# Michael Mauro

Brenna Bird, do the right thing

Mitch Henry chairs the Iowa Unity Coalition.

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird is appealing a judge’s decision that cleared the way for election officials to offer non-English voting materials to the public.

Under Polk County District Court Judge Scott Rosenberg’s June 28 ruling, Iowa counties are allowed, at their discretion, to provide citizens with voting materials (including ballots, voter-registration forms, and absentee ballot request forms) in languages other than English. The decision dissolved a 15-year-old injunction that had blocked Iowa counties from printing the forms in other languages. Former U.S. Representative Steve King was among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against then Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro, which led to the injunction in 2008.

The court’s recent ruling stemmed from a lawsuit the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa filed in 2021 to challenge the state’s application of the English Language Reaffirmation Act to election materials.

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Lawsuit challenges English-only voting materials in Iowa

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Iowa is seeking a judicial order declaring that the state’s English-only law “does not apply to voting materials, including ballots, registration and voting notices, forms, instructions, and other materials and information relating to the electoral process.”

The state’s largest Latino advocacy organization filed suit in Polk County District Court on October 27, according to the Democracy Docket website founded by Democratic voting rights attorney Marc Elias. His law firm is representing LULAC in this and other cases related to voting rights.

LULAC previously petitioned Secretary of State Paul Pate to allow county auditors across Iowa to accept official Spanish-language translations of voter registration and absentee ballot request forms. However, Pate’s legal counsel informed the group in late September that the Secretary of State’s office “is still under an injunction” from 2008 “which prevents the dissemination of official voter registration forms for this state in languages other than English.”

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Advocates ask Iowa SOS to allow Spanish-language voting materials

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) has petitioned the Iowa Secretary of State’s office to allow elections officials in all 99 counties to accept official Spanish-language translations of voter registration and absentee ballot request forms.

The Secretary of State’s office has not yet replied to the petition and did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about the matter. If it doesn’t issue the requested order within 60 days of the filing date (July 28), Iowa’s largest Latino advocacy group can go to court seeking an exception for voting materials from Iowa’s 2002 “English language reaffirmation” statute, more commonly known as the English-only law.

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What's going on at the Iowa Department of Revenue?

Governor Kim Reynolds appointed former Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen as director of the Iowa Department of Revenue on February 22, only six weeks after she had named Adam Humes to lead the agency. A late Friday afternoon news release did not explain the reason for the change, saying only that Humes “has decided to pursue other opportunities.”* Paulsen will start work this coming Monday. Leadership transitions at state agencies typically are weeks or months in the making.

Humes’ predecessor, Courtney Kay-Decker, also left under odd circumstances. Appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in 2011, she sounded excited to continue to lead the department after the 2018 election. But in early December, Kay-Decker announced her resignation, effective at the start of the new year.

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Iowa Senate district 16: Nate Boulton's and Pam Dearden Conner's pitches to voters

UPDATE: Boulton won this race by just under 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent.

One of the most closely-watched state legislative primary results tonight will be the race to represent the open Iowa Senate district 16, covering the east side of Des Moines and Pleasant Hill in Polk County. No Republican has filed to run in this overwhelmingly Democratic district. The two contenders seeking to replace retiring Senator Dick Dearden are his daughter, Pam Dearden Conner, and Nate Boulton. Bleeding Heartland posted background on both candidates here. Each has substantial support from influential local Democrats.

I love three things about this primary:

1) It is happening. Dearden announced his plans to retire six months before the filing deadline, giving all local residents plenty of time to enter the Senate race. He could have pretended to be seeking another term, then pulled his nominating papers on the last day, leaving time for only his daughter to file. Too many Iowa lawmakers, including three House Democrats this year, have engineered their retirements so that only favored insiders had a chance to consider running for office.

2) Both sides are working hard. Although some Iowa Democrats have a bizarre fear of competitive primaries, I see no downside to two candidates and a small army of volunteers knocking doors and making phone calls, trying to identify supporters and get them to vote. As of May 24, more than 1,200 voters in Senate district 16 had requested absentee ballots. Both campaigns were out in force this past weekend, enjoying perfect weather for canvassing. Boulton has raised and spent more money, as you can see from his and Conner’s latest disclosure reports, but both sides have done substantial district-wide voter outreach.

3) As far as I can tell, the candidates have stayed positive. Months ago, I was worried the Senate district 16 primary might turn nasty like the 2013 Des Moines City Council race between Chris Diebel and Skip Moore, which lit up social media and strained friendships.

May the best Democrat win. I’ve posted below some examples of campaign literature and direct mail supporting each candidate. You can find more information on the websites for Conner and Boulton.

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Iowa Senate district 16: Nate Boulton raised more money in four months than Dick Dearden did in seven years

When Nate Boulton announced his Iowa Senate campaign in September, he subtly indicated he would be a different kind of legislator than State Senator Dick Dearden, the longtime Democratic incumbent who is retiring this year. Boulton promised to “be an active and engaged representative of district interests” and to “bring bold progressive ideas and a fresh, energetic style of leadership to the Iowa Senate.”

Just a few months into his primary race against Pam Dearden Conner, the retiring senator’s daughter, Boulton sent a strong signal that he will be a more “active and engaged” candidate as well. Campaign finance disclosure forms show that Boulton raised $75,383 during the last four months of the year, a phenomenal total for a non-incumbent, first-time state legislative candidate in Iowa. Not only did Boulton out-raise his primary rival, he raised more than Dearden (a 22-year incumbent) has brought in cumulatively since 2008.

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Iowa Senate district 16 primary preview: Pam Dearden Conner vs. Nate Boulton

A generational battle is shaping up in the Democratic primary to replace State Senator Dick Dearden, who has represented parts of Des Moines in the legislature since 1995. Dearden recently disclosed plans to retire in 2016. Like last year’s campaign to replace Jack Hatch in Iowa Senate district 17 on the south side of Des Moines, the June primary will determine Dearden’s successor.

Senate district 16 covers heavily Democratic neighborhoods on the east side of Des Moines, and also the growing suburb of Pleasant Hill. A detailed map is after the jump. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office indicate that the district contains 14,624 active registered Democrats, 6,978 Republicans, and 10,106 no-party voters. Dearden was unopposed in 2004 and defeated his Republican challengers by wide margins in 2008 and in 2012.

More candidates may enter the race later, but for now the primary will pit the incumbent’s daughter Pam Dearden Conner against labor attorney Nate Boulton. Iowa Labor Commissioner and former Secretary of State Michael Mauro endorsed Conner on Facebook this past weekend. She is his administrative assistant and also worked for him in the Polk County Election Office and the Secretary of State’s Office. Many other longtime friends and backers of Senator Dearden have expressed their support for Conner’s campaign on social media.

Nate Boulton is a partner in a law firm that has represented Iowa’s largest pubic employee union (AFSCME) in several high-profile cases against Governor Terry Branstad’s administration. Since last Friday, many Democratic activists in their 20s and 30s have promoted his candidacy on social media. Bouton’s on Twitter here, and his campaign is on Facebook here.

