Catch-up thread on Iowa campaign news

So many campaign stories the past few days, so little time.

After the jump you’ll find lots of links about various campaigns for U.S. Senate, House, governor and state treasurer.

Representative Bruce Braley endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Roxanne Conlin on Monday at events in Davenport and Waterloo. Braley told reporters in Davenport

that he knew of no one who had worked harder at “putting people over profits.” […]

Braley and Conlin have known each other for years and also have had leadership positions at the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, now known as the American Association for Justice.

Conlin headed the national organization at one time, while Braley used to lead its Iowa chapter

Rekha Basu wrote about Conlin’s personal history and early career in her latest column for the Des Moines Register. It’s worth a read.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to give a speech tonight announcing a major increase in our military presence in Afghanistan. U.S. Senate candidate Bob Krause, who chairs the Iowa Democratic Veterans Caucus, released a strong statement on Sunday against escalating our involvement there. I recommend reading the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:

Too many Republican holdovers in the Pentagon are giving neoconservative advice and that is preventing Obama from considering a truly full range of options. […]

Given the geopolitical problems that we will create by an escalation in Afghanistan, we have to ask ourselves if a victory in Afghanistan, even if achieved, is sustainable? Perhaps it is a drifting dune in the desert? In even the most optimistic scenario, victory cannot be sustained without a long term commitment to keep troops in Central Asia. Here they will be surrounded by potentially hostile powers while years of costly nation building continues. We then play the same game that we have played in Iraq — only instead of separating the Shiites and the Sunnis — we sit on top of a tribal civil war amongst the Pashtuns. […]

The Taliban within the Pushtun tribal nation do not have a defined command structure as we understand it. The tribal structure has over sixty sub-tribes and thousands of clans. This creates a series of amorphous sympathetic alliances that are often battle and situation specific. Because they prize their homeland and are wary of outsiders, they will continue to be stirred up against the American and NATO forces for as long as the American and NATO forces are among them.

If we persist with our ramp-up, we will likely get temporary supremacy so long as we are in a particular area. But when we leave, tribal dynamics will again rule. In the meantime, our buildup and training of the Afghanistan Army — as well as the displacement of hostile fighters into Pakistan — may force Pakistan into a situation where the national leadership believes they they have to strike out.

Unfortunately, the voices that give this different assessment of reality on the ground are being drowned out.

U.S. Senate candidate Tom Fiegen wants to hold a series of debates with Conlin and Krause. (UPDATE: Fiegen claimed yesterday that his message will win the primary despite what he described as Conlin’s attempts to “strong-arm” other Democrats to endorse her.)

Mariannette Miller-Meeks toured Iowa’s second Congressional district yesterday to announce her intention to challenge two-term Representative Dave Loebsack again. The theme of her campaign is “let’s make history”:

“Let’s make history with economic policies supporting small businesses like the Quality Cobbler. End the morass of regulatory and taxation uncertainty so Larry Miller and business owners just like him can plan ahead and expand and hire,” she said. “Our economic recovery depends on a level playing field. While big banks and businesses created this crisis, it is small banks and businesses who are asked to pay for it. Entrepreneurs and new businesses won’t take risks necessary to create jobs when they are placed in a straightjacket of regulation, taxes and fees.”

Miller-Meeks said voters in the 15-county district that includes Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Muscatine, Burlington and Ottumwa also can make history by electing her to support an environmental policy that “respects our planet but doesn’t not cripple the Midwest economy by killing union and non-union jobs alike.”

“Let’s make history with health care reform that first controls and reduces cost, is affordable, portable and has universal access. We can achieve that goal with individual health plans coupled with high deductible, catastrophic health insurance would be taking the road less traveled rather than the well-worn path of failure that will add a trillion dollars to the deficit and ultimately give us less quantity and quality of health care,” she said.

She noted that the district’s voters could also make history by “electing Iowa’s first woman to Congress and reclaiming Iowa’s and the Republican Party’s wonderful heritage on women’s and minority rights.”

“The conservative values of strengthening families, encouraging men to be true, active fathers to their children and empowering women to respect themselves can be advanced by a woman, even one with a hyphenated name,” Miller-Meeks said. “We can make history electing a conservative woman who understands that valuing life doesn’t devalue women.”

Loebsack defeated Miller-Meeks last year by 57 percent to 39 percent. I have trouble seeing how Republicans can pick up this seat even if next year’s political environment is very bad for Democrats. But Miller-Meeks can raise enough money to run a credible campaign, assuming she defeats Christopher Reed and Steve Rathje in the second district Republican primary.

Reed was Twittering up a storm yesterday about his bold-color conservatism. His argument for the primary seems to be, “The only way to win in 2010 is offer a difference between our GOP candidates and the current Dem incumbants.” This Saturday, December 5, Reed will hold a campaign event on the Kirkwood College Campus in Cedar Rapids featuring former long-shot Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter.

In the third Congressional district, Republican candidates Jim Gibbons and Brad Zaun both have campaign websites up now, but there’s not much meat on them yet.

