Iowa Senate district 45: Joe Seng has a primary challenger, Mark Riley

If any Iowa Democrat deserves a primary challenge, it’s three-term State Senator Joe Seng. Although the Davenport-based veterinarian represents one of the Democrats’ safest urban districts, Seng is anti-choice and supported Republican calls for a vote against marriage equality in 2010. As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he has helped pass several bills that are good for industrial agriculture but bad for the environment, especially clean water. In addition, Seng himself challenged three-term U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack in the IA-02 Democratic primary two years ago, so he couldn’t claim the moral high ground against a primary challenger for his state Senate seat.

I was excited to see yesterday that another Democratic candidate, Mark Riley, had filed papers to run in Senate district 45. When I realized Riley was Seng’s Republican opponent in 2010 and ran an independent campaign against Iowa House Democrat Cindy Winckler in 2012, I became disappointed. Was he just a fake like the “Democrat” who ran against State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad in 2010?

I sought comment from Riley about why he was running as a Democrat in Iowa Senate district 45, having campaigned as a Republican in the same district a few years ago. I’ve posted his response after the jump. You be the judge. Riley would have my serious consideration if I lived on the west side of Davenport.  

First, a few words about Iowa Senate district 45. The latest voter registration totals suggest that Democrats outnumber Republicans here by more than 9,000. In other words, it’s a hopeless cause for a Republican candidate. Not that Seng, a well-known veterinarian in the Quad Cities area, would be easy to beat in a Democratic primary.

Senate district 45 includes much of Davenport’s west side and some parts of Scott County outside the city. I’ve enclosed a detailed map at the end of this post.

I had several questions for Riley. First, why is he running as a Democrat? Responding by e-mail, he said his experience as a third-party candidate in Iowa House district 90 in 2012 convinced him “that it was impossible to be a viable candidate outside of the two party system with out an independent source of wealth and or Celebrity status.”

I also wanted to know how Riley’s views had changed since he ran against Seng as a Republican in 2010.

1.   The current GOP party is not mine, nor my fathers or grandfathers GOP.  The party has become so extreme that Abe Lincoln(protectionist) Teddy Roosevelt(Set limits on timber harvest) or Eisenhower(built more infrastructure than FDR) could not make it through the tea party inquisition that dominates the primaries.

2.   The GOP party values no longer tolerate or reflect my values.  I am a working class, Union member of the BLET local 226 Savanna Il, and a railroad Engineer.  The trickle down theory of economics which I supported in my youth has proven to be false with Wall street and the wealthy getting richer and the middle class and poor losing wages and purchasing power.

3.  Trickle Down economics and the culture war waged by Reformed, tea-party, and A-moral Corporatism with in the GOP no longer reflect my personnel views of Christianity.

4.  Selective ideas of social libertarian viewpoints with in the GOP no longer reflect my views as a Social libertarian.  The GOP now picks and chooses who and what is covered by liberty and freedom!

5.  I will redact my position with regard to right to work status in Iowa and now support repealing “right to work” in Iowa.  There has not been a successful strike that I know of in 20 years in Iowa and the corporation has been given too great an advantage.

6.  As a retired Marine, combat veteran, VFW member I view the acts of the GOP to criticize President Obama and undermine his efforts in the Ukraine as seditious!  Letting hatred and political aspirations trump the Nation’s good as entrusted to the duly elected President of us all.

7.  Citizens United and the GOP empowerment of the rich and corporations.

8.  The GOP does not understand community.  GOP cant win in a city over 60,000

I asked Riley about his priority issues and what he saw as the key policy differences between himself and Seng. He described himself as a “progressive social libertarian” and laid out the following case against the incumbent.

1.  Sen Seng serves on the agriculture committee and takes money from the Farm Bureau and the Corn and Ethanol Lobby.   Sen Seng is cozy with big AG.  Yet Sen Seng’s #43 district and now #45 was and is one of the most urban and dense districts in Iowa.  Yet the Sen sits on the Ag committee and does not represent the interest of Davenport as he should.  Sure Sen Seng has expertise as a veterinarian and is very knowledgeable in Farming but he represents Davenport and has no farms in his district that I know of.

