Prominent attorney Roxanne Conlin spoke to the Des Moines Register on Thursday about a possible Senate bid next year:
“I never thought I’d run again,” Conlin said at her home in Des Moines. “But in my lifetime, I don’t ever want to say, ‘If only I had followed my dream or followed my heart.’ ”
“What has changed for me is Grassley.”
Conlin said she is “more likely than not” running, but first needs to iron out how she would staff a campaign and handle her law practice before making a final decision, which she expects to announce by next month.
She said she talked about running at length with state party chairman Michael Kiernan, who said last month a well-known Democrat was planning to enter the race. “I don’t know how this is going to come together, but I have reached the point where I would like to do it,” she said. […]
Conlin said Grassley’s tone on health care reform at public appearances in Iowa last summer pushed her toward running. […]
Conlin accused Grassley of being disingenuous, noting that he circulated a fundraising brochure stating he was working to defeat “Obama-care,” while continuing to participate in bipartisan negotiations.
“That’s not the Chuck Grassley I thought this state elected, and it really was a watershed moment for me,” Conlin said.
Conlin was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1982, the first year Terry Branstad was elected. Before that, she ran the civil rights division of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office and was the U.S. attorney for the southern district of Iowa.
She’s been a highly successful plaintiff’s attorney since 1983 and was the first woman president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. In addition,
She founded and was the first chair of the Iowa Women’s Political caucus, and was president and general counsel of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. Most recently, she has been named by the National Law Journal as one of the fifty most influential women lawyers in America, one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America and one of the top 10 litigators.
If Conlin runs, she will be a lightning rod for attacks from Republicans and corporate-funded political organizations. On the plus side, she is a powerful public speaker and may be able to drive up turnout, especially among women voters. She will also be able to raise more than enough money to run a serious campaign against Grassley. Earlier this month, Research 2000 found Grassley leading Conlin by 51 percent to 39 percent among Iowa voters.
What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?
UPDATE: Declared candidates Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause don’t think Conlin will play well outside Polk County:
Krause called the speculation about Conlin being the mystery candidate promised by Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan as political theater.
“It’s easy to play political games in Des Moines that might not play as well around the state,” he said.
A key to defeating Grassley, who has rolled up more than 60 percent of the vote in winning re-election four times, is a candidate who appeals to voters outside Polk County, Iowa State University political scientist Steffen Schmidt said.
“Polk County is a nice place, but you have to have someone who can connect other places,” he said.
The folks in “other places” aren’t all that excited about her, Fiegen said late Thursday while driving home from meeting with Winneshiek County Democrats. A Clarence bankruptcy attorney, he said he’s logged 7,000 miles in the past month meeting with Iowans. Those discussions included rumors either Conlin or former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack might join the race.
“Frankly, they’re not that interested,” he said. While her campaign activity is impressive, “it’s yesterday’s news to many Democrats. People look at her and say, ‘been there, done that,’” a reference to her failed 1982 bid for governor.
“One analogy I heard is that she’s our party’s Doug Gross – rich, intelligent, well-connected, but can’t talk to rural Iowans,” Fiegen said. “People say she’s already proved that.”
In all fairness, Conlin didn’t lose by that much in 1982 (53 percent to 47 percent). During the Senate primary, Krause and Fiegen will need to show their road map for giving Grassley a competitive race. Iowa Democrats will decide who is the best candidate.