New Branstad running mate speculation thread

James Q. Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette talked to Terry Branstad yesterday about the qualities he’s looking for in a potential lieutenant governor. If he wins the nomination, Branstad wants a running mate who is younger than he is (63), and also “intelligent, hardworking, conservative, a good communicator and someone who could serve as governor.” He told Lynch that “some Eastern Iowans” are on his list.

Branstad has promised social conservatives that he won’t pick another pro-choice running mate, so that rules out former State Representative Libby Jacobs of West Des Moines. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Branstad choose Rod Roberts, although Lynch’s report says Branstad “downplayed” the possibility that he will pick one of the other gubernatorial candidates.

Any of the 20 state legislators who have endorsed Branstad for governor could be on Branstad’s short list. Or, he may look to someone from the business community, but it’s been months since I heard anyone predict that insurance company executive Doug Reichardt would be Branstad’s choice. Perhaps there’s some truth to the rumors that Reichardt isn’t interested in being lieutenant governor.

If Branstad looks east, one obvious contender is Christian Fong, the well-spoken former candidate for governor from Cedar Rapids. Last month State Representative Renee Schulte endorsed Branstad, and since Schulte’s husband was Fong’s campaign treasurer, I wondered whether some kind of deal was in the works. But Fong hasn’t endorsed any candidate since he dropped out of the race six months ago. Earlier this month he founded the Iowa Dream Project, a “nonpartisan” 501(c)4 organization designed to increase turnout among conservative voters under age 45 and discuss issues in a respectful “Iowa tone.” I doubt Fong would have rolled out this group now if he expected to be running for lieutenant governor full-time during the next six months. It sounds more like a good way for him to stay active, help the Republican cause, and boost his prospects for some appointed position in a Branstad administration.

Another eastern Iowa possibility is former State Representative Sandy Greiner. Choosing her would continue the Iowa tradition of female lieutenant governors during the past two and a half decades. Greiner is an experienced candidate with socially conservative views (even if a few wingnuts gripe about her). She is also well-connected to some major donors in the business community. She is president of the American Future Fund and created the “Draft Branstad PAC” last year. That 527 organization turned into the NextGen PAC after Branstad formed an exploratory committee to run for governor. I don’t think Greiner will be Branstad’s choice, though, because she filed to run for the Iowa Senate in district 45. That race is one of the Republicans’ best pickup opportunities in the upper chamber, and I doubt she would have become a candidate if she expected to be on the ticket with Branstad.

Though no one else has mentioned her name to me, State Representative Linda Miller seems like a promising choice. She has endorsed Branstad and is from Bettendorf, one of the Quad Cities. Republicans used to be dominant in populous Scott County but have lost ground there in recent years.

Some conservative activists have slammed Branstad for elevating Joy Corning to the office of lieutenant governor during the 1990s. Lynch asked Branstad about Corning, and he said she was a good choice “at the time”. He added that he disagrees with some of what Corning has done as a “private citizen.” Several years ago, Corning chaired a major capital campaign for Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa. Last year she publicly supported civil marriage rights for gays and lesbians. Corning backs Branstad’s current campaign and is privately urging fellow moderates to vote for him in the primary.

Bleeding Heartland readers, who do you think is on Branstad’s short list, and whom should he pick as a running mate?

Feel free to speculate about Bob Vander Plaats as well. From what I’ve heard, the consensus is that he would choose his campaign co-chair, retiring State Representative Jodi Tymeson. I consider Vander Plaats a long-shot for the nomination, especially with Rod Roberts splitting the conservative vote. But we haven’t seen any public polls confirming Branstad’s front-runner status. Vander Plaats does have a path to the nomination, and he keeps winning straw polls of Republican activists.  

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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.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Branstad campaign news roundup (w/poll)

“Sources close to [former Governor Terry] Branstad” tell WHO-TV’s Dave Price that Branstad will announce his candidacy for a fifth term as governor this Friday. Whatever the date, it’s obvious Branstad has committed to the race.

Join me after the jump for recent news and unintentional comedy from the Branstad camp. You’ll also find a Bleeding Heartland reader poll at the bottom of this post.

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Democratic leaders enabled Branstad's big money haul

Until last week, the money raised to support Terry Branstad as a gubernatorial candidate was hidden in the bank accounts of two 527 groups: the Iowa First Foundation and the Draft Branstad PAC. Now that Branstad has formed an exploratory committee, I expect we’ll soon see a press release about eye-popping early money raised for his campaign. Major Republican donors were key players in the effort to lure the former governor back into politics.

While Branstad’s signing all those thank-you notes to Republicans, he may as well acknowledge three Democrats who have helped him raise the big bucks: Governor Chet Culver, Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy, and Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal. Branstad wouldn’t be able to accept those $25,000 and $50,000 checks if Democrats had passed meaningful campaign finance reform during the past three years.

This rant continues after the jump.

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Draft Branstad PAC "ignores Iowa election law"

When Republican power-brokers formed the Draft Branstad PAC last month, I assumed that the entity was a political action committee, as implied by the name “PAC.” However, the Draft Branstad PAC registered with the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board as a 527 committee. The distinction is important, because unlike PACs, 527 groups do not have to disclose their donors and are not allowed to advocate for candidates.

Today the Iowa Democratic Party caught the folks in charge of the Draft Branstad effort running their 527 group like a PAC:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 9, 2009

DRAFT BRANSTAD GROUP IGNORES IOWA ELECTION LAW

DES MOINES, IA -The political action group called Draft Branstad, formed to promote Terry Branstad’s candidacy for Governor before he became a declared candidate, is ignoring Iowa ethics law and engaging in express advocacy for Branstad, who became a candidate on Wednesday, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan said Friday.

• FACT: Last night Draft Branstad hosted an event at Graze restaurant in West Des Moines.  The event included Branstad campaign paraphernalia and free drinks.  It was paid for by Draft Branstad and apparently the materials came from the same group.

• FACT: Draft Branstad continues to advertise on conservative websites.  Screen captures made Friday showed activity on multiple sites.

“This Draft Branstad group has spent funds directly benefiting the Branstad campaign,” Kiernan said Friday.  “That’s a blatant violation of Iowa campaign ethics law.”  Iowa election law prohibits 527 groups from engaging in express advocacy on behalf of any candidate or candidate’s committee.  

“Branstad should either embrace the spending of this group, since it’s a group designed by him to promote his candidacy, or publicly disavow it,” Kiernan said Friday.

Iowans know better.  They aren’t confused by the tactics being used to avoid both the letter and the spirit of campaign ethics law.  They know Branstad was behind the “movement” to draft him – and he knows why.  This campaign-that’s-not-a-campaign is a mockery of our system of democratic government and a slap in the face to Iowa’s bipartisan tradition of clean elections.

Now, we call upon Terry Branstad to:

1 Call upon the Draft Branstad group to cease and desist public statements and representations in his favor;

2 Disavow any expenditures already made by the Draft Branstad group after Tuesday, Oct. 6;

3 Call for the immediate disbanding of the Draft Branstad group based on Branstad’s decision to become a candidate on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

The leaders of the Draft Branstad PAC should know better than to make this kind of mistake, and Iowans should know better than to elect Terry Branstad again.

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