Mid-week open thread, with Bob Vander Plaats taking a stand

What’s on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread. After the jump I’ve posted a new editorial from The FAMiLY Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats. As you can imagine, he’s upset about “Republican elites” pushing for acceptance of LGBT civil marriage rights.

Vander Plaats has made a pretty good living off the culture wars, but he hasn’t done as well as National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown. The pro-LGBT equality group Rights Equal Rights issued a press release today highlighting details from NOM’s 2011 tax return (pdf). Notably, Brian Brown made over $500,000 dollars: $230,000 for working full-time at NOM’s political operation, and $230,000 from NOM’s Educational Fund “where he claimed to work another 40 hours per week,” plus $47,000 in benefits.

Speaking of the “traditional marriage” crowd, Mark Doland has a slim edge over former State Senator Tom Rielly in Tuesday’s special election for Mahaska County supervisor. Rielly posted on Facebook that as of Tuesday night, Doland led by 1391 votes to 1375. Some provisional ballots and late-arriving absentees had not yet been counted.

Doland used to be a staffer for the Iowa Family Policy Center and worked closely with Vander Plaats during the 2010 campaign to oust Iowa Supreme Court justices. He now serves on the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee. Rielly, a Democrat, was mayor of Oskaloosa before serving two terms in the Iowa Senate. He retired last year after Iowa’s new map removed Grinnell from his district and added heavily Republican areas such as Pella. Republican Ken Rozenboom was elected in the new Senate district 40, forcing the special election for his Mahaska County supervisor seat.

Interestingly, Rozenboom endorsed Rielly for county supervisor, even though his fellow Republican Doland had stood aside for him in Iowa Senate district 40. UPDATE: Rielly conceded defeat by 21 votes on February 4. Republicans won’t soon forget that Rozenboom preferred a Democrat for this supervisor’s seat.

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Iowa GOP outsourcing special election to special interests

When your party suffers a net loss of seats in the state House and Senate for four elections in a row, it’s time to try something different. In the case of the Republican Party of Iowa, that apparently means outsourcing operations for the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90.

In a July 31 e-mail blast, Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn encouraged activists to contact “Matt Gronewald, our Legislative Majority Fund Director,” if they would like to volunteer for Stephen Burgmeier, the Republican candidate in district 90. However, Burgmeier’s campaign website tells the real story:

 To volunteer please contact:

   * Katie Koberg, katiekoberg@gmail.com, 515-971-4571

   * Mary Earnhardt, mkearnhardt@gmail.com, 515-778-5229

   * Mark Doland, luviowa10@aol.com, 641-295-0135

Koberg and Earnhardt serve as vice president and policy director, respectively, for the conservative group Iowans for Tax Relief. The Iowa Republican blog’s Al Swearengen was partly right when he wrote,

Ed Failor Jr. and Iowans for Tax Relief are running the entire campaign effort in the special election…

Word is that Failor has committeed big dollars to the race and already has his ITR staff embedded in the district and running the race […]

Anybody that questions the power and influence of Failor and ITR need to look no further than this race…they are running this race…and are in charge of all House and Senate elections…

I say Swearengen was partly right because Burgmeier’s site also lists Mark Doland, who is on the Iowa Family Policy Center’s payroll as chief candidate recruiter.

You may remember the Iowa Family Policy Center, which organized a petition drive in April to pressure county recorders not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The “views” page on Burgmeier’s campaign website doesn’t talk about same-sex marriage, but Burgmeier is on record supporting legislative action to overturn the Iowa Supreme Court ruling, which matches the agenda of Iowa Family Policy Center Action (the group’s political wing).

The special election in district 90 won’t change the balance of power in the Iowa House, but it is the first high-profile race since Republicans selected Strawn to be state chairman in January. Strawn can’t be too confident about the party’s ability to fund and manage a statehouse campaign if he is giving outside interest groups control over this race.

Democrats within striking distance of district 90 can sign up here to volunteer for Curt Hanson.

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