Looking for a few good Democrats in Sioux City

Sioux City residents will replace their entire delegation in the Iowa House and Senate this November. Democrat Steve Warnstadt announced his retirement yesterday from Iowa Senate district 1, which comprises much of Sioux City (map here). Warnstadt is completing his second term in the Senate and has chaired the upper chamber’s Commerce Committee. He is known for his work on veterans’ issues, among other things, and commands the 671st Troop Command of the Iowa Army National Guard.

Two-term Republican State Senator Ron Wieck told Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal last week that he will not seek re-election in Senate district 27. The district comprises all of Cherokee County and portions of Plymouth and Woodbury counties, including the southern areas of Sioux City (map here).

All three Iowa House seats representing the Sioux City area are open as well. Democrat Wes Whitead announced his retirement from House district 1 last November. Democrat Roger Wendt is stepping down from House district 2 because of a cancer recurrence. Republican Chris Rants is retiring from House district 54.

Businessman and former Woodbury County Democratic Party chairman Rick Mullin had previously planned to run in House district 1, but he switched to the Senate race after learning of Warnstadt’s retirement. Mullin’s campaign website had already been updated this morning. While he is a strong candidate in a district that leans Democratic (Warnstadt was re-elected in 2006 with about 67 percent of the vote), I can’t help wishing that Warnstadt had stuck it out for another term. It’s not ideal to have another Democratic retirement in what could be a tough year for our candidates nationwide.

Republican Rick Bertrand may become Mullin’s opponent in Senate district 1, having previously announced plans to run in House district 2.

Democrats already have a candidate in House district 54: Carlos Venable-Ridley, who ran against Rants in 2008. However, no candidates have announced for us in House districts 1 and 2. Since the filing deadline is just 10 days away, we should learn more soon. We need strong candidates for those races, because we have some tough holds elsewhere, and Republicans only need a net gain of seven seats to take control of the Iowa House. The Republican candidate in House district 1 is Jeremy Taylor, who nearly defeated Whitead in 2008. If Bertrand passes on the Senate district 1 race, he will be the Republican candidate in House district 2. He gave Wendt a surprisingly close race in 2008.

As for Senate district 27, Democrats did not field a candidate against Wieck when he ran for re-election in 2006. Typically we don’t leave any open seat unchallenged, but finding a candidate for Weick’s old seat will be a lower priority for Woodbury County Democrats than filling the House district 1 and 2 races. Republicans may have a competitive primary in Senate district 27. Hayworth reported that former Sioux City Councilman Jason Geary is seeking the GOP nomination and has Wieck’s backing. Bill Anderson, a staffer for Representative Steve King and member of the Iowa GOP’s state central committee, may challenge Geary in the primary. Woodbury County Republican Party parliamentarian Steve Carlson “declined to comment” to Hayworth about whether he might run for Wieck’s seat.

If I were Iowa Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign Director Derek Eadon, I would send one of my best field organizers to Woodbury County. We need an army of volunteers in the Sioux City area.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: Mullin formally announced his candidacy on March 10.

“As a small business owner, I’ve created jobs and met a payroll,” said Mullin. “And helping middle class Iowans and small business owners in Sioux City emerge from this national economic recession will be my top priority.”

Mullin is the owner and president of Mullin Awning & Siding, a family-owned business that has operated in the Sioux City area for more than 115 years.

“I’ve been involved in the Sioux City community for all of my life,” said Mullin. “And I want to take the values I learned growing up in Sioux City with me to the State Capitol where I’ll work every day to improve the lives of the people of Senate District 1. I will fight for good jobs, great schools, developing our local economy and providing accountability for the hard-earned tax dollars of Iowans in Sioux City.”

Mullin is a leader in the Sioux City community. He served as president of the Better Business Bureau of Siouxland from 1981-1984; he was past president of the Sioux City Convention Center, Auditorium & Tourism Bureau. Mullin was President of the Crime Stoppers Board of Directors from 2005-2007 and also served as vice president of the Taxpayers Research Council (TRC), during which time he founded the TRC Jail Committee to determine the necessity for building a new $50 million County Jail. Rick hosted informal meetings with judges, prosecutors, jailers and others and found creative solutions to avoid spending $50 million of taxpayer dollars.

“I think bringing people together and listening is the best way to find a solution to the problems that we face today,” said Mullin. “I’m proud of the work we did on the jail committee to figure out how to save $50 million for the taxpayers in Woodbury County. Listening to all sides of the issues and coming up with workable, cost-effective solutions will be how I represent the people of Senate District 1.”

Rick and his wife Sue have two children, Megan and John. Sue is a special education teacher at Crescent Park Elementary in Sioux City.

“I’m going to be meeting as many people as I can in Senate District 1 over the next several months. If you’ve got an idea about how to move Sioux City forward, then I want to hear from you.”

