Since the last time I posted about the Republican primary in Iowa's second Congressional district, the four candidates seeking the chance to get beaten by two-term Representative Dave Loebsack have been busy.
Lots of recent news about Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Rob Gettemy, Steve Rathje and Christopher Reed can be found after the jump.
Miller-Meeks began this race as the front-runner, having strong name recognition as the 2008 Republican nominee against Loebsack. She is also the only candidate with a natural base outside Linn County (Cedar Rapids area). However, her opponents, especially Rathje, have been citing Loebsack's big margin of victory in 2008 as a reason for Republicans to nominate someone new. I don't think anyone in the current Republican field could win a district with a partisan lean of D+7, but Miller-Meeks' rivals have claimed that they would provide a stronger contrast with the incumbent.
Although she raised a decent amount of money for the current campaign, Miller-Meeks gambled by not running any television commercials before the primary. Rathje and Gettemy started advertising on tv about a month ago, and even Reed put up an ad during the last days before the primary. If Miller-Meeks wins tonight, she will look like a master strategist. If she loses narrowly, many will second-guess her decision not to purchase some tv air time.
Miller-Meeks has mostly stayed positive in her campaign message, but one of her former volunteers, Jeff Patch, has made news by attacking Rathje and Gettemy via blog posts and YouTube videos for the so-called "Coalition for Iowa Values." The first video, which misleadingly implied Rathje is pro-choice, provoked an angry reaction from Rathje, who says he is against abortion in all cases except "when the life of the mother is in peril, where she cannot physically survive the birth." Rathje's campaign suggested that Miller-Meeks was behind the attack video.
Patch insists that his work hasn't been coordinated with the Miller-Meeks campaign, adding, "If Rathje can't handle criticism of his campaign by a Republican activist, how is he planning on dealing with Democrats in Congress? You're not running for student council, Steve. Man up."
The Miller-Meeks campaign responded to that flap:
Primary opponent Steve Rathje's complaints about being criticized in a new YouTube video "baseless, hypersensitive and hypocritical," GOP congressional candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks' campaign manager said today.
"Mr. Rathje needs to switch to decaf. Our campaign has nothing to do with any YouTube attacks referenced in his press release. Unlike Mr. Rathje, our campaign hasn't violated Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment by running attack ads like the one his desperate campaign is currently airing against Dr. Miller-Meeks. If his complaints about negative campaigning are sincere, he ought to take down that ad today," Tracie Gibler said.
She continued, "Dr. Miller-Meeks is the subject of anonymous, false smears every day, but the difference is she doesn't have a knee-jerk reaction in which she starts irrationally blaming other candidates the way Mr. Rathje has today in his baseless, hypersensitive and hypocritical complaint. While we are sympathetic to anyone whose record is misrepresented, we recognize this is politics - we brush it off and keep going. The bottom-line: If Mr. Rathje isn't tough enough to handle criticism and the pressures of a heated political campaign, he has no business running against Dave Loebsack in the general election.
Gibler noted Rathje's complaints may be simply an attempt to deflect attention from his anemic fundraising efforts or a blistering criticism he received in the Iowa City Press Citizen's endorsement of Miller-Meeks.
"We raised nearly double the amount of money as Mr. Rathje during the most recent fundraising period and have received the endorsement today of the Iowa City Press-Citizen. The newspaper's conclusion is that Dr. Miller-Meeks is the Republican candidate best 'able to ride this election cycle's anti-incumbent wave and give [Democrat Dave] Loebsack a run for his money.' The same piece stated that if Rathje's economic plans are enacted, the 'country probably will be in worse condition.' Perhaps that's why Mr. Rathje is resorting to these baseless attacks."
By the way, that Press-Citizen endorsement is here. I don't know how much the backing of a liberal-leaning newspaper will help Miller-Meeks with Republican primary voters, though. The largest newspaper in IA-02, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, doesn't endorse candidates in primaries.
Patch also created a video attacking Gettemy for profiteering from the name of Jesus Christ (through his IM4JC.com business) and having a campaign fundraiser hosted by Bob Parsons, owner of GoDaddy.com. The video ridicules Gettemy's own tv ads, in which he says he will represent Iowa values because he's lived them for his whole life.
