Iowa Senate district 30 campaign update

Last time Bleeding Heartland discussed the Iowa Senate district 30 race, two-term Democratic incumbent Jeff Danielson and his Republican challenger Matt Reisetter had just launched their first television commercials in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area. Both candidates have followed up with advertising that I’ve enclosed after the jump.

I applaud the openness of both campaigns in Senate district 30. Most of the Iowa House and Senate radio and television commercials from last cycle were never uploaded to YouTube, and I expect the same lack of transparency this year.

As for content, Reisetter’s third tv ad includes one of the most ludicrous interpretations of an Iowa legislative vote since the infamous “heated sidewalks” of 2010.

Background: Iowa Senate district 30 covers Cedar Falls, parts of Waterloo, Hudson, and some rural areas in Black Hawk County. Click here to view a detailed map and short bios of Danielson and Reisetter (rhymes with “Easter”).

As of October 1, Senate district 30 contained 12,610 registered Democrats, 13,279 Republicans, and 17,146 no-party voters, according to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

Reisetter’s opening television commercial had the look and feel of a positive ad, but implicitly attacked current legislators (“Our politicians can’t keep spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need”).

Reisetter’s second commercial focused on a promise to “fund UNI fairly.” The University of Northern Iowa is a dominant presence in Cedar Falls and the city’s largest employer. This spot went up during the last week of September.

My transcript:

Reisetter speaks to camera: Of Iowa’s three state universities, UNI is penalized in state funding, because we have more Iowa students than the other two schools. I’m Matt Reisetter. [Reisetter is standing outdoors with a large, wooden children’s play set behind him; ominous music plays in background]

Reisetter’s voice continues: We shouldn’t punish UNI and the entire Cedar Valley simply because we educate more of Iowa’s own students. [more upbeat music plays in background, viewer sees photo of Reisetter walking and holding hands with wife and three young children; the family members are wearing t-shirts with UNI logos]

Reisetter speaks to camera again: Send me to the Iowa Senate and I’ll be a strong voice for making sure that UNI is treated fairly. [Reisetter is standing in front of the swing set again; words on screen Treat UNI fairly and MATT REISETTER IOWA SENATE in purple and gold, the UNI colors]

Male voice-over: Matt Reisetter: a champion for our community. Let’s put common sense to work for us. Matt Reisetter for Iowa Senate. [large logo MATT REISETTER IOWA SENATE is on screen; colors change from red, white, and blue, to UNI purple and gold.]

This ad has good visuals and a simple message. Although he’s only talking about funding for UNI, I think the image of the play set was designed to make viewers feel Reisetter is sensitive to young children’s needs too. (Left unsaid is that Republicans would abolish Iowa’s voluntary public preschool program if they gained control of the Senate and kept their Iowa House majority.)

Reisetter also emphasized fair funding for UNI and strong public schools as well as smaller government in a video his campaign prepared for local tv station KWWL (Channel 7).

Reality check: during the last two Iowa legislative sessions, the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate consistently pushed for more higher education funding than Iowa House Republicans initially approved. The final deal on the state budget for fiscal year 2013 contained more money for UNI thanks to the efforts of Senate negotiators. The Iowa House voted for a budget that cut UNI funding by $3 million, while Senate Democrats approved an $8 million increase for UNI. The final deal included a $6 million increase in UNI funding.

It’s extremely unlikely that Reisetter could be an effective advocate for UNI funding, especially in a Republican-controlled Senate. Iowa’s tax revenues have exceeded projections in recent months, but GOP leaders from Governor Terry Branstad on down don’t want to spend the extra revenue on education or other state government services. Instead, they will roll out more tax cut proposals, which will disproportionately benefit corporations and higher-income individuals.

The Iowa Democratic Party and President Barack Obama’s campaign have pushed early voting hard in the UNI community. First Lady Michelle Obama headlined a rally in Cedar Falls on September 28. Danielson has to hope that 1) a lot of students voted already, and 2) they voted for Democrats all the way down the ballot.

Reisetter’s latest tv ad is a doozy. He rolled out “What’s Next?!” on October 10.

My transcript:

Reisetter speaking to camera: Do you ever feel like government has no limits? I’m Matt Reisetter. [Reisetter looks directly at camera; he’s outside with an American flag flying in the background and the words MATT REISETTER IOWA SENATE on screen]

Reisetter’s voice continues: A few state senators tried to pass a law which would mandate cameras on family farms 24/7 [photo of a farm family (husband, wife and two young boys) leaning against a truck, with farm equipment in background; words on screen Government Cameras on Family Farms]

and broadcast it on the internet. [photo of farm buildings, including old-fashioned red barn; words on screen Broadcast on Internet Required, sound of livestock in background]

Reisetter on camera again: What’s next? Government cameras in barbershops and bookstores? [Reisetter chuckles]

Senator Danielson was one of the eight senators who voted for this Orwellian law. The other 42 had the good sense to vote no. [view of page from a Senate Journal, showing roll call vote with 8 “yeas” and 42 “nays”; Danielson’s name is circled in red as a yes vote; a graphic shows a short red bar labeled “8 Yes” and a much taller red bar labeled “42 No”]

Reisetter back on screen, speaking to camera: We have enough government. Send me to the Iowa Senate, and I’ll protect your privacy. [American flag flies in background, logo MATT REISETTER IOWA SENATE is next to candidate]

The first time I heard this ad, I knew eight senators could not really have “tried to pass” an “Orwellian” law to broadcast mandatory video from family farms on the internet.

