IA-Sen: Three fault lines in a Democratic primary between Patty Judge and Rob Hogg

Former Lieutenant Governor and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge will seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, Jason Noble reported today for the Des Moines Register, citing multiple unnamed sources. She will make her candidacy official tomorrow. Two weeks should be plenty of time for her supporters to collect the 2,104 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

Three Democrats are already competing for the chance to run against six-term incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley, but once Judge enters the race, the main contest will be between her and State Senator Rob Hogg. Intending no disrespect to Tom Fiegen or Bob Krause, their performance in the 2010 IA-Sen primary suggests they will not be major factors on June 7.

I see three main factors influencing Iowa Democrats as they decide between Judge and Hogg.

1. Electability.

Few living Iowa Democrats have won three statewide elections. Judge became our state’s first woman to be elected secretary of agriculture in 1998. She won a second term in that office in 2002 and was Chet Culver’s running mate in 2006, when the Culver-Judge ticket beat Jim Nussle (once considered a strong contender) by more than 100,000 votes. Although Culver and Judge lost their re-election bids in 2010 by roughly the same margin, few Democrats blame Judge for the debacle. The Republican wave swept away plenty of incumbents that year.

Since Judge revealed last week that she was thinking about the Senate race, I’ve seen or heard many Democratic activists comment that she would be the strongest possible candidate, because her experience has made her so well-known. Along those lines, county party activist Kurt Meyer told the Register’s Noble, “If Patty got in the race, she has the statewide name recognition. My sense is that if she gets into the race, it’s going to shake things up a bit.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is rumored to have encouraged Judge to jump in late. If so, Washington insiders may already have internal polling that shows Judge would fare better against Grassley than any of the three declared candidates. Before long, public polling or leaked internal polls may confirm that impression.

Pat Rynard argued today at Iowa Starting Line that Judge’s strengths go beyond name recognition.

With Judge’s background as a former Secretary of Agriculture who hails from rural Monroe County where she and her husband own a farm, she could go toe-to-toe with Grassley on who could better represent rural Iowa. […]

She’ll likely be able to raise a lot of money too, as her credibility as a candidate could mean national money pours into Iowa. She could get extra assistance from national groups that want to press Grassley on the nomination hearing… which is essentially every single progressive issue group in the country.

John Deeth noted today that insiders rolled out Judge’s expected announcement in the New York Times.

The New York Times is a signal to Donors and Serious National Players that Judge is the horse to get behind in what may be Iowa’s first serious Democratic US Senate primary in a lifetime. And maybe the national folks figure: Farm Gal won it for the Republicans in 2014, maybe a generation older farm gal wins it for us in `16.

2. Ideology.

Since winning his first election to the state legislature in 2002, Hogg has been a progressive champion on a wide range of issues, particularly in the environmental area. He wrote a book on climate change as humanity’s challenge of the 21st century.

Judge is generally a middle of the road Democrat but has consistently sided with Big Ag interests on policies related to soil, water, or air quality. Former State Environmental Protection Commissioner Francis Thicke asserted in 2007,

“A few days ago, it became clearer to me where at least part of the Culver/Judge administration is coming from. I spoke with one of my neighbors who is proposing to build a 4,800-hog confinement about a mile and a half upwind from me. When I talked to him about it he said Patty Judge is his ‘champion’ and the reason he is planning on going through with this in spite of the objections of his neighbors. He said Patty Judge told him that Iowa is an agricultural state and anyone who doesn’t like it can leave in any of four directions.”

To give you an idea of Judge’s popularity in the Iowa environmental community, the only Green Party candidate I’ve ever voted for was Brian Depew for secretary of agriculture in 2002. The Iowa Democratic Party changed its rules at the 2010 state convention to block efforts by anti-factory farm activist Barb Kalbach to challenge Judge for the lieutenant governor nomination. Judge surely would have won the floor vote, but a sizable faction of state convention delegates might have gone the other way to let their disillusionment be known. John Deeth harshly criticized the then board president of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement for running against a Democratic incumbent instead of against a statehouse Republican. I argued at the time,

Kalbach said in announcing her candidacy, “I am taking this opportunity to represent the progressive, grassroots base of the Democratic Party who feels the issues that they have put forward have been ignored at the state level.” Kalbach wouldn’t have run if the Culver administration and Democratic legislative leaders had done anything to limit factory farm pollution during the past four years. She wouldn’t have run if the governor had done anything to advance the cause of local control (agricultural zoning), which he claimed to support during the 2006 campaign.

