Iowa Politics Roundup: Pennsylvania’s Rendell Brings Optimism, $300K to Iowa Democrats Print
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 22 October 2010 13:11

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told Iowa Democratic Party faithful Saturday night that he’d rather lose fighting for something he believes in than win standing for nothing – but he doesn’t believe Governor Chet Culver will lose to former Governor Terry Branstad on November 2.

“For a moment, don’t worry about the other guy,” Rendell said. “An incumbent deserves to be re-elected if he’s done a good job. Chet Culver has done a very good job.”

Rendell also said Culver and other Democrats should stand up and talk about their accomplishments more clearly with voters, but also be honest about the tough times many Iowans and Americans are facing.

“We’ve got to continue reminding voters, ‘Hey, you may be disappointed in the way things are going in the country; you may be disappointed in the president.’ In Pennsylvania, they may be disappointed in some of the things I’ve done. But it’s not a referendum; it’s a choice,” Rendell said.

Rendell, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, didn’t draw as large a crowd to the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Des Moines as former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin did to the Republican Party of Iowa’s Reagan Dinner in September, but he did manage to draw more money.

About 1,300 were in Des Moines Saturday for the party’s major dinner, compared to about 1,500 for the GOP’s dinner, but Democrats raised roughly three times as much: $300,000 compared to more than $100,000 for Republicans.

“That’s in a year when they’ve said we couldn’t do it, when they’ve been saying since May that we haven’t had the enthusiasm,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky.

Culver spent much of his speech bashing Branstad, particularly his pledge to cut the state’s budget by 15 percent. Culver said that cut would mean $500 million less for education, $150 million less for health care, and $67 million less for public safety.

Culver also asked for help from the crowd, saying he needs them to get their friends, family, and neighbors out to vote – to exploit Democrats’ voter-registration advantage in the state.

Incumbents Lead Challengers in House-Race Fundraising

All of Iowa’s U.S. representatives led their challengers in third-quarter fundraising this year, but Second Congressional District candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Third Congressional District candidate Brad Zaun came the closest to rivaling the incumbents.

Miller-Meeks, an Ottumwa ophthalmologist, raised two-thirds of what U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack (D-Mount Vernon) raised in the quarter – $209,700 compared to $311,197. She was left with a cash balance of $404,745 for the final month of the campaign, which is 79 percent of the $510,084 that Loebsack had left.

However, reports also show that Miller-Meeks loaned her campaign $359,600 in the third quarter for a total of $483,671 this campaign cycle, leaving her campaign with $424,800 in debts and obligations.

Meanwhile, Zaun, a state senator and former mayor from Urbandale, raised $281,907, or three-fourths of the $374,623 raised by U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell (D-Des Moines). However, Zaun’s cash-on-hand going into October was only about one-third of Boswell’s – $139,236 compared to $383,416. Zaun also reported $31,457 in debts and obligations.

Other races weren’t as competitive financially:

• In the First District, U.S. Representative Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo) raised more than twice as much as his Republican opponent, Ben Lange, in the third quarter ($469,530 to $200,024) and had a cash balance of nearly four times as much ($872,420 to $232,313).

• In the Fourth District, U.S. Representative Tom Latham (R-Ames) raised $140,252, or nearly three times as much as Democrat Bill Maske, who raised $49,795. Maske’s $25,176 cash-on-hand was only about 4 percent of Latham’s $617,017.

Conlin’s Loans to Campaign Now Total $1 Million; Grassley Still Leads in Cash-on-Hand

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Roxanne Conlin has now loaned her campaign a total of $1 million, according to a campaign-finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Conlin, a Des Moines trial lawyer who also works with her husband in real estate, loaned herself $500,000 in the third quarter of this year, bringing her total personal contributions to $1 million this election cycle.

Between July 1 and September 30, Conlin raised half as much as her opponent, incumbent Chuck Grassley. In addition, the money that Conlin had to work with in the final month of the campaign was about one-sixth of Grassley’s.

FEC reports show that Conlin raised $330,873 in the third quarter, while Grassley raised $704,801. During that time, Conlin spent $893,493, while Grassley spent $1.69 million – leaving Conlin with $817,126 at the end of last month, while Grassley had $4.76 million cash-on-hand.

Conlin’s campaign had $1 million in debts and obligations to herself, while Grassley had just $13,216 in debts and obligations.

Gubernatorial Candidates Spar on Ballot Issues, Education, Labor, and Taxes in Final Debate

Culver confirmed Thursday that he’s a “yes” vote on retaining three Iowa Supreme Court justices and creating a constitutionally protected fund to preserve the state’s natural resources, and he accused Branstad of showing a lack of leadership when he declined to state his position on the two issues in this year’s final gubernatorial debate.

“In a governor, you need leadership,” Culver told reporters after the debate. “Terry Branstad wouldn’t answer two questions about two ballot questions. That’s rather stunning. I think a governor needs to shoot people straight. They need to be honest. And he won’t tell us what he thinks of two critically important issues on the ballot.”

The ballot issues were just one area of new ground covered by Culver and Branstad as they met for a third and final time, just 12 days before the November 2 election. The two also took drastically different positions on education, labor issues, taxes, jobs, and same-sex marriage but found common ground on medical marijuana and the state’s smoking ban.

Culver touted his experience as a former teacher and coach and called the Iowa core curriculum – the state’s blueprint for what students should learn – a “signature education-reform initiative” that happened on his watch.

But Branstad said that if he’s elected governor, he will scrap the Iowa core curriculum. “I want to replace it with clear, consistent state standards and then uniform assessments so that we can say exactly what every student needs to know and be able to do at each step along the way,” he said.

The two took sharply different positions regarding state construction projects and labor unions.