I refused to take money from the ethanol lobby and farm lobby in 2010 and 2012.  Seng took money from both when threatened that they would support his opponent if he did not sign the pledged to support their industry.

Ethanol hurts 3rd world people by making grain to expensive and hurts the environment by making grain so profitable that we irrigate the deserts of the west with precious well water and Iowa farmers tear out hedge rows to get a couple more rows of corn.  This leads to more Iowa soil in the Gulf of Mexico.  Seng is in the pocket of big AG

2.   Sen Seng  opposes decriminalizing marijuana and sanctioning medical marijuana and has Terry Brandstads view of Marijuana which is the status quo.  Sen Seng and the Governor stand for more incarceration, more disenfranchisement of voters, more war on African Americans, and more wasted state money in the court and prison system. Record of fact the 2010 debate between Sen Seng and Candidate Riley at St Ambrose University.  question from the moderator which was the student president.  Riley = decriminalization and use for medicine.   Seng = no change in the law.  2010 River Cities Reader article requesting candidates positions Seng abstained from answering.  Riley on record for decriminalization.

3.  Riley will take a pledge to not introduce or vote for any change in the Marriage equality law or restrictions on same sex couples equality and access to rights.  Joe Seng has been protected by senate leadership from taking a position on this and he is not on record on this issue.

4.  Sen Seng views factory farming as necessary and vital.  Sen Seng opposes attempts to regulate and protect whistle blowers in this industry while representing consumers in Davenport.  Riley sides with consumers and recognizes that without regulation, greed will steer the industry to unsafe and deceptive practices towards the urban consumer.  Sen Seng supports pet breeding mills.

5.  I will support a minimum wage increase.

6.  I will fight for Passenger  Rail Transportation linking all Iowa’s major cities with Chicago, St Paul, Kansas City, St Louis and each other.

7.  I will introduce legislation that allows Iowa to borrow in order to build capital projects and not be limited by a balanced budget law that is inequitable.

8.  I will introduce law that forbids the asking  “are you a felon?” on employment applications for most employment and for crimes that do not involve rape or violence against women.  I will seek to restore disenfranchised citizens voting rights once they have completed their time and or restitution for their crime.

9.  Both my parents are teachers.  I will seek to increase the education budget and to develop a European model for child development.  I will introduce legislation that pays for the education of Engineers with the proviso they remain in Iowa for 8 years after graduating.

  As a state Senator I will work for the interest of Davenport and the working class.  I will support and introduce legislation that increases the wealth of the middle class and poor by supporting infrastructure , rail transportation, Education and affordable housing.  I will look to steer Iowa’s budget away from supporting and wasting resources on the wealthy and the rural Farmer and allocate it to the 98% of Iowans that live in Cities and their suburbs.

Senator Joe Seng ran a campaign against Dave Lobsack in 2012.  He ran around soliciting support from all of his “conservative ” friends.  Sen Seng has walked in and out of the shadows as a closet conservative not being put on record.  Its time to expose Sen Seng in this primary.  If he wants to be a religious conservative let him switch parties.

I find it hard to argue against any of the above. Riley has a steep uphill battle for sure, but I am glad someone stood up to make a case against Joe Seng.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

Iowa Senate district 45 photo IowaSD45_zps928accac.jpg

  • Well...

    He’s SAYING the right things… NOW… but there’s more to a campaign than a good platform. Somehow I think his third affiliation in three election cycles might be a credibility issue. Still hope a stronger progressive candidate gets in.

    • I would also hope

      for a progressive candidate, but the Scott County Democrats don’t seem to be stepping up.

      How could he be worse than Seng? Even if his votes were bad, he wouldn’t be chairing a committee.

  • Seng

    Riley just wants to hold office.  Joe Seng may be out of step with his constituents on business and environmental issues, but I think he might be in tune with the majority there on social issues.  Although that majority is shrinking.

    Seng ran no campaign to speak of in 2012, has anyone been able to get information as to why he started so late if he was going to be taken seriously?  

    • I never heard a convincing explanation

      for why he ran against Dave Loebsack. Ego? No idea.