I enclose below press releases from each candidate, containing short biographies and statements of values. Both Conner and Boulton have strong pro-labor credentials and are pledging to support consensus Democratic priorities like education. Boulton’s statement hints at the case he will make in the primary, promising to “be an active and engaged representative of district interests” and to “bring bold progressive ideas and a fresh, energetic style of leadership to the Iowa Senate.” Such phrases allude to the fact that Dearden, while a solid vote in the legislature, has never been at the forefront of progressive fights. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a cause he has led on, besides bringing back dove hunting, which isn’t a partisan issue. Dearden didn’t accomplish that longstanding goal until Governor Terry Branstad was back in office.

Two (or perhaps more) committed candidates working hard to identify and turn out supporters next June can only help Democratic GOTV in the general election. Here’s hoping for a competitive race that doesn’t turn bitter and negative, as happened in Senate district 17 last spring.

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Matt Schultz running in IA-03; Paul Pate running for Secretary of State

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz confirmed today that he will run for Congress in the open third district. He announced his decision at a press conference in Council Bluffs, where he served on the city council before winning the 2010 election for secretary of state. Council Bluffs is the second-largest city in IA-03. Schultz for Congress is on the web here and on Facebook here. The candidate’s Twitter handle is VoteMattSchultz. So far the website doesn’t contain detailed issue positions, just five section headings: “Protect against government overreach,” “Enact term limits for elected officials,” “Repeal Obamacare,” “Balance the federal government’s budget,” and “Protect our 2nd Amendment rights.”

I’ve posted background on Schultz after the jump, along with an excerpt from today’s official press release announcing his candidacy. It doesn’t mention what I suspect are the real reasons he is running for Congress instead of for re-election.

Meanwhile, Paul Pate announced today that he will seek the Republican nomination for secretary of state. He was elected to that statewide position in 1994 but left after one term to run for governor. Speaking to the Des Moines Register today, Pate said his experience gives him “a pretty good grasp of the office’s responsibilities,” allowing him to “hit the ground running.” He added that he can win the secretary of state’s race.

Pate said he already has strong name-ID with voters around Iowa, and a proven record of fundraising. The successful GOP candidate will need to raise at least $250,000, he said.

“Candidates need to recognize they won’t be able to run this on a shoestring budget,” he said.

Pate, who said he has “great respect” for Schultz, wants to make some changes to the secretary of state position.

“One key thing is my desire to bring more a nonpartisan approach to the office,” he said. “I think that’s something that Iowans and Americans have been clamoring for with all the gridlock going on in Washington.”

Pate flirted with running for Congress in IA-01 last year before opting out, citing family reasons. I’m curious to see whether he can clear the Republican field. My hunch is that he will be unopposed in the primary. I am seeking comment from State Representative Mary Ann Hanusa, who was the 2006 GOP nominee for secretary of state.

Brad Anderson is the likely Democratic nominee for this office, although former Secretary of State Michael Mauro has not ruled out running again in 2014. Mauro is currently Iowa’s labor commissioner.

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Matt Schultz rules out IA-Sen, will seek re-election as secretary of state (updated)

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz announced on twitter this morning, “I am humbled by all of the encouragement to run for Senate, but I love serving Iowans as Secretary of State… I intend to run for SOS.” Earlier this month, Schultz traveled to Washington to speak with Republicans about the open U.S. Senate seat. I’m not surprised he decided to stay in his current office, where he will not be challenged in the GOP primary. Fundraising has never been Schultz’s strong suit, and in a Senate race he would be competing against at least two Republicans with the potential to raise big money (Matt Whitaker and David Young), plus a possible self-funding candidate in Mark Jacobs.

Schultz’s likely opponent in the secretary of state’s race is Brad Anderson, who has been raising money and building a campaign organization with the support of many heavyweights in the Iowa Democratic establishment. Iowa Labor Commissioner Michael Mauro, who served four years as secretary of state before losing to Schultz in 2010, has not ruled out running in the Democratic primary next year.

UPDATE: Added Brad Anderson’s comment on today’s news after the jump.

SECOND UPDATE: Schultz’s full written statement is below as well.

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Brad Anderson has head start in secretary of state's race

When Brad Anderson announced plans to challenge Secretary of State Matt Schultz, many influential Iowa Democrats quickly jumped on board, noting Anderson’s skills and experience as manager of President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign in Iowa.

While Schultz considers running for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat next year, Anderson has begun building what may become the largest campaign organization for a statewide office in Iowa other than governor. Last week Anderson announced raising $102,186 for his campaign since he formally launched his candidacy. That may not sound like much money for a statewide race, but Matt Schultz didn’t even raise that much during his entire 2010 candidacy. In January 2013, Schultz’s re-election campaign reported $29,505.62 cash on hand but also $17,071.34 in unpaid bills.

Former Secretary of State Michael Mauro wasn’t a huge fundraiser even as an incumbent seeking re-election in 2010. Mauro has not ruled out running for secretary of state again. Although he did a fantastic job in that office, he would start a Democratic primary campaign against Anderson at an organizational disadvantage.

After the jump I’ve listed Anderson’s 99 “county captains,” along with members of his campaign steering committee. Anderson commented in a press release from April 25, “The 2012 election proved a strong organization is just as important as fundraising, and I am pleased some of the best organizers in the state have joined our team and are ready to help us win this important race.”

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Weekend open thread: Iowa youth activism edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? I’ve been thinking about politically active college students who make the news for reasons other than receiving lewd photos from elected officials.

On June 8, a group of students from the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Iowa testified before the Iowa Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee. The students came to Des Moines to speak against spending cuts for education. The subcommittee’s ranking Republican, State Senator Shawn Hamerlinck, made the hearing newsworthy by telling the group,

“I do not like it when students actually come here and lobby me for funds.  That’s just my opinion. I want to wish you guys the best.  I want you to go home and graduate.  But this political theater, leave the circus to us OK?  Go home and enjoy yourselves.  I want to thank you for joining us and though I have to concede, your time speaking before us is kind of a tad intense.   It’s probably a pretty new experience.  You probably prepared for it for days and you sat there in front of us trying to make sure your remarks were just right, and that’s a good thing.  But actually spending your time worrying about what we’re doing up here, I don’t want you to do that.  Go back home.  Thanks guys.”

We wouldn’t want any civic involvement on our college campuses, would we? Hamerlinck didn’t get the memo: you’re supposed to at least pretend to encourage young people to get involved in the political process. But he stood by his remarks, adding in a statement:

“It saddens me to see bright young Iowa students being misled about our state’s financial situation. Their view of Iowa’s budget is inaccurate and it is my hope that our Regents institutions are educating them on the facts rather than political propaganda.”

I guess Hamerlinck missed the news this week about state revenues coming in strong. It’s incredible that Republicans continue to portray Iowa’s fiscal condition as dire.

Anyway, Senate Democrats spread news of the “go back home” mini-speech through blogs, Facebook, YouTube and e-mail. After the jump I’ve posted a fundraising e-mail blast featuring Hamerlinck’s comments, which I received on June 9. Hamerlinck is considered a rising GOP star, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run for Congress someday in Iowa’s second district, if he holds his Senate seat. The new Iowa map put Hamerlinck in Senate district 46 (Muscatine and Scott counties), which has a slight Democratic voter registration advantage.

