IA-01: Rod Blum making his case against Ben Lange

Two Republicans are running against Representative Bruce Braley in Iowa’s first Congressional district. Up to now, both have focused on criticizing the incumbent, President Barack Obama, and Washington political culture.

In recent weeks, Rod Blum has started making the case against his primary rival, 2010 GOP nominee Ben Lange.

The front page of Blum’s campaign website now features this tag line prominently:

Age.  Experience.  Accomplishment.

Blum is from the same generation as Braley, and the bio page of his website describes some of the candidate’s business experience and accomplishments:

I was one of the owners of a software company that grew from 5 to 325 employees in just five years. Our payroll grew from about $100,000 a year to over $10,000,000 a year. That company went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange. As the Chief Executive Officer, I was honored to receive an Iowa Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Today I am an owner of Digital Canal Software, based in Dubuque. We develop and design and sell software for the Home Building and Structural Engineering markets worldwide.

                 • I’ve met a payroll every week for 21 YEARS.

                 • I’ve balanced a budget for 21 YEARS.

                 • I’ve created jobs in the private sector.

                 • I’ve taken risks – and sometimes failed. But I’ve NEVER expected a government bailout.

                 • I’ve had to deal, EVERY DAY, with the burdens that Washington DC puts on business.

I’m also a real estate developer. I’ve experienced, FIRSTHAND, the frustration dealing with government agencies, such as the E.P.A.  Recently my development partnership was looking at developing 100 acres of land and building around 250 homes on that land – a total investment of over $50 million.  Things were going fine until the government entered the picture. We were faced with Endangered Plant Studies, Endangered Species Studies, and Indian Artifact Studies.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was a Wetlands Mitigation Study. A small valley – that we wanted to fill in – was classified as a “wetlands” because when it rained, the valley collected water and had water runoff.  We were told that we had to purchase “offsetting man-made wetlands” in Council Bluffs Iowa. Needless to say our $50 million investment ended up being ZERO.

I was also a boys basketball coach at Dubuque Senior High School. […]

I’m also a student pilot and have written a conservative political newspaper column for the Telegraph Herald over the last ten years. So my conservative stands on the issues are well documented.

Business experience strikes me as a good card for Blum to play against Lange, a young attorney who worked as a Congressional staffer in Washington for several years before opening a private practice in Iowa.

In addition to talking about his long career before politics, Blum emphasizes on the stump that he does not aspire to spend many years in Congress. On February 17, he posted this Facebook update about his appearance at the Black Hawk County GOP meeting the previous evening:

The focus of my talk was career politicians and the culture of corruption in Washington DC. Very little will change until we stop sending people to Washington who covet a career in politics. That’s why I support term limits of 6 years in the U.S. House and 6 years in the U.S. Senate. I believe the salary of Congressional members should be the national average wage: $41,673. To read more on my thoughts about reforming Congress, click here: http://www.rodblum.com/UserFil…

I think we all know whom Blum was alluding to when he mentioned people “who covet a career in politics.” And in case that was too subtle for you, here’s Blum’s Facebook update from February 15:

Finally got the chance to speak to my hometown GOP Committee! It brought back memories when I was the Dubuque County GOP Chairman in 1995. I spoke about term limits, which I believe in. Heads were nodding when I spoke about career politicians becoming corrupt and rich on the taxpayers tab. I will limit myself to 3 terms in office. Will my opponent?

I also spoke about raising my family, accomplishing things OUTSIDE of politics and then, and only then, running for office. The people at the meeting seemed to agree that age, experience and accomplishment DO mean something.

I know I wasn’t qualified to vote on laws that impact people’s lifes when I was 32 years old.

Hey man, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence when he was just 33.

Seriously, I can’t resist noting that Blum gave $500 to Brenna Findley’s 2010 campaign for Iowa attorney general. At the time, she was 34 years old, had no litigation experience and very little legal work on her resume. She had spent most of her career as a staffer in the Iowa Senate and U.S. House. No one could say with a straight face that Findley was more qualified to be attorney general than Tom Miller. If that wasn’t a deal-breaker for Blum, why shouldn’t IA-01 Republicans support a young conservative like Lange?

His support for Findley notwithstanding, Blum doesn’t generally think much of lawyers who work in Congress. After speaking to the Marshall County GOP meeting on February 21, he posted on Facebook,

I am NOT a candidate who sticks his finger in the wind to see what he believes in. We have too many phony lawyers in Washington who will say anything and do anything to stay in power.

Although those words are not a direct attack on Lange, Blum seems to imply that an attorney would not be the best candidate against Braley, one of many “phony lawyers in Washington.”

