Previewing the Iowa secretary of state race

Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro doesn’t make the news often, but he has done very well in his first term. I particularly appreciate his support for requiring paper ballots to be used in all Iowa counties. We had several statehouse races decided by fewer than 100 votes in 2008. Imagine what an uproar we’d have seen if touchscreen voting machines had been used in those races.

Mauro’s campaign website recounts other achievements:

In 2009, Mauro worked closely with the Cerro Gordo County Auditor to make electronic poll books available for use in counties across the state. The electronic poll books will enhance Iowa precinct officials’ ability to process voters effectively and consistently on election day. In addition, the poll books add an extra layer of security to the voting process.

During the 2008 General Election, Iowa saw the fifth highest percentage turnout in the nation i and had the highest rate of young voter participation (18- to 24-year-olds) ii. Secretary Mauro’s office also took the honor of having the top elections website in the country during the 2008 election season according to a leading national election research group iii. In the fall of 2009, Iowa’s election laws and procedures implemented by Secretary Mauro gained national attention when the state ranked first in a study focusing on the ease of voting for members of the military and U.S. citizens living overseas iv. […]

Since Mauro took office, much progress has been made in the business services division. In 2009, the development of a new corporations database is paving the way for online corporate filings beyond the biennial report. Currently, the majority of business filings are done electronically and advancements for additional filings will continue.

The online business center allows business to be conducted 24-hours a day, seven days a week and currently provides access to over three million filed documents and a complete array of forms, applications, and searchable databases for businesses, lending institutions and interested citizens.

I wouldn’t care to run against that record, but some Republicans seem to think they can beat Mauro. GOP establishment figures have been trying to recruit Paul Pate for this race. Pate was elected Iowa secretary of state in the 1994 landslide. He didn’t seek re-election in 1998, running unsuccessfully for governor instead.  

Pate said in December that he was considering a run against Mauro. I thought Republican recruiters had succeeded when the Iowa Republican blog hyped a bogus poll claiming that Pate already leads the incumbent. This week Jason Hancock reported that Pate had filed papers forming a committee for a secretary of state campaign. However, Pate announced on Facebook this morning that he won’t run for secretary of state, citing “family and business demands.” (UPDATE: Apparently Pate’s parents have been having health problems.)

That leaves two declared GOP candidates for this office. George Eichhorn lost his Iowa House seat to McKinley Bailey in 2006 and finished a close second in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2008. He then co-founded an organization opposing Iowa’s public smoking ban, which never got off the ground, and unsuccessfully represented some restaurant and bar owners trying to get that smoking ban thrown out. Eichhorn announced his bid for secretary of state last month. Kathie Obradovich exposed some false and misleading statements in Eichhorn’s opening salvo, and the Iowa Progress blog also looked at his candidacy. Last week Eichhorn released a list of prominent endorsers, including Bill “wingnuttier than Steve King” Salier.

The other Republican candidate in this race is Matt Schultz, who serves on the Council Bluffs City Council. On the issues page of his website, he says he wants to streamline corporate filings, require all voters to show photo ID at polling places, and force all citizens who register to vote on election day to cast provisional ballots. Photo ID laws are generally considered to be voter suppression techniques, and there is no evidence of any problem with voter fraud by impersonating someone at a polling place.

Mauro hasn’t hit the campaign trail yet, but today he released a statement urging Iowans to participate in the Democratic and Republican caucuses this Saturday, January 23, at 1 pm. (Find your Democratic caucus site here.)

VERY LATE UPDATE, March 9, 2010: Republican Chris Sanger is also running for secretary of state.

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