During the first big skirmish between Rathje and Miller-Meeks, Gettemy tried to position himself above the nasty bickering:
"In February, I took a long look at the candidates who were running for Congress in the 2nd District. I concluded, for a number of reasons, that none of the three could mount a serious campaign to beat Congressman Dave Loebsack. I decided to put my name on the ballot and seek the primary nomination myself. With the issues facing America so daunting, I simply couldn't' watch yet another campaign cycle go by without a serious challenger to Loebsack.
My opponent's actions over the past weeks have only reinforced my conclusion. First, we have Steve Rathje locked in what appears to be a personal 'do-over' from his contentious 2008 US Senate primary. Second, we've got a candidate in Mariannette Miller-Meeks who gives conflicting answers to different groups on the same issues. In fact, she appears to be the only one in the race who can be on three sides of a one-sided issue.
And now, we have the public acknowledgment of what many people have known for weeks. So called 'anonymous' web videos attacking every candidate except Miller-Meeks are in fact coming from a supporter of Miller-Meeks, and they have been prepared to help her floundering campaign.
These antics are the exact reason we can't attract more Republicans to our candidates, we can't beat Dave Loebsack, and we can't retake a majority in Congress.
Rathje and Miller-Meeks are in a race for the bottom, and I'd say at this point they're neck and neck and headed for a photo finish.
If we're going to beat Congressman Loebsack this November, we need to have a candidate who is focused on the issues people care about. We need to have someone who can reach out to new voters, and run a spirited campaign free from the kind of childish distractions that we're seeing out of my opponents.
I have traveled this district tirelessly for months. Voters are tired of 'politics as usual', attack videos, mudslinging, and candidates who don't focus on the issues. Voters want someone to go to Washington to change the political culture, not emulate it or become a part of it. And unfortunately, it's pretty apparent that my opponents are already part of that culture.
Republicans run the risk of splitting their vote on June 8th, ending up with a damaged candidate on the general election ballot. This will pull the entire Republican ticket down, and give us the same outcome we did in 2008: we'll lose by 20 points to Congressman Loebsack, and nothing will change.
I am prepared to run the kind of campaign that will defeat Dave Loebsack so I ask for the support of all Republicans in the primary on June 8."
However, Gettemy's campaign is said to have paid for push-poll robocalls targeting Miller-Meeks. Several commenters in this thread at The Iowa Republican blog described those phone calls, which apparently accused Miller-Meeks of taking inconsistent stands on abortion and legalizing drugs. The robocalls also hit Miller-Meeks because she supports repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I think it speaks well of the 20-year veteran that she favors allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, but I'm not a typical Republican primary voter.
This past weekend, Gettemy blasted Miller-Meeks for accepting a campaign contribution from the American Medical Association's PAC. Perhaps his campaign's internal polling numbers indicated that he needed to be more agressive in public. Whatever the reason, he put out this statement:
"According to FEC filings on June 2, 2010, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks' campaign accepted a donation of $50,000 from the American Medical Association.
While Dr. Miller-Meeks has sent out mail and made numerous statements about repealing and replacing the Loebsack- Pelosi-Obama health reform legislation, it now appears that she has accepted a significant donation from one of the major supporters of that legislation. President Obama personally thanked the AMA along with the AARP for their support in the passage of the health care reform legislation."
The AMA represents approximately 25% of the doctors in the United States, and nearly 20% of that membership is made up of medical students.
"To accept such a large donation from a group that was so instrumental in the passage of the health care reform bill that our current Congressman Dave Loebsack also supported, points out that there really is not much difference between Dr. Miller-Meeks and the current liberal Congressman.
I hope that voters in the 2nd District will see that Dr. Marianette Miller-Meeks does say one thing and then does another. Republicans in the 2nd District know they can depend upon me to be a consistent Conservative and that I am the best candidate to face the liberal Dave Loebsack in November."
It turned out that the Miller-Meeks campaign made an error on the filing, and the AMA donated $5,000 (not $50,000) to the Miller-Meeks campaign. She fired back with this statement:
OTTUMWA, Iowa - Over the last three days, Rob Gettemy has slandered Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks via push polls lying about her record on opposing gay marriage. Now, after three documented years of Miller-Meeks campaigning against government-run health care, Gettemy is trying to convince voters of the ridiculous notion that she supports it.