Blum did explicitly criticize Lange in comments posted on Facebook and his campaign website on February 29:

Spent last night with great Republicans in Bremer County at mtg held in Tripoli. We spoke about the fact that this is DAY 15 that my opponent’s website doesn’t have an Issues Page. The Iowans I speak with want to know where a candidate stands on the issues – a campaign based on “I came close last time” doesn’t resonate with informed voters.

Lange officially launched his campaign on February 13, but he’d been running for months, so I am a bit surprised that his website doesn’t have an issues page yet. Maybe one of his new campaign staffers will beef up the candidate’s policy statements. Based on Lange’s press releases and Facebook updates so far, he espouses the same general philosophy as Blum and most Republican Congressional candidates (e.g. cut government spending and debt).

Mocking “a campaign based on ‘I came close last time’” is a pretty good answer to the swipe Lange took during his official campaign announcement:

Touching briefly on his 2010 race, Lange noted that he entered the race last cycle, in part, and against the odds, because nobody else would. “When everyone else laid down, I stood up,” Lange said at the event.

Blum thought about running for Congress last cycle but refrained from challenging Braley. In retrospect, that wasn’t a wise decision, but I agree with Blum that voters need a sense of what a candidate believes. Here’s the “About” section from Lange’s 2012 campaign announcement in its entirety:

About

Ben Lange challenged the liberal Democrat incumbent Bruce Braley during the 2010 midterms. As a political newcomer and, despite being outspent by Braley’s campaign committee nearly 5 to 1 in the General Election, Lange held Braley to less than 50% of the vote in the General Election and fell short by a mere 1.95% (46.52% to 48.47%). Today, Lange has established one of Iowa’s best organizational and financial campaign infrastructures. His exploratory committee reported $120,000 cash-on-hand at the end of 2011, more than any other Republican congressional challenger in the state.

Like my brothers used to say, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. 2010 was a GOP wave election. Lange’s messaging was light on substance. He needs to tell Republicans why they should give him another shot against big, bad liberal Braley. Will the primary voters be convinced by “I have more cash on hand and a larger organization”?

Delving into policy details can be a risky strategy too. Blum’s newspaper columns, speeches, and press releases could provide fodder for Lange as the June primary approaches. Highly engaged GOP activists may applaud “the unvarnished TRUTH” Blum gives them, but how would run the postal service “like a private-sector business” play in a general election?

Any comments about the IA-01 race are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- {{Bruce Braley}} isn’t really a liberal. If you don’t believe me, click that link and look at his progressive score on “crucial” (narrowly-decided, “where were you when we needed you”) Congressional votes.  

  • Can't quite place that smell

    There’s something bothering me about the way this Blum “talks”. Like a perpetually angry Tea Partier in G B Trudeau’s Doonesbury, cynical and disdainful about everyone but himself.

    That’s just my gut-feeling, a perception gotten only recently since I had never heard of Blum before the recent campaign began a couple/few weeks ago.

    As for Brayley’s purity, when the Demos of that District become bothered about that they’ll find someone more to their liking. Meanwhile, like it or lump it Brayley is what we have and he is one more body in the caucus. Nancy (and we) need every one that can be sent up there.

    • Hmm

      I see I misspelled Braley’s name.

      Am I fabricating an old-guy memory or did this blog used to have an edit capability available only to the writer of any particular comment?  

      • you can edit diaries you've posted

        but not comments. Even I can’t edit comments. No worries, a typo’s not a big deal.

        I’m not saying Democrats should primary Braley, just pointing out that many aspects of his voting record are not “liberal.”

        • Speaking of BeeBee

          Go figure – I sent the BB campaign a contribution from my internet banking, along with one to Christie and The Boz.  Christie cashed my check right away…it took The Boz three weeks to put it in his Lamoni bank.  

          Braley?  Still hadn’t cashed the check as of Thursday, dispatched 7 Feb to his Waterloo campaign hq’s.  I could not find a phone number for the campaign, so I called his Congressional office in Waterloo to see if perhaps the check got lost.  Left a message on the general line, that I was seeking contact info for the campaign office.  Later, a nice young woman from the Congressional office returned the call, and said she would get in touch with someone from the campaign office to call me back. I wasn’t going to hold my breath, and it’s a good thing, because I still haven’t gotten a call back.  It was not a huge contribution, but I guess the Braleys must be flush with cash and don’t need it.  Oh well.  

  • It's interesting

    How many primary voters even within the GOP are still willing to let an establishment candidate who’s worked in Washington D.C. slip through, it must mean that even conservative Republicans see some value in knowing your way around the halls of Congress.  

    Blum may be able to offer some interesting ideas on how to bring more companies to eastern Iowa, who knows? I am glad to see a primary.    

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