Iowa Senate district 30 preview: Jeff Danielson vs. Bonnie Sadler

A Republican challenger to three-term State Senator Jeff Danielson in Iowa Senate district 30 emerged last week. Bonnie Sadler is on Facebook here and on Twitter here. Danielson has a campaign website as well as a Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Danielson was the Iowa legislative incumbent re-elected by the narrowest margin in 2008, beating Walt Rogers by just 22 votes out of more than 32,000 cast. Although Danielson won his third term by a somewhat larger margin in 2012, Republicans are still likely to target this race as one of their top two or three pickup opportunities. The Republican State Leadership Committee has committed to play for the Iowa Senate majority in 2016. Democrats currently control the chamber by 26 votes to 24.

I enclose below a map of Senate district 30, a review of its voter registration numbers and recent voting history, background on both candidates, and first thoughts on what should be a central issue during next year’s campaign.

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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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New details on how the Koch brothers boosted Joni Ernst's campaign

Kenneth P. Vogel reports new details at Politico today on how the billionaires David and Charles Koch provided indirect financial support to Joni Ernst’s 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate. Politico’s headline "How the Kochs created Joni Ernst" (changed after a few hours to "How the Kochs launched Joni Ernst") overstates the case somewhat. Arguably, the dark money employed to attack Ernst’s main rival for the GOP Senate nomination would have been less effective if either 1) Mark Jacobs hadn’t chosen to live outside this state for 30 years. fatally wounding his candidacy in my opinion; or 2) the other Republicans in the race had raised enough money to become credible alternatives to Jacobs themselves.

Still, money funneled through the Kochs’ network was a big help to Ernst. We already knew that the Kochs invited her to their 2013 summer "seminar" a few weeks after she kicked off her Senate campaign. We already knew that in the summer of 2014, the Koch brothers front group Concerned Veterans for America kicked off what became a sustained attack on Bruce Braley’s Veterans Affairs Committee hearings attendance. Vogel has shown that Ernst got more assistance before winning the primary than was previously known.

I enclose below excerpts from Vogel’s article, but I recommend clicking through to read the whole piece. Vogel concentrates on the Trees of Liberty PAC, which raised funds through the Koch network and spent most of that money to air a tv ad attacking Jacobs. You can view that ad here. It masquerades as non-election communication by ending with the line, "Call Mark Jacobs. Tell him Iowa families can’t afford higher energy costs from Washington," instead of urging viewers not to vote for Jacobs.

Vogel does not address the role of American Heartland PAC, a single-candidate super-PAC supporting Ernst. American Heartland PAC piled on with more tv ads targeting Jacobs less than a week after the Trees of Liberty statewide ad buy ended on May 2, 2014. The super-PAC did disclose its donors (longer list here). The largest contributors were Robert McNair, owner of the Houston Texans football team, and hedge fund operator Robert Mercer.

P.S.-It’s worth recalling on "Throwback Thursday" that Governor Terry Branstad helped launch Ernst when he picked the little-known Kim Reynolds as his running mate in 2010. Reynolds’ election as lieutenant governor that year opened up the Iowa Senate seat Ernst won two months later. If Branstad had chosen a different running mate, Reynolds would have stayed in the state legislature, and Ernst would likely still have been the Montgomery County auditor in 2013—not a promising springboard for a statewide candidate.

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Kraig Paulsen lands sweetheart deal at Iowa State University

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When Kraig Paulsen announced plans to resign as Iowa House speaker and not seek re-election in 2016, he indicated he would continue to work as an in-house attorney for the trucking company CRST International Inc.

News broke last week that Paulsen has landed a high-paying position at Iowa State University’s College of Business. University officials waived a policy requiring such jobs to be advertised when they offered Paulsen the job, Vanessa Miller reported for the Cedar Rapids Gazette on November 6.

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First Bernie Sanders commercial makes powerful case for his candidacy

Bernie Buttons

Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign started running its first television commercial in Iowa and New Hampshire this week, roughly three months after Hillary Clinton’s campaign went on the air in the first two nominating states. I enclose below the video and annotated transcript for "Real Change," which packs a surprising amount of Sanders’ personal background and political goals into 60 seconds, without being too wordy. A viewer who knew nothing about the candidate before watching this spot would come away with a decent grasp of where Sanders came from and why he is running for president. That’s not easy to accomplish in an introductory commercial, though it’s more doable in a minute than in 30 seconds.

When Sanders launched his campaign in April, few would have expected him to be able to go up on statewide television three months before the Iowa caucuses. Through an outpouring of grassroots support, Sanders has raised an astonishing amount of money. His campaign brought in $26 million during the third quarter, including about $2 million on September 30 alone and nearly another $2 million during the 24 hours after the first Democratic debate on October 13. (The new Republican establishment darling, Senator Marco Rubio, only raised about $6 million for his presidential campaign during the entire third quarter.) The Sanders tv ad refers to "over a million contributions." In every version of his stump speech that I have seen this year, Sanders points out that the average donation to his campaign is a little more than $30, whereas some other candidates rely mostly on large contributions from millionaires.

Any comments about the Democratic presidential race are welcome in this thread. If you never read Paul Lewis’s profile of Sanders for The Guardian this summer, I highly recommend it.

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