Weekend open thread: Blasts from the past

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

I never got around to pulling together news clips on Governor Terry Branstad’s official campaign announcement Wednesday night. After the jump I’ve posted the video of his speech to that rally in Des Moines. Easy for him to take credit for the improving economy when he came back to politics shortly after the worst U.S. recession in 60 years. Every state is doing better economically today than it was four years ago, regardless of which party controls the statehouse or the governor’s mansion. At one of his first re-election campaign stops, Branstad told a Pella audience about some of the achievements and goals he outlined in his speech to state lawmakers earlier this week. As usual, Branstad appeared alongside Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. He said their focus will be on jobs, especially STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering and math jobs). Branstad and Reynolds held campaign events in thirteen Iowa cities and towns from Thursday through Saturday.

Sam Roecker noted that Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” was the top single the first time Branstad was elected governor in 1982. That one brings back memories: my brother took me to see her concert at Vets Auditorium in Des Moines on the “Let’s Get Physical” tour.

Speaking of blasts from the past, I recently came across a video of “Republican Clair Rudison” telling a bunch of Iowa high school students that the GOP was historically the civil rights party. Which was true 150 years ago and even 60 years ago. But it hasn’t been that way for a long time. Why do you think the states where segregation was most entrenched swung from the Democratic to the Republican Party since the 1960s? Why are Republican politicians the driving force behind efforts to suppress African-American votes in so many states now?

If Clair Rudison’s name sounds familiar, it’s because last time we heard from him, he was masquerading as a Democrat in order to challenge State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad in a 2010 primary. Rudison’s campaign was funded in part by conservatives who opposed marriage equality, so I’m not surprised to see him identifying with Republicans now. In fact, he has endorsed Steve Rathje in the GOP primary to represent Iowa’s first Congressional district. I’ve posted his endorsement letter after the jump.  

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More good news for marriage equality in Iowa

The result was overshadowed by other competitive races, but Democratic voters in Iowa House district 66 produced a big victory for marriage equality yesterday. Elder Clair Rudison, a socially conservative pastor, challenged two-term State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad. Rudison sent out at least five direct-mail pieces attacking Ako’s record, two of which mentioned gay marriage (I posted those here).

Most Iowa politics-watchers were confident Ako would win this primary, but in a low-turnout environment anything can happen, so I was relieved to see Ako won 75 percent of the vote yesterday. The result is important because the only Iowa House Democrat who has consistently worked with Republicans to bring a constitutional amendment on marriage to a vote is retiring this year. If Rudison had won the primary, Republicans would be able to continue to claim bipartisan support for their battle against equality and reproductive rights.

One Iowa released a statment on the House district 66 results. Excerpt:

Voters rejected the negative and divisive tactics he and the Iowa Family Policy Center used to try to smear his opponent. “We congratulate Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad on his decisive victory and welcome his continued leadership at the statehouse,” said Jenison.

Chuck Hurley and his followers at the Iowa Family Policy Center recruited Clair Rudison to run against long-time community activist and current state representative Ako Abdul-Samad in the Democratic primary simply because Abdul-Samad supports marriage equality for all Iowans.

“For more than a year, the Iowa Family Policy Center said repeatedly that the legislative elections in 2010 will be about one thing: gay marriage,” said One Iowa Executive Director Carolyn Jenison. “Tonight’s results prove them wrong. Iowans are not interested in writing discrimination into our constitution. They are concerned with creating jobs, improving our schools, and moving our state forward.”

The recent Research 2000 Iowa poll for KCCI-TV should be a warning to Republicans who think bashing gay marriage will be their winning ticket in November. About 53 percent of respondents said they favored marriage rights for same-sex couples, while only 41 percent opposed them. KCCI’s managing editor for internet broadcasting provided the cross-tabs for that part of the poll. They indicate that support for equality is stronger among women (57-36) than among men (49-46). The KCCI poll showed independents supporting same-sex marriage rights by 58-31, closer to the Democratic numbers of 81-17 than to the Republican respondents, who oppose marriage equality by 83-14.

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Rudison now accusing Ako of facilitating racial profiling

Yet another direct-mail piece from Clair Rudison’s campaign went out to Democratic residents of Iowa House district 66 this week. Rudison is challenging two-term State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad and sent out at least four other mailers attacking the incumbent’s record. The new piece claims, “When Rep Abdul-Samad voted to ban texting while driving, he opened the door for young black men and women to be potentially targeted for unnecessary stops by law enforcement.” I’m having trouble uploading the image, but you can view the piece at Iowa Independent.

The mail piece is inaccurate, since the new law makes clear that “Law enforcement cannot stop or detain a person only for suspected violations of texting and local governments are not allowed to adopt their own ordinances.” That language was added to the bill after an anonymous group paid for robocalls in February alleging that a texting ban would give police another excuse for racially-motivated traffic stops and arrests. At that time, Abdul-Samad told KCCI,

“If you have officers that are – it’s not going to be because of texting. It’s because they were going to find a reason to do that anyway,” said Samad.

Samad said he heard the same argument when the seatbelt law was first considered and he said that law has saved thousands of lives.

“If we need to look at racial profiling, I will work with the organization that hasn’t left their name yet or who they are — and say let’s do some legislation. Let’s do something on that. But lets not cloud the issue that there are thousands of young people and adults that are dying,” said Samad.

