# Dave Funk

Iowa GOP picks Ron Paul's man over Terry Branstad's choice

The Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee met on Saturday to consider a successor to Matt Strawn, who resigned as chairman in the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses.

When a Democrat is governor, the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee defers to the governor’s choice for party chair. But a majority of the 17 voting Republicans elected A.J. Spiker, co-chair of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in Iowa, over co-chair Bill Schickel, Governor Terry Branstad’s strong preference.

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Local Iowa election discussion thread

Iowans will elect county supervisors and vote on many local ballot initiatives across the state tomorrow, so I thought I’d put up a thread for Bleeding Heartland readers to discus any local races of interest. Iowa City’s vote on the 21-only bar ordinance will be the most closely-watched city election result. If the “yes” side prevails, the city’s ordinance barring 19- and 20-year-olds from bars after 10 pm will be thrown out. If “no” wins, the ordinance will stand. Strong early voting among University of Iowa students suggests that the ordinance will be tossed out. If I lived in Iowa City, I’d vote no. To my mind, this is a public safety issue, and the drop in downtown crime since the ordinance went into effect is compelling. I see no reason to make Iowa City a drinking destination for underage people in a large area of eastern Iowa. People who view this as a rights issue should be agitating to lower the drinking age.

In Polk County, the most contested local race is in the third supervisor’s district, where former Republican Congressional candidate Dave Funk is challenging two-term incumbent Tom Hockensmith (more background here). Funk is running on a small-government, lower-taxes agenda. He also claims Polk County isn’t spending enough on public safety. I have heard that Funk is advertising on the radio, but I haven’t caught any of those commercials, so I don’t know the script. Hockensmith has been up on Des Moines television stations with a 30-second ad for the last week or two. A transcript of the Hockensmith commercial is after the jump.

Funk has some ground to make up tomorrow. According to Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, as of November 1 his office had received 4,588 absentee ballots from registered Democrats in the third supervisor’s district, 2,595 from Republicans, 1,157 from no-party voters and 5 from voters with some other registration. In 2006, Hockensmith defeated Republican Wes Enos by 16,936 votes to 11,121.

Any comments on local Iowa elections are welcome in this thread.

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Second look at Dave Funk's county supervisor campaign

Dave Funk officially announced his candidacy for Polk County supervisor this week and rolled out a new campaign website, PolkNeedsFunk.com. Not quite the same ring as “Congress Needs Funk,” but still a good slogan. He’s a strong recruit, having carried several precincts in the third supervisor’s district in last month’s GOP primary to represent Iowa’s third Congressional district. (Click here for maps of the district and the Congressional primary results in Polk County.)

Funk promised supporters that this is a “winnable” race, which could give Republicans control of Polk County government for the first time in 62 years. As an energetic campaigner with a built-in supply of volunteers from the local tea party movement, Funk will test two-term incumbent Tom Hockensmith. He starts the campaign with much higher name recognition than Wes Enos, whom Hockensmith defeated in 2006 by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent.

However, Funk faces an uphill battle. Even after recent Republican gains in voter registration statewide, Democrats still have a large registration advantage in Polk County’s third supervisor’s district. Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald provided the latest figures for active registered voters in the area Hockensmith represents: 22,301 Democrats, 15,753 Republicans, 15,569 no-party voters, and 52 others. Polk County Democrats have a strong GOTV operation, and organized labor will work hard for Hockensmith for reasons I described here.

Funk’s tea party rhetoric may not resonate in this campaign as well as it did with Republican primary voters last month. The issues page of Polk Needs Funk talks about limiting spending so that county government can “live within its means,” but people want their supervisors to deliver public services like the ones Hockensmith will talk about during the campaign.

Anyway, Polk County’s fiscal position is strong. Many residents questioned the money spent to expand the Iowa Events Center earlier this decade, but that facility just turned its largest-ever profit despite the tough economy. You can download recent county budgets and reports from bond rating agencies here. The last time Polk County issued general obligation bonds in 2007, all three major ratings agencies gave the county strong credit ratings. Fitch said its AA+ rating “reflects the county’s broad and diverse economic base, sound financial operations, and low direct debt burden.” Moody’s said Polk’s “high quality Aa1 rating reflects the county’s healthy and economically viable tax base realizing strong growth trends; stable financial operations supported by satisfactory reserve levels; and a manageable debt burden with future debt planned.” Standard & Poor’s raised Polk’s rating from AA+ to AAA, citing factors such as “low debt burden” and “stable financial position supported by a policy to pass balanced budgets.”

Funk will struggle to convince voters that “Polk County is among the most hostile business environments in Iowa.” Talk about “getting government out of the way and fostering a fair, business-friendly environment” appeals to Funk’s base but has little basis in reality. The business magazine Forbes just named the Des Moines metro area one of the top ten “recovery capitals” in the U.S., based on Moody’s Economy.com analysis of economic prospects for the period 2010-14. The Brookings Institute ranked the Des Moines area near the top in its June 2010 report on recession and economic recovery in the country’s 100 largest metro areas. In April, Des Moines topped the Forbes list of “best places for business and careers.” Many factors contribute to the Des Moines area’s relative economic health, and most of them have little to do with county governance. But if Polk County supervisors really were creating the “hostile” business environment of Funk’s imagination, Des Moines shouldn’t be doing so well compared to other U.S. cities.

Share any thoughts about county government or the Funk/Hockensmith race in this thread.

First look at Dave Funk as a Polk County supervisor candidate

I heard the rumor, Civic Skinny heard the rumor, and now The Iowa Republican blog reports that Dave Funk will soon be the Republican nominee for supervisor in Polk County’s third district.

The two Republican Polk County supervisors aren’t up for re-election this year, and the GOP isn’t fielding candidates against Democratic supervisors John Mauro and Angela Connolly. As a result, the third district race between Funk and two-term incumbent Tom Hockensmith will determine control of the five-member board of supervisors. Democrats have had a majority on that body for decades.

Without question, Funk is the best candidate Republicans could have recruited for this race. Two pictures tell that story after the jump.

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Early reaction to Branstad's choice of Kim Reynolds

A string of prominent Iowa Republicans spoke out today praising Terry Branstad’s choice of State Senator Kim Reynolds for lieutenant governor. IowaPolitics.com posted the Branstad campaign’s press releases with encouraging words from Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, Iowa House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, former Congressional candidate and tea party favorite Dave Funk, former gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong, and Iowa’s representatives on the Republican National Committee, Steve Scheffler and Kim Lehman. Scheffler heads the Iowa Christian Alliance, and Lehman is a past president of Iowa Right to Life.

The Branstad campaign is anxious to avoid an embarrassing display of support for Bob Vander Plaats at this Saturday’s Republican state convention. Today they hit convention delegates with an e-mail blast and robocalls stressing Reynolds’ “conservative credentials.” The strong words from Scheffler and Lehman in support of the ticket may prevent any media narrative from developing about religious conservatives rejecting Branstad. The Iowa Family Policy Center (viewed by many as a rival to the Iowa Christian Alliance) backed Bob Vander Plaats in the Republican primary and vowed not to endorse Branstad against Democratic Governor Chet Culver. That group recently affirmed that Branstad would need to undergo a “fundamental transformation” to win their support in the general election campaign.

Lehman wrote at the Caffeinated Thoughts blog today that Reynolds’ “record speaks for itself.” Lehman’s long list of conservative bills co-sponsored by Reynolds in the Iowa Senate impressed Caffeinated Thoughts blogmaster Shane Vander Hart. He supported Rod Roberts for governor and was a leader of the petition drive lobbying Branstad to choose Roberts as his running mate.

To my mind, Reynolds’ record in the Iowa Senate says only that she sticks with the consensus in the Republican caucus. She has not taken any unusual positions or been outspoken on any major issues under consideration. An acquaintance I spoke with today, who spends a lot of time at the capitol every year during the legislative session, had not even heard of Reynolds before this week. That’s how low her profile has been during her two years at the statehouse. Reynolds may be a reliable back-bencher for conservatives, but I don’t see her as a strong advocate for the religious right. She doesn’t have the stature to drive the agenda if Branstad is elected. Like Todd Dorman wrote yesterday, the lieutenant governor gets to do “whatever the governor lets you do. And in a Branstad administration, if the past is an indicator, his mate will be the special director of the Department of Not Much.”