Last year, Judge became one of the front people for an astroturf group called the Iowa Partnership for Clean Water. Corporate interests formed that organization to oppose the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three drainage districts in northwest Iowa. Research has demonstrated that conventional agriculture is the primary source of excess nitrogen and phosphorus in Iowa waterways, but speaking on behalf of the astroturf group, Judge has claimed “There are many other sources” of such pollution. While the Iowa Partnership for Clean Water ran misleading television commercials “to publicly smear the man who runs the Water Works,” the massive nitrate removal system that keeps water drinkable for more than half a million Iowans ran for a record 177 days in 2015.

Hogg has fought some very tough fights in addition to taking the “easy” stands for a Democrat at the statehouse. Many progressives will stick with him for the primary, regardless of any electability argument Judge might make.

By the same token, many labor or rural Democrats who are hostile to environmental activists will favor Judge.

3. Gender.

It’s hard to convey the emotional gut punch Iowa Democrats took in 2014, watching Joni Ernst become the first woman elected to Congress from our state. Over the last three decades, our party nominated quite a few strong women for U.S. House or Senate. All fell short, often because of a tough district or their opponent’s natural incumbency advantages. While some Iowa Republican women have commanded great respect in Democratic circles (Mary Louise Smith, Mary Lundby, and Joy Corning come to mind), the same cannot be said for Ernst.

One of the most successful women politicians in our state’s history, Judge was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013. Thousands of Democratic women will be highly motivated to send one of our own to Washington.

In most of the fifteen presidential primaries and caucuses held this year, the majority of female Democratic voters have favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, a man with a great voting record on women’s issues. The same dynamic could work in Judge’s favor against Hogg, who has consistently supported reproductive rights and other policies of importance to women.

Any comments about the U.S. Senate race are welcome in this thread. I enclose below biographical information on Judge and Hogg.

MARCH 4 UPDATE: Judge launched her Senate bid on Twitter, saying, “Hey Iowans – I’m the Judge @ChuckGrassley can’t ignore.” At this writing, the campaign website is a landing page with a place for supporters to sign up. The campaign Facebook page has no content yet.

From Jason Noble’s report for the Des Moines Register:

Judge, 72, told the Register that her long political experience and rural perspective matched up favorably with Grassley, and predicted she would have the resources to mount a viable campaign.

“I know this state, I know people here, and I’ve worked hard here for a long time for people,” she said. “I decided a few years ago maybe that it was time to take a little easier path, but this one’s got me fired up.”

And she made clear that Grassley’s staunch refusal to entertain a nominee to the Supreme Court vacancy opened by the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month was the driving force behind her entry into the race.

Judge said on Friday that Grassley was “obstructing justice.”

“I really believe that in recent years and particularly right now he’s kind of forgotten he’s from Iowa,” Judge said. “He waited 36 years to become the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and now he’s refusing to do his job. That is not the Chuck Grassley that I knew 10 or 15 years ago and it’s not the thing Iowans want to see from their senator.”

From the Judge for Iowa press release:

“I’ve been fortunate to grow up in Iowa and to farm in Monroe county. I have served my friends and neighbors in the state Senate, and as Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture and Lieutenant Governor. Throughout my entire life in Iowa and during my time in office, I’ve always been proud of the way Iowans work together. From leading our state’s response to catastrophic flooding in 2008 to advocating for Iowa agriculture and biofuels, I’ve witnessed Iowans from all walks of life join together to strengthen our state.

“In the past, I’ve worked with Senator Grassley, but unfortunately he has changed. Senator Grassley is acting like someone who has been in Washington for far too long. Instead of working on behalf of Iowans, he’s working for his friends in Washington to block progress and promote obstructionism.”

“I’m running for Senate because we need to start working for Iowans again. We need a Senator who will promote progress and not forget who[m] they represent. I look forward to traveling across our great state in the weeks and months ahead. I hope Iowans will support my campaign and send a strong message about the kind of representation we want in Washington.”

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Executive Director Tom Lopach all but endorsed Judge in a press release shortly after her campaign announcement:

Patty Judge is a farmer, a nurse, and an outstanding public servant who has spent her career working for Iowa families. She will be a formidable challenger to Senator Grassley whose unprecedented obstruction of the constitution and flat out refusal to do his job and hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee are proof that he’s simply spent too much time in Washington following his party at the expense of commonsense.

LATER UPDATE: Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson interviewed Judge:

Judge told Radio Iowa this morning that she talked with her family and they came to this conclusion: “Things were lined up. There was a real chance to beat Chuck Grassley, not just to harass him, but to beat him and so we’ve jumped in, with both feet.” […]

Judge promised to run a “vigorous campaign” against Grassley.

“Chuck Grassley’s been there too long,” she says. “He’s lost his way and I’d love to replace him.” […]

A spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee issued a written statement, saying “no one works harder for Iowa than Chuck Grassley” and Grassley “wrote the book” on how to talk with voters “and take their ideas and concerns directly to Washington.”

