Exactly one month remains before the November election. Many Iowans have already received phone calls or direct mail promoting or attacking candidates for the state legislature, and those voter contacts will accelerate in the final weeks. Based on what I’ve heard about Republican message-testing phone calls in various Iowa House and Senate districts, Democratic candidates can expect lots of lies or distortions: the so-called “budget deficit” that doesn’t exist, alleged attempts to force workers to join unions, the claim that I-JOBS hasn’t created any jobs, and alleged government spending on “heated sidewalks” that never happened.
I’ll have more on Iowa Republicans’ lies and exaggerations in the coming weeks. I encourage Bleeding Heartland readers to help get the word out by posting diaries here or e-mailing me (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) about any deceptive mailings and robocalls you receive.
Meanwhile, it’s imperative that Democratic candidates and allied groups stick to the facts when criticizing Republican opponents. This week Iowa conservative bloggers were enraged over mailers attacking Kent Sorenson, GOP challenger against State Senator Staci Appel in Senate district 37. The seat is one of Republicans’ top targets, and activists in both parties expect a close election. Shane Vander Hart posted two of the mail pieces on the Des Moines Register website. At least one was paid for by the Iowa Democratic Party; I can’t tell from Vander Hart’s photo who paid for the other piece.
The mailers highlight Sorenson’s vote against Senate File 2357, which Governor Chet Culver signed into law this year after it passed with bipartisan support. The bill prohibits “a person who is the subject of a no-contact order or a protective order or who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from possessing, transferring, or selling firearms and ammunition or offensive weapons.” Sorenson and most other Republicans felt making someone give up their guns because of a no-contact order was taking away a constitutional right “without due process.” It disgusts me when self-styled law and order Republicans care more about domestic abusers’ gun rights than about preventing violent crimes. A large percentage of women who are murdered are killed by male partners or ex-partners who have previously abused or threatened them. Women have to demonstrate a pattern of abuse or harassment in order to get a no-contact order. Criticizing Sorenson for that vote is fair game.
The mailers also mention House File 596, which Sorenson co-sponsored in 2009. This bill would have relaxed concealed weapons permit requirements. Thankfully, it never made it out of subcommittee. The anti-Sorenson mailers claim HF 596 “would allow concealed weapons in bars.” That’s partly true; from my reading of the bill, it looks like only people in certain occupations would be able to carry concealed weapons in bars (a bad idea). The mailers also claim HF 596 “would allow kindergarten teachers to carry concealed weapons in classrooms.” I can’t find anything in the text of the bill to support that claim. Sorenson may be crazy, but even he isn’t that crazy.
Stretching the truth to score political points is not only wrong, but also likely to backfire. Sorenson does hold extreme views on guns. His own supporters cheer his efforts to repeal all handgun permit requirements and eviscerate Iowa’s permitting system in other ways. Unfortunately, sloppy work by whoever produced those direct-mail pieces will allow Sorenson to portray himself as the victim of a smear campaign.
Democrats shouldn’t let Republican attacks go unanswered, but they need to stick to the reality of Republicans’ voting records, public statements and the wacky ideas in the Iowa GOP platform.
Speaking of sloppiness, why does anyone listen to Krusty Konservative? This week he stated definitively that the National Rifle Association had endorsed Appel over Sorenson. The NRA announced a few days later that it was backing Sorenson. Click here to view the rest of the NRA’s Iowa endorsements.
This is an open thread, so feel free to share anything that’s on your mind this weekend.