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Iowa Politics Roundup: State Kicks Off 40 Days of Voting PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 24 September 2010 10:20

Iowa Democrats are targeting those who don’t normally vote in midterm elections along with first-time voters who supported Barack Obama in 2008 in the push for early voting, which began Thursday in Iowa and lasts for 40 days.

“Tomorrow is Election Day in Iowa,” Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky declared Wednesday. “Iowans will be able to vote early; they’ll be able to vote by mail; they’ll be able to vote early in person at their auditor’s offices. We have been preparing for Election Day tomorrow since last year, and we are very excited to get ready to kick it off.”

As of Friday, Iowa Democrats had requested more than twice as many absentee ballots as Republicans – 40,632 compared with 16,286 – according to the Iowa secretary of state’s office. There have been a total of 69,376 requests for absentee ballots.

Dvorsky said Democrats also have a 55,000-voter registration edge over Republicans.

“But we also know that it is the independents ... who will swing this election, and so that is who we have been targeting,” she said. “We know that our Democratic base will come out and vote. ... So we have really made sure that we have contacted those voters who typically may not be as willing or ready to vote in a midterm election.”

Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Iowa on Thursday launched its own statewide effort to encourage Iowans to take advantage of early-voting opportunities.

“Iowans don’t have to wait until November to change the direction of this state and this country,” said Republican Party of Iowa Chair Matt Strawn. “It’s time to return principled, conservative leadership to the state of Iowa, and that starts today with electing Republican candidates. We have 40 days to bring competent leadership back to Iowa.”

Strawn said traditional absentee voting is but one part of the GOP’s voter-contact program.

“For the first time, Iowa Republicans have worked with all 99 counties to develop early-voting locations all across Iowa as the next 40 days will be a series of election days,” he said.

DeCosters Testify About Salmonella, Egg Recall at Congressional Hearing

Austin “Jack” DeCoster, the owner of Wright County Egg, on Wednesday told members of the U.S. House Oversight & Investigations subcommittee that he was horrified to learn his eggs may have made people sick and has prayed several times a day for improved health for those affected.

“Over the years we have grown to be pretty big in producing eggs,” DeCoster said. “Unfortunately we got big quite a while before we stopped acting like we were small. What I mean by that is we were big before we started adopting sophisticated procedures to be sure we met all of the government requirements.”

DeCoster has been identified as a “habitual violator” of environmental regulations by the state of Iowa and has been assessed $219,000 in civil fines. But DeCoster said for about 10 years now, the company has focused on meeting government requirements, including when it comes to fighting salmonella.

“With all of these systems, we have made important strides, and I am proud of our work,” DeCoster said. “Still, these challenges never stop.”

Peter DeCoster, the CEO of Wright County Egg and Jack DeCoster’s son, blamed the conditions at the company’s hen houses on inclement weather in Iowa over the past year. He said the local co-op had gotten behind on removing manure from buildings, and he believes the salmonella outbreak was due to meat and bone-meal ingredients in feed given to the hens.

The younger DeCoster also said salmonella is a fact of life in the egg industry, and noted that’s why egg cartons carry safe-food-handling instructions.

“As an Iowan, I’m offended by the claim from some in the egg industry that consumers are somehow responsible for getting sick because they didn’t properly cook their eggs,” said U.S. Representative Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo). “Now is the time for accountability, not blame-shifting.”

U.S. Reprsentative Henry Waxman (D-California), chair of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, said he’s skeptical that feed was the problem and noted that the DeCosters have had problems for more than 30 years, including in states other than Iowa. More than 20 years ago, the state of Maryland ordered the DeCosters to stop selling eggs in the state.

“You’ve claimed that you’re going to modernize and clean up your facility, but it doesn’t appear that you’ve modernized and cleaned up your facilities,” Waxman said. “It sounds like to me that both of you are refusing to take responsibility for a very poor facility.”

Both Peter and Jack DeCoster said they feel bad about how the egg recall has affected the industry.

A former Iowan, Carol Lobato, contracted salmonella and testified before the congressional subcommittee. Lobato, 77, was raised on a chicken farm in Iowa and spent five days in the hospital suffering from septic shock, vomiting, and diarrhea. Doctors told her she would have died without aggressive intervention.

Braley and other subcommittee members said the sickening of more than 1,600 people from salmonella highlights the need for the U.S. Senate to act on food-safety legislation.

“The House passed food-safety legislation late last year that would give the FDA [Food & Drug Administration] authority to order mandatory food recalls, impose fines for food-safety violations, and require more-frequent food-facility inspections,” Braley said. “It would also give the FDA access to company records in the case of emergency. These are important first steps to make sure our food supply is safe.”