Background on Patty Judge from the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame website:

Born in Ft. Madison in 1943 and raised in Albia, Iowa, Patty Jean Poole Judge began her career in Albia as a registered nurse and as a partner with her husband in a Monroe County farming operation. She purchased her parents’ real estate business in the early 1980s. As she built the business, Judge became aware of the looming farm crisis. She soon began helping hundreds of farm families and their creditors find solutions to financial troubles through the Iowa Farmer Creditor Mediation Service, which led her to be a strong advocate for rural families. Active both in her community and throughout southern Iowa, Judge was elected to the Iowa Senate in 1992 and re-elected in 1996. In 1998, she became the first woman elected Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and was re-elected in 2002. During her administration renewable energy grew to become an integral part of Iowa’s economy, new international markets for agricultural products were developed, Iowa’s wine industry began to flourish and the swine disease pseudorabies was eradicated from Iowa hog herds. In 2006, Judge was elected Iowa’s Lieutenant Governor, serving with Governor Chet Culver. During her term in office she also served the state as the Homeland Security Advisor and was instrumental in coordinating critical response operations during the historic floods of 2008. While in office she worked to create a task force designed to address issues of racial disparity in Iowa prisons, took a critical look at gender gap in wages and championed the expansion of the state’s children’s health insurance program and wellness programs. Since leaving the state capitol in January 2011, Judge has created a consulting company and has assisted many candidates in their bids for elected office.

Background on Rob Hogg from his campaign website:

Rob Hogg, age 48, is currently serving his third term in the Iowa Senate after two terms in the Iowa House. In 2006, he ran successfully for the Iowa Senate in 2006, replacing former Senator Chuck Larson (R-Cedar Rapids).  He was re-elected in 2010 and 2014.

In the Iowa Senate, Senator Hogg is chair of the Senate Government Oversight Committee.  His other committee assignments include education, judiciary, appropriations, and ways and means.  Previously, he served as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and as chair of the Senate Rebuild Iowa Committee after the devastating floods and tornadoes of 2008.

Senator Hogg has also served as co-chair of the Cedar River Watershed Coalition, a citizen-led initiative to prevent future flood damage and improve water quality that he helped found in 2010, and is the author of a 2013 book, America’s Climate Century: What Climate Change Means for America in the 21st Century and What Americans Can Do About It.

During his service in the Iowa Legislature, Senator Hogg has been honored with various awards including the following:

One Iowa, Sharon K. Malheiro Public Service Award, 2014

Iowa County Attorney Association, Iowa Justice Award, 2014

Iowa Fraternal Alliance, Legislator of the Year, 2013

Linn County Public Health, Public Health Champion, 2012

Iowa State Education Association, Friend of Education, 2011

Iowa Corrections Association, Outstanding Public Servant, 2010

Iowa Defense Counsel Association, Public Service Award, 2010

Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, Public Service Award, 2007

Older Iowans Legislature, Legislator of the Year, 2005

Iowa Farmers Union, Friend of Family Farmers, 2004

In addition to serving in the Iowa Legislature, Senator Hogg has worked as an attorney with the Cedar Rapids law firm of Elderkin & Pirnie, P.L.C., since 2000.  He previously served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Michael J. Melloy, then Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids (1998-99), and the Honorable Donald P. Lay, Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (1995-96).

Rob is a fourth generation Iowan.  Rob graduated from City High School in Iowa City (1985), the University of Iowa (B.A., history, 1988), and the University of Minnesota (M.A., public affairs, 1991; J.D., 1995).  Rob and his wife, Kate, have three children, two in college and one in high school.  They are members of Christ Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids.

  • Is this about the Supreme Court?

    I bet not. I bet it is that Judge sees Trump taking Senators down with him, so she’s seizing the opportunity for herself.

    • could very well be the case

      Democrats could win some unexpected races this fall in a Trump implosion scenario. The gender gap will break all records in a Trump/Clinton race.

  • Thanks for this

    backgrounder and ALL your coverage.

  • A Corporate Democrat with baggage - hand-picked to hedge against an activated Sander's base

    The DNC and IDP are running scared. In this election cycle, who can blame them. The old bromides and insider truisms – along with the bags of cold cash – are not working so well so far, and, big money is seeing the pitchforks. Doubt this? Go talk to Jeb!. Whatever else Patty Judge is, she is a candidate with a well-known load of baggage, a cozy relationship with big ag and now, the Comedy-Central-esque Label of “Progressive.” Iowa voters are already picking their jaws up from the floor on this one and those who haven’t already will sniff this farce of a label out in about 10 seconds. Really, the only question in this voter’s mind is: Are you serious? In this election cycle?

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