Branstad accused Culver of making “special deals” and skewing the state’s bidding process on construction projects against Iowa companies, pointing to a lawsuit by Master Builders of Iowa against the state for two major building projects.

“He signed an executive order and a project labor agreement which will drive up the costs probably 15 percent, and the bids have gone to Illinois for these two big projects at the University of Iowa and for the prison,” Branstad said. “That could have been avoided if he hadn’t done this special deal for labor and out-of-state contractors.”

But Culver maintained that Iowa has a fair, open, competitive bidding process that’s saving taxpayer money and also helping hundreds of Iowans in southeast Iowa get jobs. He said the lawsuit is just slowing down the prison project and putting hundreds of jobs at risk.

As with the two previous debates, the candidates also spent much time discussing their different approaches on taxes, jobs, and the economy.

Culver used the candidate-to-candidate question portion of the debate to point out that Branstad signed 60 tax increases into law, and asked him which three he regrets the most. Branstad, who served as governor from 1983 to 1999, declined to answer the question.

The debate also touched upon scandals.

Branstad said the state’s film office started under his watch, but a “goofy tax credit” was approved under Culver, who he said didn’t put the right people in charge. “This was badly managed; it shows mismanagement in not choosing the right people,” he said.

Culver accused Branstad of having 20 scandals in 12 agencies when he was governor, including the economic-development director using a government credit card illegally for personal purposes. He also accused Branstad of flying around in a state plane 100 times illegally and having problems in 10 other agencies, including someone stealing $10,000 in the Department of Transportation.

“You need to look in the mirror before you start throwing stones,” Culver told Branstad.

The candidates did find a few areas of agreement in the hour-long televised debate.

Both said they would sign a bill banning smoking on Iowa casino floors. In addition, both said they would not sign a bill allowing the use of marijuana to treat medical conditions.

Findley Gets $547,000 Infusion from Republican Party, Raises Three Times as Much as Miller

Republican attorney general candidate Brenna Findley received $547,500 from the Republican Party of Iowa and its Eisenhower Club over the past three months in addition to contributions from the PACs of at least six potential presidential candidates, bringing her fundraising to $756,617 between July 15 and October 14.

Meanwhile, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller raised about one-third of what Findley did, and had about two-thirds as much cash left to spend.

Findley spent $661,252 in the past three months, leaving her with $259,696 in the final two weeks of the campaign.

Her 148 pages of campaign contributions included seven infusions from the Republican Party of Iowa and its Eisenhower Club: a $40,000 check on September 1, a wire transfer of $40,000 on September 7, a $60,000 wire transfer on September 13, a $30,000 wire transfer on September 14, a $90,000 wire transfer on September 24, a $40,000 wire transfer on September 27, and a $247,500 wire transfer on October 6.

Findley is also being courted by at least six potential presidential candidates. She received $5,000 from Palin’s Sarah PAC, $4,000 from former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s Iowa Keystone PAC, $1,000 from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s Huck PAC, $1,000 from Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s Freedom First PAC-Iowa, $1,000 from former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s Free & Strong America PAC-Iowa, and $1,000 from the Mike Pence Committee of Indiana.

Meanwhile, Miller’s report shows he raised $243,326 in the past three months, spent $298,604, and had $175,047 left for the final two weeks of the campaign.

His 30 pages of contributions show that several of his biggest contributors were from out of state. They included $25,000 from David Boies of Armonk, New York, who represented Vice President Al Gore following the contested 2000 presidential election and also represented the Justice Department in the United States V. Microsoft case.

AG Candidates Spar Over Health-Care Reform, Same-Sex Marriage, Experience

In a debate between the attorney-general candidates on Wednesday, Findley suggested that Miller failed to enforce Iowa’s laws, while Miller accused Findley of misleading Iowans and challenged her experience.

“The idea she is trying to convey is that the attorney general’s office is not doing a good job, and that’s false,” Miller said. “That is the old politics; that is the Washington politics.”

The attorney general candidates met at a debate hosted by the University of Iowa College of Law in Iowa City.

Findley used the debate to repeat a pledge that she will challenge federal health-care reform if elected. She said that she believes federal health-care legislation will lead to increased costs to taxpayers and the loss of liberty to individuals, and that it amounts to an “unconstitutional power grab by the federal government. ... The federal government has no right to force Iowans to buy a certain kind of health insurance or face IRS penalties.”

But Miller said he believes that federal health-care reform is constitutional. “The law is heavily on the side of constitutionality,” he said. “That’s why two-thirds of attorneys general have not joined the lawsuit.”

Findley also challenged Miller on his decision against joining the same-sex-marriage case and missing a court deadline that led to release of two sex offenders.

Miller responded by explaining that a county, not the state of Iowa, was sued in the Varnum V. Brien same-sex-marriage case, so he had no reason to intervene in the defense.

He accused Findley of “misleading Iowans” about the release of two sex offenders, but admitted that his office had erred in one case. He said the other offender was released by a judge after a legal snafu but is currently incarcerated in another jurisdiction. Miller said he had worked with the county attorney in Omaha who had a pending action against the individual to keep the offender off the streets.

Miller praised his office for creating a successful hotline for homeowners concerned with foreclosure action and its commitment to combat cyber-bullying, as well as its work on consumer-protection issues involving telemarketing scams and the elderly.

Miller, who has held the attorney-general office for 28 years, said Findley had a lack of “significant experience” and expressed concern that her seven years working for outspoken conservative U.S. Representative Steve King (R-Kiron) would lead her to bring an “ideological passion” to the office.

“I have a passion to use the law to serve the interests of ordinary Iowans; my opponent’s passion is really different,” he said. “She sees the office as a place to further the far-right-wing policy goals.”

Findley pointed out that she is 34 years old – the same age Miller was when he was first elected Iowa attorney general.

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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