Nor is there any indication that Reynolds would urge Branstad to make social issues a priority. I think this pick indicates the business wing of the Iowa GOP is fully in charge–or at least one faction in that wing. Others in the business community appear to have been pushing for Jeff Lamberti or Jim Gibbons to be selected as Branstad’s running mate.

Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge spoke about Reynolds today on behalf of the Culver campaign. She suggested that Reynolds may not help Branstad with the social conservatives who supported other candidates for governor, because she “comes out of the same camp as Terry and Doug Gross rather than out of the camp of Bob Vander Plaats or Mr. Roberts.” In a press release and news conference, Judge also emphasized that we don’t know much about Reynolds’ views on key issues, and that her learning curve will be steep, because she has relatively little experience at the statewide level: “It will take a lot of study on Kim’s part. […] If [Branstad] keeps her in the basement in a small office as he did [former Lieutenant Governor] Joy Corning, then she’s not going to have much of an opportunity to know what’s going on.” Say what you will about Patty Judge (I’m not a fan), but she did have a strong legislative record and eight years of holding statewide office going into the 2006 campaign. She has had real influence on policy in the Culver administration.

Being a blank slate may have its advantages, however. Iowa State University Professor Steffen Schmidt thinks Reynolds was a good choice because she is so unknown that she won’t turn voters off or take attention away from Branstad.

Share any thoughts about the Branstad/Reynolds ticket in this thread.

UPDATE: Jason Hancock pointed out at Iowa Independent:

Kim Lehman, another member of the Republican National Committee and formerly president of Iowa Right to Life, praised Reynolds’ selection and her legislative record, ticking through each of the bills she has sponsored since entering the state Senate in 2008 and concluding, “Reynolds went into office and took the bull by the horns and got busy.”

However, a closer look at the bills Reynolds signed on to reveals she only sponsored one piece of legislation on her own – a requirement that the Department of Natural Resources develop depredation plans to fill harvest quotas of antlerless deer in each county that have not been met at the end of the last established deer hunting season each year.

Other than that, she nearly always joins with all or a large majority of the state Senate’s 18 Republicans to push bills.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Reynolds gave an interview to Kathie Obradovich and spoke about being a recovering alcoholic. This is not going to be an issue.

The Branstad campaign is trying to counter opposition to Reynolds over her support for a recreational lake project that angered some property rights advocates. Today the campaign released an endorsement from State Representative Jeff Kaufmann, who tried to intervene in that dispute on the side of property owners.

“I remain dedicated to the fight for private property rights in this state,” said Kaufmann. “The last four years of Democratic control of the Legislature has yielded no strengthening of these rights.  The Democratic majority has not allowed debate of a single property rights bill despite overwhelming support for the 2006 landmark legislation.”

“Our attempts to protect property rights will be thwarted, as usual, by Governor Culver and Democratic leadership without Republican control of the Legislature,” added Kaufmann. “To me, all other property rights discussions are secondary to that goal.  I look forward to working with Kim Reynolds in the future to protect property owners in the future.”

The Branstad campaign also sent conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart a statement from Reynolds about eminent domain:

I fully support the 2006 legislation that curtailed the use of eminent domain to take private property. I do not support eminent domain for commercial development purposes. I support eminent domain only for essential public services.

That answer satisfied Vander Hart. However, one issue with these recreational lake projects (like ones proposed for Page County, Clarke County and Madison County in recent years) is that the advocates will claim the land grab serves an essential public service, like providing more drinking water. However, analysts dispute whether the lake is really needed as a drinking water source, or whether that’s a ruse to obscure the real goal behind the project. A few people stand to make a lot of money if the farmland they own can be developed as lakeshore property. So the question is whether the state would allow other people’s farmland to be condemned in order to create a lake that’s basically a private commercial development.

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Iowa primary election results thread

Polls close at 9 pm, but I decided to post this thread early in case anyone wants to chat before results start coming in.

I’ll update later with returns in the key Iowa races. For now, share any anecdotes about voting or political talk today. I ran into a friend who was a Republican for most of her life, even voting twice for George W. Bush. She voted for Chet Culver in 2006 and plans to volunteer for his campaign this year, mostly because she doesn’t want Republicans to cut preschool funding and other social services for kids.

9:15 pm UPDATE: 9 percent of precincts reporting, Terry Branstad 47 percent, Bob Vander Plaats 46 percent, Rod Roberts 7 percent. I have no idea which part of the state has reported–if those are from northwest Iowa counties, Branstad probably doesn’t have anything to worry about, but if that’s from central or eastern Iowa, this could be a lot closer than I expected.

Brad Zaun leads the early returns in IA-03, but it seems like Polk County is coming in early.

9:40 pm UPDATE. The Associated Press has called the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate for Roxanne Conlin. She has about 80 percent of the vote in the early returns; Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen have about 10 percent each.

Branstad is opening up a lead on Vander Plaats, about 51-41.

Zaun is dominating the IA-03 primary with over 50 percent of the vote (about half the precincts counted).

10 pm UPDATE: Zaun is being called the winner in the IA-03 primary. He has about half the vote with about two-thirds of the precincts reporting.

Mariannette Miller-Meeks leads the IA-02 GOP primary in the early returns.

Matt Campbell leads Mike Denklau in the early returns for the IA-05 Democratic primary.

Conlin just finished giving her victory speech to her supporters.

Ako Abdul-Samad won the Democratic primary in Iowa House district 66 with about 75 percent of the vote.

10:35 pm UPDATE: The AP has called the gubernatorial primary for Branstad, who has 51 percent of the vote with about three quarters of the precincts counted. Matt Campbell won the fifth district Democratic primary.

Mariannette Miller-Meeks looks smart for not wasting money on tv ads in the IA-02 primary. She has been called the winner with 50 percent of the vote in a four-way race. The NRCC’s favored candidate, Rob Gettemy, may actually finish dead last.

Matt Schultz has a pretty big lead in the GOP secretary of state primary, about 47 percent so far. The big surprise to me is that Chris Sanger (who hardly raised any money) has almost as many votes as George Eichhorn, who had quite a few endorsements and has been active in Iowa politics for a long time.

Tea party candidate Tom Shaw has a narrow lead in the Republican primary in Iowa House district 8, but it’s too early to know if that lead will hold up.

11:25 pm UPDATE: It’s official, Gettemy finished dead last in IA-02. Miller-Meeks won that four-way primary with an impressive 51 percent of the vote. Will Republicans unite behind her?

Zaun is sitting at about 43 percent with most of the IA-03 votes counted.

Branstad is still leading with 51 percent of the vote, to 40 percent for Vander Plaats. If the Club for Growth had invested $1 million in Vander Plaats, this could have been a nail-biter.

Matt Schultz did win the secretary of state primary with 47 percent of the vote. Political veteran George Eichhorn got 27 percent, and Chris Sanger got 26 percent despite spending almost no money.

Dave Jamison easily won the GOP primary for state treasurer with about 67 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Jim Heavens.

Campbell has a very big lead in the IA-05 Democratic primary, with about 76 percent of votes counted so far.

In Iowa Senate district 13, Tod Bowman easily won the four-way Democratic primary with more than 60 percent of the vote. He had key union endorsements. This should be an easy hold for us in November.

Anesa Kajtazovic won the House district 21 Democratic primary with more than 90 percent of the vote (Kerry Burt dropped out of the race this spring).

Democratic incumbents Chuck Isenhart, Dave Jacoby and Mary Gaskill easily held off primary challenges in House districts 27, 30 and 93, respectively. All won more than 80 percent of the vote.

In Iowa House district 8, tea partier Tom Shaw is officially the Republican primary winner over Stephen Richards, who almost beat Dolores Mertz in the 2008 election. I like our chances of holding a seat that should have been the GOP’s best pickup opportunity in the Iowa House.

Check the AP’s page for results in the other statehouse primaries (mostly GOP).

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: I can’t believe I forgot to mention the results in Senate district 41. State Senator Dave Hartsuch, who defeated incumbent Maggie Tinsman in the 2006 GOP primary, got a taste of his own medicine when he lost the Republican primary to Roby Smith by a 52-48 margin. Rich Clewell won the Democratic primary with 56 percent to 44 percent for Republican-turned-Democrat Dave Thede. Scott County readers, do you think these results improve our chances of winning this district? It has historically been Republican, but registration numbers have been trending toward Democrats, evening things out.

