Iowa Republicans make big voter registration gains

Competitive primaries helped Iowa Republicans make “significant” voter registration gains between June 1 and July 1 of this year, Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro announced at a press conference today. Voter registration totals as of June 1 (pdf file) were 710,017 Democrats, 607,567 Republicans and 772,725 no-party voters. As of July 1, registered Democrats were down to 699,972, Republicans were up to 644,838, and no-party voters were down to 749,441. A press release from the Secretary of State’s office noted that “these totals include both active and inactive voters.”

Iowa law allows voters to change their registration on the day of a primary or general election, and there were many more competitive races on the Republican side this year. It appears that approximately 10,000 Democrats and 23,000 independents became Republicans in order to vote in the GOP primary on June 8. Mauro remarked that Republicans gained in voter registration in 2002, when three men sought the nomination for governor and two sought the nomination for U.S. Senate. By the same token, the number of registered Democrats increased substantially in 2006, when Chet Culver was running against Mike Blouin and Ed Fallon while Jim Nussle was unopposed for governor on the GOP side. But Mauro “couldn’t deny that the momentum is on the GOP side.”

Not every party-switcher is a guaranteed Republican vote in November. Some Democrats may have voted for the perceived weaker Republican candidate for governor, and I’ve known independents who vote in whatever primary is competitive, no matter whom they plan to support in the general. Nevertheless, it’s not good for the Iowa Democratic Party’s voter registration advantage to shrink by such a large amount, particularly since it will be challenging to turn out many of 2008’s new voters, who were mobilized by Barack Obama’s campaign. Approximately 1.5 million Iowans voted in November 2008, but only about 1.05 million voted in November 2006. I will be surprised if turnout this November exceeds 1.1 million.

Click here for updated voter registration numbers by county and by Congressional, state house and state senate districts. After the jump I’ve posted links to pdf files showing voter registration changes following the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Iowa primaries.

Iowa Democrats’ ability to execute their early voter program will be critical again this year. Strong early voting has saved several Iowa House and Senate seats the last few cycles. But voter mobilization can only do so much if there is a large enthusiasm gap between the parties. I also hope that Culver’s campaign has a game plan for bringing the dissatisfied Democrats home in November.

UPDATE: John Deeth doesn’t think the registration gains are anything to brag about, because they grew out of a divisive, still-unresolved primary.

SECOND UPDATE: Bret Hayworth notes the registration numbers for active Iowa voters: 661,115 Democrats, 615,011 Republicans and 683,817 independents.  

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Kiernan resigning as head of the Iowa Democratic Party

The Des Moines Register reported this morning that Michael Kiernan is stepping down as chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Kiernan is leaving because of personal reasons, [IDP Executive Director Norm] Sterzenbach said. He declined to go into details but noted that Democrats will hold a press conference at 2 p.m.

The Democratic State Central Committee will hold a special meeting Thursday night to vote on a new chairman.

I’ll update this post after Kiernan’s press conference today. UPDATE: Kiernan said he is resigning “because of personal health reasons. I am resigning so that I can focus on my family and my health. Believe me when I say that I would be here fighting to elect more Democrats every day if I could.” I posted the complete statement released by the Iowa Democratic Party after the jump. I’m sure all Bleeding Heartland readers join me in wishing Kiernan a speedy recovery.

Kiernan was selected to chair the Iowa Democratic Party in January 2009. Under his leadership the party has been out-raising the Republican Party of Iowa. He also helped recruit Roxanne Conlin to run against Senator Chuck Grassley. Speaking to her supporters after winning yesterday’s primary election,

Conlin told a story about January 2009.

“I was sitting there innocently with nothing on my mind but the concerns of my clients when an old dear friend insisted on an appointment,” Conlin said.

The old friend, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan, told her that he wanted to talk to her about something.

“The something that he wanted to talk to me about was my running against Grassley. I thought he’d lost his mind. I said, ‘You must be kidding me!”

As the crowd laughed, Conlin said: “So it turned out it was a good idea after all.”

That was months before Bob Krause or Tom Fiegen had announced plans to run against Grassley. It showed a lot of foresight for Kiernan to be seeking out a high-profile challenger for that race.  

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Obama in SE Iowa and other events coming up during the next two weeks

President Barack Obama is coming back to Iowa this Tuesday with stops scheduled in Fort Madison, Mount Pleasant and Ottumwa. More details on those and other events coming up during the next two weeks can be found after the jump.

The Republican Party of Iowa is organizing a “Stand Up 4 Freedom Rally” on Monday at 5:00 in Ottumwa’s Central Park.

Congratulations to everyone elected to the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee at the district conventions this weekend.

First district: Jean Pardee, Sue Frembgen, Michael Blackwell, Jerry Lynch, Bruce Clark and Jane Lawrence

Second district: Ebony Luensman, Judy Stevens, Melinda Jones, Norm Sterzenbach, Kory May and Al Bohanan

Third distict: Dori Rammelsberg-Dvorak, Mary Campos, Linda Olson, John McCormly, Bill Brauch and Glen Rammelsberg

Fourth district: Susan Seedorff-Keninger, Karen Pratte, Lois Jirgens, Chris Petersen, Tom Harrington and Don Ruby

Fifth district: Monica McCarthy, Penny Rosjford, Marcia Fulton, Tim Bottaro, Dennis Ryan and Dick Sokolowski

Consider this an open thread for discussing anything on your mind this weekend.

