Narcisse confirms plans to run for governor

Jonathan Narcisse will file to run for governor as an independent, he confirmed yesterday during campaign stops around the state. Narcisse had supported Terry Branstad during the 1980s and Chet Culver’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign, but now believes neither Branstad nor Culver is “offering solutions.” Earlier this year, Narcisse declared that he would challenge Culver in the Democratic primary, but he did not submit signature petitions before the filing deadline. The hurdle for running as an independent is much lower; candidates need to collect only 1,500 signatures and file nominating papers by August 13.

Narcisse has chosen Rick Marlar as his running mate. Marlar finished third with 12 percent in the Republican primary for Iowa Senate district 45. Rod Boshart reported that Narcisse picked Marlar

because they share the same fervor for reform. Marlar, a truck driver for 30 years and former pilot who logged four years in the submarine service, lives on 40 acres near Wayland and understands rural and farm life, he said. Narcisse said Marlar reminded him of another truck driver in Iowa who was successful in gubernatorial politics, Ida Grove native Harold Hughes, who was elected governor and served in the U.S. Senate during his political career.

If Marlar wants to stand up to the Republican establishment, he’d be better off running as an independent in Senate district 45, where Branstad’s close ally Sandy Greiner won the primary easily with 66 percent of the vote.

Narcisse believes he has a shot if he can get into this fall’s debates between the gubernatorial candidates. His campaign strategy:

“Culver and Branstad are going to wage an unprecedented negative campaign. They’re going to just pound each other to a bloody pulp,” Narcisse predicted. “I believe that by the time they get through hammering each other, on Nov. 2, if Iowans could vote for none of the above that none of the above would beat Branstad and Culver. So my job now is to become ‘None Of The Above Narcisse.’”

I don’t ever remember third-party candidates being invited to the Iowa gubernatorial debates. If the media include Narcisse, they would have to include others such as Libertarian Eric Cooper and Constitution Party candidate Rick Phillips. Narcisse will need to raise much more money to run the 99-county campaign he is planning. His May campaign disclosure report filed showed $3,360 in cash contributions, a $5,135 loan, and $2,945 cash on hand.

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New Branstad running mate speculation thread

James Q. Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette talked to Terry Branstad yesterday about the qualities he’s looking for in a potential lieutenant governor. If he wins the nomination, Branstad wants a running mate who is younger than he is (63), and also “intelligent, hardworking, conservative, a good communicator and someone who could serve as governor.” He told Lynch that “some Eastern Iowans” are on his list.

Branstad has promised social conservatives that he won’t pick another pro-choice running mate, so that rules out former State Representative Libby Jacobs of West Des Moines. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Branstad choose Rod Roberts, although Lynch’s report says Branstad “downplayed” the possibility that he will pick one of the other gubernatorial candidates.

Any of the 20 state legislators who have endorsed Branstad for governor could be on Branstad’s short list. Or, he may look to someone from the business community, but it’s been months since I heard anyone predict that insurance company executive Doug Reichardt would be Branstad’s choice. Perhaps there’s some truth to the rumors that Reichardt isn’t interested in being lieutenant governor.

If Branstad looks east, one obvious contender is Christian Fong, the well-spoken former candidate for governor from Cedar Rapids. Last month State Representative Renee Schulte endorsed Branstad, and since Schulte’s husband was Fong’s campaign treasurer, I wondered whether some kind of deal was in the works. But Fong hasn’t endorsed any candidate since he dropped out of the race six months ago. Earlier this month he founded the Iowa Dream Project, a “nonpartisan” 501(c)4 organization designed to increase turnout among conservative voters under age 45 and discuss issues in a respectful “Iowa tone.” I doubt Fong would have rolled out this group now if he expected to be running for lieutenant governor full-time during the next six months. It sounds more like a good way for him to stay active, help the Republican cause, and boost his prospects for some appointed position in a Branstad administration.

Another eastern Iowa possibility is former State Representative Sandy Greiner. Choosing her would continue the Iowa tradition of female lieutenant governors during the past two and a half decades. Greiner is an experienced candidate with socially conservative views (even if a few wingnuts gripe about her). She is also well-connected to some major donors in the business community. She is president of the American Future Fund and created the “Draft Branstad PAC” last year. That 527 organization turned into the NextGen PAC after Branstad formed an exploratory committee to run for governor. I don’t think Greiner will be Branstad’s choice, though, because she filed to run for the Iowa Senate in district 45. That race is one of the Republicans’ best pickup opportunities in the upper chamber, and I doubt she would have become a candidate if she expected to be on the ticket with Branstad.

