gun" status. Only the "young guns" are likely to get significant financial help from the NRCC.

If I were running Brad Zaun's campaign, I'd start implementing "plan B," assuming he's on his own in his race against Representative Leonard Boswell. Iowa's third district is rated "lean Democratic" by most analysts of the House races, while Iowa's first and second districts are in the "safe Democratic" column. This spring the NRCC gave Zaun's primary opponent Jim Gibbons "contender" status. Although the Iowa primary results were in a sense humiliating for the NRCC, I would have expected House Republican leaders to signal in some way that IA-03 (with a partisan voting index of D+1) is a more competitive district than IA-01 (D+5) or IA-02 (D+7). Instead, they give Zaun the same status as Bruce Braley's challenger Ben Lange and Dave Loebsack's repeat rival Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

Looking solely at fundraising numbers, which seems to be the NRCC's main benchmark for candidates, Zaun belongs at the same level as Lange and Miller-Meeks. All three Republicans finished the second quarter with a little more than $100,000 cash on hand, and all face incumbents with much more money in the bank. Iowa politics-watchers generally consider Boswell more vulnerable than Loebsack or Braley, and on paper Zaun is a good candidate. He is an experienced campaigner and has a base in the population center of the district. However, it's far from clear Zaun will have the resources he needs to be successful. Boswell's campaign is about to hold its biggest fundraiser yet, featuring President Bill Clinton.

The tough reality for Zaun (and Lange and Miller-Meeks) is that the NRCC doesn't have a bottomless pit of money to spend on every potentially competitive race. The latest FEC reports from party committees show the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee with $33.8 million cash on hand compared to just $17 million for the NRCC. That's not even enough to make a serious play in the 40 districts where Republican challengers already have full "young gun" status. Even worse for Iowa's Republicans, the 14 candidates who got "contender" status this week are also ahead of Zaun, Lange and Miller-Meeks in line for help from the NRCC.

I doubt the NRCC will play much of a role in Iowa until 2012, when at least one of our four newly-drawn Congressional districts may be highly competitive.

Share any thoughts about Iowa's U.S. House races in this thread.

UPDATE: Get a load of the ridiculous spin from Zaun: "The NRCC has identified our race as a top 30 race in the country." Sorry, no: there are 40 candidates in the top tier, where the best pickup opportunities lie. Then come the "contenders" (second tier), and finally Zaun and the rest of the "on the radar" bunch.

THURDSAY UPDATE: Reid Wilson of Hotline on Call reports that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is buying tv air time in 17 districts held by Democratic incumbents, including IA-03.

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Early reaction to Branstad's choice of Kim Reynolds

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jun 24, 2010 at 20:54:47 PM CDT

A string of prominent Iowa Republicans spoke out today praising Terry Branstad's choice of State Senator Kim Reynolds for lieutenant governor. IowaPolitics.com posted the Branstad campaign's press releases with encouraging words from Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, Iowa House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, former Congressional candidate and tea party favorite Dave Funk, former gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong, and Iowa's representatives on the Republican National Committee, Steve Scheffler and Kim Lehman. Scheffler heads the Iowa Christian Alliance, and Lehman is a past president of Iowa Right to Life.

The Branstad campaign is anxious to avoid an embarrassing display of support for Bob Vander Plaats at this Saturday's Republican state convention. Today they hit convention delegates with an e-mail blast and robocalls stressing Reynolds' "conservative credentials." The strong words from Scheffler and Lehman in support of the ticket may prevent any media narrative from developing about religious conservatives rejecting Branstad. The Iowa Family Policy Center (viewed by many as a rival to the Iowa Christian Alliance) backed Bob Vander Plaats in the Republican primary and vowed not to endorse Branstad against Democratic Governor Chet Culver. That group recently affirmed that Branstad would need to undergo a "fundamental transformation" to win their support in the general election campaign.

Lehman wrote at the Caffeinated Thoughts blog today that Reynolds' "record speaks for itself." Lehman's long list of conservative bills co-sponsored by Reynolds in the Iowa Senate impressed Caffeinated Thoughts blogmaster Shane Vander Hart. He supported Rod Roberts for governor and was a leader of the petition drive lobbying Branstad to choose Roberts as his running mate.