In the governor’s race, the right-wing Iowa Progress Project has started running a new television ad claiming that education funding is being cut “Because for three years, [Governor Chet] Culver bailed out his big labor allies and corporations and spent like there was no tomorrow. Racking up huge deficits and crippling debt when we can least afford it.” I will have more to say about this dishonest ad in a future post, but for now here’s the response from the Culver-Judge campaign:

For Immediate Release

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Shadowy Republican Group Continues to Mislead Iowans

On Sunday, the Iowa Progress Project, a conservative organization that has consistently refused to disclose its donors, began a new round of patently false attack ads.

As Governor Culver and Lt. Governor Judge confront the worst national recession in 70 years, Republicans in Iowa including the Iowa Progress Project continue to play cheap political games with Iowa’s future.

Iowans expect and deserve better.

With this new round of attacks, will the group finally disclose its donors so that Iowans know exactly who is funding these advertisements?  Is the organization simply funneling out of state and corporate money into Iowa for expensive attacks ads?  What is the Iowa Progress Project hiding and why have they refused to disclose the names up to this point?

We challenge those who hide behind these irresponsible ads to make themselves known and provide the same type of transparency required of all Iowa candidates, political parties, and other political organizations.  The Iowa Progress Project should immediately provide a list of their donors.

While Iowans wait on their response, here are the facts:

Iowa’s budget is balanced and has been every year Governor Culver has been in office

Unlike past governors, Governor Culver refused to raise taxes on Iowans.  As revenues declined throughout the country, he instead ordered a 10% across the board cut in state spending including his own salary.  

This month, the Pew Center on the States released a study placing Iowa in a tie for second place among all states for its fiscal strength.

Citing Governor Culver’s strong fiscal management, Standard and Poor’s, the leading independent credit analysis provider, re-affirmed Iowa’s AAA bond rating.  Iowa is one of only 11 states in the nation to receive such a rating, which is S & P’s top possible rating and allows us to borrow money at lower interest rates.

Governor Culver and Lt. Governor Judge have made significant investments in Iowa’s educational system.  By next year, 90% of Iowa’s children will have access to pre-school programs which is up from 5% when Governor Culver took office in 2007.  Moreover, the Culver/Judge Administration increased teacher pay to keep the best educators here in Iowa.

Despite the recent report by the Pew Center on the States, which placed Iowa in the group of states “least like California” in terms of budget problems, I don’t expect any Republican to acknowledge that Iowa’s fiscal challenges are not as bad as those facing most other states. Case in point: yesterday long-shot Republican gubernatorial candidate Rod Roberts proposed a constitutional amendment to limit state spending to 99 percent of projected state revenues. He promised not to sign any budget that spent beyond that level if elected governor. Does Roberts think Iowa would be in better fiscal shape if we had turned down federal stimulus bill money that was intended to support state budgets?

The Des Moines Register released more results from its recent Iowa poll on Sunday. I will write more about these in a future post, but for now it’s worth noting that self-identified conservatives in Iowa support many of the spending increases that Republican candidates are trashing:

At least half of Iowans who described themselves as conservative said that five out of six areas of recent increases in government spending were justified and ought to be kept intact.

Sharply lower revenue projections this fall for the fiscal year that began in July prompted Gov. Chet Culver to order an across-the-board 10 percent cut to state spending.

But increases in teacher pay and general aid for public schools in recent years are justified and should not be eliminated, according to most Iowans and most Iowa conservatives.

Likewise, half of conservatives support keeping a renewable energy research and development program, which Culver had campaigned to establish. A majority of conservatives also support keeping the Democrat-controlled Legislature’s recent expansion of health care benefits for children and increased spending for road and bridge repair. […]

The poll, conducted Nov. 8 to 11 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 800 Iowans age 18 and older and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Even larger majorities of Iowans who describe themselves as moderate and liberal support maintaining the programs.

The only exception was expanding free access to preschool.

Fewer than 40 percent of conservatives support keeping the program, begun under Gov. Tom Vilsack and expanded under Culver.

Many Republicans Twittered about the poll’s finding that a plurality of Iowans call themselves conservatives, but before they get too excited, they should remember that even conservatives support many of the spending increases Democrats have implemented since Culver took office.

Final statewide campaign note for today: Republicans will field a candidate against State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, a 28-year incumbent who ran unopposed in 2006. The leading contender seems to be Story County Treasurer Dave Jamison, who is announcing his campaign today. Dyersville Mayor Jim Heavens announced his plans to run against Fitzgerald yesterday. The eventual Republican nominee will probably focus on the management of the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System. Earlier this year, IPERS officials terminated a contract with a California hedge fund and sought return of some $339 million in assets, which were frozen pending a federal investigation into that hedge fund. The $339 million comprises about 2 percent of IPERS assets.

The floor is yours, Bleeding Heartland readers.

UPDATE: This link is a couple of weeks old, but at least two Republicans plan to run for secretary of state next year. It’s also possible that former Secretary of State Paul Pate will get in this race. I think Mike Mauro will be re-elected without too much trouble, but this race will be worth watching.

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