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).

Continue Reading...

Fourth Republican joins second district Congressional primary

Rob Gettemy, an entrepreneur from the Cedar Rapids suburbs, announced today that he is running for Congress in Iowa’s second district. His campaign website here, and he is @RobGettemy on Twitter. He will compete against Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Chris Reed and Steve Rathje in the Republican primary. His first press release as a Congressional candidate contains what passes for “vision” in today’s GOP:

In my gut, I believe our country has reached a tipping point. We must decide now what country we are. Are we the country of our founders? The country of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (not a guarantee of happiness). Are we a country that gives us a right to fail…which is necessary if we want an opportunity to succeed?

Or, are we a country that looks to Washington, DC, or Des Moines, Iowa to solve so many of our basic problems? When we pick this path, we give up our liberties. We become enslaved as we become dependent.

Lynda Waddington wrote a good piece on Gettemy at Iowa Independent. Excerpt:

Rob Gettemy, 44, attends Antioch Christian Church in Marion, as do several members of the Linn County Republican Executive Board. He and another member, Jim Mayhew of Vinton, launched a Christian t-shirt and ministry business in 2008 dubbed “1M4JC,” or “One Million For Jesus Christ.” He is an instructor at the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at University of Iowa and serves on the board of directors for Aid to Women, a local anti-abortion pregnancy crisis center. […]

From a purely horse-race perspective, the entrance of Gettemy likely does the most harm to Reed. Not only does it pull the hometown base Reed hoped to energize, but it sends a definite signal that Reed, who had attempted to position himself as the only true social conservative in the race, was found to be lacking.

Due to Gettemy’s entrepreneurial and business background, it is also feasible that he could melt support that has been slowly building for Rathje, who has emerged as the predominant fiscal conservative.

Waddington mentions that several prominent Linn County Republicans belong to the church Gettemy attends, including “Linn County GOP Chairman Tim Palmer and Vice-Chairman Brent Schulte, a minister at Antioch, and Schulte’s wife, state Rep. Renee Schulte.” The kingmakers in the local GOP don’t appear to be sold on any of the three previously declared candidates, even though all have tried to position themselves as conservatives (see also here).

Miller-Meeks probably has the most name recognition, having been the 2008 nominee against Congressman Dave Loebsack. Rathje has raised the most money. Reed has the wingnuttiest endorsements so far.

I still find it remarkable that Republicans think they can win Iowa’s second district with a far-right candidate. IA-02 has a partisan lean of D+7, meaning that in the last two presidential elections, the district voted about seven points more Democratic than the country as a whole. Only two Republican-held House seats in the entire country have this strong a Democratic lean. One of those is a fluke; Joseph Cao was able to win in Louisiana’s second district because the Democratic incumbent had stashed $90,000 in his freezer. Delaware’s at-large seat (D+7) is held by pro-choice, pro-gun control former Governor Mike Castle. The obvious play for Republicans in IA-02 would be to nominate a moderate in the Jim Leach mold, who could focus on economic issues. Instead, the GOP primary keeps getting more crowded with social conservatives.

Miller-Meeks couldn’t crack 40 percent against Loebsack in 2008. In a Republican wave year, the GOP nominee should do somewhat better, but I doubt a down-the-line conservative can win a district dominated by Johnson and Linn counties. Feel free to argue with me in the comments if you’re so inclined.

Continue Reading...

Rathje joins GOP primary to face Loebsack (updated)

Cedar Rapids-based businessman Steve Rathje confirmed on January 2 that he will run for Congress in Iowa’s second district. A press release posted to his Facebook page emphasizes his experience cutting waste and creating jobs as a business owner. He is scheduling appearances around the district for later this month, and his campaign website is here.

Rathje is best known as one of the Republican candidates in the 2008 U.S. Senate primary. He finished third but not far behind Christopher Reed and George Eichhorn. His website indicates that he will be running as a more conservative alternative to Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who was Congressman Dave Loebsack’s opponent in 2008 and is running again this year.

Rathje and Reed will have an uphill battle in the primary, as they will be splitting the votes of Republicans for whom Miller-Meeks isn’t right-wing enough. I doubt either of them can beat her, but Reed probably has a better chance to make the primary competitive than Rathje. Not only has Reed already announced his candidacy in IA-02 and lined up a bunch of county coordinators, he has also received quite a few wingnut endorsements: former presidential candidates Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter, the National 9/12 Patriots, the Minutemen Patriots and America’s Independent Party.

Any thoughts on the upcoming campaign in IA-02 are welcome in this thread. I still find it remarkable that there isn’t a social moderate running in the GOP primary in this D+7 district.

UPDATE: John Deeth took a closer look at Reed’s county chair list and noticed Johnson County supervisor candidate Lori Cardella. When I clicked on the list again, I saw that Reed’s Jefferson County chair is Stephen Burgmeier, the unsuccessful GOP candidate in last year’s special election in Iowa House district 90.

Continue Reading...

Iowa NAACP head needs a history lesson

Sioux City businessman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats got a surprising endorsement on Monday from Keith Ratliff, pastor of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines and president of the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP.

Vander Plaats was the front-runner in the Republican field until former Governor Terry Branstad entered the race. Ratliff said Vander Plaats’ position on same-sex marriage rights was “an important factor” in his endorsement.

Continue Reading...
View More...