Get ready for a competitive GOP secretary of agriculture race

Craig Lang didn’t wait for Governor Kim Reynolds to decide. He is running for Iowa secretary of agriculture, no matter whom Reynolds picks to replace Bill Northey.

In his first comments to journalists about his campaign, Lang advocated more crop diversity and better land management practices, asserting that the dominant approach to farming in Iowa is not “sustainable.” That’s an unusual message for a Republican. Stranger still is hearing a former president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation talk about soil health in terms more often heard from environmental experts than from Big Ag heavyweights.

Though he’s a first-time candidate, Lang has plenty of political connections and should have little trouble raising enough money for a credible statewide primary campaign against State Representative Pat Grassley or other contenders.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Former ISU wrestling coach will challenge Boswell

The mystery “top-rate” Republican recruit against Representative Leonard Boswell emerged today. According to The Iowa Republican blog, former Iowa State University wrestling coach Jim Gibbons will file papers with the Federal Election Commission to run in Iowa’s third Congressional district.

At Ames High School, he won three state titles. At Iowa State University, he was a three-time All-American and won a national championship during his junior year.

When his collegiate wrestling career was over, then-ISU coach Dr. Harold Nichols, offered Gibbons a job as an assistant coach. When Nichols retired in 1986, Gibbons was named head coach. He coached seven individual NCAA champions while compiling a 96-32-1 career coaching mark. After winning the NCAA Championships in 1987, Gibbons was named national coach of the year. He was named Big Eight Coach of the Year in 1991 and retired from coaching after the 1992 season.

Since leaving coaching, Gibbons has been a financial advisor, most recently with Wells Fargo Advisors in West Des Moines. He also serves as a television commentator, providing color commentary for ESPN, The Big Ten Network, and Iowa Public Television. In 2003, he was named broadcaster of the year by the National Wrestling Media Association.

Gibbons says he is retiring from Wells Fargo to run for Congress full-time. He opposed the federal stimulus package and Democratic bills on health care reform and climate change.

I’m guessing that this means State Senator Brad Zaun and former Iowa GOP chairman Mike Mahaffey will not seek the Republican nomination to challenge Boswell. Gibbons can probably raise a decent amount of money and may even be able to self-fund his campaign. The National Republican Congressional Committee is unlikely to invest a lot of money in this district in my opinion.

College wrestling is a popular sport in Iowa, but I still don’t see Boswell as a likely casualty next year. If unemployment keeps rising, though, who knows? Any comments about this or other House races are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: In the comments, Bleeding Heartland user mirage, who is a Republican, believes Zaun would be a stronger candidate than Gibbons. Zaun was mayor of Urbandale, a heavily Republican suburb of Des Moines, before winning a seat in the Iowa Senate in 2004.

SECOND UPDATE: I was wrong about Zaun. He told CQ Politics today that he plans to run against Boswell and will announce his candidacy sometime after December 1.

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National Republicans unlikely to spend heavily against Boswell

Republicans are trying to recruit a strong challenger against Congressman Leonard Boswell, and by the end of the year State Senator Brad Zaun, former Iowa GOP head Mike Mahaffey, or perhaps some other prominent figure will throw his hat in the ring. However, I continue to believe that Iowa’s third Congressional district will not be a close contest next year, and I’ll explain why after the jump.  

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Republicans not wild about Zaun for Congress

State Senator Brad Zaun may not be the Republican establishment’s favorite choice to run against Representative Leonard Boswell in Iowa’s third Congressional district next year. The first hint was Krusty Konservative’s complaint last week that Zaun’s trial balloon “isn’t very well thought out,” because when you’re in charge of recruiting Republican candidates for the Iowa Senate, you can’t “bail on them and run for Congress.”

Now, Krusty can be a loose cannon, but the top story at The Iowa Republican today makes me think heavyweights in the GOP want Zaun to stay where he is. Craig Robinson speculates about GOP recruiting against Boswell, and he isn’t sold on Zaun:

First, Zaun is one of the Republican state senators who has been tasked to recruit candidates. In a year when 19 of the 25 seats that are up for election are under Democratic control, this is no easy task. Also, if Zaun runs for Congress, it means one less incumbent raising money and mentoring new candidates, something Republicans in the senate desperately need him to do.

Zaun is also not a prolific fundraiser. While he needed to raise significant funds to win his senate seat, it’s not a task that he necessarily enjoyed. While Zaun would bring more donor contacts than the current candidates in the race, it would probably be difficult for him to raise the million plus dollars that it will take to run a competitive race against Congressman Boswell.

While some might think that Iowa Republicans are destined to only recruit token opposition against Boswell, TheIowaRepublican.com has heard rumors that a well known, top-rate recruit will announce before the year ends. TheIowaRepublican.com can also confirm that the recruit is not Senator Zaun.

A top-notch candidate with the ability to raise significant amounts of money would elevate the 3rd District Congressional race to a point where it could be targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee next fall. If that were to occur, not only would Republicans have a chance at picking up the seat, but it could also help in the statewide U.S. Senate and gubernatorial campaigns, as well as local down-ballot contests.

Any idea who this great fundraiser and “top-rate recruit” may be? Former state GOP chairman Mike Mahaffey has been thinking about this race, and he probably could raise a lot of money, but it sounds as if Robinson is talking about a surprise candidate.

Zaun has said he’ll decide within the next few weeks whether to run against Boswell. I don’t consider him a major threat, while Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08 somewhat disagrees. I am skeptical about the NRCC pouring money into this race, because they have plenty of other targets, as well as a handful of tough House seats to defend. Also, even if a Republican beats Boswell in 2010, that wouldn’t be a long-term net gain for the GOP, because redistricting will probably pit the IA-03 winner against Representative Tom Latham in the 2012 primary.

Put your own speculation in this thread.

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