IA-03: Democrats recruiting whom? (updated)

The well-informed Shira Toeplitz reported this week at Roll Call that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee may have a challenger to ten-term Republican Representative Tom Latham in Iowa’s third Congressional district.

I figured that before too long, Democrats would float some possible candidates for IA-03 in 2014. I didn’t figure that the leading recruit would be someone I’d never heard of.

Toeplitz reported,

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee leveraged the weekend to tout a trio of potential recruits for House races in 2014. A Democratic source said the following three recruitment prospects attended the committee’s inaugural luncheon at the Italian Embassy on Jan. 21:


Businessman Michael Sherzan. Democrats are talking him up as a challenger to Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, in the 3rd District. A close ally of Speaker John A. Boehner, Latham defeated longtime Rep. Leonard Boswell, a Democrat, in the Des Moines-based district in 2012 – even though the president carried the district.

While in town, the trio met with DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, N.Y., about their potential campaigns, plus other senior Democratic members, according to the source.

Here’s what Sherzan does for a living.

With more than 34 years of experience in the securities industry, Mike serves as President and CEO of [West Des Moines-based] Investment Advisors Corp. and as chairman of the board of the firm’s parent company, BDFSC Holdings Corp. Mike is a member of the National Futures Association’s Introducing Broker Advisory Committee and is a past member of the Security Industry Association’s CEO Roundtable, Group E. He holds an MBA degree from the University of Iowa and holds FINRA Series 7, 63, 24, 27, 65 and 3 licenses as well as Life, Annuity & Health Insurance licenses.

Given that background, I assumed that Sherzan must be a major Democratic donor, but I couldn’t find any record of campaign contributions by him on Open Secrets or the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board website. I will update this post if further searches turn up some results.

I can’t find any record of Sherzan running for any office before (such as a city council or school board). I don’t know whether he is related to former State Representative Gary Sherzan, who represented part of Des Moines in the Iowa House before losing a 1992 Democratic primary to Ed Fallon. The two men certainly look as if they could be brothers; you can compare photos here and here. Note: see update below.

The day after the November election, the Des Moines Register’s business section ran this short piece in which Michael Sherzan called for “bipartisan economic solutions.” Excerpt:

“As citizens our victory is not whether our candidate won the political contest, but how successful we are advancing our common goals through legislative cooperation and compromise,” Sherzan said.  “It is not a bad thing to do and we can if we try. Yesterday is history.  We will continue to debate and agree to disagree on issues important to each one of us. That is what made our nation great in the first place.”

“As president of an investment firm, with clients who depend upon improving equity values, the last four years could have been much worse,” Sherzan said, noting that the Dow Jones industrial average rose 38 percent to 13,245.68 between Obama’s reelection Tuesday and his initial win Nov. 4, 2008. “The election is over and most of us are thankful. The country yearns for both sides to work together to resolve our economic challenges.

“We need to work together to lower the deficit. We need to work together to create a fair tax structure. In short, we need to learn to compromise. The president must reach across the aisle and attempt to halt our country’s long polarization. It gets us nowhere. The elected representatives must be willing to negotiate in good faith and compromise. Our people deserve no less.”

That sounds like someone laying the groundwork for a Congressional bid–and also someone entrepreneurial enough to get his name and his company’s name in the paper on a higher-than-average news consumption day.

The Democratic establishment loves self-funding candidates. Maybe that’s why unnamed Democrats are “talking up” Sherzan to Washington journalists like Toeplitz. Otherwise, I don’t see what he brings to the table in a race against Latham.

Despite the fact that President Barack Obama carried IA-03 in 2012, whoever runs against Latham will face long odds in 2014. Latham received more votes than Mitt Romney in all 16 counties. During the last decade, he consistently outperformed the top of the Republican ticket in the old IA-04. On paper, that was a swing district, just like the current IA-03. The latest voter registration numbers show that the district contains 162,671 active registered Democrats, 169,122 Republicans, and 160,434 no-party voters.

Any IA-03 scenario spinning is welcome in this thread.

P.S.-Former Representative Leonard Boswell has confirmed that he’s never running for office again. His 2008 primary challenger Ed Fallon has also disavowed plans to run for Congress in the future.