Yesterday I checked out the websites of the College and Young Democrats of Iowa and the Iowa Federation of College Republicans. The front page of the Democratic site features some GOP legislative proposals (cut taxes and spending for higher education and preschool), news from the presidential race and other odds and ends. The front page of the Republican site is full of videos and blog posts about the infamous “F*** OFF” e-mail that a University of Iowa professor sent University of Iowa student Natalie Ginty in April. (Bleeding Heartland discussed that overblown scandal here.) Ginty, who chairs the Iowa college Republican organization, appeared on many national media shows at that time to discuss alleged liberal intolerance on campus.

A group of students from the University of Iowa attended a Board of Regents meeting on June 8 to advocate for phasing out coal combustion at the three state universities. As part of a nationwide Sierra Club campaign, the students delivered signed letters from Iowans and information about the adverse impact of coal.

Rock the Vote released a new analysis this week of how state voting systems serve young Americans. Iowa placed second with a score well above the national average. You can download the full scorecard here (pdf). Iowa gained points in several categories (same-day voter registration, absentee voting, overseas and military voting) thanks to the leadership of former Secretary of State Michael Mauro. We would have lost two points if current Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s voter ID proposal had been enacted.

This is an open thread. Comments on all topics are welcome.

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Weekend open thread: Huckabee passes on 2012

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee announced on his Fox show last night that he will not be a candidate for president in 2012. I doubt many people were surprised, because Huckabee had done little to lay the groundwork for a campaign. Shortly after Huckabee visited Iowa on a book tour earlier this year, his 2008 state campaign manager Eric Woolson signed on with former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Several other influential Huckabee backers from the last go-around are committed to other candidates as well, including State Senator Kent Sorenson and Wes Enos (now backing Representative Michele Bachmann) and former leaders of the Iowa Family Policy Center (supporting Judge Roy Moore).

It’s anyone’s guess who will benefit most from Huckabee’s absence. Every poll of Iowa Republican caucus-goers I’ve seen this year has put Huckabee in the lead. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney typically places second in those surveys, but he has signaled that he won’t campaign hard in Iowa this year. Judging from how other potential Republican presidential candidates reacted to yesterday’s news, Huckabee’s endorsement will be highly prized.

This story caught my eye: former Governor Chet Culver is co-chairing the National Popular Vote campaign, which seeks to ensure that the winner of the presidential election is the candidate who receives the most popular votes. Since a U.S. constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college would never be ratified by enough states, the National Popular Vote campaign is seeking to prevent a repeat of the 2000 presidential election.

I was surprised to see Culver on board. When an Iowa Senate committee approved legislation in 2009 to assign Iowa’s electors to the winner of the nationwide popular vote (if enough other states approved the same reform), Culver spoke out against the bill. He warned, “If we require our Electoral College votes to be cast to the winner of the national popular vote, we lose our status as a battleground state.” Then Secretary of State Michael Mauro also opposed the bill, saying, “Under this proposal, it is hard to foresee Iowa maintaining its dominant role and expect candidates to spend their final hours campaigning in our state when they will be focused on capturing the popular vote in much larger states.” Todd Dorman views the national popular vote campaign as an “end-around” the normal constitutional amendment process, but I support the getting rid of the electoral college by the only practical means available. The president should be the person who receives the most votes.

May is Bike to Work Month, and the Iowa Bicycle Coalition has lots of resources to support recreational or commuter bicyclists. The Urban Country Bicycle blog posted about a study that showed the average worker in this country works 500 hours a year (about two hours per working day) just to pay for their cars.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, Huckabee’s Fox News contract played a big part in his decision not to run for president.

Governor Terry Branstad used his weekly press conference on May 16 to urge Republicans candidates to compete in Iowa:

“This is probably going to be the most wide-open, competitive race we’ve ever had for the Iowa caucuses,” Branstad said. “This is a state where a candidate – with hard work and retail politics, going to all 99 counties and meeting with people and answering the questions – this is a state where you can effectively launch a campaign. And it’s not too late.” […]

Branstad publicly took issue with [former New Hampshire GOP Chair Fergus] Cullen’s editorial, which said, “Iowa Republicans have marginalized themselves to the point where competing in Iowa has become optional.”

“Mr. Cullen couldn’t be further from the facts,” Branstad said. “The truth is that Iowa is a full-spectrum state. I think the primary election that I won last year proves that. I would also point out that the front-runner, Mike Huckabee, made a decision over the weekend, which is momentous. He is not running this time, which means he got the largest block of votes in the Iowa caucuses four years ago and those are up for grabs.”

Cullen’s editorial is here; I posted excerpts here.

Branstad’s close associate Doug Gross, who co-chaired Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign in Iowa, has long warned that the caucuses are not hospitable to moderate candidates. In November 2008, he said, “[W]e’ve gone so far to the social right in terms of particularly caucus attendees that unless you can meet certain litmus tests, if you will, you have a very difficult time competing in Iowa.” But Gross had a very different message today:

I think this is a different year because largely with Huckabee getting out, you’ll have multiple social conservatives in the race. As a result of that, they’ll divide up a lot of the Caucus vote and there’ll be an opportunity for a mainstream Republican to come in and do surprisingly well here. If I were Mitt Romney and I wanted to be the nominee for president, I’d play in Iowa this time because if you win in Iowa this time you have a chance to win the nomination.”

Talk radio conservative Steve Deace shared his perspective as an enthusiastic Huck supporter in 2008 who has grown disillusioned more recently: “Ideologically, the Huckabee of today sounds a lot more like the Rod Roberts of 2010 than the [Bob] Vander Plaats of 2010.”

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Schultz sworn in as secretary of state

Matt Schultz took the oath of office this morning in Des Moines, becoming the youngest ever Iowa secretary of state at age 31. Since winning the November election, he has been traveling from Council Bluffs to Des Moines a couple of times per week. Schultz told the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil recently that outgoing Secretary of State Michael Mauro has been “very good, very professional” during the transition, treating his successor “with a lot of respect.” (Too bad Schultz’s StopMauro.com website didn’t show the incumbent much respect during the campaign.)

Schultz has hired Story County Auditor Mary Mosiman to run the Elections Division and Jim Gibbons to run the Business Services division. He’s got an extremely busy couple of months ahead, wrapping up his private legal work as his wife expects their fourth child in February.

Schultz said that after the baby is born, he and his wife will decide whether to move the family to Des Moines or keep their home here with him renting an apartment and commuting home on weekends. Until then, he will live in the basement of his parents’ Des Moines home.

“I’m probably the only Secretary of State living in his parents’ basement,” Schultz said.

My unsolicited advice is to move the family to Des Moines. He’ll get to see the kids more, and his wife won’t have to be a single parent Mondays through Fridays. Commuting would make sense if he were a state legislator working in Des Moines only a few months a year, but a four-year term is a long time to keep up that schedule.