A British historian of Russia got caught hiding behind a pseudonym on Amazon in order to post nasty reviews of rival historians’ work while praising his own. One of the historians he trashed responded here. Fortunately, Bleeding Heartland has had few problems with sock-puppetry. Thanks to everyone who respects this community’s rules of engagement.

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Iowa Democrats and Republicans holding district conventions tomorrow

This weekend, activists across Iowa have a chance to hear from their party’s candidates for Congress, the Iowa legislature, and statewide offices. The Iowa Democratic Party is holding conventions in all five Congressional districts on Saturday, April 24. These events are open to the public as well as the media. In other words, you do not have to be a convention delegate or alternate to attend. Here’s a list of Democratic convention locations and some scheduled speakers:

WHAT: 1st District Convention WHEN: 10:00AM WHERE: Northeast Iowa Community College 10250 Sundown Rd. Peosta, IA SPEAKERS: Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Francis Thicke, Congressman Bruce Braley

WHAT: 2nd District Convention WHEN:11:00 AM WHERE: Fairfield Arts and Convention Center 200 North Main St. Fairfield, IA SPEAKERS: Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, Governor Chet Culver, Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Francis Thicke, Congressman Dave Loebsack, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan

WHAT: 3rd District Convention WHEN: 9:00 AM WHERE: Adventureland Inn 3200 Adventureland Dr. Altoona, IA SPEAKERS: Senator Tom Harkin, Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Francis Thicke, Congressman Leonard Boswell

WHAT: 4th District Convention WHEN: 10:00 AM WHERE: North Iowa Fairgrounds, Olson Building 3700 4th St. SW Mason City, IA SPEAKERS: Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, Candidate for Congress Bill Maske

WHAT: 5th District Convention WHEN: 9:00 AM WHERE: Atlantic Middle School 1100 Linn St. Atlantic, IA SPEAKERS: Senator Tom Harkin, Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, Candidate for Congress Matt Campbell, Candidate for Congress Mike Denklau, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan

The Republican Party of Iowa is holding conventions in the second, third and fifth districts this Saturday, and in the first and fourth districts on Saturday, May 1. (Click here for event details.) GOP conventions are open to the media but not the public.

The second and third district conventions will be well-attended because of the competitive GOP Congressional primaries. If no candidate wins at least 35 percent of the vote in the June 8 primary, district conventions will have to reconvene in June to select the nominee. Seven Republicans are running against Representative Leonard Boswell in the third district, and at least four of them are campaigning actively.

According to Republican blogger David Chung, there is “unprecedented” interest in the second district convention because of the four Republicans running against Representative Dave Loebsack. Chung writes, “For the first time in my memory, Linn County has filled [its] delegation. We have never actually had as many paid delegates as we were allotted.” Chung considers it “likely” that a second district convention will need to reconvene to select Loebsack’s opponent. Some other people following that race closely expect the contest to be decided on June 8, with only two candidates as serious contenders: Rob Gettemy and Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Gettemmy has the most cash on hand and the support of many influential Linn County Republicans as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee. The 2008 GOP nominee, Miller-Meeks, has spent the most time campaigning around the district. She has more cash on hand than either Steve Rathje or Chris Reed and is likely to do particularly well outside Linn County, where her three Republican rivals are based.

The district conventions will also elect members of the parties’ State Central Committees. Former Republican SCC member Chung is seeking that position again and expects a “massive shakeup” on the committee, because “several current members have decided not to run” again.

UPDATE: I’ve been told that Thicke will be at the fourth district convention as well, and Senate candidate Bob Krause will be at some of these conventions too, but I don’t have details.

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Derek Eadon will direct the Iowa Democratic Party's Coordinated Campaign

The Iowa Democratic Party announced today that Derek Eadon has begun working as the director for the 2010 “coordinated campaign,” the Democrats’ main voter turnout operation. From an IDP press release:

Derek will oversee the Coordinated Campaign, which will focus heavily on organizing the grassroots, from volunteer coordination to get-out the vote-programs.

“My job is to build on the organization already put into place by the Iowa Democratic Party so that Democrats win here in November. I am confident we can do that and I am eager to get the Coordinated Campaign underway,” said Eadon.

Eadon is a 2006 Coordinated Campaign veteran, working as a field organizer in the Cedar Rapids area. He then became the first field organizer hired in Iowa for President Obama’s campaign, and he worked for the Obama campaign throughout the 2008 election. Prior to this, Eadon was the Iowa State Director for Organizing for America.