Weekend open thread: Election prediction contest edition

It’s time for another Bleeding Heartland election prediction contest. No prizes will be awarded, but winners will get bragging rights. Can anyone dethrone American007, overall winner of our 2008 election contest?

Enter by answering the following questions. To qualify for the contest, your predictions must be posted as a comment in this thread by 7 am on Tuesday, June 8, 2010. This isn’t like The Price is Right; the winning answers will be closest to the final results, whether or not they were a little high or low.

1. How many votes will be cast in the Republican primary for Iowa governor? (Hint: about 199,000 Iowans voted in the hard-fought 2002 Republican gubernatorial primary.)

2. What percentages of the vote will Terry Branstad, Bob Vander Plaats and Rod Roberts receive in the Republican primary for governor?

3. What percentages of the vote will Roxanne Conlin, Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen receive in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate?

4. What percentages of the vote will Rob Gettemy, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Steve Rathje and Chris Reed receive in the Republican primary in Iowa’s second Congressional district? Remember, if you expect this nomination to be decided at a district convention, make sure your guess has the top vote-getter below 35 percent.

5. Who will be the top four candidates in the Republican primary in Iowa’s third Congressional district, and what percentages of the vote will they receive? Again, keep the top vote-getter below 35 percent if you expect this nomination to go to a district convention. Your possible answers are Jim Gibbons, Brad Zaun, Dave Funk, Mark Rees, Scott Batcher, Jason Welch and Pat Bertroche.

6. What percentages of the vote will Mike Denklau and Matt Campbell receive in the Democratic primary in Iowa’s fifth Congressional district?

7. What percentages of the vote will Matt Schultz, George Eichhorn and Chris Sanger receive in the Republican primary for secretary of state? (I covered that campaign in this post.)

8. What percentages of the vote will Dave Jamison and Jim Heavens receive in the Republican primary for state treasurer? (The Iowa Republican blog has been covering this race from time to time.)

9. What percentages of the vote will State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad and challenger Clair Rudison receive in the Democratic primary for Iowa House district 66? (Click here for background.)

10. What percentages of the vote will Tom Shaw, Stephen Richards and Alissa Wagner receive in the Republican primary for Iowa House district 8? (Click here and here for background. Keep in mind that although Wagner withdrew from the race and endorsed Shaw, her name will remain on the ballot.)

Don’t be afraid to make some wild guesses. You can’t win if you don’t play!

This is also an open thread, so share whatever’s on your mind.

Boswell's opponents are not ready for prime time

Iowa Republicans are deluding themselves if they think Representative Leonard Boswell is highly vulnerable this year. The more I see of the Republican primary campaigns, the less worried I am about holding Iowa’s third Congressional district in the Democratic column.

Four of the seven Republicans running against Boswell have no chance of winning the nomination. Jason Welch hasn’t attended any candidate forums, and I wonder why he went to the trouble of qualifying for the ballot. Pat Bertroche and Scott Batcher are ill-informed sideshows who will be lucky to win 5 percent of the vote. Mark Rees seems to have the firmest grasp of the issues, but there aren’t enough moderate Republicans anymore for someone like Rees to win a primary. Rees could affect the election, because a strong showing for him (10 to 20 percent of the vote) would increase the chance that no candidate receives at least 35 percent in the primary. But whether Republicans pick a winner on June 8 or at a district convention later, Rees will not be Boswell’s general election opponent.

That leaves the Washington establishment candidate Jim Gibbons, State Senator Brad Zaun and tea party favorite Dave Funk. After watching yesterday’s forum featuring six of Boswell’s opponents, Graham Gillette argued that Funk, Gibbons and Zaun “are all capable of putting together a strong general election effort.” After the jump I explain why I disagree.

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Zaun campaigns as "proven conservative"

Republican State Senator Brad Zaun’s Congressional campaign launched new radio and television advertising this week. Here is the tv ad:

The script:

Brad Zaun: There’s a plan for most of the problems that face America, it’s called the Constitution, I’m Brad Zaun.

We need limited government, which means a repeal of Obamacare, and let’s get back to the 10th Amendment and put the power in the hands of the people.

Anncr: Under Brad Zaun, Urbandale had the lowest tax rates and as Senator Brad Zaun has been recognized by business groups with a 100% pro-jobs voting record. Brad Zaun a proven conservative, getting it done.

Brad Zaun: I’m Brad Zaun and I approve this message.

This commercial is nowhere near as slick as Jim Gibbons’ opening tv ad, but it’s an improvement on the first Zaun commercial, which aired briefly in January. Zaun is still hitting very safe Republican themes, but unlike the first ad, the new commercial cites Zaun’s record as mayor and state senator. None of the six other Republicans running for Congress in the third district has ever held elective office before. Zaun’s opening radio ad also emphasizes his record:

BZ: You learn a lot when you own a hardware store for eighteen years, I’m Brad Zaun. I learned to meet a payroll, listen to my customers and during tough times, cut expenses. And that’s what our country needs today.

Anncr: Under Brad Zaun’s leadership as Mayor, Urbandale tightened its belt and enjoyed the lowest tax rates in the metro area and as Senator, Brad Zaun received a 100% rating from the Iowa Association of Business and Industry for supporting job creation.

BZ: In Congress, I’ll vote to repeal Obamacare and support real health care reform that is market-driven and puts you in control of your own healthcare decisions. I will also vote to end wasteful earmarks…if you’re looking for pork barrel spending; I’m not your candidate. And I’ll push for a balanced budget amendment to force Washington to end the out of control spending. Let’s take our country back. I’m Brad Zaun and I approve this message.

Anncr: Brad Zaun…Conservative…Republican….Proven Results. Paid for by Zaun for Congress

Gibbons has also talked about how his career has influenced his political beliefs and has made vague promises to “stop wasteful spending, lower taxes and grow Iowa jobs.” But Zaun has a dash more “tea party” in his campaign message, bringing up the 10th amendment and “Obamacare” in the tv ad and bashing earmarks in his radio ad. Earmarks make up a miniscule and declining portion of federal spending, but it’s a safe bet Republican primary voters aren’t aware of that.

Zaun won’t be able to run as many commercials as Gibbons before the June 8 primary. Republican insider Doug Gross has predicted Zaun will have a stronger ground game than Gibbons, while tea party favorite Dave Funk has support from the “ideologues.” I am curious to see whether Gibbons ever makes a case against any of his Republican rivals. For now he seems to be relying on fame from his wrestling days and a large advertising budget.

The next debate featuring the third district Republican candidates will be hosted by the Des Moines Tea Party this Sunday evening, May 16. Funk and moderate Republican Mark Rees should probably try to do something to stand out from the crowd. If each of them can win 10-20 percent of the vote on June 8, it becomes much more likely that a district convention will decide which Republican will face Representative Leonard Boswell in November.

For what it’s worth, most of the Democrats I talk to expect Zaun to be the eventual nominee, but if it goes to convention Funk cannot be counted out.

UPDATE: According to Kathie Obradovich, Gibbons, Rees, and Jason Welch (who hasn’t campaigned at all) won’t attend this Sunday’s Tea Party debate. Gibbons declined because he doesn’t do campaign events on Sundays.

SECOND UPDATE: In the comments, mirage says Gibbons has done campaign events on Sundays. Meanwhile, Rees explains why he is declining the Tea Party invitation to debate:

My initial concerns with the debate are of fairness and credibility. Although the Des Moines Tea Party has said it will not officially endorse a candidate in the Primary, one of my opponents is widely known and commonly accepted to be, “the Tea Party candidate.” Furthermore, his campaign has been managed by a key organizer and leader of the Tea Party movement in Iowa. I believe these facts raise a large and legitimate red flag as to whether this debate will indeed provide a fair and level playing field for all of the candidates.

Next, recent news reports, along with my own interactions with Tea Party activists during this campaign, have left me deeply troubled by the tone, demeanor, and tactics of the movement.

