More Iowa Republicans coming out for marriage equality

Very few prominent Iowa Republicans have endorsed same-sex marriage rights since the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2009 decision striking down the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. Every Republican now serving in the Iowa House and Senate is on record supporting a constitutional amendment to reverse that court ruling. When former State Senator Jeff Angelo created the Iowans for Freedom movement in 2011 to support marriage equality as consistent with conservative values, only a handful of Republicans signed on. One of them, Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson, was later warned against seeking the GOP nomination for the special election in Senate district 18, in part because of his position on marriage.

Last night some heavy-hitter Republican strategists and activists met in Des Moines to urge the Iowa GOP to change its stance on marriage equality.

Continue Reading...

Pawlenty in, Daniels out and other presidential campaign news

After a slow start, the Republican presidential campaign is ratcheting up in Iowa. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty formally announced his candidacy in Des Moines today. Over the weekend former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain made his campaign official too.

Arguably the biggest news of the past few days was Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels ruling out a campaign. Many Republican insiders had hoped he would beef up the weak declared field against President Barack Obama.

Links, quotes, and analysis are after the jump.

Continue Reading...

Textbook case of burying the lede in an Iowa caucus story

It’s a perfect subject for local tv news: a crime story with an Iowa caucus angle.

A 15-year-old girl found a campaign worker from Alabama banging on her Ankeny family’s back door early Wednesday morning.

Chloe Steward told KCCI she heard her dog barking around 3 a.m. and went to investigate. She said she found a man trying to get into the back door. […]

Police said Benjamin Foster was arrested and charged with public intoxication and trespassing. He was taken to the Polk County Jail.

Iowa political strategist Eric Woolson is a consultant for the Pawlenty Exploratory Committee. He confirmed to KCCI that Foster is employed by the Pawlenty Exploratory Committee. […]

The Steward family said Foster was drunk and was trying to get home to a friend’s house in Johnston. They said he vomited in their backyard and scared their daughter.

Campaign veterans know that as a staffer, you never want the news to be about you, especially when the police get involved. KCCI posted a statement from the exploratory committee in which Foster apologized and took “full responsibility” for his actions, while Woolson said Foster was on a two-week unpaid suspension. I would guess he will soon be an ex-employee of the exploratory committee, or at least moved to a different state. In his next position, Foster should remember to arrange for a ride home when he plans to go out drinking.

Iowa politics junkie that I am, I was most interested in this part of the KCCI story: “Ankeny Police Chief Gary Mikulec said Foster told the officers he was staying at 6905 Jack London Dr., in Johnston.” The Polk County Assessor’s website indicates that property is owned by Erik and Michael Helland. That would be Iowa House Majority Whip Erik Helland, who represents House district 69, covering suburban and rural areas in northern Polk County. I don’t know for sure that it’s his primary residence, but it appears to be the only property he owns in Polk County.

Pawlenty did a fundraiser for Helland last year, and Helland has spoken favorably about Pawlenty’s prospects in the caucuses. I haven’t seen any formal endorsement, but if Helland is letting a Pawlenty staffer stay in his home, it sounds like he’s fully committed.

A detailed roundup of Iowa caucus news is in progress. Meanwhile, share any relevant thoughts in this thread. Anecdotes about boneheaded moves by campaign staffers are particularly welcome.

I find myself unable to resist the temptation to link to Helland’s recent close encounter with a live mic.

UPDATE: Both Tyler Kingkade and Bleeding Heartland user xjcsa noticed that Helland’s legislative web page lists 6905 Jack London Drive as his home address. Many other news accounts have noted that Helland was arrested last summer on a DWI.

Continue Reading...

New Branstad running mate speculation thread (updated)

Terry Branstad’s campaign is building up suspense surrounding his choice for lieutenant governor, promising to reveal the name first to those who sign up for campaign texts. Before that happens, I thought I’d invite Bleeding Heartland readers to another round of scenario spinning.

A unity ticket of Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats, who won 40 percent of the votes in the GOP primary, was never in the cards. I see that Branstad supporter Craig Robinson is making sure everyone hears that Vander Plaats allegedly demanded the lieutenant governor slot as his price for not running as an independent candidate. Making Vander Plaats into the bad guy now will help Branstad’s people discredit him if he tries to run as a spoiler. I’ll have more to say on that in a future post, but I can’t see how Vander Plaats could organize or finance a third-party bid. His key staffer, Eric Woolson, just took a job with Senator Chuck Grassley’s re-election campaign.