As of today, Mauro has a position with Iowa Workforce Development. On May 1 he will become the head of the Iowa Labor Commission.

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Mauro resolves HAVA audit, lands Branstad administration job

Secretary of State Michael Mauro announced on December 29 that his office and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission have resolved all outstanding issues related to Iowa’s use of federal Help America Vote Act funds when Chet Culver was secretary of state. A federal audit originally questioned the use of about $2.5 million of the $30 million in HAVA funds Iowa received. By June of this year, federal officials reduced to $576,000 the amount Iowa would have to pay back.  The final agreement reached won’t cost Iowa anything.

For three years, state elections staff have worked to correct a long list of problems in an effort to avoid a large repayment, but federal officials concluded $221,000 in “disallowed costs” couldn’t be fixed or whittled down further.

However, the state won’t have to write a check to repay that money, said Secretary of State Michael Mauro said today.

Mauro asked federal officials to give the state a credit for expenses that were eligible for federal voting funds, but that Mauro chose to cover with state money knowing that questionable spending would likely need to be repaid.

Click here to view final correspondence from the EAC to the Secretary of State’s office. Governor Chet Culver’s general counsel Jim Larew emphasized in a statement that “no federal rules were broken,” and “Most of the federal rules that were interpreted to evaluate the Iowa HAVA program had not even been published by the time Iowa HAVA was completed.”

This settlement wraps up four years of outstanding work by Mauro as secretary of state. He never should have lost his re-election bid.

Last month, Governor-elect Terry Branstad praised Mauro’s work and said he would consider hiring him in his administration. On December 30, the Branstad/Reynolds transition announced that Branstad will nominate Mauro to head the Iowa Labor Commission. Before that term starts on May 1, 2011, Mauro will serve as deputy director at Iowa Workforce Development, beginning January 3.

I’ll post a more extensive update on Branstad’s personnel choices and policy statements in the next few days. After the jump I’ve posted Mauro’s press release and Larew’s statement on the HAVA audit resolution, as well as the Branstad statement on Mauro’s new position, which praised “the fair and even way [Mauro] administered election laws and how he effectively managed the Iowa secretary of state’s office.” No wonder Branstad never did much to help Mauro’s opponent Matt Schultz, in stark contrast to his longstanding and highly visible advocacy for attorney general candidate Brenna Findley.

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New Secretary of State Schultz hires Jim Gibbons, Mary Mosiman for top jobs

Secretary of State-elect Matt Schultz has announced several important hires in the past week. Former Republican Congressional candidate Jim Gibbons will serve as Chief Deputy and Director of Business Services, while longtime Story County Auditor Mary Mosiman will run the Elections Division.

Follow me after the jump for background and analysis on those appointments.  

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GOP Secretary of State candidate on tv in home region

It’s been a while since my last post on the secretary of state race. Republican Matt Schultz is still running the radio commercial I described here, at least in the Des Moines market. I noticed today that his campaign posted a 30-second television commercial on YouTube on October 21. Schultz is a Council Bluffs City Council member, and the script of this ad sounds like it’s running only in the Omaha/Council Bluffs viewing area.

The video and transcript are below.

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Des Moines Register punts on down-ballot statewide offices

The “newspaper Iowa depends upon” won’t endorse a candidate in this year’s races for attorney general, state treasurer, secretary of state, secretary of agriculture or state auditor, Des Moines Register editorial page editor Linda Fandel confirmed to me this week. Fandel told me the newspaper has been inconsistent about endorsing candidates for those offices in the past. She said limited staff time and resources lay behind the decision not to endorse this year. The Register did endorse candidates in the races for governor, U.S. Senate and all five U.S. House seats, as well as the Iowa Supreme Court retention vote, which the editors called the most important election in the state this year.

I understand limits on resources. Compared to previous election cycles, the Register’s newsroom staff is smaller, and its editorial pages contain less content. However, a newspaper that claims to have a statewide profile shouldn’t punt on elections offering such significant contrasts to voters. More thoughts on these campaigns are after the jump.

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Iowa GOP all in for AG candidate Findley

The latest round of financial reports for Iowa statewide candidates are available on the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board website, and once again Republican attorney general candidate Brenna Findley has turned in strong numbers. Thanks to transfers totaling $547,500 from the Republican Party of Iowa, Findley raised $756,617 between July 15 and October 14. During the same period, Democratic incumbent Tom Miller raised $243,326. The huge support from the Iowa GOP allowed Findley to spend more than twice as much as Miller during the reporting period ($661,252 to $298,604). Most of each candidate’s spending went toward advertising: $564,000 for Findley and $225,000 for Miller. Findley has been up on statewide radio for a month and started running television commercials before Miller did. To my knowledge, Miller has not done any radio advertising. Lynn Campbell listed the largest donors to the Findley and Miller campaigns at IowaPolitics.com.

The state party’s massive support for Findley is striking. Republicans have not run a strong challenger against Miller for ages. The party didn’t even nominate a candidate for attorney general four years ago. Also, the Iowa GOP did essentially nothing for state treasurer candidate Dave Jamison or secretary of state candidate Matt Schultz. Jamison received contributions from several of Findley’s high-dollar individual donors and some of the same political action committees backing her (including those created by potential presidential candidates), but the only direct support from the Republican Party came from some GOP county central committees. Schultz received donations from some of those presidential candidate PACs but even less than Jamison from the county central committees and “usual suspect” individual donors.

One could argue that Findley earned the party’s backing through her strong fundraising. She reported far more donations in May and July than the other Republican challengers for statewide offices. Without any financial support from the Iowa GOP, Findley would still have been competitive with her opponent’s contributions and cash on hand totals. She has been an energetic campaigner all year, and serving as Representative Steve King’s top staffer for seven years probably opened a lot of doors for her in terms of fundraising.

Jamison raised $60,479.25 between July 15 and October 14. That was more than the $32,070.52 State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald raised during the same period, but Fitzgerald had $94,073.48 cash on hand as of October 14 compared to $14,608 for Jamison. Schultz raised $25,903.60 since the July disclosure reports, while Secretary of State Michael Mauro raised $52,862.51. Mauro had $64,267 on hand as of October 14, while Schultz had $7,000.94 on hand and $18,174.77 in unpaid bills to himself. If I were Jamison or Schultz, I’d be upset to be ignored by the state party that gave Findley more than half a million dollars. A hundred thousand or two for Jamison and Schultz would have been enough for a bare-bones paid advertising campaign.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad has been praising Findley at just about every campaign stop for months. He makes a brief appearance in one of her tv ads too. Before the June primary, I thought perhaps Branstad was singling out Findley because there were competitive GOP primaries for the other offices. However, even after winning their primaries Jamison and Schultz haven’t received as much attention or help from Branstad as Findley has.

Bleeding Heartland readers, share your own thoughts about the Iowa Republican establishment’s strong support for Findley in this thread.