UPDATE: I am seeking comment from Sherzan over whether he volunteered to run or was recruited by the DCCC. So far he has not returned my call, but I will update this post further as needed.

JANUARY 25 UPDATE: Speaking to me by telephone, Michael Sherzan confirmed that he is exploring a Congressional bid but declined to provide any further details, such as whether he approached the DCCC or was recruited by them.

He also confirmed that Gary Sherzan is his brother–emphasizing that Gary is the older one. In fact, another older brother, Richard Sherzan, served in the Iowa House during the late 1970s. I had no idea. Here’s a picture of that Sherzan, who represented Altoona and part of the east side of Des Moines.

  • Leaking names to float them as trial balloons...

    …is a routine tactic.

    I think that’s what the DCCC is doing here.

    Their staff will probably read this diary!

    They want to see what kind of reaction this guy gets as part of weighing the value in recruiting him.  Recruitment is no promise of support, he’d still have to demonstrate the willingness and ability to put together a modern campaign (competent staff, willingness to do fundraising call time, etc.) to earn any serious national party help.

    If he’s not showing up as a political donor, I doubt he’s rich enough to self-fund, unless he’s really a neophyte who’s new to wanting to be involved and somehow the national party is intrigued by him.

    But if the national party is intrigued, the state party, too, probably is, because they would’ve forwarded his name to the DCCC.  The DCCC isn’t able or willing to dig up names of random politically inactive businessmen in Middle America.

    The other possibility here is that Sherzan himself took the initiative to contact the DCCC, suddenly interested in running, and it’s after that contact that an otherwise indifferent DCCC decided to float his name publicly to gauge the reaction.

    • all plausible scenarios

      If he took the initiative to get that piece published in the Des Moines Register on November 7, he may have approached the DCCC himself.

      No idea whether he is a successful investment adviser, but I don’t see a lack of political contributions as proof that someone’s not wealthy. His business probably has a lot of Republican clients, so it might not be smart to call attention to himself as a supporter of Democrats.

  • Risking dsdm ire

    For an OT comment in the top blog entry of the moment.

    The Repub war on women just doesn’t go away. This just posted over on Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire.


    Imagine the implications of state ownership of a fetus.

    • my fault

      for not putting up a mid-week open thread. I have several links related to women and politics–I will put up a thread later today. That bill is quite a stunning proposal. How many ways can you say “wrong”?

  • district 3

    I don’t think that Latham is a shoe-in of any sort.  Boswell had underperformed in the district for years, and this is a very winnable seat for Dems.  Not sure who Sherzin is or why I ought to support him in a primary though.  

    As for the numbers, I think those are still caucus-inflated (lots of people haven’t switched their registration back).  I don’t think that this district is so close that only a centrist Democrat can win

  • Sounds like corporate Blue Dog Steve Israel recruited him.

    Because what we really need in the Congress are more wealthy people who will vote with Wall Street.  With this background he should have terrific populist appeal.  He can really inspire the troops to get out and trudge from door to door to get him elected so he can vote to cut social insurance and obsess over The Deficit.  Maybe he could join NoLabels, like Loebsack.  That should make him popular at the Steak Fry.

    Where do we find these people?

    • I wonder

      whether he reached out to Steve Israel. How would Steve Israel have come up with the idea to recruit him? I couldn’t find him as a DCCC donor or anything like that.

      I have a call in to Sherzan asking him about this, but so far he hasn’t called me back.

      • Baloney

        There’s nothing wrong with the rich running for office.  If you want to find a poorer candidate to beat them then do it.  I don’t like this litmus test based on income about who’s a good Democrat and who’s a bad Democrat.

        You know if there were such a calling for more candidates who support the “working class”, you wouldn’t have to moan about these “corporate” candidates.  You have no idea whether  Michael Sherzan worked hard in his life.  I don’t like the way ventures and businesses are financed now either, just because someone works in finance.

        What if I wanted to say that Tom Harkin was something to the left of Democratic Party?   Hell, I think Bob Kerrey’s a good Democrat.  He may be better than Harkin who loves to control many aspects of our lives.  Someone may want to change the CPI because people are able to live longer and potentially work more years.  