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Department of strange rallying cries

Democrats and Republicans gathered for district conventions over the weekend, and after reading John Deeth’s helpful news roundup I headed over to The Iowa Republican blog to watch some clips from the third district GOP convention. Congressional candidate Jim Gibbons had supporters wearing “Burn the Boats” t-shirts, which he explained toward the end of his speech to the delegates:

Gibbons talks about being a competitor, wanting to take down the champion and why this will be a tough race. Here is my rough transcript of the most intriguing part, beginning around the 3:30 mark:

If you look around this group right here, you’ll see people who have never been a part of this process. They’re new, they’re young people, they’ve got those “Burn the Boats” shirts on. People ask, “What’s that about?” Let me give you the explanation.

In the 1500s, the conqueror [Hernando] Cortés was going up against the Aztec army. He decided that to motivate his people, to get them fired up about the job that they had to do–they were outnumbered vastly–he made the decision: burn the boats. If we’re successful, we’ll go home in their boats.

That’s the attitude of this campaign. That’s what I’m about. I’m totally committed to beating Leonard Boswell. I have the resources, the will, the determination to beat him in November. I’m asking you to join me in this fight. We will win in November. I’m burning my boats, and I’m attacking the island, thank you and God bless.

Technically, Cortés scuttled (not burned) his ships in order to prevent another mutiny after one failed attempt. He wasn’t motivating his troops by the prospect of winning and going home in Aztec boats; he was making them give up hope of returning from the new world. According to Wikipedia, the “popular misconception that Cortés burned the ships […] may have come from a mistranslation of the version of the story written in Latin.”

I get Gibbons’ point: he’s all in to win this race, having quit his job as a financial adviser when he decided to run for Congress. He’s drawing an unspoken contrast with his chief Republican rival Brad Zaun, who has his state Senate seat and a job in real estate to go back to if he loses to Boswell.

Still, “burn the boats” seems weird for a campaign slogan, and I have to wonder whose idea it was to pick a greedy and brutal Spanish conquistador for a role model.

Speaking of strange historical inspiration, Josh Marshall is bewildered that “The Republican Governors Association is embracing the mantle of a 17th century radical who tried but failed to pull off a mass casualty terrorist attack to kill the King of England and all of Parliament.” Michael Scherer reported for Time’s Swampland blog,

The Republican Governors Association has embraced the symbolism of [Guy] Fawkes, launching a rather striking website, RememberNovember.com, with a video that showcases far more Hollywood savvy than one can usually expect from Republicans. Again, the Fawkes tale has been twisted a bit. This time, President Obama plays the roll of King James, the Democratic leadership is Parliament, and the Republican Party represents the aggrieved Catholic mass.

I’ve spent a few Guy Fawkes Days in the UK. The holiday is marked by fireworks and bonfires to celebrate the failure of Fawkes’ plot. There’s even a nursery rhyme, “Remember remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.” Republicans may have embraced the wrong hero out of confusion. Or perhaps Steve Benen is right: “the Republican mainstream made a right turn at scary, and have arrived right at stark raving mad.”

Any comments about campaign strategy or sloganeering are welcome in this thread. I love the official statements from tea party favorite Dave Funk’s third district campaign, which often start out with, “Congress needs Funk.”

Final note on Gibbons: Kathie Obradovich reports that he’ll be featured on a show for a new conservative television network later this year. That could become embarrassing if Zaun defeats Gibbons, the National Republican Campaign Committee’s favorite, in the June 8 primary or at a district convention to select the nominee.

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Moderate Rees left out of IA-03 Republican debate

It’s early in the campaign season, but Benton County Advocates (whoever they are) are on track to be the worst debate organizers of the year. They are hosting a debate on April 27 in Vinton for three Republican candidates in Iowa’s third Congressional district. Seven candidates qualified for the ballot, but Benton County Advocates invited only Dave Funk, Jim Gibbons and Brad Zaun to take part in the debate, Iowa Independent reported today.

Speaking on behalf of the Benton County Advocates, Bill Keller explained the reasoning in the comments section of Iowa Independent:

The rules, as displayed in the group event linked in your article, were quite clear. We were going to look at the individual contributions and take the top three earners. Mr. Gibbons was first place with $344,598, Mr. Zaun was second with $83,380 and Mr. Funk was third with $69,141. Mr. Reese raised $12,050, less that 1/5th his nearest competitor. While Mr. Reese rightly states he has more cash on hand than all but Mr. Gibbons, the part he leaves out is that of the $64,000 reported to the FEC, $54,000 of that money was contributed by Mr. Reese himself. While that is certainly a firm statement of his belief in his political path, we believe individual contributions are a broader yardstick to measure his viability within the 3rd district.

Our group chose individual contributions as the marker because we felt it was a solid indicator of support within the 3rd district. If a candidate presents his views and has the electorate listen to them, we believe their direct financial support is a solid indicator of a candidate’s viability. Since Mr. Reese did not meet the minimum requirement of our selection criteria, he was not invited.

Here’s some free advice, Mr. Keller: you would sound more credible if you spelled the candidate’s name correctly at least once.

The substance of Keller’s argument wasn’t convincing either. Granted, a debate with seven candidates could get unwieldy, and some of the men on the ballot for the IA-03 primary aren’t running real campaigns. In contrast, Rees has hired paid campaign staff and has been actively campaigning around the district for the last few months. He has yard signs out around the Des Moines suburbs and a strong online presence too.

What was the rationale for including only three candidates, rather than the four who are most actively seeking Leonard Boswell’s job (Rees, Funk, Zaun and Gibbons)? Why judge who is credible based only on individual contributions rather than overall financial strength? Rees has more cash on hand than Funk or Zaun and has said he is prepared to commit $200,000 of his own money to the campaign. Plenty of successful candidates have largely self-funded their first campaigns.

The April 27 debate in Vinton would have been more interesting with Rees in the mix, because he is trying to fill a more moderate niche in the GOP. Without him, the debate is likely to be a boring display of right-wing sloganeering. Who wants to watch Zaun, Gibbons and Funk try to one-up each other as the true conservative? The Benton County Advocates blew it.

Any comments about the IA-03 campaign are welcome in this thread. Whose yard signs, barn signs and bumper stickers are you seeing in your corner of the district? Here in Windsor Heights I’ve only seen yard signs for Zaun and Rees. Apparently Gibbons has some signs up on commercial properties in the Des Moines area, especially those owned by Denny Elwell in Ankeny.

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Iowa reaction to health insurance reform bill passing

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the health insurance reform bill on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Iowa politicians from both parties have been responding to last night’s votes in the House of Representatives. After the jump I’ve posted lots of reaction quotes, plus some bonus embarrassing comments from Steve King.

The president is coming to Iowa City this Thursday to promote the health insurance reform bill:

Iowa City was where candidate Obama announced his health-care plan before the 2008 caucuses, when he was in a scrap with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards for the party’s presidential nomination.

A White House official said today the president will be in the state to “discuss how health insurance reform will lower costs for small businesses and American families and give them more control over their health care.”

I’ll be curious to see the public polling on this issue in Iowa. A new nationwide CNN poll released today showed that 39 percent of respondents support the Senate bill just approved by the House. Some 43 percent oppose the bill because it is “too liberal,” while 13 percent oppose the bill because it is “not liberal enough.” In other words, more than half the respondents either support the bill or (like me) feel it doesn’t go far enough.  

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Hastert fundraiser could become liability for Gibbons

Last night former House Speaker Dennis Hastert headlined a fundraiser for Jim Gibbons, the candidate in the third Congressional district favored by beltway Republicans. Gibbons raised the most money by far in the fourth quarter of 2009, and Hastert’s appearance should help him out-raise his five or six Republican rivals in the current fundraising period too.  

By the same token, Hastert’s trip to Des Moines will provide fodder for Gibbons’ opponents. Tea Party favorite Dave Funk is pushing this message:

As a pilot, I know if you don’t chart a clear course and stay ever vigilant, you’re going to lose your direction and get lost. I hate to say it, but that happened under Dennis Hastert’s watch. The House Republican caucus lost its way with excessive spending and policies that didn’t represent the values and ideals of our party or the majority of American voters.

To be honest, Dennis Hastert was the “earmark king” of the Republican Party.  And now Jim Gibbons has aligned himself with Dennis Hastert and the very philosophy and actions that resulted in our party losing control of Congress, the Senate and the White House.

