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Iowa Politics Roundup: Open Seats Key as GOP Aims to Win Iowa House PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 30 July 2010 13:46

Iowa Republicans believe they can regain control of the Iowa House in the November election, although they agree with Democrats that the 16 seats left open because of retirements after the 2010 legislative session will play a key role in determining who will call the shots over the next two years.

Republicans note that they have the largest field of candidates since 1994 -- when they picked up 13 seats in the House -- and that 25 Republicans are running unopposed compared to just 11 Democrats.

"Republicans have a tremendous opportunity to win back the Iowa House, and the candidates we have give us a tremendous opportunity to win significant seats and knock on the door of winning back the Iowa Senate," said Republican Party of Iowa Chair Matt Strawn.

House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) said it's too early for predictions, "but we're very optimistic that Republicans will be back in a position to control the Iowa House," and he said he doesn't see a scenario in which Republicans lose any seats. "I think Iowans have had enough with the spending that's been going on, the bonding that's been going on, the disregard this current majority has had for jobs and the economy," he said.

One GOP strategist speaking on background said he's confident Republicans will win four of the 10 open Democratic seats and hold five of the six Republican open seats, meaning Republicans would then still need to win four incumbent Democratic seats to hit 51 representatives and gain control. Republicans also see the 35 Democratic incumbents being challenged as an opportunity, compared to the just 13 Republican incumbents who have Democratic challengers.

But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines) said it's rare to lose more than one or two incumbents in an election.

"We feel good about our incumbents; we feel good about the work they do," McCarthy said. "We have them on an incumbent-protection program, and every constituent that contacts them they respond with a handwritten note or a phone call. We hope to have a decent outcome in the election."

Strawn noted that Paulsen has more than $200,000 cash on hand, compared to much lower numbers for House Democratic leaders. "We've got a speaker of the House in this state in Pat Murphy who has $2,700 cash on hand at the last reporting period," Strawn said. "The House Democrat leader McCarthy has about $12,000."

But campaign-finance reports show that Democratic leaders contributed large chunks of their money to other Democratic candidates.

I-JOBS Numbers Provoke Debate Over Impact

A new report from the Iowa Department of Management says the state's $875-million I-JOBS program launched more than 1,688 projects in all 99 counties as of July 20 and invested $705.4 million in flood-mitigation and infrastructure projects.

When combined with money that's been leveraged, "that means $1.32 billion of projects are either underway, committed, or completed," the report says. "All of that has been done without raising taxes and at the least-possible long-term costs."

The report says that an early-July telephone survey of I‐JOBS contractors and subcontractors indicates there are currently more than 7,079 directly supported positions on the payroll of projects funded by I‐JOBS. And using various methods for assessing economic impact, the number of jobs supported ranges from 9,944 to 23,225 through December of last year, and from 15,724 to 36,764 for I-JOBS money granted and leveraged through the current fiscal year.

Governor Chet Culver's staff at one point estimated the program would create as many as 30,000 jobs.

Jeff Boeyink, the campaign manager for Republican gubernatorial nominee Terry Branstad, criticized the new report, saying construction employment in Iowa is actually down 2,700 since the I-JOBS bill was passed, and nearly 20,000 Iowans have been added to the rolls of the unemployed since the program began.

"These are short-term construction jobs, not the long-term jobs Governor Culver promised when he proposed I-JOBS," Boeyink said. "$1.7 billion for short-term construction jobs is not a great return on investment for Iowa taxpayers. In fact, these short-term jobs are costing Iowans over $240,000 apiece."

"I-JOBS is creating jobs today and creating the conditions for long-term job growth," countered Culver campaign spokesperson Ali Glisson. "But Terry Branstad already knows that because, in the past, he's made the case for how programs like this work."

Glisson pointed to a 1983 news article that said then-Governor Branstad was well on his way to fulfilling his jobs promise because of his investments in infrastructure.

"When Branstad wants to sell Branstad's jobs program, estimates are fine to use," she said. "When Governor Culver's office actually calls the contractors and subcontractors to account for jobs created, according to Branstad, the program is somehow supposed to be considered a failure."

32 Counties Named Federal Disaster Areas

President Barack Obama has declared that a major disaster exists in Iowa and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes beginning on June 1 and continuing.

Federal funding is available for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities in 32 counties.

Before that announcement, Iowa's five congressmen sent a letter asking Obama to speed up the damage-assessment process in Iowa to determine the magnitude and impact of recent heavy flooding so Iowans can get federal assistance.

"Iowa has been ravaged by severe weather in recent months, and there is a legitimate need for federal assistance in communities across the state," said U.S. Representative Tom Latham (R-Ames).

"This is an issue that affects counties across the state, and I hope President Obama will move quickly and efficiently to ensure Iowans will not have to wait any longer than necessary to move forward with these recovery efforts," said U.S. Representative Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo).

U.S. Representatives Leonard Boswell (D-Des Moines), Steve King (R-Kiron), and Dave Loebsack (D-Mount Vernon) all called for avoiding the delays that plagued disaster-relief efforts after the 2008 floods in Iowa. "Iowans pay taxes so that when disaster strikes, they know that the government will be there in the recovery process," Boswell said. "Let us not delay their rebuilding because of bureaucracy and red tape."

King said that when recovering from a disaster caused by weather, time is of the essence. And Loebsack said: "As Iowans know all too well, the disaster-relief network is riddled with red tape and aid often takes too long to reach communities."

Head of State Campaign Board Takes Blame for Branstad's Vehicle Issue

The executive director and legal counsel of the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board is taking the blame for Branstad's campaign violating an Iowa law that prohibits campaigns from purchasing vehicles. Branstad's campaign purchased two of them this year.

Charlie Smithson told that he incorrectly advised the Branstad campaign that purchasing vehicles was okay.

"Yes, I missed the distinction between 'lease' and 'purchase' in the law," Smithson said. "Branstad checked with me first, and it was my fault. The campaign is going to sell the vehicles and lease them as is required under the law."

Culver's campaign brought the issue to light Thursday. According to the campaign-finance report filed by the Branstad campaign on July 19, the campaign purchased a Winnebago Itasca RV on January 15 and a 2005 Pontiac Montana minivan on July 1, even though a 1991 law signed by Branstad says campaign funds may not be used for the purchase of a motor vehicle.

The Culver campaign said the legislature enacted this law after two incidents the Branstad campaign had with campaign-purchased vans in 1990.

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

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