Final note on the attorney general’s race: Findley and Miller debated yesterday in Iowa City. You can read about the highlights at the Des Moines Register blog, WCCC.com, Radio Iowa and IowaPolitics.com. Unfortunately, the debate won’t be broadcast on Iowa Public Television, but Mediacom cable subscribers can watch it on channel 22 at 2 pm on October 26 and 11 am on October 31. In the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City market, Mediacom subscribers can watch the debate at 7 am on October 24, 8 pm on October 25 or 7 am on October 31.

Secretary of State race: Mauro on television, Schultz on radio

The secretary of state campaign isn’t often in the news, but both candidates are now using paid advertising to get their message to the voters. Incumbent Michael Mauro launched his first campaign television commercial this week, a spot focusing on his accomplishments and bipartisan work. Challenger Matt Schultz is running a radio ad that emphasizes his call for photo ID requirements and his Republican affiliation.

Videos, transcripts and comments are after the jump.

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Schultz snubbed as own county auditor backs Mauro

Matt Schultz, the not-very-informed Republican who wants to be Iowa’s chief elections officer, has been on a tear lately. Last week he launched the Stop Mauro website, which publishes new allegations almost daily about Secretary of State Mike Mauro’s supposedly nefarious doings. A common thread in Schultz’s rhetoric, dating from the Republican primary campaign, is that Mauro engages in Chicago-style politics, which have no place in Iowa.

On October 1 Schultz slammed Mauro for filming public-service announcements regarding new voting technology for the visually impaired. Radio Iowa’s Kay Henderson covered Schultz’s joint press conference with Republican state treasurer candidate Dave Jamison. Mauro’s office responded as well. There is an obvious public interest in educating Iowans about new voting equipment during election season. Mauro appears in the commercial, but so do a Republican county auditor and the president of the Iowa Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. More details on the production, funding and script of the ad are here.

Schultz’s attention-getting press conference seems to have backfired. On Monday two more Republican county auditors joined the crowd supporting Mauro for re-election. One of the new endorsers was Marilyn Jo Drake of Pottawattamie County. Schultz is well-known there, having served on the Council Bluffs City Council since 2005. But Drake said in a statement, “I’m proud to support Michael Mauro as he seeks a second term as Secretary of State. Michael Mauro has been a strong and effective partner with county auditors across Iowa. I encourage all Iowans to vote for him this fall.”

Elected county officials rarely back statewide candidates from the other party. Schultz doesn’t have the experience to do this job, and his unfounded claims don’t inspire confidence from the county auditors who work with the Secretary of State’s office.

Jamison’s complaints about State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald are no more convincing. Jamison claims “taxpayers” are funding television, radio and newspaper ads featuring Fitzgerald. The ads publicize the College Savings Iowa 529 plan and the “Great Iowa Treasure Hunt,” which encourages Iowans to retrieve unclaimed property from the state. Deputy State Treasurer Karen Austin told me that unclaimed property finances the publicity for the treasure hunt, which state law requires twice a year. Those ads typically appear in May and September. The state’s general fund budget doesn’t pay for the college savings fund commercials either; those are funded by the 529 plan’s assets. Austin told Kay Henderson that many states including Iowa normally promote college savings in September. Jamison accused Fitzgerald of using public funds to promote himself, but

Austin says, “The way that we look at it, is having a state office that does this adds credibility to the program, and that is one thing that gives people comfort in understanding and knowing who is promoting this program, and why should I invest in this program and is that state tax benefit legitimate. So we have always felt that it is very important to make sure that people understand what this program is.”

Similarly, Schultz claimed the commercials on voting technology could have been produced without featuring Mauro. Guess what? Incumbents have some natural advantages in politics–like when Republican office-holders use taxpayer money to fund visits to all 99 Iowa counties every year.

Share any thoughts about the secretary of state or state treasurer races in this thread.

P.S. One point on the Stop Mauro site deserves additional comment. Schultz says Mauro “snubs the law,” citing a 2008 Polk County district court ruling. The court determined that Mauro violated Iowa’s official English law by providing and accepting voter registration forms printed in other languages. Legal scholars Evan Seite and Michael Zuckerman have analyzed this case in detail, and the issues at hand are more complicated than Schultz implies. In fact, the judge who wrote the King v Mauro opinion “suggested that the federal Voting Rights Act […] might require Iowa’s use of non-English voter registration forms” under an exception allowing for “language usage required by or necessary to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” If plaintiffs ever challenge the Iowa English Language Reaffirmation Act in federal court, Mauro’s actions may be vindicated. Zuckerman argues that English-only laws are constitutionally vulnerable as applied to voting.  

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Bipartisan group of county auditors backing Mauro for Secretary of State

Secretary of State Michaul Mauro’s campaign announced today that 43 county auditors–31 Democrats, 11 Republicans and one with no party affiliation–have endorsed the Democratic incumbent for re-election. One of the Republicans, Auditor Renee McClellan of Hardin County, said in a statement, “From the first day he took office, Michael Mauro has walked arm-in-arm with county auditors of both political parties and approached his job as Iowa’s commissioner of elections in a non-partisan way, choosing results over politics. I’m proud to support Secretary Mauro and encourage all Iowans to vote for him this fall.”

It’s unusual for partisan county officials to publicly support a statewide candidate from the other party, and Mauro said the endorsements “confirm that my administration has worked effectively with both Democrats and Republicans to make the voting process accessible, safe, and secure.”

No doubt the Republican auditors have noticed that Mauro’s GOP challenger Matt Schultz is ignorant about Iowa election procedures and casually throws around fraud allegations for political gain.

The full list of auditors who support Mauro is after the jump.  

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Iowa statewide candidate fundraising roundup

The latest round of statewide and state legislative candidate financial reports are available on the website of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. For most candidates, these reports cover money raised and spent between June 2 and July 14. Some of the candidates didn’t file a June 4 disclosure report, and in those cases the latest filing covers the period from May 15 to July 14.

Fundraising numbers for Democratic and Republican candidates for statewide offices are after the jump. In addition to money raised and spent and cash on hand figures, I’ve listed the largest donors for each candidate. I am working on a post about the noteworthy fundraising figures from Iowa House and Senate candidates. John Deeth hit some highlights at the Des Moines Register blog. It’s important to remember that leadership committees for both parties will also spend a lot of money in the battleground legislative districts.

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Secretary of State candidate runs against Obama, "Chicago way"

Republican secretary of state candidate Matt Schultz launched a second television commercial CORRECTION: web ad called “Not the Chicago Way”:

Transcript by me:

I’m Matt Schultz, and I’m running for Iowa secretary of state because I’m worried about the future of my children and the future of your children and grandchildren. It’s time for new leadership in Des Moines, and I’m prepared to stand up and fight for fair and honest elections. Vote early, vote often might be the Chicago way, but it’s not the Iowa way. I’m Matt Schultz, and I approved this message because I’m a conservative Republican fighting to protect the most important right of all: your right to vote.

Like Schultz’s first ad, this commercial raises the specter of voter fraud without any evidence that this has been a problem in Iowa.

When Schultz says, “Vote early, vote often might be the Chicago way,” the visual is a smiling Barack Obama in front of Obama/Biden campaign signs. The hint is sure to play well with Republican primary voters, many of whom may believe the 2008 election was stolen. That’s easier to accept than the reality of a Democratic presidential candidate clobbering the Republican.