Getting back to Branstad’s running mate, the obvious choice is Rod Roberts, who finished a distant third in the June 8 primary. He was the best surrogate Branstad could have hoped for during the primary campaign, and the two men acted friendly toward each other during the third gubernatorial debate. A bunch of Republicans, mostly from western Iowa, are lobbying Branstad to pick Roberts, but Roberts is wisely not begging for the job in public.

Roberts might reassure some social conservatives about Branstad’s intentions, but a different way to unify the party would be to choose someone who endorsed Vander Plaats for governor. Retiring State Representative Jodi Tymeson might fit the bill; she co-chaired the Vander Plaats campaign and probably would have been his running mate had he pulled off an upset in the primary. My hunch is that Branstad won’t pick a Vander Plaats supporter. If Branstad felt he needed a Vander Plaats loyalist by his side to win in November, things might be different, but recent polls may have reassured him that he can choose whomever he wants. Why reward someone who was in the opposing camp?

Some people expect Branstad to pick a running mate from eastern Iowa, because about two-thirds of this state’s voters live east of I-35. Plenty of current and former state legislators from eastern Iowa endorsed Branstad during the primary campaign. I wouldn’t rule out former gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong either. He didn’t endorse anyone before the June 8 primary, but key backers of his brief campaign, notably Iowans for Tax Relief, got behind Branstad. Fong would bring generational balance to the ticket. He has been building a new organization, the Iowa Dream Project, which is seeking to increase youngish conservative voter turnout. Since Branstad is copying the Obama campaign’s tactic for getting people to sign up for text messages, why not pick a running mate who is well-versed in Obama-style campaign rhetoric?

On the other hand, Craig Robinson has argued that Branstad doesn’t need help in the east, where he did well in the primary. Branstad’s worst performance was in central Iowa, so Robinson argues that Branstad needs a running mate who’s a social conservative well-known in central Iowa. He pushes former State Senator Jeff Lamberti, who might have beaten Leonard Boswell in a better year for Republicans, and unsuccessful Congressional candidate Jim Gibbons. (But wait, I thought Coach Gibbons “burned the boats!”) Other possibilities named by Robinson include former state legislator Carmine Boal, who has been policy director for the current Branstad campaign. Robinson didn’t suggest Tymeson or any Vander Plaats endorser, as far as I am aware.

Several members of the business community made Robinson’s “short list” for Branstad running mates, including Doug Reichardt, whose name I kept hearing in this context last fall, and Vermeer Corporation CEO Mary Andringa. Last year there was some speculation Andringa would run for governor herself.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Who would be a smart lieutenant governor pick for Branstad, and whom will he choose?

UPDATE: Tom Beaumont published a piece on Branstad’s running mate in the Sunday Des Moines Register. Christian Fong says Branstad hasn’t called him, which probably means he is not under serious consideration. (Branstad plans to announce his choice before the June 26 Iowa GOP state convention.) Also off the short list, according to Beaumont, are Vermeer CEO Andringa and former State Senator Chuck Larson.

However, former State Senator Jeff Lamberti is being considered and told the Register that while he is “certainly not looking for a job,” it “would be pretty hard to say no” if asked to be lieutenant governor. Jim Gibbons is also apparently on the list, and he is looking for a job, because he quit his last job to run for Congress.

Beaumont’s article indicates that Branstad is considering Rod Roberts, Iowa GOP chair Matt Strawn and State Senator Kim Reynolds of Osceola (Senate District 48). I know little about Reynolds and don’t see the advantage of choosing her over someone like Carmine Boal or Sandy Greiner, who have worked closely with Branstad. Reynolds is the only elected official I know of who has a protected Twitter account that points to a spammy-looking website.

Continue Reading...

Could Vander Plaats pull off an upset?

I’ve been assuming for the past few months that there’s no way Bob Vander Plaats can defeat Terry Branstad in this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary. Branstad’s statewide connections from his four terms as governor and his support from major donors should give him an insurmountable edge, especially in the eastern Iowa counties. While Vander Plaats would have a great shot at winning a caucus or a statewide convention, I didn’t see any way he could keep Branstad below 50 percent in the primary, especially with Branstad likely to raise far more money.

I’ve started to rethink my assumptions as conservative Republicans have spoken out against Branstad.

Everyone knew the Iowa Family Policy Center’s political action committee would endorse Vander Plaats at some point, but their statement yesterday went far beyond expressing a preference for Vander Plaats. The IFPC made clear that they will not support Branstad in the general election if he wins the GOP nomination.

Follow me after the jump for more on the IFPC’s endorsement and how Vander Plaats could win the primary.

Continue Reading...
View More...