      Maybe Farm Bureau was hoping to use Seng to get Loebsack to spend down more of his war chest during the primary. But Loebsack didn’t take the bait.

      • Ego.

        Anyone who insists on being called “Senator Doctor Seng” clearly thinks highly of himself.

        I don’t know Riley and his changes may be sincere but I’ve seen cases where a “progressive” with personality issues does the cause more harm than good.

        • Thanks

          I appreciate the honest representation by the Author.   To those who doubt my conversion I can understand your hesitancy to believe I am committed to my positions.  Let me make a couple of points in my defense.

          1. I am not wealthy and have an adult dependent son who is severely autistic and does not speak or write and 22 years old.  He lives at home with us and draws SSI.

          2.  I have a deep hatred and stubborn willfulness to attack the current way we elect politicians.  It made me angry in my first campaign to learn first hand what is required to get elected.

          3.  For me the absolute humiliation that comes with losing a beauty contest, being rejected at the prom or having people from both parties loath you when you state your party affiliation is small compared to getting beat by a large margin in an election.  I do not need the affirmation and feel my good deeds have been done, with my service to the country and my devotion to my son.  

          4.  I went through a fore closer and used Obama’s mortgage law to get out of my balloon loan. payment’s went from 500 to 950.

          5.  I am angry at what the country has become with regard to money and I no longer will be ashamed of growing up poor or falling on hard times. I am tired of the celebrity status we give wealthy Americans and I am tired of the advantages in life and politics that money has purchased.

          6.  I like people and believe we can do better. I believe in the issues that I stand for and hide in the fact that I am not promoting myself but the idea.

          7.  I am willing to open myself up to criticism by being honest even though it goes against every single instinct of self preservation.  

          8. my marketing strategy is kinda lazy and risky! I am human, I have fears and made mistakes, I tell you this so that you will trust me to represent you without pretense.

          I would rather talk about issues than about the candidate but understand ultimately its about the person when voters choose.  I guess you can tell that as the son of a preacher that hypocrisy and being fake are important to me having observed them my entire life.

        • Thanks

          I appreciate the honest representation by the Author.   To those who doubt my conversion I can understand your hesitancy to believe I am committed to my positions.  Let me make a couple of points in my defense.

          1. I am not wealthy and have an adult dependent son who is severely autistic and does not speak or write and 22 years old.  He lives at home with us and draws SSI.

          2.  I have a deep hatred and stubborn willfulness to attack the current way we elect politicians.  It made me angry in my first campaign to learn first hand what is required to get elected.

          3.  For me the absolute humiliation that comes with losing a beauty contest, being rejected at the prom or having people from both parties loath you when you state your party affiliation is small compared to getting beat by a large margin in an election.  I do not need the affirmation and feel my good deeds have been done, with my service to the country and my devotion to my son.  

          4.  I went through a fore closer and used Obama’s mortgage law to get out of my balloon loan. payment’s went from 500 to 950.

          5.  I am angry at what the country has become with regard to money and I no longer will be ashamed of growing up poor or falling on hard times. I am tired of the celebrity status we give wealthy Americans and I am tired of the advantages in life and politics that money has purchased.

          6.  I like people and believe we can do better. I believe in the issues that I stand for and hide in the fact that I am not promoting myself but the idea.

          7.  I am willing to open myself up to criticism by being honest even though it goes against every single instinct of self preservation.  

          8. my marketing strategy is kinda lazy and risky! I am human, I have fears and made mistakes, I tell you this so that you will trust me to represent you without pretense.

          I would rather talk about issues than about the candidate but understand ultimately its about the person when voters choose.  I guess you can tell that as the son of a preacher that hypocrisy and being fake are important to me having observed them my entire life.

      • FWIW

        He claimed it was about abortion and debt: http://www.kwqc.com/story/1866…

        • Seng

          Thanks Evan.  I knew Seng was concerned about Catholic organizations and the ACA, the debt, free trade and environmental issues.  I was just questioning his logic behind getting in so late.  Heck, if  you are serious about a congressional bid then line up people earlier than just before a primary essentially.  

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