To my mind, Reynolds' record in the Iowa Senate says only that she sticks with the consensus in the Republican caucus. She has not taken any unusual positions or been outspoken on any major issues under consideration. An acquaintance I spoke with today, who spends a lot of time at the capitol every year during the legislative session, had not even heard of Reynolds before this week. That's how low her profile has been during her two years at the statehouse. Reynolds may be a reliable back-bencher for conservatives, but I don't see her as a strong advocate for the religious right. She doesn't have the stature to drive the agenda if Branstad is elected. Like Todd Dorman wrote yesterday, the lieutenant governor gets to do "whatever the governor lets you do. And in a Branstad administration, if the past is an indicator, his mate will be the special director of the Department of Not Much."

Nor is there any indication that Reynolds would urge Branstad to make social issues a priority. I think this pick indicates the business wing of the Iowa GOP is fully in charge--or at least one faction in that wing. Others in the business community appear to have been pushing for Jeff Lamberti or Jim Gibbons to be selected as Branstad's running mate.

Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge spoke about Reynolds today on behalf of the Culver campaign. She suggested that Reynolds may not help Branstad with the social conservatives who supported other candidates for governor, because she "comes out of the same camp as Terry and Doug Gross rather than out of the camp of Bob Vander Plaats or Mr. Roberts." In a press release and news conference, Judge also emphasized that we don't know much about Reynolds' views on key issues, and that her learning curve will be steep, because she has relatively little experience at the statewide level: "It will take a lot of study on Kim's part. [...] If [Branstad] keeps her in the basement in a small office as he did [former Lieutenant Governor] Joy Corning, then she's not going to have much of an opportunity to know what's going on." Say what you will about Patty Judge (I'm not a fan), but she did have a strong legislative record and eight years of holding statewide office going into the 2006 campaign. She has had real influence on policy in the Culver administration.

Being a blank slate may have its advantages, however. Iowa State University Professor Steffen Schmidt thinks Reynolds was a good choice because she is so unknown that she won't turn voters off or take attention away from Branstad.

Share any thoughts about the Branstad/Reynolds ticket in this thread.

UPDATE: Jason Hancock pointed out at Iowa Independent:

Kim Lehman, another member of the Republican National Committee and formerly president of Iowa Right to Life, praised Reynolds' selection and her legislative record, ticking through each of the bills she has sponsored since entering the state Senate in 2008 and concluding, "Reynolds went into office and took the bull by the horns and got busy."

However, a closer look at the bills Reynolds signed on to reveals she only sponsored one piece of legislation on her own - a requirement that the Department of Natural Resources develop depredation plans to fill harvest quotas of antlerless deer in each county that have not been met at the end of the last established deer hunting season each year.

Other than that, she nearly always joins with all or a large majority of the state Senate's 18 Republicans to push bills.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Reynolds gave an interview to Kathie Obradovich and spoke about being a recovering alcoholic. This is not going to be an issue.

The Branstad campaign is trying to counter opposition to Reynolds over her support for a recreational lake project that angered some property rights advocates. Today the campaign released an endorsement from State Representative Jeff Kaufmann, who tried to intervene in that dispute on the side of property owners.

"I remain dedicated to the fight for private property rights in this state," said Kaufmann. "The last four years of Democratic control of the Legislature has yielded no strengthening of these rights.  The Democratic majority has not allowed debate of a single property rights bill despite overwhelming support for the 2006 landmark legislation."

"Our attempts to protect property rights will be thwarted, as usual, by Governor Culver and Democratic leadership without Republican control of the Legislature," added Kaufmann. "To me, all other property rights discussions are secondary to that goal.  I look forward to working with Kim Reynolds in the future to protect property owners in the future."

The Branstad campaign also sent conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart a statement from Reynolds about eminent domain:

I fully support the 2006 legislation that curtailed the use of eminent domain to take private property. I do not support eminent domain for commercial development purposes. I support eminent domain only for essential public services.

