Weekend open thread: Neal Smith memories edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The Polk County Democrats’ spring awards dinner on Friday night exceeded all expectations. Hordes of journalists showed up to cover speeches by former U.S. Senator Jim Webb and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. I enjoyed both speeches and have posts in progress on their messages. C-SPAN put up video of both speeches here.

You had to be there to experience the evening’s other high points. Beautiful videos honored the memories of veterans who died overseas and three legendary local Democratic supporters who passed away during the past year (including Paulee Lipsman). Tireless Urbandale volunteer and letter-to-the-editor writer Rick Smith was recognized for his activism. Before Webb and O’Malley spoke, Iowa Democrats honored Representative Neal Smith, who represented Polk County in Congress from 1959 to 1985. Unfortunately, Smith couldn’t be present, having suffered a minor injury last week. He sent a letter to be read on his behalf, while former Senator Tom Harkin shared memories by videotape and Representative Leonard Boswell told the crowd a few of his favorite stories about Smith. After the jump I’ve listed six new things I learned on Friday about the longest-serving member of the U.S. House in Iowa history.

In 2012, Smith sat down with Polk County Democratic Party Chair Tom Henderson to reflect on his life and long political career. Those videos are well worth your time: part 1 and part 2.  

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The case for each candidate for Iowa Democratic Party chair

State Central Committee members of the Iowa Democratic Party meet tomorrow to choose a new state chair for the next election cycle. Four candidates are seeking the job: Dr. Andy McGuire, Kurt Meyer, Jim Mowrer, and Tim Tracy. The competition itself is a welcome change from the Iowa Democratic Party’s standard operating procedure. For as long as I can remember, the State Central Committee has never considered multiple candidates for state chair. Members have merely rubber-stamped the choice of Senator Tom Harkin or the Democratic governor at the time.

Bleeding Heartland asked each of the candidates to make their best case for becoming the next Iowa Democratic leader. Some party insiders have also shared e-mail correspondence sent to State Central Committee members on behalf of one or the other candidates. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, Attorney General Tom Miller, Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and former Representative Leonard Boswell (IA-03) are among those who endorsed McGuire. Former Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director Norm Sterzenbach has urged party leaders to pick Mowrer.

After the jump I’ve enclosed the arguments for choosing McGuire, Meyer, Mowrer, or Tracy (listed in alphabetical order). I don’t know any of them well, but I’ve met each of them and think highly of all. If I were on the State Central Committee, I would lean toward Meyer. The party needs a full-time chair, rather than a leader who would have to juggle those duties with another job. Moreover, I think choosing another Des Moines insider with the strongest connections to VIPs and major donors sends a “business as usual” message. Bleeding Heartland 2laneIA raised another concern about McGuire: she is a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton for president. It would be healthier for the Iowa caucuses if party leaders remained neutral before a nominee is determined. Although I don’t expect any strong competition for Clinton here, I wouldn’t want other potential candidates to fear the state party will stack the deck against them.

We need the state Democratic leader to focus on building the party up at the county level. All of the candidates talked about that in their presentations to the State Central Committee. But Meyer has done the most work in the trenches, organizing and motivating activists in several northern Iowa counties. That work contributed to Mitchell County being the whitest county in the U.S. to vote for Barack Obama (and Howard County the fifth-whitest to favor Obama over Mitt Romney), as well as to State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm’s narrow victory over Republican Senator Merlin Bartz in 2012. Without Wilhelm, there’s no Iowa Senate majority. Mowrer and McGuire have strong records on fundraising too, but I don’t see fundraising as the most urgent task for the Iowa Democratic Party right now.

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Veterans Day links and discussion thread

November 11 was first celebrated as "Armistice Day" in 1919 and became a national holiday in 1926. Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day in 1954. Any thoughts about military service or veterans issues are welcome in this thread.

