IA-03: A bad week for Brad Zaun

Iowa Republicans talk a good game about winning the third Congressional district in November, but Brad Zaun faced a number of setbacks this week in his campaign against seven-term Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell.  

On Tuesday the Boswell campaign released its first radio advertisement, highlighting Zaun's opposition to biofuels subsidies. From an August 17 press release:

"There's no nonsense with me. I'll look you in the eye and tell you where I'm going to be on a vote and that's where I'll be."

- Brad Zaun, Chariton Candidate Meet and Greet, 5-25-2010

"I'll look each and every one of you in the eye and I'll tell you where I'm at and that is where I will be. My word is non-negotiable."

- Brad Zaun, Tea Party Debate in Des Moines, 5-16-2010

Des Moines - Today, the Boswell for Congress campaign released its first radio ad highlighting Congressman Leonard Boswell's record in supporting Iowa's biofuels industry and State Senator Brad Zaun's dismissal of the state's renewable energy industry and its workers. The one-minute spot includes audio of Zaun telling a Grundy County farmer that he would do "nothing" for the farmer and the biofuels industry,[1] and discusses Zaun's record of supporting tax loopholes that lead to the outsourcing of American jobs. [2]

Boswell for Congress Campaign Manager Grant Woodard released the following statement on the radio ad.

"Iowans deserve to know that Brad Zaun is on the record with his opposition to Iowa's biofuels industry which employs thousands of farmers and factory workers in the state.[3] Iowa is a leader in renewable energy and we must continue to innovate and grow this industry to create jobs in the state and move our nation toward energy independence. Brad Zaun's extreme positions are not only out of touch with Iowa values, they threaten to eliminate thousands of jobs and jeopardize Iowa's economic future. If Brad Zaun had his way, our country would continue to send hard-earned, American taxpayer dollars to the Middle East and foreign oil companies."

[1] Tea Party Debate, Des Moines Airport Holiday Inn, 5/16/2010

[2] "Vote in Congress could bring millions for schools," Des Moines Register, 8/11/2010

[3] "State Level Employment Impacts of Failure to Renew the VEETC," Study Prepared for the Renewable Fuels Association by ENTRIX, Inc., 4/7/2010

The YouTube version of the radio ad isn't working now, but I will embed it if it comes back later. UPDATE: Embed working now:

I like the way the ad ends on a positive note about Boswell, as opposed to just attacking Zaun's statements on biofuels. It's also smart for Boswell to talk about agricultural issues, because Zaun is unusually strong in Polk County for a Republican candidate. Boswell will probably need to outperform the top of the Democratic ticket in rural areas of IA-03.

Zaun crowed this week that the Iowa Farm Bureau declined to endorse Boswell for re-election. The Farm Bureau seems to be schizophrenic on Boswell; the group's PAC endorsed him in his first bid for Congress in 1996 and again in 2002, when the third district had been substantially redrawn. However, in 2004 and 2006 the Farm Bureau endorsed Boswell's Republican opponents. Then in 2008 the Farm Bureau endorsed Boswell as well as Iowa's four other U.S. House incumbents. This year the Iowa Farm Bureau hasn't endorsed any Democrats for federal offices. Zaun should be embarrassed not to have made the cut, since the group's PAC endorsed almost exclusively Republicans this year, including several GOP challengers to Democratic incumbents in the Iowa House and Senate. Zaun touts having worked in a John Deere dealership as a young man, but that's a weak response when he's on record opposing ethanol subsidies.

Boswell was able to go up on radio first, and will be able to advertise more extensively than Zaun, because he has far more campaign cash on hand. In addition, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already reserved air time to defend Boswell. This week the National Republican Congressional Committee announced that it has purchased air time in 40 House districts. Unfortunately for Zaun, IA-03 isn't one of them.

Zaun may claim that he has rethought his early opposition to ethanol subsidies, but doing so allows Boswell to portray him as a flip-flopper who lacks principles and doesn't understand the issues. That theme already seems to be emerging in this race. On August 18 the Boswell campaign issued a press release slamming Zaun over changing his position on Wal-Mart.

Des Moines - Today, the Boswell for Congress campaign released a statement on State Senator Brad Zaun's participation in a ribbon cutting ceremony for a brand new Walmart in Grimes. Senator Zaun opposed a Walmart coming to Urbandale as the city's mayor in 2005. He said, "I have been in Walmart before. I think they are a dump. Urbandale deserves better."[1]

Boswell for Congress Campaign Manager Grant Woodard released the following statement on Senator Zaun's participation:

"Senator Brad Zaun needs to start being honest with Iowans and explain why his actions and words never seem to match up. Regardless of how anyone feels about Walmart, the people of the 3rd Congressional District ought to know the truth behind Zaun's consistent flip-flopping record. This is not the first time Zaun has changed positions to fit his political needs and it certainly won't be the last. Iowans in the 3rd Congressional District deserve a Representative in Washington who will make the right decisions, even when it is not politically convenient.