Journalists should ask Schultz if he really believes (as this commercial implies) that Barack Obama got where he is because of Chicago-style election fraud. Then they should ask him to prove that “vote early, vote often” has happened even once in Iowa during the past decade or two.

When Schultz says “I’m Matt Schultz, and I approved this message,” the visual shows the words, “TRUST BUT VERIFY.” Schultz used the same Ronald Reagan catch phrase in his first ad, although the Republican icon’s famous words have nothing to do with voter fraud.

Your unintentional comedy of the day comes from Polk County Republican Party chairman Ted Sporer’s blog, commenting on Schultz’s commercial:

The only reason to oppose photo ID for voting is to perpetuate fraud. No other good faith explanation is possible. Although we are lucky to have the rarest of animals, an honest and competent Democrat, serving as Iowa’s SoS, Mike Mauro’s Democrat colleagues are your more garden variety and ethically challenged L/S/Ds.

As I discussed here, photo ID laws threaten to disenfranchise large numbers of voters (the 12 percent of the population lacking a photo ID) in order to solve a virtually non-existent problem (impersonating another voter at a polling place). That’s why advocacy groups who work to protect “the most important right of all, your right to vote” almost universally oppose photo ID laws.

In case you were wondering, L/S/Ds means “Labor/Socialist/Democrats” in “the real Sporer” lingo.

Schultz may pander his way to his party’s nomination, but his rhetoric ignores a fact that even Sporer grudgingly acknowledges: Secretary of State Mike Mauro is honest and highly competent. No one active in politics today has done more to safeguard fair and honest elections in Iowa than Mauro.

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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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New early voting numbers for the Iowa primary election

Secretary of State Michael Mauro’s office released new numbers today for Iowans voting early in the June 8 primary election.

As of today, 9,209 ballots have been received by county auditor offices across the state. The breakdown by political party is as follows:

Absentee Ballots Received: 9,209

Democrats – 2,140

Republicans – 7,069

Absentee Ballots Sent: 20,269

Democrats – 5,305

Republicans – 14,964

To view these numbers by Congressional district, visit www.iowavotes.gov.

The deadline to request a mailed absentee ballot is June 4 at 5:00 p.m. Absentee ballots returned by mail must be postmarked on or before June 7. Voters may still request absentee ballots in-person at their county auditor’s office until close of business on June 7, the day before Primary Day.

On Saturday, June 5, county auditors’ offices will be open for in-person absentee voting. Voters may check with their county auditor for business hours on this day. In addition, voted absentee ballots requested by mail may be hand-delivered to the county auditor’s office until the close of the polls at 9:00 p.m. on Primary Day.

Secretary Mauro encourages those voters who have received absentee ballots to be sure to return completed ballots to their county auditor’s office prior to the deadline.

In order to participate in Iowa’s Primary Election on June 8, eligible voters will need to register either as a Democrat or as a Republican.

For more information on the 2010 Primary Election, visit www.iowavotes.gov.

Note: the number of “absentee ballots received” includes people who have voted early in person, either at a satellite voting location or at their county auditor’s office.

The disparity between ballots requested by Republicans and Democrats is expected, since Democrats have relatively few contested primaries going on (the U.S. Senate race, the fifth Congressional district, a few Iowa House districts and Iowa Senate district 13). Republicans have a three-way primary for governor, two candidates for state treasurer, three candidates for secretary of state, crowded primaries in the first, second and third Congressional districts, and many competitive primaries in Iowa House and Senate districts.

I am surprised there aren’t even more Republican absentee ballots outstanding. From what I’ve heard and read, Terry Branstad’s campaign is making a major push on the absentee ballot front. Supposedly Brad Zaun has been working on turning out third district Republicans to the satellite voting location in Urbandale. I would have expected more than 22,000 Republicans across the state to have voted early or requested an absentee ballot by now. (Approximately 200,000 people voted in the 2002 Iowa Republican primary.) Maybe there will be a surge of voters in the last two weeks before election day, or maybe Republicans just reject early voting on principle.

If you are voting by mail, you can track your absentee ballot through a new feature on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website. I prefer to vote early in person; it only took me a few minutes at the Polk County Auditor’s Office.

UPDATE: Melissa Walker posted a good story on this at IowaPolitics.com. She has numbers and return rates for several large counties. According to Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, “many of the early ballots are from the Urbandale area,” which may favor Zaun in the third district primary.

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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.

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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Iowa Democrats and Republicans holding district conventions tomorrow

This weekend, activists across Iowa have a chance to hear from their party’s candidates for Congress, the Iowa legislature, and statewide offices. The Iowa Democratic Party is holding conventions in all five Congressional districts on Saturday, April 24. These events are open to the public as well as the media. In other words, you do not have to be a convention delegate or alternate to attend. Here’s a list of Democratic convention locations and some scheduled speakers:

WHAT: 1st District Convention WHEN: 10:00AM WHERE: Northeast Iowa Community College 10250 Sundown Rd. Peosta, IA SPEAKERS: Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Francis Thicke, Congressman Bruce Braley

WHAT: 2nd District Convention WHEN:11:00 AM WHERE: Fairfield Arts and Convention Center 200 North Main St. Fairfield, IA SPEAKERS: Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, Governor Chet Culver, Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Francis Thicke, Congressman Dave Loebsack, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan

WHAT: 3rd District Convention WHEN: 9:00 AM WHERE: Adventureland Inn 3200 Adventureland Dr. Altoona, IA SPEAKERS: Senator Tom Harkin, Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Francis Thicke, Congressman Leonard Boswell

WHAT: 4th District Convention WHEN: 10:00 AM WHERE: North Iowa Fairgrounds, Olson Building 3700 4th St. SW Mason City, IA SPEAKERS: Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, Candidate for Congress Bill Maske

WHAT: 5th District Convention WHEN: 9:00 AM WHERE: Atlantic Middle School 1100 Linn St. Atlantic, IA SPEAKERS: Senator Tom Harkin, Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, Candidate for Congress Matt Campbell, Candidate for Congress Mike Denklau, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan

The Republican Party of Iowa is holding conventions in the second, third and fifth districts this Saturday, and in the first and fourth districts on Saturday, May 1. (Click here for event details.) GOP conventions are open to the media but not the public.

The second and third district conventions will be well-attended because of the competitive GOP Congressional primaries. If no candidate wins at least 35 percent of the vote in the June 8 primary, district conventions will have to reconvene in June to select the nominee. Seven Republicans are running against Representative Leonard Boswell in the third district, and at least four of them are campaigning actively.

According to Republican blogger David Chung, there is “unprecedented” interest in the second district convention because of the four Republicans running against Representative Dave Loebsack. Chung writes, “For the first time in my memory, Linn County has filled [its] delegation. We have never actually had as many paid delegates as we were allotted.” Chung considers it “likely” that a second district convention will need to reconvene to select Loebsack’s opponent. Some other people following that race closely expect the contest to be decided on June 8, with only two candidates as serious contenders: Rob Gettemy and Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Gettemmy has the most cash on hand and the support of many influential Linn County Republicans as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee. The 2008 GOP nominee, Miller-Meeks, has spent the most time campaigning around the district. She has more cash on hand than either Steve Rathje or Chris Reed and is likely to do particularly well outside Linn County, where her three Republican rivals are based.