I wish Eadon every success in his work, and I hope this year’s coordinated campaign is as successful as the 2006 turnout operation. The Iowa Democratic Party did an excellent job that year of focusing on Democratic voters who were unreliable for off-year elections. Although the Obama campaign had an excellent field operation before the Iowa caucuses, I was critical of letting the Obama campaign take over the 2008 coordinated campaign, and I felt the down-ticket gains weren’t as strong as they could have been. (I wasn’t alone.) I do credit the Obama campaign for its focus on early voting in 2008; that saved several Democratic seats in the state legislature. A strong absentee ballot drive also helped Curt Hanson win last year’s special election in Iowa House district 90.

Even the best turnout operation is no substitute for having this state’s leaders deliver on issues of importance to the Democratic base. But that’s a topic for another post.

Speaking of GOTV, John Morgan argued persuasively at the Pennsylvania Progressive blog that Organizing for America is a poor substitute for the 50-state strategy the Democratic National Committee carried out under Howard Dean’s leadership.  

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Iowa political fundraising roundup

Financial reports for the end of 2009 were due with the Federal Election Commission on January 31. Here are some highlights.

The Iowa Democratic Party announced yesterday that it raised about $2.47 million across all accounts in 2009, while the Republican Party of Iowa raised $1.46 million. IDP chair Michael Kiernan said the party had met its goal of securing “the resources needed to win this November.” Details:

IDP filed $1.23 million in the state report. RPI filed $450,137 in the same report.

Filed 19 January 2010. Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

http://iowa.gov/ethics/

IDP filed $148,574 in State Party Building Fund Report. RPI filed $177,365.

Filed 28 January 2010. Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

http://iowa.gov/ethics/

IDP filed $1.09 million filed in Federal Year-End Report. RPI filed $837,406.

Filed 31 January 2010. Federal Elections Commission.

http://fec.gov

The money reported in the federal year-end report can be used to support any candidates and campaigns. The money in the state fund can be used on statewide races or Iowa House and Senate races. The State Party Building Fund money can’t be used on candidates or campaigns, but only on expenses for the building where the party headquarters is located (such as equipment or maintenance).

The Iowa GOP responded that it entered 2010 with about $100,000 more cash on hand than Iowa Democrats, but I don’t know whether its cash is in restricted or unrestricted accounts. (UPDATE: The Iowa Democratic Party disputes this claim. Adding the amounts from all three reports filed, the IDP has $449,334.94 on hand, while “RPI has $265,281.06 on hand between all three reports filed.”)

As for the federal races, Senator Chuck Grassley raised about $810,000 in the fourth quarter of 2009, spent about $156,000 and ended the year with about $5 million cash on hand. That’s about ten times as much as Democrat Roxanne Conlin has on hand for her campaign. Democrats Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen reported approximately $3,500 and $400 on hand, respectively.

IowaPolitics.com posted numbers for the Congressional candidates here. I was most interested in the numbers from the second and third districts. In IA-02, two-term incumbent Dave Loebsack raised $94,479 in the fourth quarter, spent $36,572 and ended the year with $336,311 cash on hand.

Surprisingly, Steve Rathje led the money race on the Republican side, raising $59,130 in the fourth quarter, spending $12,648 and ending with $46,242 cash on hand. The 2008 GOP nominee, Mariannnette Miller-Meeks, raised $20,660 (including $4,000 she gave herself), spent $39 and had $20,620 on hand. IowaPolitics.com didn’t mention numbers for Chris Reed, but The Iowa Republican blog reported that Reed raised “a miniscule $2,833.75 in the last quarter of 2009,” ending the year with “just over $2000 cash on hand.”

In the third district, seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell raised $169,377 in the fourth quarter, spent $50,643 and had $462,193 cash on hand. Most of his money came from political action committee contributions.

Jim Gibbons led the crowded Republican field, thanks to support from heavy-hitters like Bruce Rastetter as well as a number of political action committees. Gibbons raised $207,310, spent $2,240 and ended the year with $205,069 on hand and $2,686 in debts owed. Craig Robinson of the Iowa Republican blog is ready to declare victory for Gibbons in the primary already, based on these numbers. However, Bleeding Heartland user mirage (a supporter of State Senator Brad Zaun) noted in the same thread, “About $51,000 of Gibbons funds will be restricted (meaning they can’t be used against Zaun in a primary), and about $130,000 came from outside the 3rd district.”

Speaking of Zaun, he raised $30,600, spent $93 and ended 2009 with $30,507 on hand. Presumably he has raised more money since January 1, because he made a television ad buy last week. But as Robinson noted triumphantly, “Even if [Dave] Funk or Zaun raised $1000 everyday between now and the primary, they still wouldn’t match what Gibbons currently has in his campaign account.”

Funk, the IA-03 candidate favored by the Tea Party crowd, raised $22,685 in the fourth quarter, spent $19,553 and ended the year with $16,507 on hand. According to mirage, much of Funk’s remaining money is restricted for use after the primary. I don’t think he’ll be needing that.

Mark Rees, who is running as a more moderate Republican, raised $3,100 and loaned his own campaign $52,647. He spent $3,247 and ended the year with $52,500 and $52,647 in debts owed to himself. I don’t know how much of a moderate GOP base is left in the Des Moines suburbs, but if conservatives divide their support among three or four candidates, Rees could slip through.

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