# Steve Roberts



"Don't Look Up": The Iowa angle

This post first appeared on Julie Gammack’s Potluck Column on Substack.

There’s an Iowa connection to the film “Don’t Look Up,” a satire about society’s blindness to our planet in peril. 

A Des Moines Roosevelt High School graduate, Staci Roberts Steele, co-produces the star-studded film. In addition to her job description, the actress/producer/writer also played the assistant to a tech titan character in the movie. 

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Throwback Thursday: When a computer malfunction may have robbed Ronald Reagan of a 1980 Iowa caucus victory

Steve Roberts is a walking encyclopedia of Iowa GOP politics since the 1970s. The Des Moines-based attorney is a past state chair of the Republican Party of Iowa as well as a longtime Republican National Committeeman. In 2008, state lawmaker Sandy Greiner suggested Roberts should be declared “king of Des Moines” after he helped beat back an effort within the RNC to take away Iowa’s first in the nation spot for the 2012 election cycle. Someone needs to persuade Roberts to write his memoirs or let a video archivist capture his entertaining stories.

I called Roberts on March 3 to ask about events at the 1980 state Republican convention, which I plan to cover in a future Throwback Thursday post. Roberts was the top Iowa GOP official at that time. While answering one of my questions, he mentioned in passing,

[George H.W.] Bush won the Iowa caucuses, but I’ll tell you now, in looking back on it, our computers broke down. We didn’t get to count a number of rural counties, and very possibly [Ronald] Reagan won.

Wait, what?

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More Iowa Republicans coming out for marriage equality

Very few prominent Iowa Republicans have endorsed same-sex marriage rights since the Iowa Supreme Court's 2009 decision striking down the state's Defense of Marriage Act. Every Republican now serving in the Iowa House and Senate is on record supporting a constitutional amendment to reverse that court ruling. When former State Senator Jeff Angelo created the Iowans for Freedom movement in 2011 to support marriage equality as consistent with conservative values, only a handful of Republicans signed on. One of them, Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson, was later warned against seeking the GOP nomination for the special election in Senate district 18, in part because of his position on marriage.

Last night some heavy-hitter Republican strategists and activists met in Des Moines to urge the Iowa GOP to change its stance on marriage equality.

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Dream recruit may spark Republican infighting in Senate district 45

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

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

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

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

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Republican field for governor becomes more crowded (updated)

Today State Representative Rod Roberts of Carroll formally announced the creation of an exploratory committee for a possible gubernatorial campaign. The Des Moines Register’s political columnist Kathie Obradovich covered the press conference on Twitter. (May I suggest the hashtag #iagov instead of #iaguv?)

It seems Roberts plans to run as a likeable version of fellow State Representative Chris Rants of Sioux City: Iowa needs a change, he’s for “rights of unborn” and “traditional marriage,” he’ll be “careful with your money,” he wants to amend constitution to ban gay marriage, and he thinks the Bob Vander Plaats approach of ending gay marriage by executive order won’t resolve the problem.

Douglas Burns knows Roberts and made the case for him as a strong candidate here. I have a hard time seeing his path to the Republican nomination. As an ordained minister, Roberts must have better people skills than Rants. As a veteran of the Iowa legislature, he has more political experience than Christian Fong. His stance on gay marriage shows that he is more pragmatic than Vander Plaats. Still, I don’t see how he distinguishes himself from the Republican pack on any issues. Maybe someone will ask him about this at tomorrow’s Iowa Politics forum for gubernatorial candidates. Does he have an answer other than saying that being relatively unknown is his advantage?

According to Obradovich, the Roberts committee includes Steve Siemens (who I assume is this motivational speaker), State Representative Jeff Kaufmann, and former Lieutenant Governor Art Neu. Frank Severino, an experienced lobbyist at the Iowa statehouse, will manage the Roberts campaign.

Other prominent Iowa Republicans attended Roberts’ press conference: onetime gubernatorial candidate David Oman (who worked for Governors Robert Ray and Terry Branstad), former RNC committeeman Steve Roberts, RNC committeewoman Kim Lehman, and Iowa Family Policy Center head Chuck Hurley. It’s not yet clear whether any of those people were endorsing Rod Roberts.

Steve Roberts is one of the “moderates, old-money and business Republicans” thought to be shopping around for an alternative to Vander Plaats and Rants. Unless Rod Roberts has lined up some major backers in central and eastern Iowa, I can’t see how he can raise enough money to be competitive in the Republican primary.

In related news, Paul McKinley told Mike Glover of the Associated Press that he will step down as Iowa Senate minority leader if he decides to run for governor. McKinley formed an exploratory committee a few weeks ago and is constructing a campaign narrative based on his experience as a 1980s small business owner. My prediction: McKinley won’t raise the money for a serious gubernatorial campaign and will decide to stay where he is in the Iowa Senate.

UPDATE: Fong’s campaign manager Marlys Popma stepped on Roberts’ big day by announcing that Fong has raised $100,000 in the past three weeks (checks in hand, not pledges). It appears that GOP donors are buying the non-threatening conservative package Fong is selling, with its strong echoes of Obama-like post-partisan, empowering rhetoric.

SECOND UPDATE: This piece at Iowa Independent reminded me that Rants has suggested Roberts should stay out of the governor’s race to deprive Democrats of a chance at winning his Iowa House seat (district 51). Democrats have not fielded a candidate against Roberts for several election cycles, even though they are competitive with the GOP in terms of party registration in House district 51.

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