I don't fault a small hardware store owner like Zaun for opposing an Urbandale Wal-Mart in 2005. As he says during his stump speech, "he and his business fell upon hard times when big box chain stores arrived to compete with him." But why is Zaun less sensitive to the concerns of local business owners who will be harmed by the Grimes Wal-Mart? Does that stuff not matter anymore now that Zaun's Hardware is no longer in business?

More bad news for Zaun arrived in the August 19 Des Moines Register, which reported on his apparent harrassment of a former girlfriend in 2001.

The police report says Zaun's former girlfriend, Michelle Condon, called police about 12:30 a.m. on April 8, 2001. Condon could not be reached for comment for this article.

The report, prepared by Officer Tricia Kubicek, says Condon said she had lived with Zaun, but had broken off their relationship about a year earlier. The report states: "Brad has not accepted the relationship being over and has called her home and cell phone and has come to her home uninvited several times within the past year."

The report recounts that Condon's cell phone rang while police were present. Condon reportedly identified Zaun's home telephone number. Condon didn't answer, but when Kubicek attempted to return the call, she did not get an answer.

Later, Condon's home phone rang. Kubicek answered it after the caller ID showed it was from Zaun's home telephone number.

"Brad stated: 'So how was Danny tonight anyway?' " the report says, making a reference to another man Condon had a relationship with. "His voice was slurred."

"I informed Brad I was a police officer and told him Michelle wished to have no further contact with him," Kubicek's report states. "I told him not to call or come over anymore. He stated he understood completely."

Zaun didn't dispute the police report's account and told Des Moines Register, "I am a human being. I never claimed to be perfect. It was a highly emotional moment and I used poor judgment." Although no charges were filed against Zaun, that unpleasant episode will turn off a lot of women voters if it becomes widely known. That's probably why Zaun tried to turn this into a story about sleazy campaign tactics when he spoke at the Iowa State Fair:

"It was a mistake I made, but I am not running from it," Zaun said. "What I think is unfortunate is that Leonard Boswell and the DNC (Democratic National Committee) wants to dig up all this dirt and not talk about the issues. He doesn't want to talk about the issues. He doesn't want to talk about the 98 percent voting record that he has had with Nancy Pelosi (the U.S. House speaker)."

Boswell spoke at the stair fair yesterday and told journalists afterward,

"That's not so. It didn't come from my campaign," Boswell said. "I was as surprised as anybody else, just as simply as that. I was surprised, and I don't have a lot of comment about it. My first thought was because I have worked on women's issues that I felt badly for the woman involved because she has to live it again. I don't like that. I think she deserves better. But as far as that goes, it is getting into personal life, and that is all I have to say about it. It did not come from me. I didn't know about it, and I had no idea."

Also on August 19, the Register reported on Zaun's previous financial problems, including "having a bank foreclose on his home twice and having money garnished by a collection agency to pay about $1,000 in medical bills for his children." That issue is less of a potential political problem for Zaun. On the contrary, his comment to the Des Moines Register suggested that he can relate to voters: "I went through a lot of financial struggles that a lot of people are going through right now in the 3rd Congressional District."

Speaking of Zaun's remarks at the fair, I expect the Boswell campaign will eventually hit him on his apparent support for means-testing Social Security benefits.

Perhaps the weak economy and "enthusiasm gap" will carry Zaun over the top in November, but the past few days weren't encouraging for him. I'm skeptical that "votes 99 percent of the time with Nancy Pelosi" is going to cut it as a campaign message against Boswell, especially if Zaun doesn't have the funds to get that message out.

Share any thoughts about the third district race in this thread.

UPDATE: Politico picked up the Des Moines Register report on August 20, so now it's part of the beltway frame of reference on this race. For that reason, I consider it even less likely that the NRCC will spend serious money on Zaun's campaign this fall.

  • Debates

    What is the debate schedule for this race?  I would like to see Leonard challenge Zaun to a couple of debates so in case independent leaning people and centrist leaning Republicans don't end up buying into the malarkey that Leonard isn't engaged on the issues.  

  • On Zaun:

    Yep. It's a pretty awful week. The good news for Zaun is it's a bad week in August and not October. Plus, the media doesn't seem to be dwelling on this debacle.

    The question that remains to be seen: If the Boz finds his back up against the wall, will he drag this back out in negative ads later on?

    • true, but

      now that Politico has picked up the story, I think it's even less likely that the NRCC will come help Zaun in October. They don't need that headache.

      I doubt Boswell will mention this in any ads, but third-party ads might mention it. Depending on how it's handled, it could hurt Zaun or even backfire on Boswell.

      I don't like that Zaun made it sound like the 2001 incident could have happened to anybody. Many of us have gone through bad breakups, but we didn't all show up uninvited at our ex's house repeatedly until the ex called the police in the middle of the night.

      I find it amusing to see Republican blog commenters whining about dirty tricks here. If this story came out about a former Democratic mayor they would be howling over the fact that the Democrat covered up the police report for nine years (and through multiple election campaigns).

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