That answer satisfied Vander Hart. However, one issue with these recreational lake projects (like ones proposed for Page County, Clarke County and Madison County in recent years) is that the advocates will claim the land grab serves an essential public service, like providing more drinking water. However, analysts dispute whether the lake is really needed as a drinking water source, or whether that's a ruse to obscure the real goal behind the project. A few people stand to make a lot of money if the farmland they own can be developed as lakeshore property. So the question is whether the state would allow other people's farmland to be condemned in order to create a lake that's basically a private commercial development.

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New Branstad running mate speculation thread (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jun 18, 2010 at 13:24:51 PM CDT

Terry Branstad's campaign is building up suspense surrounding his choice for lieutenant governor, promising to reveal the name first to those who sign up for campaign texts. Before that happens, I thought I'd invite Bleeding Heartland readers to another round of scenario spinning.

A unity ticket of Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats, who won 40 percent of the votes in the GOP primary, was never in the cards. I see that Branstad supporter Craig Robinson is making sure everyone hears that Vander Plaats allegedly demanded the lieutenant governor slot as his price for not running as an independent candidate. Making Vander Plaats into the bad guy now will help Branstad's people discredit him if he tries to run as a spoiler. I'll have more to say on that in a future post, but I can't see how Vander Plaats could organize or finance a third-party bid. His key staffer, Eric Woolson, just took a job with Senator Chuck Grassley's re-election campaign.

Getting back to Branstad's running mate, the obvious choice is Rod Roberts, who finished a distant third in the June 8 primary. He was the best surrogate Branstad could have hoped for during the primary campaign, and the two men acted friendly toward each other during the third gubernatorial debate. A bunch of Republicans, mostly from western Iowa, are lobbying Branstad to pick Roberts, but Roberts is wisely not begging for the job in public.

Roberts might reassure some social conservatives about Branstad's intentions, but a different way to unify the party would be to choose someone who endorsed Vander Plaats for governor. Retiring State Representative Jodi Tymeson might fit the bill; she co-chaired the Vander Plaats campaign and probably would have been his running mate had he pulled off an upset in the primary. My hunch is that Branstad won't pick a Vander Plaats supporter. If Branstad felt he needed a Vander Plaats loyalist by his side to win in November, things might be different, but recent polls may have reassured him that he can choose whomever he wants. Why reward someone who was in the opposing camp?

Some people expect Branstad to pick a running mate from eastern Iowa, because about two-thirds of this state's voters live east of I-35. Plenty of current and former state legislators from eastern Iowa endorsed Branstad during the primary campaign. I wouldn't rule out former gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong either. He didn't endorse anyone before the June 8 primary, but key backers of his brief campaign, notably Iowans for Tax Relief, got behind Branstad. Fong would bring generational balance to the ticket. He has been building a new organization, the Iowa Dream Project, which is seeking to increase youngish conservative voter turnout. Since Branstad is copying the Obama campaign's tactic for getting people to sign up for text messages, why not pick a running mate who is well-versed in Obama-style campaign rhetoric?

On the other hand, Craig Robinson has argued that Branstad doesn't need help in the east, where he did well in the primary. Branstad's worst performance was in central Iowa, so Robinson argues that Branstad needs a running mate who's a social conservative well-known in central Iowa. He pushes former State Senator Jeff Lamberti, who might have beaten Leonard Boswell in a better year for Republicans, and unsuccessful Congressional candidate Jim Gibbons. (But wait, I thought Coach Gibbons "burned the boats!") Other possibilities named by Robinson include former state legislator Carmine Boal, who has been policy director for the current Branstad campaign. Robinson didn't suggest Tymeson or any Vander Plaats endorser, as far as I am aware.

Several members of the business community made Robinson's "short list" for Branstad running mates, including Doug Reichardt, whose name I kept hearing in this context last fall, and Vermeer Corporation CEO Mary Andringa. Last year there was some speculation Andringa would run for governor herself.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Who would be a smart lieutenant governor pick for Branstad, and whom will he choose?