The district conventions will also elect members of the parties’ State Central Committees. Former Republican SCC member Chung is seeking that position again and expects a “massive shakeup” on the committee, because “several current members have decided not to run” again.

UPDATE: I’ve been told that Thicke will be at the fourth district convention as well, and Senate candidate Bob Krause will be at some of these conventions too, but I don’t have details.

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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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Events coming up this week

The big event of the week will be the first presidential debate this Friday. You can sign up to attend or host one of the debate watching parties being organized by Democracy for America by clicking here.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that early voting starts in Iowa on September 25. Last week I gave some reasons to vote early, and Justus wrote a more comprehensive piece on the subject at BooMan Tribune. Remember, it was early voting that put Al Gore over the top in Iowa in 2000.

Please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of an event I’ve left out.

Sunday, September 21:

Rob Hubler will be at the Monona County Democrats Annual Fall Rally at 4:30 p.m. in the Onawa Community Center.

One Iowa is holding a campaign training session for volunteers from 3:00 to 5:00 pm at the University of Northern Iowa, Mauker Union – Presidential Room in Cedar Falls. For more info, go to http://www.oneiowa.org.

Tuesday, September 23:

Humanities Iowa and Trees Forever are hosting Voices From The Prairie, an Iowa Writers’ Celebration September 23rd, 7 pm at the Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines, Iowa. Our theme this year is “Mixing Sun and Shade” as we explore how the prairie meets the forest. Our featured authors are John T. Price and Debra Marquart, both will discuss environmental issues and be available for questions. This event is free. fmi: Humanities Iowa, dana-mcgillin@uiowa.edu, or steve@southslope.net

One Iowa is holding a campaign training session for volunteers from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the Mason City Library Learning Center, 225 Second St. SE in Mason City. For more info, go to http://www.oneiowa.org.

Wednesday, September 24:

From the Sierra Club e-mail list:

Please attend a forum on

Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund

The first two forums are this week–see the entire list of meetings below.

Grinnell  9/24/08 @ 6:30 pmOld Glove Factory,  733 Broad St. (part of

Grinnell College)

Independence  9/25/08 @ 6:30 PMHeartland Acres (the big, barn-like building

on the west side of Independence off HWY 20)

The Sustainable Funding Coalition, a diverse group of Iowa organizations (including Sierra Club, TNC, INHF, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Iowa

Farmers Union, Izaak Walton League, Environment Iowa, Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa Rivers Revival, etc.) that works for sustainable conservation funding, is sponsoring a series of candidate forums on the proposed Natural

Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. […]

About the Fund: The proposed Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund would provide a permanent funding source to support efforts to improve and preserve Iowa’s water quality, soils, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation opportunities.

To create the fund, proposed legislation mandates that 3/8ths of a cent from state sales tax revenue will be appropriated for the Trust Fund the next

time the Iowa legislature approves a sales tax increase. The Sustainable Funding Coalition hopes to pass Trust Fund legislation during Iowa’s 2009

legislative session.  NOTE: This bill does not raise taxes, nor does it give voters the ability to raise the sales tax-only the legislature can do that.

Trees Forever will host a symposium entitled “Leading the Way to Greener Communities – Where Culture, Economy and the Environment Grow Together” on Wednesday, Sept 24. The event will be held from 8 AM to 4 PM at the Hotel Fort Des Moines, located at 10th & Walnut in Des Moines. The symposium will explore the economic, cultural and environmental benefits of trees and green spaces in an urban setting, public policies on green infrastructure, and other timely topics. Special guest speakers for the day include Suzanne Malec-McKenna, Commissioner of the City of Chicago Department of Environment, and Alice Ewen Walker, Executive Director of the National Alliance for Community Trees. The cost of the Trees Forever 2008 Symposium event is $25 for Trees Forever members or $35 for non-members, and includes lunch and refreshments. Advance registration is requested. For more information, or to register, log on to www.TreesForever.org or call 1-800-369-1269.

The Center on Sustainable Communities is organizing another Demo Home Workshop:

Join COSC and USGBC Iowa Chapter at our Foundations & Basements On-Site workshop on Wednesday, September 24, 2008 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm at the Des Moines affordable green demonstration home site – 1347 Forest Avenue in the King-Irving Neighborhood. A CHDC (Community Housing Development Corporation) project, this is the second in our series of hands-on workshops at the affordable green demonstration homes in the Des Moines metro area.

A big thanks to the funding supporters of these demonstration home workshops:

   * Greater Des Moines Community Foundation

   * Principal Financial Group Foundation

   * Iowa Department of Natural Resources

   * Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

   * MidAmerican Energy

For more details visit www.icosc.com

RSVP by Monday, Sept. 22nd to Emily at Emily@icosc.com or 515-277-6222.

Thursday, September 25:

There will be a 60th Birthday Celebration and annual pasta dinner for Secretary of State Michael Mauro. Please join Michael and his family to celebrate! Thursday, September 25, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., A. H. Blank Golf Course, SW 9th & County Line Rd. Suggested Donation: $20 (note from desmoinesdem: We all owe Mauro our thanks for his efforts to get rid of paperless voting machines in Iowa. Kick in a few bucks for his birthday if you can.)

One Iowa is holding a campaign training session for volunteers from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at a location to be determined in Ames. For more info, go to http://www.oneiowa.org.

Also on Thursday, Sep 25, beginning at 6:30 p.m., learn about current, proposed conservation legislation and priorities of legislators and candidates, during a regional Candidates Conservation Forum in Independence, Iowa. Information will be presented on current and proposed state legislation to protect and enhance natural resources and the environment. Legislative candidates from a four-county area will be invited to speak about their priorities for legislation and answer questions from the public. The Forum will be held at the Heartland Acres Event Center, 2600 Swan Lake Blvd, in Independence, and is sponsored by the Conservation Board; Buchanan, Black Hawk, Benton and Fayette County Chapters of Pheasants Forever; Buchanan County Extension; the Friends of Hartman Reserve Nature Center, Tallgrass Prairie Center, and other conservation groups in the four-county region. There is no cost to attend.

Friday, September 26:

The first presidential debate will be televised at 8:00 pm central time. Jim Lehrer, Executive Editor and Anchor of The NewsHour on PBS will moderate at Ole Miss college in Oxford, Mississippi.

Saturday, September 27:

From a friend in Johnson County:

Saturday, September 27 is National Public Lands Day and Herbert Hoover National Historic Site is again looking for volunteers to help restore their 81-acre tallgrass prairie.