How can we in Iowa’s Third District expect real leadership from Jim Gibbons, when he is joining forces with the leader who led the House Republicans on the spending spree with taxpayers money that cost conservatives their reputations as fiscally responsible small government leaders?

State Senator Brad Zaun took a subtle swipe at Gibbons in a press release that was mostly about Zaun submitting his nominating papers:

“While some of the candidates in this primary are worried about earning the favor of the powerbrokers on Capitol Hill, I’ve been focused on serving my constituents and listening to the voters across the 3rd Congressional District. I look forward to ramping up our efforts in April and May after the legislative session adjourns,” concluded Zaun.

Former Representative Greg Ganske hosted the Hastert event for Gibbons. He represented Polk County when it was part of Iowa’s fourth Congressional district from 1995-2003. Ganske isn’t universally popular with the Republican base, though. He nearly lost the 2002 U.S. Senate primary to wingnut extraordinaire Bill Salier, and some Republicans believe (foolishly in my opinion) that being too moderate cost Ganske that year’s election against Tom Harkin.  

The Iowa Democratic Party released a statement yesterday on Hastert’s visit:  

More than two years after leaving public office to become a lobbyist, former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert continues to receive nearly $40,000 a month in taxpayer funded perks including an office, cell phone, staff, and an SUV.  

“Keeping Former Speaker Dennis Hastert on the taxpayer dime while he works as a lobbyist is hardly what Iowans believe is a good use of their hard earned money,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan. “Republican Jim Gibbons should know he is only as good as the company he keeps, and by choosing to embrace Dennis Hastert his calls for fiscal restraint ring [hollow].”


[…] Former Speaker Hastert maintains an office at taxpayer expense in Yorkville, Illinois.  The perks that Speaker Hastert accepted include an office, cell phone, staff, and a leased SUV. All told, Hastert receives nearly $40,000 a month in benefits from the federal government. These taxpayer-funded benefits are entirely legal as long as Hastert does not make use of them in the course of his lobbying work. [Politico, 12/21/09]

To my mind, Hastert’s current lobbying is less offensive than the fact that he sold real estate for nearly $2 million in profits after he secured federal earmarks to construct the Prairie Parkway near land he owned. I wonder what Gibbons thinks about that deal.

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Convention scenario could spell trouble for Iowa GOP

As many as seven Republican candidates may be competing for the chance to face seven-term Representative Leonard Boswell in Iowa’s third district this year. John Deeth noticed yesterday that Scott Batcher was the first to file for the Republican nomination in IA-03. Batcher’s campaign website highlights extensive experience in business, including 15 years as a healthcare consultant. He’s been running a low-profile campaign, but collected enough signatures “at high school basketball games and coffee shops” to attempt to qualify for the ballot.

Five declared Republican candidates have filed Federal Election Commission reports on fundraising for the IA-03 race, so I assume they will follow through and qualify for the ballot: Jim Gibbons, Brad Zaun, Dave Funk, Mark Rees and Pat Bertroche. A seventh Republican, Jason Welch, was rumored to be getting into this race too, but what turns up on Google searches as Welch’s official website hasn’t been working when I’ve clicked on it.

The second Congressional district Republican primary will be nearly as crowded, with four declared candidates likely to qualify for the ballot: Rob Gettemy, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Chris Reed and Steve Rathje. (So far only Rathje has filed nominating papers.)

If no candidate wins at least 35 percent of the vote in the June 8 primary, district conventions would select the Republican nominee in IA-02 and/or IA-03. In 2002, a fifth district convention selected Steve King as the Republican nominee for Congress after no one in the four-way primary cleared the 35 percent threshold.

Republican county conventions scheduled for this weekend will select delegates for the district conventions, which will be held later this spring. If no winner emerges from the June primary, the second or third district conventions would have to reconvene to select a Congressional nominee. That could happen during the state convention, to be held on June 26 in a location not yet determined. The convention usually takes place in Des Moines but has occasionally been held in Cedar Rapids. This year, Sioux City is also in the running as a venue. That would be a three to four hour drive from the counties in IA-03 and a four to seven hour drive from the counties in IA-02.

Western Iowa is the most Republican area of the state, but the bulk of the Iowa population still lives in the eastern counties. Former GOP State Central Committee member David Chung, who lives in Cedar Rapids, sounded the alarm on his Hawkeye GOP blog:

Even if hotels are short in Des Moines, holding the convention in Sioux CIty almost guarantees that a large number of delegates will need hotel rooms. I do not know whether there will be a major pre-convention event but if there is, it will be impossible for 1st and 2nd Republicans to attend without taking a whole day off from work.

Even worse, given the number of candidates for the 2nd and 3rd district congressional races there is the real possibility that the nominee will be chosen at a district convention. The state convention has been scheduled long enough after the primary to make resolving nominations at the convention possible. I cannot stress how bad a decision it would be to decide the 2nd CD race in Sioux City! The turnout from our district will be greatly suppressed if Siouxland is the choice.

Krusty Konservative also warned yesterday that many Republican delegates will not bother to attend a state convention in Sioux City.

Mariannette Miller-Meeks had a hard time uniting second district Republicans even after winning the 2008 primary. Be prepared for lasting hard feelings if a small group of party activists ends up choosing the GOP nominee in IA-02 or IA-03 this year. King wasn’t hurt by his path to the nomination in 2002, but he was fortunate to be running in heavily Republican IA-05. In contrast, Boswell’s district leans slightly Democratic (D+1) and Dave Loebsack’s district leans strongly Democratic (D+7).

P.S.- I took my kids to see a game at the Iowa girls’ state basketball tournament on Wednesday. A bunch of teams in the Des Moines metro area made the 4A quarterfinals. I noticed that NRCC “on the radar” candidate Jim Gibbons had an ad scrolling occasionally (nothing special, just “Jim Gibbons for Congress, www.gibbonsforcongress.com”). Unfortunately for him, the teams from Republican-leaning Ankeny and Johnston were eliminated in the quarter-finals, so their fans who live in IA-03 won’t be back to see more of the Gibbons ads later this week. Des Moines East advanced to the semis, but I don’t think many GOP primary voters live on the east side of Des Moines. The other teams in the semis are Linn-Mar and Cedar Rapids Kennedy (IA-02) and Waukee (IA-04).

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Iowa Republicans in Congress co-hosting Gibbons event (corrected)

Jim Gibbons has emerged as the Republican insiders’ choice against seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell in Iowa’s third district. Nine members of Congress are hosting a fundraiser for Gibbons in Washington on February 24, the Gibbons campaign announced today. The hosts are Senator Chuck Grassley, House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (VA-07), and Representatives Jason Chaffetz (UT-03), Dean Heller (NV-02), Jim Jordan (OH-04), Steve King (IA-05), Tom Latham (IA-04), Kevin McCarthy (CA-22), and Peter Roskam (IA-06).

I cannot recall whether Grassley or Latham endorsed a candidate in the four-way GOP primary to represent IA-05 in 2002, which King won at a district convention. I also don’t remember Grassley, Latham or King getting involved in the three-way GOP primary in IA-01 in 2006, or the three-way primary in IA-02 in 2008. If any Bleeding Heartland reader remembers endorsements by members of Congress in those races, please post a comment here or e-mail me at desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

CORRECTION: Not all of the co-hosts at this event are endorsing Gibbons in the Republican primary. Bleeding Heartland user mirage notes in the comments that Iowa Republicans in Congress also co-hosted an event for Dave Funk in Washington. Grassley’s spokeswoman e-mailed the following comment to me today: “Senator Grassley has not endorsed anybody in the 3rd District race. It is correct that Senator Grassley was also listed as a co-host of an event for Dave Funk.  If the other Republican candidates asked, he would do the same thing for them.”

Gibbons was recruited by key Iowa Republican donors, and has since been anointed by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

State Senator Brad Zaun, probably the strongest rival to Gibbons in the five-way Republican primary, has the backing of several Republican state legislators, including Iowa Senate Minority leader Paul McKinley. An internal poll for Zaun showed he begins the campaign with more name recognition and support in the district. However, Gibbons raised far more money in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Tea Party favorite Dave Funk recently attacked Gibbons for supposedly saying in an interview, “It[‘]s fine for me where the Constitution says that the federal government should be in charge of education.” Today Gibbons advocate Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican blog declared Funk’s attack “sloppy and untrue.” After listening to a recording of the interview, Robinson concludes that Gibbons actually said, “Find for me where in the Constitution does it say that the federal government is in charge of education.”