UPDATE: Tom Beaumont published a piece on Branstad's running mate in the Sunday Des Moines Register. Christian Fong says Branstad hasn't called him, which probably means he is not under serious consideration. (Branstad plans to announce his choice before the June 26 Iowa GOP state convention.) Also off the short list, according to Beaumont, are Vermeer CEO Andringa and former State Senator Chuck Larson.

However, former State Senator Jeff Lamberti is being considered and told the Register that while he is "certainly not looking for a job," it "would be pretty hard to say no" if asked to be lieutenant governor. Jim Gibbons is also apparently on the list, and he is looking for a job, because he quit his last job to run for Congress.

Beaumont's article indicates that Branstad is considering Rod Roberts, Iowa GOP chair Matt Strawn and State Senator Kim Reynolds of Osceola (Senate District 48). I know little about Reynolds and don't see the advantage of choosing her over someone like Carmine Boal or Sandy Greiner, who have worked closely with Branstad. Reynolds is the only elected official I know of who has a protected Twitter account that points to a spammy-looking website.

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Iowa primary election results thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 20:00:00 PM CDT

Polls close at 9 pm, but I decided to post this thread early in case anyone wants to chat before results start coming in.

I'll update later with returns in the key Iowa races. For now, share any anecdotes about voting or political talk today. I ran into a friend who was a Republican for most of her life, even voting twice for George W. Bush. She voted for Chet Culver in 2006 and plans to volunteer for his campaign this year, mostly because she doesn't want Republicans to cut preschool funding and other social services for kids.

9:15 pm UPDATE: 9 percent of precincts reporting, Terry Branstad 47 percent, Bob Vander Plaats 46 percent, Rod Roberts 7 percent. I have no idea which part of the state has reported--if those are from northwest Iowa counties, Branstad probably doesn't have anything to worry about, but if that's from central or eastern Iowa, this could be a lot closer than I expected.

Brad Zaun leads the early returns in IA-03, but it seems like Polk County is coming in early.

9:40 pm UPDATE. The Associated Press has called the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate for Roxanne Conlin. She has about 80 percent of the vote in the early returns; Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen have about 10 percent each.

Branstad is opening up a lead on Vander Plaats, about 51-41.

Zaun is dominating the IA-03 primary with over 50 percent of the vote (about half the precincts counted).

10 pm UPDATE: Zaun is being called the winner in the IA-03 primary. He has about half the vote with about two-thirds of the precincts reporting.

Mariannette Miller-Meeks leads the IA-02 GOP primary in the early returns.

Matt Campbell leads Mike Denklau in the early returns for the IA-05 Democratic primary.

Conlin just finished giving her victory speech to her supporters.

Ako Abdul-Samad won the Democratic primary in Iowa House district 66 with about 75 percent of the vote.

10:35 pm UPDATE: The AP has called the gubernatorial primary for Branstad, who has 51 percent of the vote with about three quarters of the precincts counted. Matt Campbell won the fifth district Democratic primary.

Mariannette Miller-Meeks looks smart for not wasting money on tv ads in the IA-02 primary. She has been called the winner with 50 percent of the vote in a four-way race. The NRCC's favored candidate, Rob Gettemy, may actually finish dead last.

Matt Schultz has a pretty big lead in the GOP secretary of state primary, about 47 percent so far. The big surprise to me is that Chris Sanger (who hardly raised any money) has almost as many votes as George Eichhorn, who had quite a few endorsements and has been active in Iowa politics for a long time.

Tea party candidate Tom Shaw has a narrow lead in the Republican primary in Iowa House district 8, but it's too early to know if that lead will hold up.

11:25 pm UPDATE: It's official, Gettemy finished dead last in IA-02. Miller-Meeks won that four-way primary with an impressive 51 percent of the vote. Will Republicans unite behind her?

Zaun is sitting at about 43 percent with most of the IA-03 votes counted.

Branstad is still leading with 51 percent of the vote, to 40 percent for Vander Plaats. If the Club for Growth had invested $1 million in Vander Plaats, this could have been a nail-biter.

