Looking for leadership in West Des Moines: A case for change

Local elections are coming up this Tuesday, November 7. Julie Stauch shares her perspective on the candidates running in West Des Moines, the largest Des Moines suburb and eighth-largest city in Iowa. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Last winter, in response to the bill by Representative Jarad Klein that went after the Des Moines area water utilities, I became involved to stop that horrific piece of legislation. I went to my first Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement meeting and learned that West Des Moines was one of the suburbs where our leaders had not spoken out against the legislation. I volunteered to go to the next city council meeting and make what I thought was an easy ask – oppose this legislation.

And I learned firsthand of the dysfunction of our system of government and the deceit of our city leaders.

That led to a desperate need to find actual leaders – people who will represent the people of the city and not just themselves – which has taken me down the path of civic activist in a way that I haven’t traveled since the 1980s when we lived in Mason City. I’ve met and connected with a great group of West Des Moines residents seeking leaders who will be thoughtful, engaging and listen to all points of view.

Here are my thoughts and recommendations for West Des Moines residents. We need you to vote! Change begins here and now. Below are my assessments and recommendations on our candidates.

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Spiker takes parting shot at Branstad over medical marijuana

A few days before he will formally step down as the Republican Party of Iowa’s leader, A.J. Spiker advocated legalizing medical marijuana in a guest editorial for the Sunday Des Moines Register. Excerpts from Spiker’s column are after the jump. Framing the case for medical cannabis in terms of personal freedom, Spiker rebuked Republicans who have been unwilling to acknowledge strong arguments for allowing doctors to prescribe the drug. While he didn’t name names, his points came across as a rebuttal to Governor Terry Branstad, who would rather drag his feet on this issue.

Spiker and Branstad have clashed repeatedly, and it’s an open secret that the governor hasn’t been happy with the Iowa GOP’s priorities or fundraising since Spiker took over from Matt Strawn in early 2012. It’s shrewd for Spiker to stake a claim for medical marijuana, a position that is increasingly popular, especially with younger voters. Now his last impression as state party chair will be as a forward-thinking leader, rather than the guy who sometimes seemed to care more about Ron Paul’s Liberty movement than about electing Republicans.  

Speaking of medical marijuana, the issue was the focus of last Friday’s edition of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program. Steve Lukan, director of the governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, appeared along with West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer and State Senator Joe Bolkcom, leading advocates for legalizing medical cannabis using the New Mexico model. The video and transcript are available here. I was disappointed to see Lukan basically repeat the same talking points throughout the program, without acknowledging that many legal drugs can also be abused and may have devastating side effects for patients. Branstad didn’t search for anyone with expertise in drug policy before offering the state’s top job in this area to Lukan.

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IA-Sen: Former Reliant Energy CEO Mark Jacobs thinking about it

Nice scoop by the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble yesterday: Mark Jacobs, the former president and CEO of Reliant Energy in Texas, may seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Iowa. Jacobs moved to West Des Moines last year and recently founded an education reform advocacy group called Reaching Higher Iowa.

I’ve posted Jacobs’ short bio after the jump, along with initial thoughts on his strengths and weaknesses as a candidate.

CORRECTION: The Register’s Jennifer Jacobs was the first to report yesterday that Mark Jacobs might be a Senate candidate. In addition to other potential candidates Bleeding Heartland has discussed before (Matt Whitaker, Matt Schultz, A.J. Spiker, Joni Ernst, Rod Roberts, Bob Vander Plaats, and David Young), her piece also mentioned West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer, orthopedic surgeon Stuart Weinstein, McDonald’s franchise owner Kevin O’Brien, and business owner Ron Langston, who served “as national director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency under President George W. Bush.”

SECOND CORRECTION: I missed that The Iowa Republican speculated about Jacobs as a Senate candidate a couple of weeks ago.  

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IA-Sen: Harkin retiring (updated)

Terrible news for Iowa Democrats: Senator Tom Harkin told Tom Beaumont of the Associated Press that he will retire rather than seek re-election in 2014. Not only will there be an open seat at the top of the ticket, the Iowa Democratic Party won’t be able to count on Harkin’s millions to fund a decent coordinated GOTV campaign in a midterm election year. Even if Democrats manage to win that statewide race while Governor Terry Branstad’s also on the ballot, we will lose an Iowan in charge of a powerful Senate committee. Incoming Iowa Democratic Party Chair Tyler Olson has a difficult road ahead.

Representative Bruce Braley is likely to run for Harkin’s seat, and unless either Tom or Christie Vilsack is interested, the primary would probably be uncontested. The silver lining here is a chance to elect a woman to Congress in IA-01. Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum would be my first choice, but there are many capable Democratic women in those 20 counties.

An excerpt from Braley’s appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” this weekend is after the jump. I’ll post further updates there. UPDATE: Much more is below, including the statement from Harkin’s office.

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