Robinson transcribed part of the interview in question and posted it here. Gibbons doesn’t come across as someone who knows what he’s talking about. But that’s not surprising, given his ignorance about Congressional procedures and idiotic federal income tax holiday proposal.

What does surprise me is that according to Robinson, no one at the Gibbons campaign “set the record straight” after Funk issued his press release. Maybe it’s a strategy for Gibbons to not acknowledge his primary opponents, but I think his press shop needs to stay on top of what the other candidates are saying about him.

UPDATE: In this comment thread Funk stands by his press release about what Gibbons said, and several commenters write that they heard Gibbons’ remarks as Funk did.

LATE UPDATE: Latham assured moderate Republican Mark Rees that he will not be endorsing a candidate before the primary.

Internal poll shows Zaun leading GOP primary in IA-03

A helpful Bleeding Heartland reader sent me a copy of a memo from Brian Dumas of Victory Enterprises to State Senator Brad Zaun’s campaign for Congress. The memo describes a poll conducted on January 27 and 28 of 400 Republicans in Iowa’s third Congressional district who are likely to vote in the June primary.

The poll shows 60 percent of respondents were undecided about whom to support in the primary. Zaun had 26 percent support, compared to 5 percent for Jim Gibbons, 3.6 percent for Dave Funk, 2.1 percent for Pat Bertroche and 1 percent for Mark Rees. In Polk County, the population center of the district, 37.5 percent of respondents supported Zaun.

About half the respondents hadn’t heard of Zaun. (This poll was in the field before he started running television ads in the Des Moines market.) I was more surprised to see that 67.8 percent of respondents said they had never heard of former Iowa State wrestling coach Jim Gibbons.

Several of the candidates will gain more name recognition in the coming months as they begin to advertise and hold campaign events around the districts. Gibbons clearly will have the resources for an extensive paid media campaign. National Republicans seem to have picked Gibbons already, which is one reason he’s pulled in so much out of state PAC money.

I posted the whole memo from Victory Enterprises after the jump. The Zaun for Congress campaign employs Victory Enterprises as consultants, but it’s not clear from the memo whether Victory Enterprises or some other entity conducted the poll. I am seeking more information and will update this post if I get it.

UPDATE: Victory Enterprises confirms that it conducted this poll.

SECOND UPDATE: Craig Robinson brings you the pro-Gibbons spin at The Iowa Republican blog:

Zaun’s early activity is similar to that of another former Victory Enterprises client, 2008 2nd Congressional District candidate Peter Teahen. In May of 2008, Victory Enterprises polled the 2nd Congressional District. Teahen, the better known candidate from the largest county in the district, had a big lead in the poll.

In VE’s 2008 poll showed Peter Teahen with 36% of the vote, while Miller-Meeks had 14 percent, and Lee Harder netted 7.5 percent. Forty-one percent of likely GOP primary voters were undecided. Despite the Teahen’s early lead, Miller-Meeks won the primary by 218 votes.

The difference between the 2008 2nd District race and this year’s 3rd District primary is that Gibbons has created a huge fundraising advantage over his opponents. Thus far, Gibbons has not run any ads, sent mail, or paid for phone calls.

The money race between Teahen and Miller-Meeks in the primary was tight. While Miller-Meeks outraised her opponent, Teahen had the ability to loan his campaign a considerable amount of money. Gibbons has already raised more money in his first fundraising quarter than Miller-Meeks and Teahen spent combined in the 2nd District primary.

I agree with Robinson that this race is up for grabs with so many Republicans undecided and most of the candidates lacking name recognition.

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Iowa political fundraising roundup

Financial reports for the end of 2009 were due with the Federal Election Commission on January 31. Here are some highlights.

The Iowa Democratic Party announced yesterday that it raised about $2.47 million across all accounts in 2009, while the Republican Party of Iowa raised $1.46 million. IDP chair Michael Kiernan said the party had met its goal of securing “the resources needed to win this November.” Details:

IDP filed $1.23 million in the state report. RPI filed $450,137 in the same report.

Filed 19 January 2010. Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.


IDP filed $148,574 in State Party Building Fund Report. RPI filed $177,365.

Filed 28 January 2010. Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.


IDP filed $1.09 million filed in Federal Year-End Report. RPI filed $837,406.

Filed 31 January 2010. Federal Elections Commission.


The money reported in the federal year-end report can be used to support any candidates and campaigns. The money in the state fund can be used on statewide races or Iowa House and Senate races. The State Party Building Fund money can’t be used on candidates or campaigns, but only on expenses for the building where the party headquarters is located (such as equipment or maintenance).

The Iowa GOP responded that it entered 2010 with about $100,000 more cash on hand than Iowa Democrats, but I don’t know whether its cash is in restricted or unrestricted accounts. (UPDATE: The Iowa Democratic Party disputes this claim. Adding the amounts from all three reports filed, the IDP has $449,334.94 on hand, while “RPI has $265,281.06 on hand between all three reports filed.”)

As for the federal races, Senator Chuck Grassley raised about $810,000 in the fourth quarter of 2009, spent about $156,000 and ended the year with about $5 million cash on hand. That’s about ten times as much as Democrat Roxanne Conlin has on hand for her campaign. Democrats Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen reported approximately $3,500 and $400 on hand, respectively.

IowaPolitics.com posted numbers for the Congressional candidates here. I was most interested in the numbers from the second and third districts. In IA-02, two-term incumbent Dave Loebsack raised $94,479 in the fourth quarter, spent $36,572 and ended the year with $336,311 cash on hand.

Surprisingly, Steve Rathje led the money race on the Republican side, raising $59,130 in the fourth quarter, spending $12,648 and ending with $46,242 cash on hand. The 2008 GOP nominee, Mariannnette Miller-Meeks, raised $20,660 (including $4,000 she gave herself), spent $39 and had $20,620 on hand. IowaPolitics.com didn’t mention numbers for Chris Reed, but The Iowa Republican blog reported that Reed raised “a miniscule $2,833.75 in the last quarter of 2009,” ending the year with “just over $2000 cash on hand.”

In the third district, seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell raised $169,377 in the fourth quarter, spent $50,643 and had $462,193 cash on hand. Most of his money came from political action committee contributions.

Jim Gibbons led the crowded Republican field, thanks to support from heavy-hitters like Bruce Rastetter as well as a number of political action committees. Gibbons raised $207,310, spent $2,240 and ended the year with $205,069 on hand and $2,686 in debts owed. Craig Robinson of the Iowa Republican blog is ready to declare victory for Gibbons in the primary already, based on these numbers. However, Bleeding Heartland user mirage (a supporter of State Senator Brad Zaun) noted in the same thread, “About $51,000 of Gibbons funds will be restricted (meaning they can’t be used against Zaun in a primary), and about $130,000 came from outside the 3rd district.”

Speaking of Zaun, he raised $30,600, spent $93 and ended 2009 with $30,507 on hand. Presumably he has raised more money since January 1, because he made a television ad buy last week. But as Robinson noted triumphantly, “Even if [Dave] Funk or Zaun raised $1000 everyday between now and the primary, they still wouldn’t match what Gibbons currently has in his campaign account.”

Funk, the IA-03 candidate favored by the Tea Party crowd, raised $22,685 in the fourth quarter, spent $19,553 and ended the year with $16,507 on hand. According to mirage, much of Funk’s remaining money is restricted for use after the primary. I don’t think he’ll be needing that.

Mark Rees, who is running as a more moderate Republican, raised $3,100 and loaned his own campaign $52,647. He spent $3,247 and ended the year with $52,500 and $52,647 in debts owed to himself. I don’t know how much of a moderate GOP base is left in the Des Moines suburbs, but if conservatives divide their support among three or four candidates, Rees could slip through.

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Zaun goes up on tv and other news from the third district race

State Senator Brad Zaun announced today that his campaign started running this television ad:

Five Republicans are competing in the primary to face Leonard Boswell in Iowa’s third Congressional district. Zaun is the first to go up on television. The ad hits very safe themes, with Zaun promising to “restore trust” and “common sense conservative values.” He also calls for ending deficits and “corporate bailouts” and notes that he will listen and believes the Constitution “means something.” I will update this post if I receive more details on the ad buy. I heard it is running on the CBS affiliate in Des Moines, but I don’t know yet about cable networks.