        And no, I’m not saying that everyone should work to the grave, in fact most “elderly” (I put that in quotes because most people I know hate being called elderly) and disabled love work and want to continue contributing.  It doesn’t make you a corporate hack to want to deal with demographic realities.  

        • Palmer

          BTW U don’t know if recruiting a first time candidate is a great idea.  What about Eric Palmer?  I suspect that he’s too liberal and reform minded for the district, but he’s a thoughtful guy who takes the time to explain his positions.  Eric may have “too much money” to run for office though…gotta bemoan success.  

        • not saying the rich shouldn't run for office

          I don’t even know whether Sherzan is rich. I was just trying to figure out what he brings to the table here as an apparently first-time candidate most people have never heard of. A first-time candidate who is a celebrity in some other area brings name recognition to the race.  

          • Sherzan

            my comment was in response to lane’s comment.  I am an inadequate blogger.  I posted a reply to your response instead.

             The questions you pose are completely legit about Sherzan or any other candidate,  Wall Street isn’t going anywhere and we’ve got to either encourage more traditional banks to get in the game of financing ventures or accept Wall Street for what it is.  

            Mark Warner is going to be automatically disqualified for the White House because of his background in venture capital and the fact that he disagrees with the majority of Democrats on the important issue of entitlement reform.   To be perfectly blunt I don’t think being a white male helps him either.  

            I wonder if Paul Krugman (the base’s braintrust) will run for Lautenberg’s seat in order to teach that “Wall Street lackey” Cory Booker a lesson..anyway.  Stupid Wall Street.    

            • If wishes were horses

              Krugman would be a unicorn.  He is not going to run for anything.  I would bet serious money.

            • I think Lautenberg wants to run again

              he was annoyed by Cory Booker announcing before he’d made his intentions clear. For the record, I have no problem with Booker running. I am happy with letting New Jersey Democrats choose the senator they want in a primary.

        • See comment below regarding whether it is wealth or Wall Street that is in issue.

          I want to add a response to this:

          Someone may want to change the CPI because people are able to live longer and potentially work more years.

          That is not why “someone” wants to change the CPI.  The Committee For A Responsible Federal Budget and other Pete Peterson-funded organizations love this idea because (a) they hate Social Security and Medicare and attempt to weaken these programs whenever they get the chance, and have for years, and (b) Chained CPI will reduce benefits across the board, including to wounded veterans, plus it will raise taxes by adjusting tax brackets.  All that will put a lot more money into federal revenue, and severely shrink benefits over time.  If you care to learn about it, you could start here:




          There is plenty more out there. As for people living longer, white men in upper income brackets have made some gains, while lower income people have not, and women are actually going backward.  These are precisely the people who would be hurt by chained CPI.  And Krugman explains the rest of what’s wrong with the focus on life expectancies at birth:

          Much more to the point is the number of years people could expect to live after reaching 65: 14 years in 1950, 18.5 years now. Not so impressive a change, is it? And the retirement age is already 66 for my cohort, and scheduled to rise to 67 on current law.

          Oh, and by the way, rising life expectancy was built into Social Security planning from the beginning. The big surprise has, if anything, been stagnating life expectancy among less affluent Americans.

          • Krugman is an ideological parmour

            Not a true economist, unless he goes off the Sunday shows.  Or he admits that there’s a demographic issues with the safety net programs.

            I’ve had this discussion with you before about Krugman.  I don’t respect the man.  Life expectancy may be going down amongst the impoverished, but that doesn’t address the underlying raiding of the SS fund or the fact that we need more private sector jobs to fund SS.  

            You said you wanted Durbin primaried on Daily Kos because he voted for Simpson Bowles.  We’re obviously living on different planets or at least political circles.  I don’t mean that as an insult.

            I’m tired of “liberal lions” like Harkin who automatically remind us what class we are in, it automatically feeds to the divide.  The only reason I will vote for Harkin in 2014 is because the alternative will be wrong on abortion, gay rights, gun control, etc.  Harkin is also good at making sure that companies get the “corporate welfare” that they need in order to create jobs in rural communities that the true left and the far right gripe about.

            If the Republicans would run someone sane against Harkin I would gladly vote against him.  

