Schultz snubbed as own county auditor backs Mauro

Matt Schultz, the not-very-informed Republican who wants to be Iowa's chief elections officer, has been on a tear lately. Last week he launched the Stop Mauro website, which publishes new allegations almost daily about Secretary of State Mike Mauro's supposedly nefarious doings. A common thread in Schultz's rhetoric, dating from the Republican primary campaign, is that Mauro engages in Chicago-style politics, which have no place in Iowa.

On October 1 Schultz slammed Mauro for filming public-service announcements regarding new voting technology for the visually impaired. Radio Iowa's Kay Henderson covered Schultz's joint press conference with Republican state treasurer candidate Dave Jamison. Mauro's office responded as well. There is an obvious public interest in educating Iowans about new voting equipment during election season. Mauro appears in the commercial, but so do a Republican county auditor and the president of the Iowa Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. More details on the production, funding and script of the ad are here.

Schultz's attention-getting press conference seems to have backfired. On Monday two more Republican county auditors joined the crowd supporting Mauro for re-election. One of the new endorsers was Marilyn Jo Drake of Pottawattamie County. Schultz is well-known there, having served on the Council Bluffs City Council since 2005. But Drake said in a statement, "I'm proud to support Michael Mauro as he seeks a second term as Secretary of State. Michael Mauro has been a strong and effective partner with county auditors across Iowa. I encourage all Iowans to vote for him this fall."

Elected county officials rarely back statewide candidates from the other party. Schultz doesn't have the experience to do this job, and his unfounded claims don't inspire confidence from the county auditors who work with the Secretary of State's office.

Jamison's complaints about State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald are no more convincing. Jamison claims "taxpayers" are funding television, radio and newspaper ads featuring Fitzgerald. The ads publicize the College Savings Iowa 529 plan and the "Great Iowa Treasure Hunt," which encourages Iowans to retrieve unclaimed property from the state. Deputy State Treasurer Karen Austin told me that unclaimed property finances the publicity for the treasure hunt, which state law requires twice a year. Those ads typically appear in May and September. The state's general fund budget doesn't pay for the college savings fund commercials either; those are funded by the 529 plan's assets. Austin told Kay Henderson that many states including Iowa normally promote college savings in September. Jamison accused Fitzgerald of using public funds to promote himself, but

Austin says, "The way that we look at it, is having a state office that does this adds credibility to the program, and that is one thing that gives people comfort in understanding and knowing who is promoting this program, and why should I invest in this program and is that state tax benefit legitimate. So we have always felt that it is very important to make sure that people understand what this program is."

Similarly, Schultz claimed the commercials on voting technology could have been produced without featuring Mauro. Guess what? Incumbents have some natural advantages in politics--like when Republican office-holders use taxpayer money to fund visits to all 99 Iowa counties every year.

Share any thoughts about the secretary of state or state treasurer races in this thread.

P.S. One point on the Stop Mauro site deserves additional comment. Schultz says Mauro "snubs the law," citing a 2008 Polk County district court ruling. The court determined that Mauro violated Iowa's official English law by providing and accepting voter registration forms printed in other languages. Legal scholars Evan Seite and Michael Zuckerman have analyzed this case in detail, and the issues at hand are more complicated than Schultz implies. In fact, the judge who wrote the King v Mauro opinion "suggested that the federal Voting Rights Act [...] might require Iowa's use of non-English voter registration forms" under an exception allowing for "language usage required by or necessary to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States." If plaintiffs ever challenge the Iowa English Language Reaffirmation Act in federal court, Mauro's actions may be vindicated. Zuckerman argues that English-only laws are constitutionally vulnerable as applied to voting.  

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