IA-03: Brad Zaun head fakes on possible independent candidacy

State Senator Brad Zaun got Iowa political junkies chattering this holiday weekend with a July 4 Facebook update:

As we celebrate Independence Day there is [sic] several of my friends that [sic] are encouraging me to switch to an Independent. What do you think? Very frustrated as Republicans lost their way!

Zaun's frustration is understandable, because he won a plurality of votes in the June 3 Republican primary, only to see the GOP convention delegates hand the nomination to the guy who finished fifth.

Still, I don't believe for one minute that he will file to run for Congress as an independent, nor do I believe that he will leave the Iowa Senate GOP caucus to become the state legislature's only independent lawmaker.

Less than 24 hours after the June 21 nominating convention, Zaun posted on his campaign's Facebook page,

I want to thank everyone who supported me on my congressional run. I go out with my head held high. I am so grateful for all the people who believed in me and volunteered going door to door, making calls, stuffing envelopes, putting up signs, cooking bacon, and the list goes on and on. It is truly a humbling experience! I look forward to serving the remainder of my term in the Iowa Senate and helping David Young and Joni Ernst get elected.

Nothing has changed since then. Zaun was out-raised by four of his competitors in the IA-03 primary and couldn't even match the fundraising pace of his own 2010 Congressional campaign. He also banked thousands fewer votes on June 3 than he did in the 2010 GOP primary. He has to know he could never put together a successful independent candidacy. I suspect he was just feeling down and perhaps fishing for compliments with that July 4 post. I remember him working the parades as the IA-03 nominee in 2010. He looked so enthusiastic, waving and shaking hands with people along the parade route. Losing out on a chance to be the party's standard-bearer again must sting.

The Iowa GOP's new state chair, Jeff Kaufmann, was gentle in his comments to WHO-TV about the Zaun speculation:

"After any contested primary, there's often times talk and discussion about independent runs. I've heard it in the Republican Party and I've heard it in the Democratic Party. Most of the time, the party rallies together. Brad Zaun is an important voice in the Republican Party and an important voice in the Iowa Senate and David Young is our Republican candidate," said Kaufmann.

The long knives would come out if Zaun took any real steps toward registering for the ballot as an independent candidate. Even on his home turf (the suburbs west of Des Moines), he is not popular with everyone in Republican circles. He could never win the general election. He could only hurt Young in Polk County, where the GOP nominee needs to keep things close against Democratic candidate Staci Appel.

Zaun's Facebook status update was a bit ambiguous. Perhaps the friends who are supposedly encouraging him to "switch to an Independent" are merely talking about his party affiliation. I don't think he would take that step either. Although he's no longer in his party's Senate leadership team, he will still want to pass some bills and amendments during the next legislative session. To move his priorities, Zaun will need support from his caucus leaders and ranking committee members (or committee chairs if Republicans beat the odds and retake the Iowa Senate majority).

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Had to laugh at Iowa House Republican Dawn Pettengill posting "Don't do it" on Zaun's Facebook thread. She knows a thing or two about party switching.

The Des Moines Register reported,

Losing the shot at the seat a second time was particularly hard on Zaun. He penned a thank you letter to his backers that urged them to rally around Young, but separately said he wants to prevent this kind of a blow to other frontrunners candidates in the future.

He intends to introduce legislation for a run-off system. Eleven states have provisions for primary runoff elections: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Vermont, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In a runoff, if no candidate gets a majority of the vote in the primary, only the top two candidates advance to the second vote; the others are eliminated.

Zaun told the Register last week that he has received assurances from the Democratic state government committee chairman in the Iowa Senate and the GOP chairman in the Iowa House that they'll run the bill.

If Iowa had that system, Zaun would have faced social conservative Robert Cramer, head of a family-owned bridge construction company, in a runoff for the IA-03 nomination.

SECOND UPDATE: In the comments, Bleeding Heartland user rockm notes that Zaun was a no-show for the Urbandale 4th of July parade. That must be a first.

Also, Bleeding Heartland user DomariNolo points out that there is already a conservative planning to run in IA-03 as a third party candidate: Bryan Jack Holder.

  • Independent Candidate for Iowa's 3rd Congressional District

  • No show

    Senator Zaun was not among a large contingent of GOP office holders and candidates at the annual Urbandale 4th of July parade. That's his hometown parade. Just sayin'.  

  • Let it go, Brad.

    Nobody enjoys public humiliation and Brad Zaun is no exception to that rule.  Kaufmann is right to speak gently and appease Zaun's hurt because it is in the party's best interest.

    He may have had enough votes to claim front runner, but he clearly didn't have enough support in either the primary election or the Third District special convention balloting.

    My guess is that he made many assumptions about the strength of his candidacy that he didn't bother to test for validity. He just needs to let it go and get over it.

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