      • My point is that he comes out of the financial sector,

        and in the immortal words of Dick Durbin, “the banks own the place.”  If you look at the boards of directors of No Labels and Fix the Debt, they are chock full of people with Wall Street connections, and they are all about policies that hurt middle class people and keep their own taxes low. I know nothing about Sherzan personally, and I don’t care that he’s wealthy, if he is, but I do care about his background and his beliefs.  All you need is the last quoted paragraph above to tell you where he is coming from.

        “We need to work together to lower the deficit. We need to work together to create a fair tax structure. In short, we need to learn to compromise. The president must reach across the aisle and attempt to halt our country’s long polarization. It gets us nowhere. The elected representatives must be willing to negotiate in good faith and compromise. Our people deserve no less.”

        First thing on the list:  the deficit (which is declining more rapidly than at any time in decades, and would decline further if we put people back to work).  Not jobs, not growing the economy.  The Deficit.  And then a fair tax structure, whatever that is.  I’m guessing he doesn’t mean a transactions tax on financial transactions or closing the carried interest loophole that made Mitt Romney so rich, but you could ask him.

        And in what parallel universe has he been living that he hasn’t seen the President offer compromise after noxious compromise and get the bum’s rush from the Tea Party?  It is delusional to be lecturing the President about compromise.  If this is the nominee in IA-3, then the Democrats will not have a good story to tell.

        • Nothing wrong

          I don’t see anything wrong with the last paragraph.  If President Obama used the kind of rhetoric about mistreating the elderly, disabled and the poor in a meeting with me I would be  furious.  Both sides just insult each other.  Most GOP members have family members using these programs and they know they are here to stay.  Obama publicly insults people who he should be working with.  Boehner and McConnell insult him as well.

          I’ve seen your posts on the Fix The Debt Commission.  I understand why someone who has your point of view would be concerned.  

          • I see we do not have agreement on a common set of facts.

            That makes it hard to discuss what sort of policies are appropriate, or what sort of candidate should advocate them.

            I listen to what people say and watch what they do. When the Republicans embraced Paul Ryan and his Dickensian budget, and demanded deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare as ransom in various debt negotiations, they were saying where they were coming from. This is not new. http://www.dailykos.com/story/…

            I also don’t see the “insulting” aspect in calling people out for their actual policies.  We have an adversarial system.  People have profound disagreements about policy.  Steve King and Tom Harkin do not share any views that I am aware of.  Instead of telling them they should all sing Kumbaya, we should expect them to have votes and let democracy decide which policies we put into law. The filibuster and the Hastert Rule are much more of a problem than manners.

            As for Fix the Debt, it’s just another Pete Peterson front group populated with millionaires.  Read about it. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01…

            • U.S. Senate

              People are not suppose to be there to carry water for a small number of voters.   Harry Reid doesn’t let legislation come up without some sort of litmus test and maybe he shouldn’t.  So your objects about a Hastert rule or anything else work both ways.  We aren’t going to let things go to the floor without a majority Democratic support in most cases.  

              Politicians care about votes, yeah they want to be taken care of when they leave.  If you really got poor people to vote in Nebraska, the state wouldn’t be so damn conservative.  You can only go off of the needs of the people who vote or else the voters replace you.  If Ben Nelson voted for single payer he would be disobeying his employer.  Period.  

              I know a lot of people in our party have a “to tell with what the voters want” attitude and in many cases that attitude is right, but if you take that approach you should be called out for being an arrogant asshole.  

              Uf you think the United States Senate is more functional with a Mike Lee instead of Bob Bennett (sp?_ you go ahead and believe that.  If you thin we’re better off with Rand Paul as opposed to Trey Grayson or a moderate like Conway or Mongiardo, just because it better highlights contrasts then I disagree again.

              Grassley isn’t elected to represent the Iowa GOP.  It’s all of Iowa to the best of his ability within that ideological frame.  Harkin isn’t elected to represent the Iowa Dems, it’s all of Iowa to the best of his ability within that ideological mindframe.  

              • Straw man alert

                Uf you think the United States Senate is more functional with a Mike Lee instead of Bob Bennett (sp?_ you go ahead and believe that.  If you thin we’re better off with Rand Paul as opposed to Trey Grayson or a moderate like Conway or Mongiardo, just because it better highlights contrasts then I disagree again.