Bless his heart, Reisetter included a close-up view of the Senate roll call, so I could see that his ad refers to a vote on amendment S-5030 to amendment S-5004, the Senate’s version of House File 589.

House File 589 is better known as the “ag gag” bill, which created a new crime called “Agricultural production facility fraud.” The intent was to deter employees from reporting cases of animal cruelty at agricultural facilities. The full text of the law is here.

The amendment featured in Reisetter’s ad includes this language:

An owner of an agricultural production facility shall at the owner’s expense, install video monitoring equipment to record activities twenty-four hours per day throughout all interior and exterior areas of the facility. On the first day of each month, the owner shall release all recordings to the department  of agriculture and land stewardship, which shall make the recordings available to the public via an internet site or other similarly accessible format.

Folks, this is a classic example of a “poison pill,” an amendment “that considerably weakens the bill’s intended effect, or ruins the bill’s chances of passing.”

The Democrats who voted for this amendment weren’t trying to impose big government cameras on family farmers. They were trying to derail House File 589. Perhaps they were also poking a little fun at industry advocates, who make animal rights activists out to be a huge security problem for Iowa farmers.

Yesterday I called Democratic State Senator Matt McCoy, who introduced amendment S-5030. He explained the concept as follows: “We were told by producers that they were concerned about trespassing and bioterrorism” on their property. So, why not do what is standard procedure at banks, installing video surveillance to “protect the businesses and their employees”? McCoy went on to acknowledge that it was a poison pill amendment. He was one of the Senate’s most vocal opponents of the ag gag bill, saying during the floor debate that House File 589 would “chill the whistleblowers” and “give immunity to big agriculture so they can do whatever they please.”

Danielson deserves credit for voting against the ag gag bill and supporting amendments designed to keep it from passing.

Unfortunately, I fear that the average viewer of this tv ad may take Reisetter’s claims at face value. I heard from several Iowa House Democrats in 2010 that voters believed the bogus “heated sidewalks” propaganda.

Danielson’s first tv ad invoked the theme of working together. His second commercial, which went up on October 2, sticks to this message. It features several constituents who explain why Danielson has earned their vote for another term.

My transcript:

Danielson speaks to camera: I’m Jeff Danielson, and I approved this message because the enduring values of responsibility, opportunity, and community make us stronger together. [DANIELSON IOWA SENATE logo is near bottom of screen, along with words RESPONSIBILITY OPPORTUNITY COMMUNITY STRONGER TOGETHER]

Gretchen Behm speaks to off-camera interviewer: Jeff Danielson has earned my vote as a small business owner, because he’s a fiscally responsible decision maker, and, as a small business owner, that means a lot to me. [DANIELSON IOWA SENATE logo is near bottom of screen, also words Gretchen Behm Main Street Small Business Owner; words RESPONSIBILITY Balanced Budgets appear in upper right as she speaks]

Kristin Teig Torres speaks to off-camera interviewer: Jeff knows opportunity begins with a good education. He’s earned my vote because he stood up for our kids and their future. [DANIELSON IOWA SENATE logo is near bottom of screen, also words Kristin Teig Torres Cedar Falls Mom of Two; words OPPORTUNITY Investing in Education appear in upper left as she speaks]

Frank Magsamen speaks to off-camera interviewer: Senator Danielson sees the big picture, and he has a deep sense of community. [DANIELSON IOWA SENATE logo is near bottom of screen, also words Frank Magsamen Black Hawk County Supervisor; words COMMUNITY Working Together appear in upper right as he speaks]

[At end of commercial, viewer seeks larger DANIELSON IOWA SENATE logo, with words Responsibility Opportunity Community STRONGER TOGETHER and on screen]

Here’s my transcript of the video Danielson submitted to KWWL TV.

Hello, I’m Jeff Danielson, and it’s been an honor to serve as your state senator. I believe in the enduring values of responsibility, opportunity, and community.

Responsibility from all means each of us has to do our part as individuals, and elected officials have to be fiscally responsible.

Opportunity for all means an economy that works for everyone. It also means investing in education, so Iowans have the tools to succeed.

A community of all means solving our challenges by working together. We’ve got to roll up our sleeves and work on common-sense solutions for the common good. A balanced budget without raising taxes, fully funding education, creating good jobs, ensuring economic security for our senior citizens who’ve earned it, and taking care of our veterans are all possible as long as we’re guided by the values of responsibility, opportunity, and community. I’m asking for your vote so we can achieve them together. Thank you for listening.

Senate Democrats have been fiscally responsible. Iowa’s reserve accounts are full now; there was no need to cut state services as deeply as House Republicans attempted to do in 2011 and 2012. I just hope voters will believe that and not Reisetter’s rhetoric about government “spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need.”

Any comments about this campaign are welcome in this thread. Both Democrats and Republicans describe Senate district 30 as a tossup race.

UPDATE: Neither candidate has emphasized social issues in the campaign, but at recent candidate forums Reisetter affirmed his support for a “personhood” amendment banning abortion. Danielson backs “women’s reproductive rights and the ability of them to make their own health care choices.”

Reisetter said at the same candidate forums that he supports a constitutional amendment to restrict marriage rights to heterosexual couples. However, he declined to confirm whether he will vote against retaining Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins. Who does he think he’s kidding? Before running for the state Senate, Reisetter spent years working for the Iowa Family Policy Center and the FAMiLY Leader. He was deeply involved in the 2010 campaign against retaining three Iowa Supreme Court justices.

About the Author(s)


  • Agreed

    Putting your commercials on YouTube may open you up to more scrutiny, but the people who typically criticize your ads may not vote for you anyway.  The process of putting the videos may inspire donors and volunteers across the state.