Iowa Politics Roundup: Active Republican Primaries Lead Early Voting to Tilt Toward GOP Print
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.'"


Help from DGA Accounts for Half of Culver's Donations; Business Execs Top Branstad's Donor List

Newly filed campaign-finance reports show the Democratic Governors' Association gave $750,000 to Governor Chet Culver's campaign on May 6, accounting for half of the nearly $1.5 million raised by the first-term governor this year, while business executives topped the list of $1.6 million in campaign donations to Branstad.

Branstad's campaign said Culver's report filed this week with the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board shows he accepted the $750,000 from the DGA this year (in addition to the $500,000 the group gave him in December), $118,000 from political action committees, and $283,265 from out-of-state donors.

"When you take an honest look at the Culver report, slightly more than $300,000 of his funds came from individual Iowans, and that barely tops the $284,000 raised by Bob Vander Plaats during the same time period," said Branstad Campaign Manager Jeff Boeyink, asserting that Iowa donors are rejecting Culver's bid for re-election "and he has had to turn to the establishment money sources in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere to fund his struggling campaign."

Culver campaign spokesperson Ali Glisson on Thursday didn't dispute the analysis of Culver's campaign contributions, but said Culver's record shows whose side he's on. The latest campaign-finance reports in advance of the primary election were released as Culver wrapped up a week-long, 41-county announcement tour kicking off his bid for a second term.

"The fact is that Governor Culver is the one who on the side of Iowans," Glisson said. "He's fought for flood-recovery efforts. He's balanced the budget while refusing to raise taxes on hard-working Iowans. He's fought for veterans and our troops by making sure they get the benefits they need and deserve at home. Governor Culver is on the side of everyday Iowans -- unlike Terry Branstad. Branstad doesn't care how much Iowans have to pay in taxes so long as the wealthy and out-of-state corporations get a break."

The $750,000 check from the Democratic Governors' Association was by far the largest donation made to the Culver campaign this year. The next largest was $50,000 from the Carpenters District Council of Kansas City, Missouri.

Meanwhile, Branstad's campaign added more than 6,000 new donors this reporting period. The former governor's campaign-contribution listing was 730 pages, compared to fewer than 100 pages for the other candidates.

Branstad received a number of sizable donations from business interests, and at least three of the top givers were from out-of-state. Topping the list were checks of $50,000 each from Jan Krantz of Adventureland Park in Des Moines and from Eldon & Regina Roth of Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, founders and owners of Beef Products Inc. The Roths also gave a separate check for $2,000.

Vander Plaats saw the vast majority of his big checks come from Iowans. The biggest donation -- two checks totaling $35,000 -- came from Michael Wells, an executive at Wells Blue Bunny Corporation, and his wife Cheryl. Next came $25,000 from Anden Van Beek of Rock Valley, president and treasurer of farm-equipment-repair-and-parts company A & I Products, Inc.

The third Republican candidate, state Representative Rod Roberts, had smaller donations. His largest donation accepted was for $1,000, and there were only two of those: from Charles Heider of Omaha, Nebraska, and Douglas Pudenz of Roberts' hometown of Carroll.

Biden Stumps for Culver

Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday visited downtown Cedar Rapids and spoke to a crowd of more than 300 Culver supporters, praising his toughness, gumption, and forward-thinking.

"With Chet running this state, Iowa is better off than any other state in the nation, by any measure," Biden said.

The vice president claimed that the state's lack of economic distress compared to the rest of the nation is "no accident. That's because of Chet Culver."

Biden cited specific programs in his support of Culver, such as his alternative-energy initiatives, his use of $4 billion in emergency flood aid, and his establishment of the Iowa Power Fund and I-JOBS programs.

"We don't believe government is the answer, but we do believe that government can prime the pump ... to help the private sector do what only it can do," Biden said.

Branstad Says Policy, Not Politics, Was Focus of Conference

Iowans want their government leaders held accountable, investments in infrastructure, and a detailed, sustainable plan to create and keep jobs statewide while attracting new businesses to the state, according to suggestions made by participants at Branstad's Iowa Vision 2020 conference in West Des Moines.

The daylong forum broke into four groups to focus on Iowa's economic and job development, government, education, and families. Suggestions were then submitted to Branstad following the group meetings. Prior to the event, Iowans of any political affiliation could submit their thoughts and ideas to Branstad's campaign committee for the forum.

In opening remarks, Branstad said he's traveled to 77 counties in seven months and asked Iowans for their ideas on building a better future for the state. He outlined four goals to create 200,000 new jobs for Iowans, reduce the cost of government by at least 15 percent, increase family incomes by 25 percent, and restore Iowa's place as the best place to educate children.

One of the more prominent issues examined at Saturday's conference was Iowa economic development and job creation. Last year, U.S. News & World Report ranked Iowa as the second-worst state in the country to start a small business.

Saturday's focus group summarized its suggestions by urging Iowa's next leaders to make "economic tools, which can include funding, available to our current businesses, in addition to having new businesses" come to Iowa. The group also stressed adopting methods to keep Iowa's young people in the state and adopting economic policies to promote the image that Iowa is open for business.

Several lawmakers and former political hopefuls were among the attendees, including Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) and one-time gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong of Cedar Rapids.

Politicians were not the only group on the scene. Many participants came from the public and private sectors, including teachers, business leaders, and civic leaders. One hundred people were invited to Iowa Vision 2020.

The former governor denied any political agenda behind Iowa Vision 2020.

"This was open to the public, including Democrats if they wanted to come," Branstad said, after making closing remarks. "Anyone could see today was about policy, not politics. There were no political speeches made here."

Fong agreed with Branstad that the day was about "policy, and only policy. I was actually surprised the media attended. What we talked about was straight policy, and it was incredibly detailed and technical."

This weekly summary comes from IowaPolitics.com, an online government and politics news service. Reporter Andrew Duffelmeyer and other correspondents contributed to this report.