                I don’t think I’m responsible for responding to your criticism of things I didn’t say.  eom

            • Paul Ryan

              And no, those weren’t their actual policies.  I didn’t vote for Romney/Ryan, but the idea of making Paul Ryan or Romney out to be a true believer in some truly Darwinian theory is good politics, not the truth.  Paul Ryan is not Ron or Rand Paul no matter how much he may try to act like him publicly.  All of these social programs would have seen COLA cuts, but quit acting like they were going to disappear all together under Romney.  

              Ryan worked for Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett.  Bennett and Kemp are conservatives by anyone’s practical measure, but they aren’t even close to Rothbard or Hayek…of course instead of actually looking at the numbers it’s easier to paint your opponent as a heartless bastard.  

              • Ryan says who he is.

                And people make excuses for him.  Your choice.  http://nymag.com/daily/intelli…

                • Thoughts

                  It’s not a straw man.    You were talking about how  it wasn’t a lack of civility that was bringing down the U.S. Senate.  I listed names that I think would make the United States Senate a better place.  No offense intended.  To use a phrase like straw man is akin to calling someone a quasi-liar.

                  We can argue all day about Paul Ryan.  His votes are different than his rhetoric.

                  His budget  still spent trillions of dollars.  People who are deficit hawks and  right wing Libertarians said there was effectively no difference between Obama’s budget and Ryan’s budget.  Ryan is not an ideological warrior.  He’s a career politician who put together a serious proposal.

                  Listen, you insulted me the last time I went after Krugman.  Calling my statement a jumbled mess or something along those lines.  Krugman is loyal to his brand and he’s stuck to his talk points for over a decade.  He’s no more serious than Peter Schiff who is just taking the one size fits all approach on the other side of the argument.

                  Krugman has made it so every single cut in any domestic, non-defense program is now labeled as austerity.  The word austerity should only be used when you are talking about deeper, more widespread cuts.

                  I would be glad to recite talking point that the Nobel Board would to hear as well.  They wouldn’t be as well written, but they are just a recitation of what some people want to hear.  He was a critic of significant deficit spending under Clinton.  The effects of globalization, automation and the erosion of the middle class were already in full swing.

                  What does eom mean?  I’m a little slow as you might have guessed.  

                  • Not calling you a liar.

                    Just saying that you mischaracterize what I was saying, without attributing any motives.  If I insulted you in some past comment I apologize.  I do try to avoid namecalling, but if an argument doesn’t make sense, I don’t see anything wrong with saying so. I also think you do not represent Krugman’s writing fairly or accurately.  Austerity is not just cuts, but that is a longer discussion and we have already thoroughly hijacked this one.  As for Paul Ryan, the campaign ripped the mask off if it hadn’t slipped already. His various budgets all cut taxes for the wealthy and continue deficits far into the future.  

                    I leave you with John Stewart, which I cannot figure out how to embed, discussing straw men and Paul Ryan: http://www.thedailyshow.com/wa…

                    eom means end of message.

                    • Ryan

                      Jon Stewart is very good at what he does.  George Carlin and Bill Hicks were good comedians.  I don’t take Stewart’s policy recommendations seriously.

                      It is sad that that the Democratic Party has made a comedian and an economist their brain trust, or at least the activists have.

                      Paul Ryan offered a serious proposal.  If Mitt Romney had actually used Ryan’s proposal people would have been able to take Romney seriously.

                      Cuts, reform need to happen to “entitlement” programs.  You can’t even operate  SS in the same way that was done in the 80’s, let alone the 1940’s.

                      I wish the Democratic Party would take ideas from Kent Conrad (no longer in public life) and Mark Warner.  Not a comedian or an economist who caters his writing for an audience.  

                      I did not mean to mischaracterize what you said.  I’m tired of having this discussion that is leading nowhere.  I don’t think we should base policy decisions on character assassination of people who want to “cut” government programs.

                      I don’t know what Economics textbook/source you are using, but I doubt I agree with the definition.  


                      • With respect

                        I think you are singularly mis/uninformed.

                        Paul Ryan’s various proposals are serious only if you ignore the math that they require for analysis.  For example: http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonath… The CBO agrees with that, and they lean conservative.