Matt Schultz did win the secretary of state primary with 47 percent of the vote. Political veteran George Eichhorn got 27 percent, and Chris Sanger got 26 percent despite spending almost no money.

Dave Jamison easily won the GOP primary for state treasurer with about 67 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Jim Heavens.

Campbell has a very big lead in the IA-05 Democratic primary, with about 76 percent of votes counted so far.

In Iowa Senate district 13, Tod Bowman easily won the four-way Democratic primary with more than 60 percent of the vote. He had key union endorsements. This should be an easy hold for us in November.

Anesa Kajtazovic won the House district 21 Democratic primary with more than 90 percent of the vote (Kerry Burt dropped out of the race this spring).

Democratic incumbents Chuck Isenhart, Dave Jacoby and Mary Gaskill easily held off primary challenges in House districts 27, 30 and 93, respectively. All won more than 80 percent of the vote.

In Iowa House district 8, tea partier Tom Shaw is officially the Republican primary winner over Stephen Richards, who almost beat Dolores Mertz in the 2008 election. I like our chances of holding a seat that should have been the GOP's best pickup opportunity in the Iowa House.

Check the AP's page for results in the other statehouse primaries (mostly GOP).

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: I can't believe I forgot to mention the results in Senate district 41. State Senator Dave Hartsuch, who defeated incumbent Maggie Tinsman in the 2006 GOP primary, got a taste of his own medicine when he lost the Republican primary to Roby Smith by a 52-48 margin. Rich Clewell won the Democratic primary with 56 percent to 44 percent for Republican-turned-Democrat Dave Thede. Scott County readers, do you think these results improve our chances of winning this district? It has historically been Republican, but registration numbers have been trending toward Democrats, evening things out.

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

NRCC credibility on the line in Iowa's second and third districts

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 16:34:57 PM CDT

Washington Republicans have been talking up their chances of retaking the House of Representatives for months, and the National Republican Congressional Committee claims many recruiting successes in competitive House districts. However, Republican primary voters haven't always sided with candidates favored by the Washington power-brokers. Last month a tea party candidate defeated "top national GOP recruit" Vaughn Ward in Idaho's first district. In Kentucky's third district, the NRCC's candidate finished third with 17 percent in the primary; the winner had over 50 percent. In Pennsylvania's fourth district, the NRCC-backed candidate was out-raised and eventually beaten 2-1 in the Republican primary. In Alabama's fifth district, the NRCC backed party-switching Representative Parker Griffith, who proceeded to get crushed in his new party's primary.

In Iowa, the NRCC has tipped its hat to two Republicans in competitive primaries. In the third district, Jim Gibbons was named an "on the radar" candidate in February and bumped up to "contender" status in April. In the second district, the NRCC put Gettemy "on the radar" about six weeks after he declared his candidacy.

Both Gibbons and Gettemy are newcomers to campaigning, and both are facing at least one more experienced politician in their primaries. Gibbons' main rival, State Senator Brad Zaun, has won several elections in Urbandale and Iowa Senate district 32. All three of Gettemy's opponents have run for office before, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Christopher Reed both won Republican primaries in 2008.

If Gibbons and Gettemy fail to top the voting in their respective primaries, the NRCC's ability to identify candidates with strong potential will again be called into question. The "young gun," "contender" and "on the radar" lists are important signals to NRCC donors about where their money could be most helpful. People who wrote checks to Gibbons or Gettemy without knowing anything about the local landscape may be upset if their money went to a losing candidate.

Iowa Republicans who recruited Gibbons and Gettemy and talked them up to GOP leaders in Washington also have something to lose if today's primaries don't go their way. Key members of the Iowa Republican business elite have supported Gibbons, and Gettemy had the backing of prominent Cedar Rapids area Republicans. Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler, who heads the Iowa Christian Alliance, is also said to be close to Gettemy, though Scheffler has made no formal endorsement in this year's primaries.