"For a guy who claims to have values, you can't believe a word Gettemy says. He has no record to run on, nothing positive to say about himself, and has to resort to trashing my family's good name in the last hours of this campaign to try and eke out a desperate victory. Rob Gettemy is like the old Seinfeld series, his campaign is about nothing," said Miller-Meeks. "Gettemy should apologize to voters for the ridiculously false push polls he's conducting that are actively lying to voters about my record, in particular on gay marriage and now health care. I support traditional marriage, and I was running against government-run health care before Rob Gettemy even knew it was an issue. To say that I support ObamaCare gave me a very good laugh, which is how absurd these last minute smears are."
The only thing Gettemy did get right was a donation from the American Medical Association. The Miller-Meeks campaign caught the typo on Friday evening, but federal election reports can't be amended after office hours. Therefore a donation by the AMA that was incorrectly listed as $50,000, should actually be listed as $5,000, which is also the legal limit for PAC donations. Regardless, Miller-Meeks is a doctor which is why she has earned the support of fellow doctors.
"If Mr. Gettemy wants to play guilt-by-association, he can explain why he had the owner of a company that uses commercials bordering on pornography, to be the hallmark fundraiser for his campaign last month. That doesn't sound like the values we need in Congress," said Miller-Meeks. "Voters should be on the look-out for other false attacks and lies in the remaining hours of this campaign."
Gettemy stood by his point:
Whether Dr. Miller-Meeks received $5 or $50,000 from the American Medical Association, the fact still remains that she accepted a contribution from an organization that was specifically cited and thanked publicly by President Obama for their help in the passage of the health care reform bill.
Dr. Miller-Meeks has made "repeal and replace" ObamaCare as a hallmark of her campaign in both print media and in her public appearances. You cannot campaign on the promise to repeal and replace this legislation while accepting any kind of help from the organization that along with the pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry was most responsible for its passage.
What is the difference between Mariannette and our current liberal Congressman Dave Loebsack? Apparently not as much as Mariannette would like you to believe that there is.
I am a consistent conservative and thus will provide a distinct contrast to Dave Loebsack in the November election.
A Gettemy loss tonight would be embarrassing for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which named Gettemy an "on the radar" candidate in April. However, if no one receives 35 percent of the vote today, Gettemy would still have a chance to win the nomination at a district convention, even if he hasn't won the most votes in the primary.
Most Iowa politics-watchers I've talked with expect the main competition in this race to be between Miller-Meeks and Gettemy. However, Rathje has landed some endorsements, including that of former Cedar Rapids mayor and Iowa secretary of state Paul Pate.
Christopher Reed is expected to finish behind the pack tonight, but as befits a guy best known for calling Senator Tom Harkin "the Tokyo Rose of Al-Qaeda and Middle East terrorism," Reed has the backing of some of Iowa's most out-there right-wing voices. I got a kick out of his campaign's press release yesterday:
June 7, 2010
Reed For Congress "A Man is Known by the Friends He Keeps."
Cedar Rapids, IA- Christopher Reed issued the following statement regarding endorsements he has received in his campaign for Congress to represent Iowa's 2nd Congressional District. "I have heard it said many times in my life that a man is known by the friends he has. I am honored to be able to count people such as Former Congressman Duncan Hunter, Sr., Former Congressman Tom Tancredo, Iowa State Representatives Lance Horbach, Kent Sorensen, Jason Schultz, State Senator David Hartsuch, David Beamer, Gregg Garvey, and organizations like the National Minutemen Patriots, 912 Patriots for Action, America's Independent Party and Everyday America, with Board Member Bill Salier. Their endorsements are listed below. Their support is important to me.
But my most important endorsement will be from you, the citizens of District 2 in our great state of Iowa."
That's quite a group. State Representative Kent Sorenson has said he wouldn't vote for Terry Branstad under any circumstances if Branstad becomes the GOP nominee for governor. Bill Salier managed to take a more extreme position on gay marriage than Steve King. Tancredo was King's ideological soul-mate in Congress. State Representative Jason Schultz sponsored a bill that would have prohibited Iowa Supreme Court judges from citing case law or precedent in their rulings.
Reed's television commercial doesn't take any big chances, though: just safe and generic Republican themes about needing to change how Washington works and take back our country. I haven't seen details on Reed's ad buy, but it must have been small, because his campaign had only $11,400 on hand going into the last two months of the primary race.
Share any thoughts about the IA-02 campaign in this thread.