Earlier this year, the Iowa legislature approved several bills supporting Governor Terry Branstad’s Home Base Iowa Initiative. Some details are after the jump. Branstad himself is a veteran, and he tapped former U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell to co-chair the initiative.

The decline of veterans in Congress continues. Thirty years ago, about a third of the members of Congress had military experience. But only 81 of the 435 newly-elected members of the House of Representatives and thirteen of the 100 U.S. Senators have served or are serving in the U.S. military. No one in Iowa’s incoming U.S. House delegation has served in the military, although several have veterans in their immediate families. Outgoing U.S. Senator Tom Harkin is a veteran, and his successor, Joni Ernst, is a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard.

Seven of the 50 people who will serve in the Iowa Senate next year have military experience: Democrats Jeff Danielson, Tom Courtney, Dick Dearden, Bill Dotzler, and Wally Horn, and Republicans Bill Anderson and Jason Schultz (just elected to the Senate for the first time after several terms in the state House).

Of the 100 people just elected to the Iowa House, nineteen have military experience. The Republican veterans who were just re-elected are Dwayne Alons, Stan Gustafson, John Landon, Dave Maxwell, Kraig Paulsen, Sandy Salmon, Quentin Stanerson, Guy Vander Linden, Matt Windschitl, and Dave Heaton. Five Republican veterans were just elected to the Iowa House for the first time: Darrel Branhagen, Ken Rizer, Zach Nunn, John Wills, and Steve Holt. Four House Democrats who are veterans were just re-elected too: Dennis Cohoon, Jerry Kearns, Todd Prichard, and Brian Meyer. Retiring House Republicans Steve Olson and Tom Shaw are also veterans, as is retiring House Democrat Roger Thomas.

Many Iowa lawmakers have immediate family members who either served in the military or are doing active duty.  

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IA-03: Appel hits back on latest attack ad

Over the weekend, Staci Appel’s Congressional campaign released a new television commercial responding to Republican claims that she is weak on fighting terrorists. I’ve enclosed the video and transcript after the jump. From a statement accompanying the ad release:

“Our campaign is not going to stand by and let David Young’s Washington cronies play politics with national security in a desperate attempt to save his sagging campaign,” said Appel Campaign Manager Ben Miller. “David Young should join former Congressman Boswell, veterans across the 3rd district and others in renouncing this ridiculous and over-the-top idea that an Iowa mother of six thinks terrorists should have passports.”

Obviously, David Young will do no such thing. He must be grateful that while his campaign suspends its own advertising (presumably for lack of funds), the National Republican Congressional Committee has picked up the slack. Their charge has occupied the media space for nearly a week, putting Appel on the defensive. Every spot she runs responding to the NRCC’s charge represents air time she can’t spend promoting her own positive message.

Research on the media’s role in “agenda-setting” and “priming” suggests that when there is extensive news coverage on a particular topic, the public may be more likely to evaluate candidates in that context. As far as I’m concerned, the sooner Appel can get back to talking about bread and butter economic issues, the better. I understand the need to respond to a false charge, but she needs voters to make up their minds based on domestic policy issues that play to Young’s weaknesses.

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IA-03: Republicans try oldest trick in the book against Staci Appel

UPDATE: Appel’s response ad is here.

For decades, Republicans have tried to win elections by painting Democrats—especially Democratic women—as soft on crime or weak on national defense. So no one should be surprised by the smear at the heart of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s latest attack on Staci Appel in Iowa’s third district. Taking out of context comments Appel made during her first debate with David Young, the NRCC is claiming Appel supports “passports for terrorists.”

Background and details are after the jump, along with the latest ads from both sides. Politico’s “Morning Score” reported on September 18 that David Young’s campaign has “gone dark”—not airing any television commercials—for the time being. It’s not clear whether the Young campaign is running short of funds or simply taking a break while the NRCC does the heavy lifting. Typically candidates will run positive ads while outside groups run attacks. The NRCC already has a positive spot running about Young as well as the misleading ad they’ve launched against Appel.

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