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.

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The Secretary of State race is getting interesting

The Republican primary campaign for Iowa secretary of state has lacked the drama and publicity of the governor’s race, but it is turning into a test of strength between a “fresh face” and a veteran of Iowa Republican politics.

The nominee challenging our outstanding Secretary of State Michael Mauro will be either Council Bluffs City Council member Matt Schultz or former State Representative George Eichhorn (“say I-Corn”).

A third Republican qualified for the ballot in this race, but I’m focusing on Eichhorn and Schultz because Chris Sanger is not a serious contender. He has no campaign staff and has raised only about $400, all at bake sales in Stuart, where the candidate and his wife own a bakery. The only newsworthy moment in Sanger’s campaign was his involvement in a meet and greet organized by a guy who thinks killing abortion providers is justifiable homicide. In fairness to Sanger, though, he may have a place in the record books for choosing the longest campaign committee name in Iowa history: Elect Chris Sanger, He Will Vote The Way People Want. Someone should have told him the secretary of state isn’t a legislator who votes on policies.

But I digress. Links and commentary about Schultz and Eichhorn are after the jump.  

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Findley pulls in big money for attorney general race

Financial reports for Iowa statewide candidates covering the period from January 1 through May 14 are now available at the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board website. John Deeth summarized the numbers for the statewide races other than the governor’s race, which I discussed earlier today.

The biggest surprise to me was Republican Brenna Findley’s haul in the attorney general’s race. She raised $124,078 since January 1 and has $95,528 on hand. Incumbent Attorney General Tom Miller clearly wasn’t focused on raising money, bringing in just $15,748. Because he started the year with nearly $90,000 in his account, he still has more cash on hand than Findley ($105,200), but Findley has a larger donor base (more than 700 donors).

As a long-time top staffer for Representative Steve King, Findley probably benefits from his donor contacts. It can’t hurt that Terry Branstad is talking up Findley at every campaign stop too. Deeth concludes, “We may have found our downballot sleeper race for the general election.” I don’t think Findley has a chance against Miller, who has been elected attorney general seven times. But she will be able to run a statewide campaign and raise her profile substantially. Miller will have to take this race seriously. His campaigning skills may be rusty, since Republicans gave him a pass in 2006. However, he has a strong record, and it’s worth recalling that he was returned to the attorney general’s office in 1994, an atrocious year for Iowa Democrats.

In all the other statewide races, the incumbents have huge financial advantages over their challengers. Secretary of State Michael Mauro has raised $30,021 since the start of the year, more than his three Republican opponents combined. Mauro has just under $128,000 on hand, whereas Matt Schultz and George Eichhorn both have more outstanding bills than cash on hand, and Chris Sanger has only about $400 on hand. Deeth has more on who’s given to Schultz and Eichhorn. Speaking of this race, I learned recently that the Secretary of State Project has endorsed Mauro.

State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald hasn’t raised much money so far in 2010 ($4,179), but he started the year with nearly $114,000 and spent almost nothing, leaving about $117,770 cash on on hand. Two Republicans are running against Fitzgerald, and their campaigns have less than $10,000 cash on hand combined. Story County Treasurer Dave Jamison has broader support than James Heavens of Dyersville, who loaned his campaign most of the money raised.

Republican Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey raised nearly $40,000, and even though he spent quite a lot for this early in the campaign ($53,920), he still has $247,535 on hand. Democrat Francis Thicke raised $58,439, including a $10,000 contribution from the candidate, and has an impressive number of donors (at least 300). He spent a little more than $25,000 and has $33,320 on hand. Corporate interest groups will make sure Northey has tons of money to spend. Thicke will have to run a more grassroots campaign.

Share any thoughts about the statewide races in this thread.

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Iowans can track their absentee ballots as early voting begins

Today marks the beginning of early voting for Iowa’s June 8 primary election, which is exactly 40 days away. Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro announced a new way for voters to track their ballots at www.iowavotes.gov. From a statement issued by the Secretary of State’s Office:

“The new feature on our website is a terrific tool for Iowa voters and will bring additional transparency to Iowa’s early voting system,” said Secretary Mauro. “By using this feature, voters will know when to expect their ballot and when their completed ballot has safely reached their auditor’s office.”

Absentee voters will be able to view the following information about the status of their ballot:

·         Date the absentee ballot request was processed by the auditor

·         Date the auditor sent the absentee ballot

·         Date the voted absentee ballot was received by the auditor

Last fall, Congress passed, and President Obama signed, the Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment Act (MOVE Act). That legislation required states to develop an online absentee ballot tracking system for overseas military voters. Secretary Mauro decided to make this feature available to all of Iowa’s early voters – military and nonmilitary – regardless of location.  

In September 2009, Iowa was recognized in a national study as the top state in the nation in making voting accessible for military and overseas voters.

If you have a chance to see Mauro at one of his campaign kickoff events next Tuesday or Wednesday, please thank him for doing an outstanding job. Three Republicans are seeking the nomination for secretary of state: George Eichhorn, Chris Sanger and Matt Schultz. So far Schultz has the most Republican establishment support.  