Mullin’s campaign co-chairs are prominent Sioux City attorney Marv Heidman and Senator Steve Warnstadt.

Mullin said that people can contact him at home, at (712) 574-9325 or email him at rick@mullinforiowa.com. To find out more about his campaign, visit www.mullinforiowa.com.

Warnstadt released a statement on March 10, saying, “I believe that Rick Mullin’s record of community involvement and strong work ethic will make him an effective advocate for the people of Sioux City. Rick’s experience as a small business owner will help efforts to attract and retain good-paying jobs to Sioux City. Rick Mullin will make a great state senator.”

Continue Reading...

An early look at the 2010 Iowa Senate races

Conservative blogger Craig Robinson argued last week that “Iowa Republicans Have Plenty of Opportunity in the State Senate” in 2010. The GOP has almost nowhere to go but up. Republicans currently hold 18 of the 50 seats in the Iowa Senate, fewer than at any previous time in this state’s history. After making gains in the last four general elections, Democrats now hold 19 of the 25 Iowa Senate seats that will be on the ballot in 2010. Also, several Democratic incumbents are in their first term, having won their seats during the wave election of 2006.

To win back the upper chamber, Republicans would need a net gain of seven seats in 2010, and Robinson lists the seven districts where he sees the best chances for the GOP.

I generally agree with John Deeth’s view that only a few Senate districts are strong pickup opportunities for Republicans next year. Winning back the upper chamber will take the GOP at least two cycles, with redistricting likely to create who knows how many open or winnable seats in 2012.

After the jump I’ll examine the seven Iowa Senate districts Robinson views as worthwhile targets as well as one Republican-held district that Democrats should be able to pick up. Here is a map (pdf file) of the current Iowa Senate districts.

Continue Reading...

Help Rob Hubler get his message out

Steve King keeps adding to the multitude of reasons to elect Rob Hubler to represent Iowa’s fifth district in Congress. He is running a misleading television ad in the Sioux City market:

Friday, October 17, 2008                  

         COUNCIL BLUFFS – Rob Hubler, Democratic candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 5th district, today called on Rep. Steve King to pull his new television ad in which he falsely claims credit for “working with others” to widen Highway 20 from two lanes to four lanes.

         Following an announcement by the Iowa Department of Transportation on Tuesday that $48 million had been allocated for 11.7 miles of four-laning Highway 20, King began running a television commercial claiming credit for the funding.  All of the funding is from a special fund recently approved by the Iowa legislature and none of the funding is from federal sources.

         “Steve King taking credit for funding Highway 20 improvements would be like me taking credit for the sun coming up this morning,” said Hubler.  “Our state legislators and the Iowa Department of Transportation deserve credit for allocating the funding for Highway 20, which is long overdue,” he said.  “King had nothing to do with approving money for highway improvements but, three weeks before an election, he is desperate to show some accomplishments in Congress, by taking credit where it is not due.”

         State Sen. Steve Warnstadt of Sioux City, who has fought for funding in the Iowa legislature, said today that the legislature, “rather than wait for the promises of federal politicians to be fulfilled, worked in a bipartisan manner to not only create the funding for TIME-21, but ensured that projects like four-laning Highway 20 would be top priority for new funding.”

         “I’m pleased that the Iowa Transportation Commission did not wait for federal funds, and is using the resources provided to them by the legislature for critical projects like Highway 20,” said Sen. Warnstadt.

         In his television ad, that began running this week, King says:  “Six years ago I made a commitment to you that I would pull out all the stops to build four-lane Highway 20.  Today with the commission’s announcement, I can tell you that 46 more miles will be built within five years.  My number one transportation priority was a promise, now it’s a plan, soon it will be a reality.  We work together and we get things done.”

         In a press release issued the same day, King again took credit for the Highway 20 improvement project.  “Steve King had absolutely nothing to do with any of that funding and is shamelessly trying to take credit for it,” said Hubler.  “I suppose this is what you do when you’ve spent six years in Congress and have only a resolution encouraging people to celebrate Christmas to show for it,” he added.

         Hubler pointed out that King is unable to get anything done to help his district because he is not respected by other members of Congress, even those in his own party.  “By contrast, Rep. Leonard Boswell of Iowa has a program for Highway 34 in which he gets 20 miles paved every year,” he said.

         Hubler said that he will work with the rest of the Iowa delegation to make sure Iowa gets help with maintaining our highways and bridges.  “I will sponsor and fight for legislation to fund at least ten miles of Highway 20 widening each year until it is completed,” he said.  “If Steve King had done this, we would have 60 miles completed during his three terms in Congress.”

This press release from the Iowa Department of Transportation confirms the above comments by Hubler and State Senator Steve Warnstadt. This project is funded by the state, not by any federal appropriation.