Both the IA-03 and IA-02 primary battles may end up being settled at GOP district conventions, so Gibbons and Gettemy could conceivably win the nominations if they don't finish in first place today, as long as no other Republican receives at least 35 percent of the vote. However, they may have an uphill battle persuading district convention delegates.

WEDNESDAY AM UPDATE: Add IA-02 and IA-03 to the list of districts where the NRCC sure doesn't know how to pick 'em.

Zaun won 42 percent of the vote in the seven-way IA-03 primary, while Gibbons managed just 28 percent. Tea Party favorite Dave Funk didn't raise enough money for a significant paid media campaign, but he finished not far behind Gibbons with 22 percent. Gibbons did carry several of the smaller counties in IA-03, but Zaun dominated Polk County, containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs. Zaun's ground game defeated Gibbons' superior "air power."

Miller-Meeks won the IA-02 primary in dominating fashion with 51 percent of the vote. She led in all of the district's 11 counties. Gettemy finished dead last with 13 percent of the vote. Even in his home county (Linn), he came in third. Gettemy won fewer votes across the district than Christopher Reed, who raised very little money and is best known for for calling Senator Harkin "the Tokyo Rose of Al-Qaeda and Middle East terrorism" during the 2008 campaign. All of Gettemy's tv ads and connections to Cedar Rapids movers and shakers delivered fewer votes than Reed managed with his band of way-out-there wingnut endorsers.  

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Weekend open thread: Election prediction contest edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jun 05, 2010 at 19:30:09 PM CDT

It's time for another Bleeding Heartland election prediction contest. No prizes will be awarded, but winners will get bragging rights. Can anyone dethrone American007, overall winner of our 2008 election contest?

Enter by answering the following questions. To qualify for the contest, your predictions must be posted as a comment in this thread by 7 am on Tuesday, June 8, 2010. This isn't like The Price is Right; the winning answers will be closest to the final results, whether or not they were a little high or low.

1. How many votes will be cast in the Republican primary for Iowa governor? (Hint: about 199,000 Iowans voted in the hard-fought 2002 Republican gubernatorial primary.)

2. What percentages of the vote will Terry Branstad, Bob Vander Plaats and Rod Roberts receive in the Republican primary for governor?

3. What percentages of the vote will Roxanne Conlin, Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen receive in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate?

4. What percentages of the vote will Rob Gettemy, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Steve Rathje and Chris Reed receive in the Republican primary in Iowa's second Congressional district? Remember, if you expect this nomination to be decided at a district convention, make sure your guess has the top vote-getter below 35 percent.

5. Who will be the top four candidates in the Republican primary in Iowa's third Congressional district, and what percentages of the vote will they receive? Again, keep the top vote-getter below 35 percent if you expect this nomination to go to a district convention. Your possible answers are Jim Gibbons, Brad Zaun, Dave Funk, Mark Rees, Scott Batcher, Jason Welch and Pat Bertroche.

6. What percentages of the vote will Mike Denklau and Matt Campbell receive in the Democratic primary in Iowa's fifth Congressional district?

7. What percentages of the vote will Matt Schultz, George Eichhorn and Chris Sanger receive in the Republican primary for secretary of state? (I covered that campaign in this post.)

8. What percentages of the vote will Dave Jamison and Jim Heavens receive in the Republican primary for state treasurer? (The Iowa Republican blog has been covering this race from time to time.)

9. What percentages of the vote will State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad and challenger Clair Rudison receive in the Democratic primary for Iowa House district 66? (Click here for background.)

10. What percentages of the vote will Tom Shaw, Stephen Richards and Alissa Wagner receive in the Republican primary for Iowa House district 8? (Click here and here for background. Keep in mind that although Wagner withdrew from the race and endorsed Shaw, her name will remain on the ballot.)

Don't be afraid to make some wild guesses. You can't win if you don't play!

This is also an open thread, so share whatever's on your mind.

