IA-Sen: Robert Rees challenging Chuck Grassley in GOP primary

Catching up on news from the busy final weeks before the Iowa caucuses, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley has a rival for the GOP nomination. Robert Rees launched his campaign on January 18, pledging to support term limits for members of Congress and the 10th Amendment, which reserves for the states powers not delegated to the federal government. Rees most recently worked as a conservative talk radio host but fell victim to a format change in October, when 98.3 FM in Des Moines switched to classic hip hop. Rees has a campaign website and is on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. He frequently uploads "campaign diaries" and other videos to his YouTube channel.

After the jump I've posted background on Rees, some of his answers to frequently asked questions about his challenge to Grassley, and his introductory video, in which he notes that Grassley has been in Washington, DC since a year before Rees was born. I've also enclosed excerpts from two articles linked on the Rees campaign website. Among other things, those pieces criticize Grassley for approving too many judges nominated by President Barack Obama--which is comical, since during Grassley's first year as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate confirmed only eleven federal judges, "the fewest in a single year since 1960."

I can't conceive of any scenario in which Grassley loses a Republican primary, but assuming Rees qualifies for the ballot, it will be interesting to see how many conservatives cast protest votes for him. For reference, Tom Hoefling got just under 17 percent of the vote in his 2014 GOP primary challenge to Governor Terry Branstad. Turnout is likely to be very low on June 7, since no other statewide offices are elected this year, and only one of Iowa's four Congressional districts appears likely to have a competitive GOP primary (Representative David Young is expected to face at least one conservative challenger in IA-03).

Rees had nominating petitions out at some Republican precinct caucuses on February 1. To qualify for the primary ballot, he will need to submit to the Secretary of State's office by March 18 at least 3,331 signatures (0.5% of the votes cast for Governor Terry Branstad in Iowa's 2014 general election). In addition, those signatures must be collected in at least ten counties, and for each of those counties, the number of signatures on nominating petitions must equal at least 1 percent of the votes cast for Branstad in the 2014 general election.

A few conservatives made noise about a primary challenge to Grassley in 2009, when it appeared he might support some version of health care reform, but they never followed through. Iowa's senior senator defused some anger on his right flank by warning that end-of-life counseling provisions in the proposed bill could let people "pull the plug on grandma," though he had voted for a previous law including such counseling. He later voted against the Affordable Care Act in committee and on the Senate floor, while seeking credit for some of its provisions.

Introductory video from Robert Rees:

• A God-Fearing Family Man
• Robert Burke Rees
• Born in Bountiful, Utah but lived in Indiana (ages 1-7), Tennessee (ages 7-19), Philippines (ages 19-21), Georgia, Utah, • New York, Florida, Alabama, Texas, Illinois, & Iowa (ages 21-40)
• Married 14 years with three children, ages 13 (daughter), 12 (son), & 5 (daughter)
• Career as a personal trainer, then in real estate, then talk radio
• Served two-year volunteer mission for Church in the Phillippines
• Loves sports like football, basketball, golf & X-game sports
• Enjoys movies, Netflix binging & video games (especially Madden), stand-up comedy and musical plays

I've always been interested in politics. Over the years I have been shocked at how many aspects of our lives are restricted by government. Having run my own business for years, I cannot comprehend the reckless spending that goes on in D.C. I hope to be a positive influence on fiscal responsibility in D.C.

One of the reasons I wanted to become a talk show host is because I enjoy giving presentations and have a talent for it. Far too many times, conservatives in D.C. lose the battle of communication.

I hope to help change that.

Excerpts from the frequently asked questions page of Rees's campaign website:

Q: Senator Chuck Grassley says he's running again because it would be bad for Iowa to have 2 junior Senators. Why do you disagree?

A: This kind of thinking is why we need term limits. The founders didn't intend on having long-serving Senators. In fact, prior to the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which changed how Senators are elected, very few served more than one term. In the 103 years since that Amendment, Chuck Grassley has been a Senator over a third of that time! The weight of influence is determined by the individual, not the length of time he or she is in D.C. We've already seen our Senator Joni Ernst leading on VA reform. We have first-term Senators running for President because of their successful influence in D.C. Nearly half of the members of the U.S. Senate are still serving their first terms. In fact, only 30 Senators have held their positions for more than two terms. I would be in the majority more than Senator Grassley in his sixth term. I think term limits need to be established to prevent this kind of thinking.

Q: Senator Grassley leads the Judiciary Committee, which is one of the most powerful seats in Congress. Isn't important to keep him in that position?

A: Even though Senator Grassley would no longer hold the position, a Republican still would as long as the GOP holds majority in the Senate. I received a call from someone who works for a member of Congress who heard I'm running and just wanted to wish me "good luck." I told him of this concern a few voters brought up and his response was, "All Senator Grassley has done since he's been in charge is confirm Obama's judges." I was kind of stunned by the bluntness of the response and then a couple of weeks later, these articles came out:



Q: You don't have any political experience. Why are you running for U.S. Senate; why not start with something smaller?

