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Iowa Politics Roundup: Active Republican Primaries Lead Early Voting to Tilt Toward GOP PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 21 May 2010 15:02

With a contentious primary for governor and competitive congressional primaries, Iowa Republicans have surpassed Democrats nearly three-to-one in requesting ballots to vote early in the June 8 primary election.

Nearly 15,000 Republicans statewide had requested ballots to vote early as of Friday, compared with 5,305 Democrats, according to the secretary of state's office.

"The early voting numbers are evidence that we have many well-organized primary candidates who are turning out their supporters," said Danielle Plogmann, a spokesperson for the Republican Party of Iowa.

Republicans have not only requested more early ballots; they have returned a greater number and percentage of early ballots, as well. The secretary of state's office says that out of 9,209 ballots turned in so far, 7,069 are from Republicans and 2,140 are from Democrats.

In Polk County, 802 Republican ballots out of the 1,536 requested had been returned as of Wednesday, or 52 percent. There are 73,164 registered Republicans in the county. In contrast, Democrats have requested 538 ballots and returned 212, or 39 percent. There are 108,673 registered Democrats in the county.

Polk County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Jamie Fitzgerald said the number of Republicans who have voted early is higher than in previous years: 220 voted early in 2006, and 322 in 2008. "By and large, Republicans don't vote early," said Fitzgerald, a Democrat. "They go to the polls."

Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro said a projected 120,000 to 150,000 registered Republicans are expected to vote in the June primary given the competitive nature of the gubernatorial and congressional races this year: Three Republicans are seeking the nomination for governor, while seven are seeking the nomination in the 3rd Congressional District, four are running in the 2nd Congressional District, and two are running in the 1st Congressional District.

Norm Sterzenbach, executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party, said early voting will be more popular among members of his party for the November general election. Traditionally, early voting has accounted for between 25 percent and 30 percent of the total Democratic votes in the general election.

"It's always a very important piece in our strategy," Sterzenbach said.

Early voting began April 29. Registered voters can request absentee ballots or vote at satellite stations throughout the state. All early ballots are counted on primary-election day, along with the votes cast on that day.

Final GOP Debate Often Pits Branstad Against Vander Plaats

The third and final Republican gubernatorial debate Thursday proved contentious at times, with Bob Vander Plaats directly challenging former Governor Terry Branstad, and Branstad saying several times that Vander Plaats didn't have the facts straight, didn't have a good memory, or was lying.

The most fiery moment came when Vander Plaats said Branstad had counseled him in early 2000 on a run for governor and told him the best way to beat an incumbent governor is to not have a political record. Branstad shook his head during the comments and then said Democrats are afraid of him because he has "a record of accomplishment. That's why they're only attacking me."

"Obviously your memory's not very good, because my advice was very clear," Branstad said. "I never said anything like you claimed that I did. That's just not true, Bob. I'm sorry but your recollection is wrong; either that or you're just flat-out lying. It's just not true. I'm sorry that you keep doing things like that."

Vander Plaats fired back, saying he and his wife remember the day very clearly -- March 14, 2000 -- when they had dinner at Branstad's home "and he laid out the strategy of what it would take to defeat an incumbent governor."

"What you're seeing of the Democrats attacking your record today -- you may say it's false, but a lot of the records are footnoted; they're true," Vander Plaats said.

Vander Plaats said after the debate that he doesn't have any documentation of the meeting.

"I didn't think at that time I needed to be recording anything," Vander Plaats said.

Vander Plaats also asked a question of Branstad later in the debate, saying he increased the size of government two and a half times, increased taxes and fees more than 30 times, kept two sets of books, and didn't provide leadership on enacting the 99 percent spending limitation into law. "Why should Iowans trust you with their wallet again?" he asked.

Branstad called those "false accusations" and said "the truth is he's absolutely wrong about this."

Representative Rod Roberts (R-Carroll) remained calm during the short tiffs between the other two candidates.

"I have to say that up to this point I've heard from a lot of Iowans from across the state that have said, 'You know Rod, be who you are and kind of stay above the fray,'" Roberts said. "And the kind of dialogue we hear today is the kinds of attitudes and actions that Iowans say, 'We're done with that; we don't like that.'"