Polls are now open in Iowa’s primary elections across the state and will close at 9 pm.
Any comments about Iowa races for Congress, state legislative, or county offices are welcome in this thread. I’ve posted lots of links after the jump to get the conversation going. I also extended the deadline for entering the primary election prediction contest.
While the big national news story tonight will be the Wisconsin recall election results, the Pat Grassley/Annette Sweeney battle in House district 50 will be one of the most closely-watched Iowa races. Grassley has a decent television commercial running, claiming that he focuses on the issues, while “my opponent has chosen to partner with a shadowy special interest group to sling mud.”
That “shadowy special interest group” is the Team Iowa PAC, associated with Sweeney’s childhood friend Bruce Rastetter (the largest Iowa Republican donor in recent years) and Nick Ryan, who also runs the American Future Fund. State Senator Sandy Greiner, who is president of the American Future Fund, is among the legislators who have endorsed Sweeney.
On May 24, the [Team Iowa] PAC ran a full-page advertisement in the Grundy Register newspaper accusing Pat Grassley of supporting a “$16.5 million boondoggle,” in reference to his vote for a tax break meant to spur development of a youth sports complex at the “Field of Dreams” movie site near Dyersville.
The vote “represents everything that is wrong with government these days,” the ad says, while noting that Sweeney “correctly” voted no on the bill.
Team Iowa also released a radio ad accusing Grassley of never having authored legislation during his three terms in the Legislature. After Grassley protested that the claim was untrue, several radio stations pulled the ad, and Grassley issued a statement linking Team Iowa to Rastetter.
The PAC doubled down on the allegation in a mailer, claiming that Grassley has written “zero bills in six years in the state legislature.”
Legislative records show Grassley was a co-sponsor on more than 30 bills in the last two years, and was the sole sponsor of at least three, including one that ultimately was passed into law.
Grassley managed to have radio stations pull one of Team Iowa PAC’s commercials, which alleged that Grassley has never written a bill during six years in the legislature. I recall Iowa radio and television stations had no problem running lots of deceptive Republican commercials during the 2010 general election campaign. If Pat Grassley didn’t have an influential grandfather, I doubt he would have been able to get Team Iowa PAC’s ad off the air.
Speaking of deceptive advertising, primary challenger Jeff Mullen published “a newspaper-style advertisement “ attacking the record of two-term GOP State Senator Pat Ward.
Brian Dumas, a spokesman for Ward’s campaign, called the latest advertisement a “desperate, last-ditch attempt from a candidate who is struggling.”
“It’s politics at its worst,” Dumas said “It’s a last-ditch attempt chock full of half truths and misleading characterizations of Pat Ward’s record.”
One article in the ad has a title that says “Left-wing Iowa Bar endorses Pat Ward.” The Iowa State Bar Association does not endorse candidates.
“Mr. Mullin’s continued efforts to deliberately mislead the public are wrong,” said the Bar Association’s president Bob Waterman. “His statements show an agenda that ignores the truth. Voters will have to decide if they will tolerate such tactics. The ISBA does not.”
Mullen said today that thousands of the papers have been distributed. He has previously denied that his ads or statements are inaccurate or misleading.
Yesterday a Clive resident filed a complaint against Mullen with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure board.
Bob Simons alerted state officials Monday that he believes the attribution on the ad that was distributed over the weekend is insufficient. The eighth page of the ad attributes the ad to Mullen’s campaign but Simons argues that it is only good for that page of the ad and that the disclaimer should have been printed multiple times.
Mullen said he believes the ad follows the letter of the law.
Mullen’s campaign has been running false and misleading radio commercials against Ward for weeks. I have been disappointed by Ward’s response. Instead of standing up to Mullen’s extremism, she cast a “me, too” vote against Medicaid funding for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or serious health concerns. She then highlighted that vote in what must be the only Iowa campaign ad ever to refer listeners to a specific page in the Senate Journal.
If Ward had real guts she would have continued to support legislative language that has been standard for 30 years and would have explained that changing that language risks losing Iowa’s federal Medicaid funding. Former Iowa House Speaker Chris Rants showed how it’s done here. Then again, it’s easier to speak bravely when you’ve retired from elective office.
Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds has publicly supported Ward in the Senate district 22 primary, prompting a stern warning to her and Governor Terry Branstad from The Iowa Republican blogger Kevin Hall.
The Marshalltown Times-Republican published a good write-up of the Senate district 36 primary between former State Senator Larry McKibben and Jane Jech, a two-time unsuccessful Iowa House candidate. Branstad recruited McKibben, and this is one of the few competitive primaries in which the governor has endorsed a candidate.
Branstad is also backing the young mayor of Carroll, Adam Schweers, in the three-way primary to represent Senate district 6. Former State Representative Rod Roberts, who is from this part of the state, is also backing Schweers. Iowa Right to Life has endorsed one of the other candidates, Mark Segebart, a longtime Crawford County supervisor. The Republican Carroll County attorney is also backing Segebart.
Bleeding Heartland user corncam discussed the Democratic primary for Johnson County auditor here. Linn County Auditor Joel Miller is facing two primary challengers. On Sunday Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Todd Dorman encouraged Democrats to stick with Miller, who has been involved in legal battles with Linn County supervisors.
UPDATE: Forgot to mention that the Republican Party of Iowa has been hearing from angry supporters of various primary challengers. Here’s an excerpt from a June 4 e-mail blast by Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker:
Many people have contacted me to voice their concern over the fact that the Republican Party of Iowa has sent out mail promoting particular GOP candidates who are in fact involved in contested primaries. Iowa Republicans are rightly concerned. Primaries are a healthy part of growing our party and solidifying our principles and should not be squelched by the party.
As I have explained to those concerned, these mailers are a product of the Republican House Majority Fund and its leadership. The mail says “Paid for by the Republican Party of Iowa.” While this is legally an extension of the Republican Party of Iowa, and this may have been a standard practice for some time in the past, Iowa Republicans are rightly concerned that their party would officially take sides in a contested primary. Imagine how it feels to a candidate who has invested time, money, and energy into their campaign to learn that their own party is openly working against them.
While party leaders and elected officials are certainly entitled to offer their endorsements as individuals to whomever they wish, it is unacceptable to do so in the name of the Republican Party of Iowa. I expect the new State Central Committee will take up this matter at its first meeting this summer. On Tuesday Iowa Republicans will decide for themselves who the party’s nominees for office shall be. After Tuesday is the time for the Iowa GOP to stand behind Republican candidates, not before the primary.
Eleven Iowa House Republican incumbents face primary challengers (not counting the Grassley/Sweeney race): Jeff Smith, Ron Jorgensen, Henry Rayhons, Tom Shaw, Greg Forristall, Cecil Dolecheck, Julian Garrett, Joel Fry, Kevin Koester, Jarad Klein, and House Majority Whip Erik Helland.