I haven’t seen any fundraising numbers from Zaun’s campaign. Jim Gibbons, who is backed by some very large Republican donors, raised about $207,000 during the last six weeks of 2009. He hired a campaign manager last month.

Dave Funk, darling of the Tea Party crowd, raised about $39,500 last year and started 2010 with about $16,500 on hand. He has hired several campaign staffers.

Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican said Mark Rees has given his own campaign $50,000. Rees is campaigning as a relatively moderate Republican, and I’m curious to see whether he can get traction in a crowded field. He hired a campaign manager earlier this month.

Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Third district primary will test "tea party" phenomenon

I view last year’s “tea party” activism primarily as a corporate-funded “astroturf” movement hyped by Fox News and conservative talk radio, but some Republicans insist the tea partiers are a real grassroots force to be reckoned with. This year’s Republican primary in Iowa’s third Congressional district will give some indication of who’s right.

Five GOP candidates are competing for the chance to run against seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell. Two of them have significant backing in the Republican establishment: various elected officials are supporting State Senator Brad Zaun, while a bunch of major donors are supporting Jim Gibbons.

Long-shot candidate Dave Funk was the first Republican to enter this race, and he announced yesterday that “Iowa Tea Party Chairman Ryan Rhodes has joined the campaign team as Political Director”:

“We are happy to have Ryan on board and feel that he is a strong addition to the campaign,” says Funk. Rhodes has led the efforts of the Tea Party in Iowa as well as well as coordinating with the National Tea Party Patriots. “Dave is the right man at the right time to bring solid leadership to Iowa’s Third District, something we have been lacking for a long time.”

As Iowa Tea Party Chairman Rhodes has coordinated many grassroots efforts across the state and helped other states fight against unchecked growth and the stranglehold of big government. “Dave isn’t just a late comer to the Tea Party for political purposes. He has been there from the beginning and I believe he is someone we can trust to be a true voice of the people for limited government in Washington.”

Funk says, “Having known and worked closely with Ryan for much of the past year, he has proven himself capable and insightful beyond his years. We are excited to have him on board as our Political Director as we go through the primary process to challenge and ultimately defeat Leonard Boswell next November restoring loyalty to our Constitution, our Liberty and the People of Iowa.”

I’m guessing that the forces funding and publicizing the national “tea party” movement won’t weigh in against two establishment candidates in this Republican primary, and Funk will therefore not be able to compete with the front-runners. On the other hand, a surprisingly strong showing for Funk in June might indicate that there is more popular support behind the “tea parties” than I imagine.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

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Boswell's opponent shouldn't count on help from the NRCC

Josh Kraushaar reported for the Politico on Friday that the “National Republican Congressional Committee is getting clobbered by their Democratic counterparts on the fundraising front”:

The DCCC raised $3.65 million for the month, and ended November with $15.35 million cash-on-hand. It still holds $2.66 million in debt from last election cycle.

The NRCC only raised $2.34 million in November, and spent $2.16 million, hardly adding to their overall cash total. The committee now has $4.35 million in its account, while still owing $2 million in debt.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Democrats lose 20 to 30 House seats nationally next year. That said, if the NRCC can’t build up a decent war chest now, with unemployment high and support for health care reform sinking, they may not be able to convert favorable conditions into a huge wave. NRCC officials have talked about targeting dozens of seats, but they’re a long way from having the money to fund that many challengers.

The five Republicans competing in a primary to face seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell should assume that they won’t get much help from the NRCC during the general election campaign. Iowa’s third Congressional district is not among the most vulnerable Democratic-held House seats. That’s not to say Boswell couldn’t lose, especially if Iowa’s employment market remains weak throughout next year. But I agree with David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, who told the Des Moines Register, “I think it’s fair to say if Democrats are losing any of their seats in Iowa next year, they’ll be suffering large losses across the country.”

If Boswell looks like he is in trouble next year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will certainly spend money on his behalf. Boswell is in the DCCC’s Frontline program.

Speaking of the GOP primary in IA-03, I got a kick out of Dave Funk criticizing Boswell for securing $750,000 in federal funds for the renovation of the former Des Moines Public Library building (which is now owned by the World Food Prize Foundation). Somehow I doubt third district voters will be outraged that Boswell obtained some federal help for this $30 million project in downtown Des Moines.

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Gibbons shows it's who you know, not what you know

A lot of major Republican donors co-hosted a fundraiser last night for Jim Gibbons’ Congressional campaign in Iowa’s third district. The big names included Bruce Rastetter, Gary Kirke, Denny Elwell and John Ruan, as well as Greg Ganske, who represented Iowa’s fourth Congressional district (including Polk County) from 1995 to 2003.

Apparently none of these people were put off by the ludicrous tax holiday proposal Gibbons floated last week. Geraldine had a great post on that at the Iowa Progress blog, by the way.

If any Bleeding Heartland readers know which major GOP donors are on board with Brad Zaun in this primary, please post a comment or shoot me an e-mail: desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com. I wonder how long it will be before Zaun and Gibbons start attacking each other as well as incumbent Leonard Boswell.

Rival Republican candidate Dave Funk’s been passed over by the GOP bigwigs. I’m curious to see how much he can raise from smaller donors who buy into his ill-informed comments on energy policy and other matters. Will the “Tea Party” crowd get involved on his behalf?

UPDATE: The Iowa Republican published the host list for Zaun’s upcoming fundraiser.

Moderate Republican joins the race against Boswell

Three conservative Republicans have already announced plans to run against Representative Leonard Boswell in Iowa’s third Congressional district, and today retired architect Mark Rees of West Des Moines threw his hat in the ring too. William Petroski reports for the Des Moines Register:

Rees said he isn’t criticizing Democratic President Barack Obama or individual members of Congress.

“It’s not that I support what is and has been happening in Washington because I don’t any more than my fellow candidates,” Rees said in prepared remarks. “But it serves no legitimate purpose to craft politically motivated, emotionally driven statements laced with selected statistics promoting and promising unrealistic, unachievable results.” […]

Rees said he supports a federal balanced budget amendment, expanded job creation tax credits, capital investment tax credits for new equipment and facilities expansion and developing market import loan programs. He favors stronger border security, but wants to provide immigrants with a path to citizenship.

In addition, Rees said he wants to protect marriage between a man and a woman, but also believes in civil unions. He also favors cost-effective efforts to cap carbon emissions, but he does not support programs to allow pollution credits to be traded or purchased by any entity other than the government.

He said he supports expanding alternative energy programs through investment tax credit programs and a progressive tax structure that includes a vanishing long-term capital gains tax, a tiered short-term capital gains tax, a specialized market trading surtax, and a targeted short-sales capital gains tax.

I have no idea whether Rees can self-fund or raise enough money to run a credible campaign during the primary. Dave Funk, Jim Gibbons and Brad Zaun will be competing to see who’s the most conservative, so it’s conceivable that a moderate could sneak through next June with a strong showing in the Des Moines suburbs.

If any of the other candidates drop out before then, though, I would put extremely long odds on GOP primary voters selecting someone who believes in civil unions for same-sex couples or a path to citizenship for immigrants who came to this country illegally.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that while West Des Moines is the largest suburb of Des Moines and one of the larger cities in IA-03, many of the newest and wealthiest neighborhoods in West Des Moines lie in Dallas County, which is part of IA-04.

TUESDAY UPDATE: According to The Iowa Republican blog, Pat Bertroche is campaigning for this seat but has not filed paperwork with the FEC yet. So that would make five candidates if Bertroche goes forward.

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Zaun also will run against Boswell

Next spring, Iowa’s third Congressional district will see its first competitive Republican primary in some time. State Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale told CQ Politics today that he plans to run against seven-term incumbent Representative Leonard Boswell. Zaun said he will formally announce his candidacy sometime after December 1.

Earlier today, The Iowa Republican blog reported that former Iowa State wrestling coach Jim Gibbons is quitting his job at Wells Fargo to run for Congress against Boswell. One of the previously announced candidates, Dave Funk of Runnells, indicated in this comment thread that he will stay in the race. Until this week, Funk and Pat Bertroche of Clive were the only confirmed Republican candidates against Boswell.