Discuss :: (12 Comments)

Cookie-cutter Republican messaging in action

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 21, 2010 at 14:21:19 PM CDT

Jim Gibbons unveiled a new tv ad for his Congressional campaign today:

Rough transcript by me:

Male voice-over: Jim Gibbons' values are hard work, honesty, and family. A champion wrestler, coach and financial adviser, he's learned that listening to the voters is the most important part of being a leader in Congress. Above all, Jim Gibbons knows what's important in life is being Annie's husband and a great father to their three girls. It's through their eyes Jim is running for Congress, to stop the out-of-control spending, cut taxes, and grow Iowa jobs. Jim Gibbons for Congress.

Gibbons voice: I'm Jim Gibbons, I approved this message.

Like Gibbons' previous ad, this commercial has strong visuals and production values. The message seems generic to me, but in a crowded primary maybe it's sufficient to build name recognition and favorable impressions of the candidate.

The Gibbons campaign has purchased "a significant buy of air-time to run this ad" and expects it to reach "a majority of voters" in the third Congressional district. My hunch is that this commercial will run on a broader range of programs than the traditional Iowa combination of local news and Wheel of Fortune. I suspect it will air on some programs with a predominantly female audience; to me this ad seems targeted toward women, whereas State Senator Brad Zaun's ads seem very male-oriented, with a "tea party" edge. Perhaps Gibbons' internal polling suggests there are more undecided women voters.

I got a kick out of this passage in Gibbons' news release:

"This ad will be a great opportunity for me to reach the thousands of voters that will be going to the polls on June 8th.  I am running for Congress to reduce wasteful spending in Washington and grow jobs in Iowa," said Jim Gibbons.  "I believe central Iowa needs a Congressman that will represent Iowa values, not Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco-style values."

Keep bashing Nancy Pelosi and her San Francisco values, Republicans. Your "cookie-cutter" messaging just flopped in the special election in Pennsylvania's 12th district. PA-12 should have been more winnable for Republicans than IA-03 for the reasons I discussed toward the end of this post.

Bleeding Heartland readers, what do you think of this commercial and the third district race?

P.S. Could some Republican English teacher please inform the Gibbons campaign about correct usage of "that" and "who"? (As in, the thousands of voters who will vote on June 8, and a member of Congress who will represent Iowa values.)

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Boswell's opponents are not ready for prime time

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 19, 2010 at 15:24:26 PM CDT

Iowa Republicans are deluding themselves if they think Representative Leonard Boswell is highly vulnerable this year. The more I see of the Republican primary campaigns, the less worried I am about holding Iowa's third Congressional district in the Democratic column.

Four of the seven Republicans running against Boswell have no chance of winning the nomination. Jason Welch hasn't attended any candidate forums, and I wonder why he went to the trouble of qualifying for the ballot. Pat Bertroche and Scott Batcher are ill-informed sideshows who will be lucky to win 5 percent of the vote. Mark Rees seems to have the firmest grasp of the issues, but there aren't enough moderate Republicans anymore for someone like Rees to win a primary. Rees could affect the election, because a strong showing for him (10 to 20 percent of the vote) would increase the chance that no candidate receives at least 35 percent in the primary. But whether Republicans pick a winner on June 8 or at a district convention later, Rees will not be Boswell's general election opponent.

That leaves the Washington establishment candidate Jim Gibbons, State Senator Brad Zaun and tea party favorite Dave Funk. After watching yesterday's forum featuring six of Boswell's opponents, Graham Gillette argued that Funk, Gibbons and Zaun "are all capable of putting together a strong general election effort." After the jump I explain why I disagree.

There's More... :: (7 Comments, 1111 words in story)

Zaun campaigns as "proven conservative"

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 13, 2010 at 07:39:53 AM CDT

Republican State Senator Brad Zaun's Congressional campaign launched new radio and television advertising this week. Here is the tv ad:

The script:

Brad Zaun: There's a plan for most of the problems that face America, it's called the Constitution, I'm Brad Zaun.

We need limited government, which means a repeal of Obamacare, and let's get back to the 10th Amendment and put the power in the hands of the people.

Anncr: Under Brad Zaun, Urbandale had the lowest tax rates and as Senator Brad Zaun has been recognized by business groups with a 100% pro-jobs voting record. Brad Zaun a proven conservative, getting it done.