If you know any Des Moines residents who live in House district 66 (map), please urge them to go vote for Ako today. Polls are open until 9 pm.

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Attack mailers target Ako in Iowa House district 66

A critical Democratic primary contest is taking place in House district 66, where Clair Rudison is challenging two-term State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad. I discussed this race here. A Bleeding Heartland reader who lives in the district sent me images of direct-mail pieces Rudison’s campaign has sent out during the last week or so. I’ve posted the images after the jump. One says marriage is a “building block of our community,” noting that Clair Rudison wants to “let the people vote” while Ako Abdul-Samad “has consistently voted against allowing the Iowa House to bring this matter to the people.” Another points out that Ako voted for increasing vehicle registration fees. A third says Ako voted for creating the Iowa Film Office and therefore “opened the door for your tax money to be stolen by Hollywood producers.” The fourth piece draws a contrast between Ako and Rudison on all of the above issues (Iowa Film Office, vehicle fee increases, and allowing Iowans to vote on marriage).

Rudison implies that “a majority of Iowans” oppose Ako’s stance on marriage equality, but the latest KCCI poll suggests a majority favor same-sex marriage rights. House district 66 contains some of the most gay-friendly neighborhoods in Des Moines (Drake area, Sherman Hill, “East Village”), so it’s far-fetched to portray Ako as out of step with his constituents.

Rudison unfairly alleges on one mailer, “Instead of tax dollars being spent to fight crime, improve education or increase access to health care, Ako gave our money to Hollywood.” During Ako’s two terms in the Iowa House, Democrats have allocated lots of money to fighting crime, improving education and expanding access to health care, especially for children. I’m no fan of the film tax credit, but the money we wasted on that program didn’t stop Democrats from expanding children’s health care and voluntary preschool for four- and five-year-olds. I was amused to read that Rudison claims to have “opposed creation of the Film Office.” Is there a public record of that? Only one member of the Iowa House and two members of the Iowa Senate voted against creating the film tax credit. Rudison was a pastor in Fort Dodge at the time.

In an overview of this race at Iowa Independent, Jason Hancock noted that Rudison “has focused his campaign on issues like education and the state budget, pointing to the Forrest Avenue Library’s decision to close on Fridays and Saturdays due to budget cuts […].” Although Rudison hasn’t said much about gay marriage, the Iowa Family PAC (which is connected to the Iowa Family Policy Center) is supporting his campaign. Activists on the religious right have reason to support Rudison because no Republican has a prayer of winning House district 66. In addition, the only House Democrat who has consistently voted with Republicans on marriage issues (Dolores Mertz) is retiring. House Republicans would love to have Rudison join the Democratic caucus so they can continue to claim bipartisan support for their efforts to bring a constitutional amendment on marriage to a vote.

Ed Fallon represented House district 66 for 14 years and knows the area well. I share his assessment that Ako “should win this [primary] easily, but he’s not taking anything for granted, which is smart.” Ako has strong roots in the community, and he won a seat on the Des Moines School Board before running for the state legislature. He’s been making lots of voter contacts and has the endorsement of AFSCME. One Iowa’s political action committee, the Fairness Fund, has an organizer working in the district too. However, Rudison has been campaigning actively, and I don’t doubt there are many voters upset about budget cuts affecting their families, schools and local library. If you or any of your Democratic friends live in this district, please do what you can to get out the vote for Ako on Tuesday.

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Weekend open thread: Election prediction contest edition

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.

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Please help re-elect Ako Abdul-Samad in Iowa House district 66

Two-term State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad is one of three Iowa House Democrats still facing active primary challengers. He has long been active in the community as founder of the Creative Visions Human Development Center. Elected to the Des Moines School Board in 2003, Abdul-Samad ran for the Iowa House when Ed Fallon, who represented district 66 for 14 years, vacated the seat to run for governor in 2006. The district (map) includes downtown Des Moines, west side neighborhoods including Sherman Hill, Mondamin and the Drake area, part of the east side including the “east village” and the area around the state capitol, and part of the south side near Gray’s Lake.

In February, Clair Rudison announced plans to run against Abdul-Samad in the Democratic primary. An ordained minister who had a pulpit in Fort Dodge before moving to Des Moines to work with the Iowa Missionary and Educational Baptist State Convention, Rudison characterized himself as “pro-family, pro-life and pro-marriage.” However, his campaign is emphasizing other issues like employment, housing and health care. Rudison also claims he would provide “a clear alternative to mediocrity.”

Ako (as he is generally known in Des Moines) has a solid voting record and a history of community involvement. From what I hear, he is working hard to contact voters, and I expect him to win the primary, but in a low turnout environment anything can happen. I urge Bleeding Heartland readers to help re-elect him. Now that Dolores Mertz is retiring, the last thing we need is a new Iowa House Democrat who will work with Republicans against marriage equality and reproductive rights.

If you have friends or family in this district, please encourage them to vote for Ako in the primary. Election day is Tuesday, June 8, but people can vote earlier by absentee ballot (click here to request a ballot) or simply stop by the Polk County Auditor’s office on any weekday. The auditor’s office is on Second Avenue just south of Court, right in House district 66. I voted a couple of weeks ago at the auditor’s office, and it took less than 10 minutes.

To get more involved, sign up to volunteer for Ako’s campaign here or join his Facebook page.

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