                        What is sad is that comedians tell the truth and have a better grasp of the implications of policy than, say, Mark Warner or Kent Conrad.  Or maybe those gentlemen grasp the implications but are lying about it, so whatever.  John Stewart does his homework.  He may not always be right, but what specific factual assertions do you disagree with and where are your links to back it up?  For instance, what facts do you rely on for your assertion that “entitlements” that people have paid into all their working lives “have to be cut.”?  I don’t mean to insult you, but I just think you don’t know what you’re talking about.  This is no particular reflection on you, since most cable news talking heads are no better informed.

                        • Ideology

                          I know Ryan’s proposals would not have cut the deficit.  I’m disagreeing with the rhetoric that is used when proposing changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

                          I don’t like the welfare state.  I don’t think the welfare state is a good thing.  It’s an ideological difference.  I believe the welfare state is more worthwhile than Paul Ryan does.  I consider myself a Dem and you do not consider me to be a one.  I think Warner and Conrad are serious people.

                          I’ve followed budgetary questions.  I realize that healthcare spending is the biggest driver of deficit spending.  I think cuts in the defense budget are necessary.  You’ll get single payer one day and that will be a damn shame.

                          I will sit here for hours and list all of the examples where I disagree with Jon Stewart.  I guess you don’t like the term “entitlements” How about earned benefits?  Does that fit your ideology?  Are you trying to change my mind or just getting glee out of proving me “wrong”?

                          I made fourteen thousand dollars last tear.  I’m not uninformed for disagreeing with your demonization of Ryan’s budget.  Are older people going to struggle to find a doctor under Ryan’s plan?  Yes, in quite a few cases.  

                        • CBO

                          The CBO doesn’t leave conservatively in my view.  They give a lot of leeway when it comes to budgetary matters.  They use baseline budgeting versus zero growth budgeting.  That doesn’t automatically mean that they are liberal or conservative, but I think they may have a lot of assumptions about the future that should not be a given.

                          I understand you can’t or shouldn’t necessary run the federal government in the same way that you should run a state government, but a lot mandatory spending is on auto pilot.    

                          • Geeze

                            I mean lean.  I shouldn’t be wasting my time in an ideological discussion.  It’s not a numbers or fact based disagreement per se.  

                            • Revision

                              I went back through the comments and never said that Ryan’s proposal would instantly start correcting demographic related issues.  I guess we’re discussing the genius of Paul Krugman.  I fall at the man’s feet.  Is that better?  

  • Possible Candidates

    You probably saw The Register news story about possible candidates in 03.  They include Andy McGuire and Janet Petersen, but I hear tell Janet is a no-go, since she just got elected to the Senate. Another name floating around independent of The Register news story: Earlham Mayor Dusky Terry.

    • Awesome!

      I like Dusky Terry.  If he had been our nominee in 2006 we wouldn’t have had a different Secretary of Agriculture.  Of course anyone who comes from the Vilsack wing of the party is going to face questions, particularly when it comes to Monsanto.  

      • or if Francis Thicke had run in 2006

        I think he could have won that secretary of agriculture race. Even with the slime they threw at Denise O’Brien during the last five days, she only lost 51-49. Culver could have dragged Terry or Thicke over the line.

    • I thought Andy McGuire ruled it out

      but maybe she just ruled out running against Branstad.

      Janet Petersen could run in 2014 without giving up her Iowa Senate seat, because she just got elected to a four-year term. The Register’s story by Jennifer Jacobs also mentioned Jack Hatch as a possible challenger to Latham, but that’s more complicated because he is up for re-election to the Iowa Senate in 2014.

      Dusky Terry–interesting. He was the Democratic establishment’s choice for secretary of agriculture in 2006, but lost the primary to Denise O’Brien.

  • Editorial comment

    As I think of it, what a thankless job that would be !  A freshman member of the minority party in the US House.  

  • it makes you go hmmmm?

    Sherzan may have to be prepared to answer why he has been with 7 different brokerage firms in his investment advisor history (according to his FINRA records), and why he had such relatively short careers at his previous 6 firms.

    We do not know that answer.

    • late to respond, but

      I appreciate getting tomorrow’s Republican talking points today, mirage.

      If Latham runs for Harkin’s Senate seat, we’ll see some other Democratic candidates in IA-03 for sure.

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