Brad Zaun: I'm Brad Zaun and I approve this message.

This commercial is nowhere near as slick as Jim Gibbons' opening tv ad, but it's an improvement on the first Zaun commercial, which aired briefly in January. Zaun is still hitting very safe Republican themes, but unlike the first ad, the new commercial cites Zaun's record as mayor and state senator. None of the six other Republicans running for Congress in the third district has ever held elective office before. Zaun's opening radio ad also emphasizes his record:

BZ: You learn a lot when you own a hardware store for eighteen years, I'm Brad Zaun. I learned to meet a payroll, listen to my customers and during tough times, cut expenses. And that's what our country needs today.

Anncr: Under Brad Zaun's leadership as Mayor, Urbandale tightened its belt and enjoyed the lowest tax rates in the metro area and as Senator, Brad Zaun received a 100% rating from the Iowa Association of Business and Industry for supporting job creation.

BZ: In Congress, I'll vote to repeal Obamacare and support real health care reform that is market-driven and puts you in control of your own healthcare decisions. I will also vote to end wasteful earmarks...if you're looking for pork barrel spending; I'm not your candidate. And I'll push for a balanced budget amendment to force Washington to end the out of control spending. Let's take our country back. I'm Brad Zaun and I approve this message.

Anncr: Brad Zaun...Conservative...Republican....Proven Results. Paid for by Zaun for Congress

Gibbons has also talked about how his career has influenced his political beliefs and has made vague promises to "stop wasteful spending, lower taxes and grow Iowa jobs." But Zaun has a dash more "tea party" in his campaign message, bringing up the 10th amendment and "Obamacare" in the tv ad and bashing earmarks in his radio ad. Earmarks make up a miniscule and declining portion of federal spending, but it's a safe bet Republican primary voters aren't aware of that.

Zaun won't be able to run as many commercials as Gibbons before the June 8 primary. Republican insider Doug Gross has predicted Zaun will have a stronger ground game than Gibbons, while tea party favorite Dave Funk has support from the "ideologues." I am curious to see whether Gibbons ever makes a case against any of his Republican rivals. For now he seems to be relying on fame from his wrestling days and a large advertising budget.

The next debate featuring the third district Republican candidates will be hosted by the Des Moines Tea Party this Sunday evening, May 16. Funk and moderate Republican Mark Rees should probably try to do something to stand out from the crowd. If each of them can win 10-20 percent of the vote on June 8, it becomes much more likely that a district convention will decide which Republican will face Representative Leonard Boswell in November.

For what it's worth, most of the Democrats I talk to expect Zaun to be the eventual nominee, but if it goes to convention Funk cannot be counted out.

UPDATE: According to Kathie Obradovich, Gibbons, Rees, and Jason Welch (who hasn't campaigned at all) won't attend this Sunday's Tea Party debate. Gibbons declined because he doesn't do campaign events on Sundays.

SECOND UPDATE: In the comments, mirage says Gibbons has done campaign events on Sundays. Meanwhile, Rees explains why he is declining the Tea Party invitation to debate:

My initial concerns with the debate are of fairness and credibility. Although the Des Moines Tea Party has said it will not officially endorse a candidate in the Primary, one of my opponents is widely known and commonly accepted to be, "the Tea Party candidate." Furthermore, his campaign has been managed by a key organizer and leader of the Tea Party movement in Iowa. I believe these facts raise a large and legitimate red flag as to whether this debate will indeed provide a fair and level playing field for all of the candidates.

Next, recent news reports, along with my own interactions with Tea Party activists during this campaign, have left me deeply troubled by the tone, demeanor, and tactics of the movement.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Gibbons plays up wrestler angle in first tv ad

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 04, 2010 at 14:08:03 PM CDT

Jim Gibbons, a former NCAA champion wrestler and coach, included a heavy dose of wrestling imagery in his first television ad, which goes up in central Iowa today:

Rough transcript and some analysis are after the jump.

There's More... :: (10 Comments, 583 words in story)
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