National Public Lands Day, is the annual nation-wide volunteer restoration effort for America’s public lands. This year’s work will

include cutting down shrubs and collecting or planting prairie seeds. Volunteers who work at Herbert Hoover NHS will be rewarded with a pass

good for free entry any day during the next year at public land sites managed by the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and

Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Volunteers interested in getting hands-on experience with our natural resources on September 27 should contact Adam Prato at (319) 643-7855 by

Friday, September 26. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable work clothes. Work gloves and tools will be provided. Water, sunscreen,

sunglasses, and hats are recommended. Meet at the Visitor Center at 8:30 a.m. for an orientation and to get signed up. Work in the prairie will be from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

From a friend in Pella:

Women may be interested in Bodies in Focus, a day-long workshop for small groups of women, centering on my fine art professional photographic exhibit of REAL naked women.  The goal of our time together is for us all to move one step closer to     living more intensely as a body.  The workshop is for participant health. The photographed women and I want to share a unique and life-altering experience with portraiture, within a safe community. Ultimately, our gathering together will itself be transformational. The workshop will include exhibit viewing and thoughtful group discussion of being bodies (sharing is always optional).  Please plan to stay all day. You will be a group of up to 12 women, and so continuity of PRESENCE will be vital. Please stay for lunchtime,   as well, resisting the call to run errands.

WHEN: – We’ll meet on Saturday September 27, 2008 at 10:00 to 3:00, with an hour-long lunch included.

WHERE: –  My house: 900 Independence Street; Pella, IA  50219  (Located on the corner of Independence and West First Street)

FOOD: –  The lunch will be vegetarian (non-vegan). Please eat lunch here. Tell me if you have special dietary needs.

FEE    –  $65: Includes workshop and lunch. Please pay prior to the workshop. Bartering is an option.

Please RSVP to Rhonda (641) 621-0171

Sunday, September 28:

From the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation:

You’re invited to an open house honoring Erwin “Erv” Klaas, the 2008 winner of the Hagie Heritage Award!

Please join us in celebrating this conservation hero.

Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008

2:30-4:00 p.m. Open house with refreshments

3:00 p.m. Short program and award presentation

Story County Nature Center, McFarland Park

56461 180th Street, Ames

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation presents the Hagie Heritage Award annually to a person with extraordinary service and commitment to Iowa’s environment. Learn about Erv’s outstanding conservation work at www.inhf.org/hagie2008-klaas.htm

For directions to the event, call the Story County Conservation Board at 515-232-2516.

For more information, call INHF at 515-288-1846 or e-mail us at info@inhf.org .

From the Polk County Conservation Board:

A-mazing Prairie Festival

September 28, Polk County

Gather the entire family and join us 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., at the Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt Longhouse, to play and explore a 14-acre prairie maze. A walk through this maze will not only challenge your navigation and problem-solving skills, but will educate you about our natural heritage as well. Free canoe floats, a raptor release, music from the Barn Owl Band, dog training demonstrations, education programs, and hayrack tours will take place throughout the day. This special event is free to the public. For directions, go online to http://www.conservationboard.o…

One Iowa is holding a campaign training session for volunteers from 3:00 to 5:00 pm at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St. For more info, go to http://www.oneiowa.org.

Monday, September 29:

There will be a fundraiser in Des Moines for Rob Hubler, with a minimum suggested donation of $100. If you are interested, please contact Katrina at 712-352-2077 or katrina AT hublercongress.com

From the Iowa Environmental Council:

Projects WILD/WILD Aquatic/Learning Tree On-line Course, Starting September 29, Internet

This nine-week on-line class (9/29/08 – 11/30/08) introduces students to the national, award-winning Projects WILD, WILD Aquatic, and Learning Tree activity guides as well as Iowa supplements that provide additional background information and resources. All materials are correlated to National Education Standards. Participants are required to spend 3 hours per week on-line completing assignments. Participants should be comfortable navigating web pages. A majority of the course materials are provided on a CD. For more information, contact Shannon Hafner, Aquatic Education Program, Iowa DNR, 641/ 747-2051, Shannon.Hafner@dnr.iowa.gov

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Culver: "We're not interested in going in December"

Just back from the press conference at IDP Headquarters with Gov. Chet Culver, Secretary of State Mike Mauro, and IDP Chair Scott Brennan.  Culver made sure to emphasize that Iowa Democrats were still planning for January 14th precinct caucuses, but admitted the situation is and remains fluid, with a lot running on New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s decision when to hold his state’s primary, which by state law must happen seven days before any other primary.  Iowa state law says that Iowa’s caucuses must occur eight days before any other state selection process.

Culver started out the conference by announcing to Iowans that Christmas is going to happen in this state and that he expects to have the caucuses on January 14th.  Culver also said:

“We’re confident that work with our friends in New Hampshire, the Iowa Democratic Party, and the Democratic National Committee that Iowa is going to hold the lead-off caucus here.”

Obviously the situation is fluid, but nothing has changed the dates between Iowa and New Hampshire.  Until New Hampshire makes a change, we’re scheduled for January 14th.  We’re not interested in going in December.”

That appears to backtrack a bit from statements Culver made on Wednesday before Kay Henderson and other reporters when the rumors first began emerging that the South Carolina GOP would move their state primary to Jan. 19th, three days before New Hampshire’s scheduled (by the DNC) Jan. 22 primary.  Here’s what Culver said then:

“Would it be odd, having the Caucuses before Christmas?

“It’s challenging to get the Caucuses done period.  It requires a lot of work but I do know that Iowans are excited about participating in this presidential selection process and I don’t think as long as we give appropriate notice in timing that the date matters a whole lot.  We just need to get it set and hopefully, it’ll be the 14th.  If not, we’ll do what we have to do to keep the state first,” Culver said.”

Clearly, in the exchange with Henderson and others Culver indicated a preference and emphasis on the Jan. 14th date but by saying that date didn’t matter a whole lot.  The remarks above prompted Chase Martyn to call Culver out on his blog.

Yesterday Culver’s office issued a statement clarifying his support for the January date and today’s conference seemed to be a clear indication that he’s stepping aside — to some degree — to let the state Democratic party handle the matter, as is their prerogative and obligation.  As Secretary of State Mauro said today, the parties are the ones who control the caucuses, not the state government or the secretary of state’s office, as they do with regular elections.

A few other tid-bits from the presser.  Chairman Brennan did say he had been in touch with the Republican Party of Iowa about the situation, but said they were — as expected — a bit more focused on the Ames straw poll fundraiser tomorrow.  He also put the onus on New Hampshire in terms of defining how the Iowa Caucuses could play out with the Democrats and Republicans holding their caucuses on separate nights, as had been the tradition before 1980.  David Yepsen was the one who posed the question to Brennan and he said:

“New Hampshire will drive that.”

He emphasized that the tradition was to have the caucuses on the same nights, but there was no overall commitment to caucuses on the same nights if push came to shove.  That could make the caucuses even more of a spectacle with Democrats and Republicans crossing over into the opposite parties’ caucuses to pick the weaker or ‘crazier’ nominee.

Finally, the highlight of the conference for myself and Patrick Stansberry from Common Iowan, was a question from a reporter for WHO Radio asking if Culver “blamed the blogosphere for the speculation that Iowa’s caucuses might take place in December?”

Culver’s response was “Not at all.”  Thanks, Governor. 🙂

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