Dream recruit may spark Republican infighting in Senate district 45

Iowa Republicans have landed Sandy Greiner, their dream candidate against first-term Democratic State Senator Becky Schmitz in Senate district 45. The southeast Iowa district includes all of Washington, Jefferson, and Van Buren counties, plus part of Wapello and Johnson counties (map here). Schmitz defeated Republican incumbent David Miller by 184 votes in 2006, but the area leans slightly Republican in terms of voter registration.

Greiner represented Iowa House district 89, which makes up half of Senate district 45, for four terms (1993 to 2001). She then served for two years in the Iowa Senate before redistricting prompted her to return to House district 89 for another three terms (2003-2009). Consequently, she starts the race with high name recognition in the area and will be able to campaign almost as an incumbent. Republican blogger Craig Robinson sounds ready to declare this seat won for the GOP.

Greiner will be a stronger opponent for Schmitz than the three Republicans who had previously declared for the seat (Richard Marlar, Randy Besick and Dan Cesar). However, I would not assume that local Republicans will be united behind her this fall. Greiner is linked to business elites who have battled with activists on the religious right for control over the direction of the Iowa GOP.

Join me after the jump for more background on Greiner and why I suspect some social conservatives will fight her candidacy.

Continue Reading...

When solving one problem creates another

The Republican Party appears to have learned at least one important lesson from the 2008 Iowa legislative races: making social issues like abortion the centerpiece of the campaign was a poor strategy in competitive districts.

This year Republican leaders in the legislature and the state party apparatus have talked much more about economic and fiscal issues than about the religious right’s agenda. Even in the weeks following the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien ruling, the state party said little about gay marriage.

Republican candidate Stephen Burgmeier is sticking to the new GOP script in his campaign for the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90. The “views” page on his website doesn’t spell out his views on abortion or same-sex marriage, and his first television ad focused on the state budget and taxes. The decision to downplay social issues doesn’t seem to bother the Iowa Family Policy Center, which has one of its staffers working on the ground in district 90.

However, some social conservatives don’t appreciate being told to keep their mouths shut while doing heavy lifting for Republicans. One of them is Dan Cesar, who ran in House district 90 last year on the Fourth of July ticket when Republicans declined to field a candidate against incumbent John Whitaker. Cesar is running in the special election too and is bashing Burgmeier:

“[Burgmeier] has avoided the words pro-life in everything he says. He’s avoided the fact that he’s a Catholic and belongs to a faith community. I take exception to that. His handlers are telling him to do that.” […]

“The [Republican] party told me they don’t want to focus on pro-life,” he said. “So I either run again as a third party or shut up. Shut up and let a coward run as a Democrat and someone I consider a sellout run as a Republican. I stood up and said I will run.”

Cesar also doesn’t like Burgmeier’s record of raising taxes as a county supervisor.

The Iowa GOP will likely repeat the district 90 playbook across the state next year, especially if Burgmeier wins on September 1. Social conservatives won’t appreciate being marginalized. If Democratic candidate Curt Hanson prevails in district 90, the religious right-wingers will probably be even more angry, claiming that social issues could have won the day.

This argument is sure to continue during the Republican gubernatorial primary, which will come down to Bob Vander Plaats against someone backed by the business wing (Terry Branstad, Chris Rants or Christian Fong). Vander Plaats believes the GOP can win by embracing “core principles” and “bold-color conservatism that inspires faith, family and freedom.”  

Continue Reading...
View More...