Most of the competitive primaries in Iowa this year are on the Republican side, but three Democrats are seeking the nomination for U.S. Senate: Roxanne Conlin, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause. Two Democrats are running against Representative Steve King in Iowa’s fifth Congressional district: Matt Campbell and Mike Denklau. There’s also a two-way Democratic primary between Richard Clewell and Dave Thede in Iowa Senate district 41 (Scott County) and a four-way Democratic primary between Tod Bowman, Paul Feller, Brian Moore and Ed O’Neill in Iowa Senate district 13 (all of Jackson County and parts of Dubuque and Clinton counties). Five Iowa House Democrats are facing primary challengers: Dave Jacoby (district 30, Iowa City/Coralville), Geri Huser (district 42, east side of Des Moines), Ako Abdul-Samad (district 66, Des Moines), Chuck Isenhart (district 27, Dubuque), and Mary Gaskill (district 93, Ottumwa). Click here to download a pdf file containing the full list of Iowa candidates who qualified for the ballot this year.

Comments about early voting or any Iowa primary races are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Iowans can also vote early at all 99 county auditor offices.

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Previewing the Iowa secretary of state race

Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro doesn’t make the news often, but he has done very well in his first term. I particularly appreciate his support for requiring paper ballots to be used in all Iowa counties. We had several statehouse races decided by fewer than 100 votes in 2008. Imagine what an uproar we’d have seen if touchscreen voting machines had been used in those races.

Mauro’s campaign website recounts other achievements:

In 2009, Mauro worked closely with the Cerro Gordo County Auditor to make electronic poll books available for use in counties across the state. The electronic poll books will enhance Iowa precinct officials’ ability to process voters effectively and consistently on election day. In addition, the poll books add an extra layer of security to the voting process.

During the 2008 General Election, Iowa saw the fifth highest percentage turnout in the nation i and had the highest rate of young voter participation (18- to 24-year-olds) ii. Secretary Mauro’s office also took the honor of having the top elections website in the country during the 2008 election season according to a leading national election research group iii. In the fall of 2009, Iowa’s election laws and procedures implemented by Secretary Mauro gained national attention when the state ranked first in a study focusing on the ease of voting for members of the military and U.S. citizens living overseas iv. […]

Since Mauro took office, much progress has been made in the business services division. In 2009, the development of a new corporations database is paving the way for online corporate filings beyond the biennial report. Currently, the majority of business filings are done electronically and advancements for additional filings will continue.

The online business center allows business to be conducted 24-hours a day, seven days a week and currently provides access to over three million filed documents and a complete array of forms, applications, and searchable databases for businesses, lending institutions and interested citizens.

I wouldn’t care to run against that record, but some Republicans seem to think they can beat Mauro. GOP establishment figures have been trying to recruit Paul Pate for this race. Pate was elected Iowa secretary of state in the 1994 landslide. He didn’t seek re-election in 1998, running unsuccessfully for governor instead.  

Pate said in December that he was considering a run against Mauro. I thought Republican recruiters had succeeded when the Iowa Republican blog hyped a bogus poll claiming that Pate already leads the incumbent. This week Jason Hancock reported that Pate had filed papers forming a committee for a secretary of state campaign. However, Pate announced on Facebook this morning that he won’t run for secretary of state, citing “family and business demands.” (UPDATE: Apparently Pate’s parents have been having health problems.)

That leaves two declared GOP candidates for this office. George Eichhorn lost his Iowa House seat to McKinley Bailey in 2006 and finished a close second in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2008. He then co-founded an organization opposing Iowa’s public smoking ban, which never got off the ground, and unsuccessfully represented some restaurant and bar owners trying to get that smoking ban thrown out. Eichhorn announced his bid for secretary of state last month. Kathie Obradovich exposed some false and misleading statements in Eichhorn’s opening salvo, and the Iowa Progress blog also looked at his candidacy. Last week Eichhorn released a list of prominent endorsers, including Bill “wingnuttier than Steve King” Salier.

The other Republican candidate in this race is Matt Schultz, who serves on the Council Bluffs City Council. On the issues page of his website, he says he wants to streamline corporate filings, require all voters to show photo ID at polling places, and force all citizens who register to vote on election day to cast provisional ballots. Photo ID laws are generally considered to be voter suppression techniques, and there is no evidence of any problem with voter fraud by impersonating someone at a polling place.

Mauro hasn’t hit the campaign trail yet, but today he released a statement urging Iowans to participate in the Democratic and Republican caucuses this Saturday, January 23, at 1 pm. (Find your Democratic caucus site here.)

VERY LATE UPDATE, March 9, 2010: Republican Chris Sanger is also running for secretary of state.

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"Strange" and "bizarre" smoking ban stays in place pending court case

I tried to warn opponents of the smoking ban that they would not succeed in getting a court to overturn this law.

In the first legal skirmish, attorney George Eichhorn failed to convince a judge that the smoking ban should be suspended pending the outcome of bar and restaurant owners’ legal challenge. He had argued that “the smoking ban is ‘bizarre’ and ‘strange’ and unconstitutional for a variety of reasons.”

They should have listened to the people urging them to challenge the smoking ban’s unfair exemptions for casinos, instead of trying to get the whole law thrown out.

The Iowa law is comparable to many other municipal and state-level bans on smoking in public places. I give this lawsuit very little chance of success.

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