A: I have no desire to be a career politician. I do have a desire to return to the Constitution by giving power back to the States. During my seven years in radio I was shocked to learn how many candidates -- and even elected officials -- didn't know or understand the issues of the day. They knew a lot about one or two issues and that was it! I know the issues and have plans to address all of them, not just a handful.

Q: You don't have a college degree, are you really qualified to be a U.S. Senator?

A: It's not a pre-requisite and it shouldn't be. There's a long list of successful people who didn't get a college degree. There are even Congressmen and Congresswomen now who do not have degrees. My lack of formal education doesn't mean I'm not educated. I am an avid reader, I keep abreast of current issues, and I have a plethora of life experience that has educated me over the years. As U.S. Senator I plan to serve Iowans by following the Constitution.

Q: You'll only be 40 years old if elected; aren't you too young? Isn't there something to be said for more life experience like Senator Grassley has?

A: Senator Grassley was elected to Congress while in his young 40s as well, but I only plan to serve one or two terms. Life experience is extremely beneficial and my life experience has helped me understand the plight of the average American more than someone who's been in D.C. for 40+ years. When elected, I wouldn't be the youngest Senator, and we currently have 14 U.S. Senators under the age of 50. As for my experience, I have done a little bit of everything: I've held minimum wage jobs, I've run a company, I've worked with volunteer organizations, and I've hosted and produced radio shows. In all of my experiences, I've been promoted to leadership positions, even when I wasn't seeking them. Also, frankly, I don't think I have ALL the answers, but I know where to get them.

From Philip Wegmann's article for the Daily Signal on February 7, "GOP-Controlled Senate Is About to Approve Another Obama Judge."

On Monday, the Senate will consider Rebecca Ebinger for a lifetime judicial appointment as a district judge in Iowa. Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has advocated for Ebinger and negotiated a deal for her confirmation.

In December, the Iowa senator brokered the deal between Republican and Democrat leaders to advance five of Obama’s nominees to the Senate floor for a vote before President’s Day next Monday. Two of them are from Grassley’s home state.

So far in 2016, three of those nominees have won Senate confirmation, including Wilhelmina Wright, a controversial judge who accused President Ronald Reagan of bigotry and racism. The two remaining nominees are Ebinger and Leonard Strand, two Iowans who moved to the front of the line, past a backlog of other nominees. [...]

Some organizations, like Heritage Action, have advocated freezing all of the president’s judicial nominees in protest of what conservatives consider executive overreach.

“Heritage Action will continue to oppose all judicial nominees,” the group said in a statement. “Senators should not stand by idly for the next 12 months. They must act to reassert their constitutional prerogatives.”

From Daniel Horowitz's commentary for the Conservative Review on February 8, "The Case for a New Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman."

As we note in his profile, Grassley is “perhaps one of the most ideologically complex members of the Senate.” Coupled with his weak grasp of judicial issues, Grassley’s inconsistent foundation has proven a disaster as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. After being term limited as Chairman of the Finance Committee, Grassley, who has no formal legal training, shoved Jeff Sessions aside for the lead spot on Judiciary in 2011, even though Sessions was eminently more qualified.

Beyond these general concerns, there are recent, more specific reasons why Grassley might not be the right standard-bearer for Republicans on this committee.

Jail Break

Grassley has spent the first half of this allegedly Republican-led Congress catering to a laundry list of leftist legislative items and policy preferences. But one example predominates: A longtime and vocal opponent of the Smarter Sentencing Act and other misguided bills aiming to release dangerous drug traffickers and drug dealers, he is now the leader of a bipartisan effort to release not only drug traffickers and drug dealers, but traffickers and dealers who possessed firearms while committing their crimes.

This bill was a horrific idea a year ago, but as police blotters across the nation reveal the new crimes being committed each and every day by federal drug felons who were released from prison early, the legislation is becoming downright insane. [...]


On judges, Grassley’s record is equally disappointing. Notwithstanding the fact that President Obama has appointed roughly 31% of all federal circuit court judges and 37% of all district court judges in the United States, Grassley seems to be tripping over himself to help Obama fill every last remaining judicial seat before Obama walks out the door on January 20, 2017. The actions are akin to a senator that actively wants Obama’s Constitution-mangling judges on the bench, since such judges make it easier for his fellow senators to avoid leadership by shirking decision-making to a leftist bench.

Raw numbers aside, Grassley has also let more than a few radical judges move through the committee to confirmation, forgetting that his role is to prevent the names of such radical judges from ever making it onto the Senate floor.

In October, Bleeding Heartland summarized key points of the bipartisan criminal justice reform bill Grassley has endorsed.

In December, Bleeding Heartland summarized a report showing that Grassley oversaw the "worst year for judicial confirmations in over half a century."

Final note: I was amused to see that the Conservative Review gives Grassley a "D" Liberty Score. Tough crowd. Reality check: Grassley's lifetime Progressive Punch scores in fourteen different issue areas are quite low.

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