Merlin Bartz is an Iowa State Senator who carries around an unusual picture of his opponent, State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm. The photo is a life-size legless paper doll. At public events he sets his creepy companion in a chair next to him. If Senator Wilhelm arrives at the event, she has to move it so she can sit down.
What message do you think this sends to Iowans? To women? To Senator Wilhelm?
There is more below the fold.
I have been in a room with Merlin Bartz and his creepy paper doll, and it made me angry. This is the most profoundly disrespectful thing that I have ever seen a politician do to a female opponent. I think the message to Mary Jo Wilhelm is this:
I have no respect for you or for women generally. To me, you are a two-dimensional cartoon, and deserve ridicule for your efforts to get reelected against the awesomeness that is Moi.
My message to Iowa women voters in Iowa Senate District 26 is that if you vote for Bartz, you should not expect him to respect you, your dignity, your privacy, your autonomy, or your constitutional right to reproductive choice. It isn't just his poor taste in campaign stunts. His voting record backs this up. He has supported every reactionary piece of wedge social issue legislation that the Iowa House concocted in the last session. He is also no friend to teachers, who are mostly women.
Merlin Bartz represents a point of view about women that is shared by too many in his party. During this election, the hits just keep coming. There are the outrageous statements that have fallen, like snakes and toads in the fairy tale, from the lips of Rick Santorum, Todd Akin, Foster Friess, Rush Limbaugh and so many others. There are all the bills to deny access to abortion, including women raped by their fellow soldiers, and Republicans in the Iowa legislature have tried to pass all sorts of bad ideas on that front. There are the efforts by Governor Ultrasound and others to force women to submit to humiliating and painful probing. There is the Violence Against Women Act being held hostage, and opposition to the Lily Ledbetter law. There is the notion that the religious beliefs of Catholic bishops trump women's access to reproductive health care, including contraception--something even most Catholic women do not support. There is the Republican jihad against Planned Parenthood. These things portray a view that women are to be controlled, treated as less than full citizens, disrespected.
Politicians who engage in or tolerate the kind of disrespect evident in the photos in this diary need to be named and shamed.
Desmoinesdem has a good background diary on this race, which pits two senators against each other because of redistricting. She includes the tale of Bartz suing his neighbors to pay for a fence that Bartz wanted to put up, then bleating about it at stupefying length on WHO radio.
In addition, Bartz serves on the Administrative Rules Review Committee, made up of Iowa House and Senate members. He's a typical example of why I refer to the ARRC as the place "where good rules go to die." This year Bartz was in the majority when the ARRC delayed a proposed ban on lead shot for dove hunting. Last year Bartz spearheaded an unsuccessful effort to ditch the most important Iowa water quality rules adopted in the last decade.
During the spring of 2009, Bartz was one of the Iowa Senate's most outspoken critics of the Iowa Supreme Court's marriage ruling in Varnum v Brien. He used his official Iowa Senate website to promote a petition drive urging county recorders not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Bartz even tried to amend Iowa law to protect county recorders who refused to issue a particular marriage license "as a matter of conscience."
The persuasion campaign failed to win over any Iowa county recorders, but Bartz has remained "vigilant" (his word) against any state agency rule that extends new benefits to same-sex couples. In May 2010, that meant taking a stand against letting gay couples pitch more than one tent at a campsite.
Whereas Wilhelm rarely grabs the spotlight, Bartz comes across as one of Iowa's more publicity-hungry legislators. Lately his legal dispute with two neighbors has been making news in northern Iowa. His failure to resolve this matter quietly is baffling.
Mary Jo's record is one of strong support for education, veterans, the elderly and the vulnerable. She brought twelve years of experience on the Howard County Board of Supervisors to the Iowa Senate, which is the kind of gritty work with local government that helps you understand what the real problems are in the small towns and rural areas that make up her district. She is a kind and lovely person, and works very hard at the legislature while keeping her real estate appraisal business afloat. Here is what she has to put up with.
Floyd County Farm Bureau, before Senator Wilhelm arrived:
(Photo courtesy of Charles City Press) They're all smiles, including Brian Quirk, in the orange shirt, who was until recently a member of ALEC, and the only Democrat in the Iowa legislature to have that dubious distinction. He needs a primary, but that's a 2014 diary. The other candidate is Some Dude named David Kraft who is running against Quirk on a petition.
Oh look! Something is in her chair. Hilarious. To add insult to injury, she has to move it herself.
Another forum, Osage, Iowa. (Does the Senator get dressed in the dark? Hardly anyone ever writes about male sartorial disasters, but this photo is such a target-rich environment.) (Photo courtesy of Charles City Press.)
Lake Mills, Iowa, which is not even in the new district:
There were five other candidates on that stage, plus a moderator, and no one spoke up to say that maybe Senator Bartz was behaving in a way that reflected badly on all of them. Do they have wives, sisters, daughters? What were they thinking? Hello. This is not OK, even in rural Iowa. They are: Josh Byrnes (R)(incumbent) House District 51; Tedd Gassman (R) and John Wittneben (D)(incumbent) House District 7; Bob Jennings (D) and Dennis Guth (R), Senate District 7, open seat.
On the night of the Lake Mills forum, Bartz implied that Wilhelm was not there because she is too chicken to debate. In fact she has debated him, most recently in Osage before a packed community auditorium lobby, where he struggled to suppress his contempt for her as she spoke from the heart about wanting to help people solve problems. (His from-the-heart moment was devoted to cutting commercial property taxes, but I digress.) When you are less than a month from an election, there are too many places to be, and not enough time to go to all of them, in a district that is more than a two-hour drive from east to west.
So where was Senator Wilhelm on that night? She was participating in a 5K run to support a domestic violence resource center in Postville. Mary Jo Wilhelm cares about women. She will never make war on them. Women can count on her to speak up for their concerns in the Iowa Senate. Women can count on Merlin Bartz to speak up for the corporate interests that finance his campaigns, and against their autonomy in the doctor's office, the classroom, and the workplace.
Iowa is one state senate seat away from being Wisconsin, in that we have a Republican governor, and a Republican House, and the Senate Democrats have one seat securing their majority. I do not want Iowa to go through what the Badgers have been subjected to in the last two years, which is why I have been door-knocking for Mary Jo Wilhelm.
I have also been talking to women about Christie Vilsack, who is trying to unseat the execrable Steve King. The word I hear most often about King from women is "scary." But Bartz is scary too, although less well-known. Women who are familiar with him tend to roll their eyes when his name is mentioned.
While all eyes are on the Presidential race, and Congress has been unable to pass much legislation, it is in the state legislatures that some of the most vicious battles have been going on, to protect women, consumers, ratepayers, teachers, public employees, and vulnerable citizens of all ages. That is why an obscure Senate race in northeast Iowa is important, not just to women, but to everyone who lives in the state.
Guys like Merlin Bartz are the GOP farm team, and the party is pulling out the stops for their candidates. I get at least one call a day from Crossroads GPS or some other right-wing group, attacking Mary Jo and other Democrats. The ads are a blur on TV and radio here. His website is sponsored by a PAC that appears to be funded by the CEO of a New York hedge fund, or at least has the same name. The Republicans in this state are seemingly awash in money. If they regain the state senate, there will be no impediments to their radical agenda of corporate welfare, deregulation, and cuts for everything else. And Merlin Bartz, a seemingly ambitious man, will be a step closer to running for Congress or governor.
Cross-posted at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/10/15/1142986/-Hello-Dolly-The-War-on-Women-Iowa-Edition