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Iowa Politics Roundup: Conlin Reports Strong Fundraising in U.S. Senate Race PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 16 April 2010 13:11

Campaign-finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show Democrat Roxanne Conlin keeping up with incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Charles Grassley in fundraising, but she still lags behind in cash-on-hand.

Conlin on Thursday touted that she raised $629,615 between January and March this year -- slightly more than the $613,627 raised by Grassley, a five-term incumbent, during the same time period.

But overall this election cycle, Grassley has raised $4.9 million while Conlin has raised $1.48 million. And at the end of March, Conlin had $1 million left in the bank, while Grassley had nearly $5.4 million.

Conlin, a former U.S. attorney and 1982 Democratic nominee for governor, is not accepting any money from political action committees or Washington lobbyists. She has spent the past few months taking a 99-county tour that wraps up this weekend. She said 91 percent of her donors are Iowans, and 78 percent of contributions were $100 or less.

"I'm humbled by the outpouring of support for our campaign," Conlin said Thursday. "Our grassroots effort has reached 93 counties, and we will reach the remaining six this weekend. Iowans keep telling me Chuck Grassley is not the same man they sent to Washington decades ago."

Bob Renaud, Grassley's campaign manager, portrayed Conlin's campaign as faltering and asserted that Conlin might not even be the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate: "We've raised four times more in this campaign than attorney Conlin has, and Senator Grassley's cash-on-hand is more than five times higher. Conlin said at the beginning of her campaign five months ago that she'd raise $10 million. We're now 40 percent of the way to election day, and Conlin is failing to raise what she said she must, even after putting a quarter of a million dollars of her personal fortune in this quarter."

But Conlin campaign manager Mark Daley shot back, saying that Conlin has only been in the race for five months, while Grassley has been in the race for five years.

"Senator Grassley's campaign was clearly caught off-guard by Roxanne's grassroots momentum," Daley said. "While Senator Grassley's campaign has been bought and paid for by Wall Street, insurance companies, and the pharmaceutical industry, hard-working Iowans not PACs and special interests propelled our financial support, which outraised the career politician."

Campaign Insiders Acknowledge Culver Turnover Is Troubling

After having three campaign managers with national experience leave him after only a few months on the job, Democratic Governor Chet Culver has now turned to a lifelong Iowan whom he's worked with for more than two decades to lead his bid for a second term. The change comes as Culver continues to trail in the polls, has been labeled the "most endangered incumbent governor this cycle," and has even called himself an underdog.

Abby Curran announced this week that she is stepping down as Culver's campaign manager and is leaving for the Washington, D.C., area. Donn Stanley of Urbandale, who was born and raised in Des Moines, will take over May 1.

The change comes just six weeks before Culver is also expected to lose Teresa Vilmain of Wisconsin, one of the nation's top political organizers and consultants, as a senior adviser to his campaign at the end of May. Vilmain -- a former aide to Culver's father and to U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, a consultant to Governor Tom Vilsack's campaigns in 1998 and 2002, and Iowa state director of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign -- has been paid $15,000 a month by the Culver campaign and had only agreed to stay a year to get the campaign up and running.

Members of Culver's inner circle are trying to do damage control, but one privately called the situation "the chaos that is Culver's world." Even campaign insiders acknowledge that it's hard to put a positive spin on this. But Culver tried anyway, smiling for the TV cameras and reporters this week and saying that he's excited about Stanley taking over.

"That happens," Culver said of the turnover. "That happens in life, it happens in campaigns, it happens in every professional office there is and we're moving on. We're excited and we're ready to win this race. I think Tom Vilsack's a good model. He had three campaign managers his first race; it all worked out perfectly."

In search of a silver lining, Democratic insiders say it's still early in the campaign, with Culver not officially announcing his re-election bid until late May. They also say that Culver and Stanley know each other, and that Stanley knows Iowa.

Stanley has worked and volunteered in various capacities for Democratic candidates in numerous Iowa campaigns, dating back to being a field staffer and debate coach for Tom Harkin in his first Senate campaign, in 1984.

"I'm very enthusiastic about the fact that starting May 1, he will be at the helm and we will take this ship all the way to victory," Culver said. "I'm just very fortunate to have Donn Stanley taking over the campaign. We're moving forward. I can't wait to get out across this state and tell my story instead of having other people tell it for me. And we've got a great story to tell."

Early Retirement for State Workers Exceeds Goals

The number of state employees who have submitted their intent to retire by June as part of a special early-retirement program has exceeded lawmakers' goals and includes at least two department directors: Education Director Judy Jeffrey and Ombudsman Bill Angrick.

"It'll save people from getting laid off and will allow people who are near retirement to take it and not have to be worried about being laid off," said Charlie Wishman, a spokesperson for the American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees, who said the early-retirement program was popular among union employees.

Lawmakers had set a goal for 1,000 state workers to retire early. A week before the April 15 deadline, early submissions indicated that more than 1,000 employees in the executive branch alone planned to retire, said Robert Bailey, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Administrative Services.

Among the retirees:

∙ Judy Jeffrey, 68, the state education director. Her last day is May 3.

∙ State Ombudsman Bill Angrick, 64. He has held the position since 1978. His last day will be June 24. Ron Rowland, legal counsel for the ombudsman's office, also accepted the early-retirement package.

∙ At least 460 employees in the Department of Human Services who had submitted their early-retirement requests, said Roger Munns, spokesperson for the department. Munns said more employees were expected to apply for the program after plans were announced this month to restructure the department, with some positions moving to other counties or being reduced to part-time status.

∙ About 188 Department of Corrections employees who had applied for the program as of early March.

Iowa lawmakers earlier this year put together the early-retirement incentive package aimed at saving the state $60 million in the executive branch and $507,480 in the legislative branch. About 6,600 employees qualified for the program, and 2,300 of those individuals would qualify to receive full benefits from the Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System, according to a release from Culver's office.

The idea was that many of those who retire would be replaced with lower-paid employees or positions would not be filled as a part of government restructuring.

Now that the application process is over, Department of Management officials will analyze the early-retirement submissions and determine the approximate savings, Bailey said. However, he added that the estimate of savings likely won't be available for several weeks.