Though no one else has mentioned her name to me, State Representative Linda Miller seems like a promising choice. She has endorsed Branstad and is from Bettendorf, one of the Quad Cities. Republicans used to be dominant in populous Scott County but have lost ground there in recent years.

Some conservative activists have slammed Branstad for elevating Joy Corning to the office of lieutenant governor during the 1990s. Lynch asked Branstad about Corning, and he said she was a good choice “at the time”. He added that he disagrees with some of what Corning has done as a “private citizen.” Several years ago, Corning chaired a major capital campaign for Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa. Last year she publicly supported civil marriage rights for gays and lesbians. Corning backs Branstad’s current campaign and is privately urging fellow moderates to vote for him in the primary.

Bleeding Heartland readers, who do you think is on Branstad’s short list, and whom should he pick as a running mate?

Feel free to speculate about Bob Vander Plaats as well. From what I’ve heard, the consensus is that he would choose his campaign co-chair, retiring State Representative Jodi Tymeson. I consider Vander Plaats a long-shot for the nomination, especially with Rod Roberts splitting the conservative vote. But we haven’t seen any public polls confirming Branstad’s front-runner status. Vander Plaats does have a path to the nomination, and he keeps winning straw polls of Republican activists.  

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Dream recruit may spark Republican infighting in Senate district 45

Iowa Republicans have landed Sandy Greiner, their dream candidate against first-term Democratic State Senator Becky Schmitz in Senate district 45. The southeast Iowa district includes all of Washington, Jefferson, and Van Buren counties, plus part of Wapello and Johnson counties (map here). Schmitz defeated Republican incumbent David Miller by 184 votes in 2006, but the area leans slightly Republican in terms of voter registration.

Greiner represented Iowa House district 89, which makes up half of Senate district 45, for four terms (1993 to 2001). She then served for two years in the Iowa Senate before redistricting prompted her to return to House district 89 for another three terms (2003-2009). Consequently, she starts the race with high name recognition in the area and will be able to campaign almost as an incumbent. Republican blogger Craig Robinson sounds ready to declare this seat won for the GOP.

Greiner will be a stronger opponent for Schmitz than the three Republicans who had previously declared for the seat (Richard Marlar, Randy Besick and Dan Cesar). However, I would not assume that local Republicans will be united behind her this fall. Greiner is linked to business elites who have battled with activists on the religious right for control over the direction of the Iowa GOP.

Join me after the jump for more background on Greiner and why I suspect some social conservatives will fight her candidacy.

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Francis Thicke hires staff for secretary of agriculture campaign

Francis Thicke has hired staff for his Democratic campaign for Iowa secretary of agriculture, Will Merydith reported for the Fairfield Voice blog on Friday.

Rob Hubler, a 40-year veteran of managing political campaigns, started with the campaign about two weeks ago. Rob Hubler was the 2008 candidate for U.S. Congress in Iowa’s fifth district. This week the campaign team is growing with the addition of Keith Dinsmore, a veteran campaign media specialist. Keith has connections with press across Iowa and will be organizing Francis Thicke’s state-wide media work.

“In the next few weeks I will be traveling to a number of Democratic Party county conventions to speak to audiences about my campaign platform. I also have upcoming appearances at Grinnell College and Iowa State University. I do have one out-of-state event planned for next month, to speak at a national organic farming policy conference in Washington, D.C.”

“We have a local event planned for Fairfield on Saturday, March 27: Blues musician Bill Lupkin will be performing at Morning Star Studio as a fundraiser for our campaign.”

Thicke also recently opened a campaign office on the main square in Fairfield (Jefferson County, southeast Iowa).

I hope Thicke’s campaign will attract a large volunteer contingent. Iowa has plenty of Democratic activists who aren’t wild about Governor Chet Culver and don’t live in a battleground state legislative district. Republican Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey will be heavily favored in this race and will raise more money than Thicke. However, Thicke has outstanding qualifications, and his vision for agriculture deserves our wholehearted support. We don’t often hear Iowa candidates speak out against excessive concentration of agricultural markets or advocate stronger regulations for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). I recommend reading the four-part interview Blog for Iowa did with Thicke last year (part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4). Francis and Susan Thicke operate a successful organic dairy farm and won the 2009 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture.

We’ll need all Democratic hands on deck in the Fairfield area this year, since Iowa House district 90 and Iowa Senate district 45 are likely to be competitive races. State Representative Curt Hanson narrowly won last summer’s special election in House district 90, while State Senator Becky Schmitz is in her first term representing Senate district 45.

UPDATE: Forgot to add this ActBlue link for those who want to donate to Thicke’s campaign.

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