Iowa Guy calls out the television ad as one of King’s “lies.” Here is a rough transcript that someone in the fifth district sent to me (if anyone has an official script, please send me a copy). Judge for yourself:

King: I’m Steve King. I approve this message. Six years ago I made a commitment to you that I would pull out all of the stops to build 4 lane Highway 20. Today with the commission’s announcement, I can tell you that 46 more miles will be built within five years. My number one transportation priority was a promise, now it’s a plan, soon it will be a reality. We work together and we get things done.

Voice Over: “Steve King for Congress”

King’s ad creates a false impression. Note how he refers to “the commission” without making clear that he’s talking about the Iowa Transportation Commission’s announcement regarding Highway 20. He talks about how his “promise” is now a “plan” that will soon be a “reality,” without specifying what he did to make that plan a reality (because he played no role).

I read in one of my parenting books that lying can be a form of wish fulfillment. If I had achieved as little for constituents as King has, I’d probably wish I could take credit for a popular highway project too.

Speaking of King’s record, you may recall this article the Sioux City Journal published over the summer, asking “How effective is Steve King?” (Answer: not very.) In the article, King described a “key moment” for him:

King said the extended 2007 funding debate for reauthorization of the federal State Children’s Health Insurance Program was a key moment. The measure was initially written for an increase of $35 billion, but was scaled back before being signed by President Bush in December.

King took to the House floor last fall with a sign that said the SCHIP acronym should instead stand for “Socialized Clinton-style Hillarycare for Illegals and their Parents.”

“I do believe if you took me out of the equation, there would have been a different (funding) result,” King said.

I have a close friend (self-employed) whose family was getting health coverage through her husband’s job. He was just laid off this month. Fortunately, their kids are eligible to be added to HAWK-I (that’s the Iowa version of SCHIP) as of November 1.

Plenty of children would be going without health insurance if not for HAWK-I, and in this economy, demand for the program will probably rise significantly.

Isn’t it great that King fought to scale back the funding?

Another recent “achievement” for King was his proposal to create a commission to study the current financial crisis. Hubler had some choice words about that idea, and I’ve put his full statement after the jump. Some excerpts:

       “For six years, Steve King has supported an administration that has refused to accept responsibility or to hold anyone accountable for policies that have devastated the middle class, provided tax breaks to big oil companies, mismanaged an unnecessary war, and now caused the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression,” said Hubler.  “We don’t need to spend millions of dollars on a commission that will take months to find out what we already know; when there are no rules, and no regulators, markets do not regulate themselves.”

       “King opposed common-sense regulations designed to protect investors and consumers as his Republican-led Congress gave the Bush administration the authority to dismantle rules, allowing greedy Wall Street speculators and unscrupulous lenders free rein to engage in subprime lending with no oversight from Congress,” Hubler continued.  “Yet, instead of accepting responsibility for his part in creating this mess, King has tried to blame middle class borrowers for the collapse of the housing market,” said Hubler, referring to comments King made Saturday at a town hall meeting in Onawa.

Hubler is a strong Democrat as well as a strong candidate, which is why Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold’s Progressive Patriots Fund is supporting him.

Hubler can win this race if he is able to get his message to voters. He’s already been up on the radio with at least one ad, featuring former Congressman Berkley Bedell. The Hubler campaign has also produced this voter guide (pdf file) to mail district-wide. To reach more voters through direct mail and broadcast media, the campaign needs your help. Please donate today.

We have a great opportunity to take advantage of the coming Democratic wave. This post at Swing State Project notes that seats once thought safe for Republicans are becoming competitive across the country. The author names IA-05 (as well as IA-04) among the “Republican seats at severe risk of being lost or swept away in the ensuing tide.”

The Republican Party is now spending money on behalf of incumbents in some districts comparable to western Iowa in terms of partisan makeup. This recent story from Politico notes:

GOP Reps. John B. Shadegg of Arizona, Lee Terry of Nebraska, Henry Brown Jr. of South Carolina and Dan Lungren of California are all fighting for their political lives, a reversal of fortunes that has caught even the most astute campaign observers by surprise.

Markos commented on the Politico piece,

Shadegg’s AZ-03 is R+5.9.

Terry’s NE-02 is R+9.0.

Brown’s SC-01 is R+9.6

Lungren’s CA-03 is R+6.7.

Iowa’s fifth district has a partisan voting index of R+8. As I’ve written before, ten House Democrats already represent districts at least as Republican. This election will increase that number. Let’s make IA-05 one of them.

King’s third-quarter FEC filing showed a financial advantage over Hubler, but hardly an intimidating war chest. His cash on hand may not even be sufficient to run television ads across the district for the remainder of the campaign. He certainly won’t have a turnout operation to rival what Barack Obama’s campaign and the Iowa Democratic Party have going in western Iowa.

It only takes a minute to donate to Hubler’s campaign, giving him the resources to spread his message in the final weeks. Please take the time to help send a good man to Congress.

Continue Reading...
View More...