Weekend open thread: Big Iowa GOP changes

The Republican Party of Iowa and the Iowa Democratic Party held district conventions yesterday. Nothing particularly important happened at the Democratic conventions, but the GOP gatherings continued the march toward overthrowing the "Liberty" faction that gained control soon after the 2012 caucuses. No one from the Ron Paul orbit won a seat on the newly-elected State Central Committee, which will take over after the party's state convention in June. They are likely to replace Danny Carroll and Gopal Krishna in the party's top leadership positions.

I've listed the new State Central Committee members after the jump. Notable names include Governor Terry Branstad's legal counsel Brenna Findley and William Gustoff, both elected to represent the third district. Gustoff is a partner in the law firm headed by U.S. Senate candidate Matt Whitaker and State Representative Chris Hagenow. In 2011, Branstad named Gustoff to the State Judicial Nominating Commission, but the Iowa Senate did not confirm him. Findley briefly was an attorney with Whitaker Hagenow after she left Representative Steve King's staff to run for Iowa attorney general in 2010.

According to Kevin Hall of The Iowa Republican blog, "Liberty" activists handed out flyers at all four district conventions urging delegates not to vote for fourteen State Central Committee candidates. All fourteen of them won seats on the committee anyway.

Another interesting development: the GOP platform committee in the first district removed the plank declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman. Katherine Klingseis reported for The Des Moines Register that the new platform language asserts the government should have no role in marriage. Some delegates tried and failed three times yesterday to restore the traditional marriage plank through amendments. UPDATE: According to conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart, one of the IA-01 convention votes on platform language went 116 to 89 to remove so-called "defense of traditional marriage" from the district GOP platform.

Kathie Obradovich wrote up the six IA-03 candidates' pitches to Republican convention delegates. For now I consider it more likely than not that the nomination will be decided at a special district convention.

UPDATE: More thoughts on the Iowa GOP State Central Committee changes after the jump.

From Jennifer Jacobs' report for The Sunday Des Moines Register:

In the 1st District, David Chung and Loras Schulte were re-elected and Chelle Adkins and Ron Herrig were elected. Liberty Republican Tony Krebsbach was voted off the board, and another liberty candidate, Chelsy Askren, lost.

In the 2nd District, Bob Anderson was re-elected and Judy Davidson, Jeff Kaufmann and Trudy Caviness were elected. Liberty Republican Marcus Fedler bowed out of the running after voting began.

In the 3rd District, Ryan Frederick and Sherill Whisenand were re-elected and Brenna Findley and Bill Gustoff were elected. Liberty Republican John Kabitzke was voted off the board.

In the 4th District, Cody Hoefert and Jamie Johnson were re-elected, and Gabe Haugland and Gary Nystrom were elected.

Bob Anderson is one of three Republicans seeking the nomination in the competitive open Senate district 39.

Jeff Kaufmann is a longtime former Iowa House Republican who was House Speaker Pro-Tem before retiring in 2012. He is considered a possible candidate to replace Danny Carroll as state party chair.

Gabe Haugland, chair of the Cerro Gordo County Republicans, attempted to run for the Iowa House in 2012 but was big-footed when Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer moved into his district. He was rumored to be a possible challenger to Democratic State Senator Amanda Ragan in Iowa Senate district 27 but chose not to run.

Speaking to Jennifer Jacobs, Liberty activist Drew Ivers tried to put a good spin on the day's events.

Drew Ivers, chairman of Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign in Iowa, worked at a furious pace to get liberty-minded voters not only to show up at the 2012 caucuses, but also to stay late and get themselves elected to the ranks of the party's decision-makers.

This year, he did no such organizing.

"We are strategically repositioning," Ivers said.

The liberty movement will pursue new routes to put a thumbprint on upcoming elections and pave the way for a potential Rand Paul presidential bid. Ivers said Spiker, the former party chairman, is central to the new strategy - he's now an adviser to RAND PAC, Paul's political action committee.

Ivers argued that today's results were not a defeat. Liberty Republicans are more passionate about issues than party mechanics anyway, he said.

"I do think it's a blow to the party's aspirations of expanding," Ivers said. Instead of embracing the "young, energetic zeal" in the liberty movement, "the majority of the party has not responded favorably," he said.

UPDATE: In the comments, Bleeding Heartland user Julie Stauch points out that only three members of the "Liberty" faction sought re-election to the State Central Committee. She argues that the establishment wing is overselling the accomplishment, a sign of "internal desperation within the Republican Party and probably Branstad's camp to demonstrate power."

Shane Vander Hart posted an interesting piece on the State Central Committee changes. He notes that of the candidates endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats' FAMiLY Leader organization, only William Gustoff and Gabe Haugland were elected.

He also posted screenshots showing Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler celebrating a "first defeat" for Vander Plaats, and central committee member Jamie Johnson rubbing it in that he and two others won seats without the FAMiLY Leader's backing.

Your unintentional comedy for the day comes from that same post by Vander Hart:

I like Brenna Findley and I supported her Attorney General campaign.  She should be an asset to the committee.  I know some are concerned about her being a member of Governor Branstad's staff, but I believe her to be an independent person so that shouldn't matter.  

  • much ado about nothing

    When I read the headline and more than half of the article, I was under the impression that this was a coup. Then I read the section on how many of the Ron Paul faction actually sought reelection - 3. YUP. Much ado about nothing.  Three people were not reelected out of 16, slightly less than 20 percent of the total positions up for voting.

    This is a prime example of the Republican Party message machine over selling what happened.  Here's something to think about - what if (for a combined unrelated set of reasons) the Democrats win the Governor's seat, the US Senate seat, and the 1st Congressional district seat, and long shot, the 3rd CD seat? Has this overselling of the accomplishment of keeping 3 people off the state central committee got the potential to show the true demise of the Republican party in Iowa after the next election? I think so.

    This was a good tactical move, with very bad messaging. It actually - to me - shows the internal desperation within the Republican Party and probably Branstad's camp to demonstrate power.  I think it failed and has a very good chance of actually empowering the Liberty faction for the future. We'll know more by next Thanksgiving.

  • This is really good news for those of us concerned about Democracy

    It may make it easier for partisan dems to elected, but it surely isn't good for the country to have one party get taken over by extremists like the Dominionist movement.  It is not good for progressive politics either, since the mainstream right takes over the democrats when they are pushed out of the republican party.  They don't lose their philosophy of governance when they join the Democrats.  Traditional Democrats get marginalized from the system, and the people are left with a choice of Right Wing and ChristoTalibans.  

  • Paul wing

    Rand Paul will be a HUGE factor in the Iowa caucuses whether he has his team at or near their Central Committee.  The real question at hand is whether he and Ted Cruz will just draw straws to see who runs for President and who does not.  They are both taking a more hawkish/mainstream point of view on the Israeli/Palestinian issue which may hurt them both amongst some of their core constituency in my view.

    I don't think most Liberty candidates can win House and Senate races here in Iowa unless a couple of folks are caught napping.  We've got a lot of mainstream people in our state that don't like to rock the boat too far in either direction.  There will be some people out there working for Blum that could throw some ballot races into question in the 1st CD however.  

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