Zaun was just re-elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008, so he won’t have to give up his seat in the upper chamber if he loses the GOP primary or the general election.

CQ Politics suggested that with Gibbons and Zaun in the race, it may change its rating on this district from “safe Democratic.” I tend to agree with the statement that Gabby Adler of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent to CQ Politics:

“Each year Republicans claim they have Congressman Boswell in their sights, and each year they never live up to their own hype – there is no reason to believe this time will be any different,” Adler said.

As I’ve previously written, I do not consider Boswell an endangered incumbent this cycle. That said, the prospect of continuing job losses throughout 2010 could put many Democratic incumbents at risk.

What puzzles me is why so many Republicans are seeking this position. Even if a Republican beats Boswell, he is likely to be thrown into a 2012 primary against Tom Latham in a redrawn IA-03. Few people would choose a freshman over a nine-term incumbent with a seat on the House Appropriations Committee.  

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Zaun and Mahaffey considering challenge against Boswell

I heard it first from Bleeding Heartland user mirage, and now IowaPolitics.com confirms that State Senator Brad Zaun is thinking about challenging Representative Leonard Boswell in Iowa’s third Congressional district next year. Zaun was mayor of Urbandale, a heavily Republican suburb of Des Moines, before winning a hard-fought race in Iowa Senate district 32 in 2004. He was re-elected to a four-year term in 2008, so he wouldn’t risk losing his seat in the upper chamber by running against Boswell.

According to IowaPolitics.com, Zaun will decide in the next few weeks whether to run:

Zaun said Boswell’s speaking out against cap-and-trade legislation this past summer but then voting for it concerned him and sparked his interest in a run for Congress.

“I’m frustrated because I think Leonard as well as so many other elected officials in Washington, D.C. don’t listen to their constituents and don’t represent where their constituents are on issues,” Zaun said. “Most elected officials in Washington, D.C. are out of touch with people they represent.”

Zaun is vice president of R&R Realty and has not yet formed an exploratory committee for the U.S. House. He said his biggest consideration on whether to run is his family. He and his wife have five kids ages 22, 21, 18, 13 and 11. “I’ve had long, long conversations with my wife,” he said.

Conservative and corporate-funded groups ran advertisements against Boswell this summer after he voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

IowaPolitics.com also quoted Mike Mahaffey, a former chairman of the Iowa GOP, as saying “he’ll decide by next week whether he will run” against Boswell. He’s been thinking about the race for several months. Mahaffey was the Republican candidate in IA-03 the first time Boswell won the district in 1996. However, the district was quite different then and did not include Polk County.

Some political analysts, like Isaac Wood and Larry Sabato, consider IA-03 potentially competitive but give a strong advantage to the incumbent. CQ Politics is among the odds-makers who consider IA-03 a “safe Democratic” seat. I tend to agree that Boswell is not vulnerable in 2010. Republicans ran hard against him in 2002, 2004 and 2006 but came up short.

If this race did become competitive, I think a challenger with a strong base in Polk County, like Zaun, would stand a better chance than someone from one of the smaller counties in the district. Mahaffey is from Montezuma in Poweshiek County. But if Zaun doesn’t run, Mahaffey has the connections to put together a stronger campaign than the two currently declared candidates, Dave Funk and Pat Bertroche.

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King and Braley draw 2010 challengers

I learned from Sioux City Journal columnist Bret Hayworth that a Democrat has already filed Federal Election Commission paperwork to run against Representative Steve King in Iowa’s fifth Congressional district:

Mike Denklau has eyed the possibility of running in the strong Republican district since early 2009, and after traveling western Iowa recently he decided to go all-in.

On Oct. 15, Denklau will announce his candidacy 55 weeks out from the election in stops here in Sioux City, Council Bluffs and Des Moines. Denklau will turn 27 next month – he was raised in Blue Grass near Davenport and graduated from the University of Iowa with majors in political science and finance. He worked in New York for two banking firms through June 2009, including Lehman Brothers, until moving to Council Bluffs recently.

Hayworth notes that it’s not clear whether Rob Hubler, King’s 2008 opponent, will run again. Although Democrats cannot realistically hope to defeat King in a district with a partisan voter index of R+9, an energetic challenger may help drive up Democratic turnout across the district. There will be several competitive state legislative races in the counties that make up IA-05.

Meanwhile, Craig Robinson reports at The Iowa Republican that Rod Blum of Dubuque is ready to challenge Representative Bruce Braley in the first Congressional district.

Blum has strong eastern Iowa roots. He graduated from Dubuque Senior High School in 1973, earned a bachelor’s degree from Loras College (Finance) in 1977, and received a Masters in Business Administration from Dubuque University in 1989. In 1989, Blum was one of the initial employees of Dubuque-based Eagle Point Software. In just five years, Eagle Point Software went public on NASDAQ and had 325 employees. In 2000, Digital Canal was created as a result of a leveraged buyout of Eagle Point Software. Digital Canal is a leading provider of home building and structural engineering software. Blum was also named the Iowa Entrepreneur of the Year in 1994.

While Blum has never run for elected office before, he has been making his political views known in eastern Iowa since 2001 as the Dubuque Telegraph Herald’s conservative columnist. Blum’s writings for the Telegraph Herald will be helpful for a couple of reasons. First, having a regular column in the local newspaper helps build credibility and name ID. Secondly, writing a political column means that he has well thought out positions on many of the issues facing our country today, something many first time candidates lack.

He’ll need more than conservative ideology and name ID in the Dubuque area to unseat Braley. Robinson notes that Republican Jim Nussle represented IA-01 before the 2006 election, but Nussle’s position as chairman of a House budget subcommittee helped him hang on in a Democratic-leaning district. That’s different from a Republican challenger trying to swim against the tide in a district with a partisan voting index of D+5. Republicans currently hold only two House disticts with that much of a Democratic lean: Delaware’s at-large seat, which the GOP will lose when Mike Castle runs for U.S. Senate next year, and Louisiana’s second district, which was a fluke in 2008 because of the Democratic incumbent’s apparent corruption.

Braley is a rising star and effective legislator with a spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He won re-election with more than 64 percent of the vote in 2008. Even if 2010 turns out to be a Republican year, Braley’s not losing in a district with 35,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.

To my knowledge, Republican Tom Latham (IA-04) is Iowa’s only incumbent in Congress with no likely challenger yet. Steve Rathje and probably Mariannette Miller-Meeks will run against Dave Loebsack in IA-02, while Dave Funk and Pat Bertroche are challenging Leonard Boswell in IA-03. I don’t expect either of those districts to be competitive in 2010.

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New thread on the 2010 U.S. House races in Iowa

Last year all five Iowa incumbents in the House of Representatives were re-elected by double-digit margins. The main challengers failed to win even 40 percent of the vote against Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02), as well as Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05).

I’ve long assumed that none of Iowa’s Congressional districts would be competitive in 2010. Although Republicans have put Leonard Boswell (IA-03) on their long list of House targets, several other analysts share my view that Boswell is safe for next year. To my knowledge, the only declared candidates against Boswell are the little-known Dave Funk and Pat Bertroche. Boswell’s 1996 opponent Mike Mahaffey is thinking it over too.

Isaac Wood and Larry Sabato released new House race rankings, and they included IA-03 among 47 Democratic-held districts that are “likely” to remain Democratic:

The “likely” category is reserved for those competitive races where one party has a distinct advantage over the other. Most of these races feature either strong challengers or weak incumbents, but not a combination of the two that would warrant a more competitive designation. Consider these races as a watch list which could turn into heated battle with a single misstep by an incumbent or positive fundraising report.

I could see Iowa’s third district becoming competitive, but only if the economy is in terrible shape next fall and Republicans fund a well-known candidate with a base in Polk County (the population center of the district).

I question Wood and Sabato’s decision to put Loebsack’s district in the “likely” category as well. So far right-winger Steve Rathje is definitely running against Loebsack (he narrowly lost the 2008 GOP primary for U.S. Senate). Mariannette Miller-Meeks is also considering a rematch. She’s an impressive woman, but I frankly can’t imagine this district becoming competitive in 2010. IA-02 has much stronger Democratic voting performance than IA-03, which tracks closely with the nationwide vote in presidential elections.

Share any thoughts or predictions in this thread.

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