Sunday, February 28, 2010

Primary Candidate for Culver

Saturday, former Des Moines school board member Jonathan Narcisse entered the race for governor. He plans on running against Democratic Governor Chet Culver in the June primary. He added that if he doesn't win the primary, he will run as an Independent in November. Here's something I have noticed from the coverage. In the stories about Narcisse's candidacy, count the times you see the world "controversial" when the stories talk about Narcisse.

With Culver's popularity falling in the 30-something percent in some polls, some Democrats have talked (mostly not for public attribution, I might add--well, other than Culver foe/former state rep./candidate for governor Ed Fallon) about whether someone else should run for their party. Iowa City council member (former mayor) Regenia Bailey told KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids she doesn't plan on a primary challenge against Culver. I must confess this is the first I had heard of any possiblity of Bailey running this year. And it sounds like we don't need to talk about it any longer based on what she told KCRG. Anyone else or can we quit talking about this?

The filing deadline, by the way, is March 19th.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Culver in Iraq, Narcisse for Governor

(Picture provided by Governor Chet Culver's office. Culver is pictured with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates)

Governor Chet Culver is in Iraq. His new Democratic challenger in the governor's race said he shouldn't be (but more on that later). Culver held a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon to say he went to Iraq through the Department of Defense (he added the DOD paid the bill for the trip and that he has wanted to visit there for three years). Culver said he wanted to visit with Iowans serving there. When I covered the annual condition of the guard address earlier this month, the guard told me it had its fewest number of Iowans, about 100, serving in Iraq since the war started. Here's the release from the governor's office:


IRAQ – Governor Chet Culver today is in Iraq, where he is meeting with Iowa reservists who are serving on behalf of the United States mission. The Governor is joined on the trip by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and is meeting with soldiers and reviewing the progress that has been made on the ground.

“As Commander-in-Chief of the Iowa National Guard, it is an honor to see the work that Iowa soldiers are doing on the ground in Iraq,” said Governor Culver. “Iowans should know the troops our state has deployed are incredibly dedicated and acting out of a spirit of service. I have been impressed and inspired with their work ethic, their focus and the love of country that motivates so many to serve. To all of our Iowa veterans on behalf of a grateful state, I say a heart-felt thanks for your legacy of service in the name of freedom in America and abroad.”

During a call with reporters this afternoon, the Governor once again called on the legislature to pass four bills that help Iowa soldiers and their families. The Governor highlighted the “Trailing Spouse Bill” (HF 2110), which expands unemployment benefits for spouses who are forced to leave their jobs when their spouse receives a military reassignment or deployment, the Exemption of Veteran’s Benefits from Income Tax (HF 2138), Modification of Visitation Rights for Veterans (HF 2417) and Addition of Veterans Representation on Commissions (SF 2175).

Prior to their departure, yesterday both Governors met with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, received a briefing from Defense officials, and visited with injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.

The Governor will return to Iowa in the coming days, however for security reasons, that information cannot be shared at this time. More information will be available upon the Governor’s return to Iowa soon.

Governor Culver was invited to join the trip by the US Department of Defense, who covered the expense of the trip.

Now back to Jonathan Narcisse, who announced he will challenge Culver in the Democratic primary. Narcisse is a former Des Moines school board member, who accrued ethics complaints and the ire of his fellow board members during his one-term tenure. During his remarks Saturday morning, Narcisse called Culver a "nice guy". But he also said Culver has shown " failed leadership".

Narcisse also said Iowa has an obesity crisis. And he said he would be a better leader to address that than Governor Culver. Narcisse said, "Iowa's obesity crisis is not about Governor Culver. But sometimes, you have to take leadership by example." Narcisse estimates he has lost at least 60 pounds but said he gave his scale to his mother last July.

Narcisse went on to criticize Culver's trip to Iraq. He said, "Instead of being in Iraq, he ought to be in Iowa meeting with state legislators. I'm not going to let you out of session until we have real solutions for the crisis (sic) that face Iowa."

Narcisse said he doesn't know how many signatures he has to fill the necessary petition to run for governor by the filing deadline of March 19th. He also declined to say how much money he has raised, but he said he expects to raise $4 to 5 million for the race. And if he doesn't win the Democratic primary, Narcisse said he will run as an Independent in November. He added Culver has "zero chance" of beating Republican Terry Branstad.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pawlenty Returns to Iowa

It's T-Paw, II. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and likely 2012 presidential candidate (can I call him that yet?), is returning to Iowa in April. He will headline an event with the Iowans for Tax Relief. Four candidates for governor are also scheduled to appear. All 3 Repubs and Democratic former Des Moines school board member Jonathan Narcisse confirmed to be there. ITR said Governor Chet Culver's campaign never responded. Pawlenty is looking more and more like he is interested in Iowa (and running for president, of course).

Pawlenty last came to the metro for Republicans' Leadership for Iowa event November 7th at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Although, his visit did get overshadowed a bit. The Republican candidates for governor also spoke that night and much of the attention focused on how former Governor Terry Branstad did in his debut (would it be re-debut?) before some Polk County Republicans. You might remember, I reported that weekend the reviews weren't all that impressive from him from the majority of people who talked to me about it.

Speaking of Governor Chet Culver... I first reported Wednesday that Culver's deputy campaign manager, Jesse Harris, was leaving the campaign to go work for Secretary of State Michael Mauro. It looks like I only had 1/2 of the departures though. Tom Beaumont of the Des Moines Register reports Grace Van Cleave, Culver's finance director, is also taking off. Culver's previous campaign manager, Andrew Roos, had already left the campaign.

This all happens as Culver deals with a recession, continuing downward poll numbers, talk that Democrats may not want him to run again and other talk that he could face a primary opponent (Narcisse? Someone else?)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Culver Deputy Campaign Manager Quits

Looks like another change in Governor Chet Culver's political campaign. Former campaign manager Andrew Roos quit last year after about three months on the job. Deputy manager Jesse Harris took over as interim. Now he is also leaving. He will go to work for Secretary of State Michael Mauro. Harris will replace Frank Chiodo, who was a deputy of administration for Mauro. Chiodo left to lobby with his dad, Ned.

Vander Plaats Hopes Huckabee Helps Raise $10,000

Iowa Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats sent out a message today that he hopes 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee helps him raise $10,000 with stops on his behalf today. Here's the message. The goal is to raise the 10 grand by the time Huckabee finishes speaking tonight at the final stop in Cedar Rapids (Huck and Team VP will be in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids).

No Chuck Norris on this trip apparently. Norris is a fan of both men. He is apparently not a fan of this man or his windshield.

Obama 2012 Re-Election Features Iowa Connections

Politico broke the story today about quiet efforts to begin planning for President Barack Obama's re-election plans for 2012. Probably not a big story that he is running again. Don't they almost always run for a second term? But the story notes Iowa connections to Obama's plans. What happens in Iowa doesn't stay in Iowa:)

Patrick Dillon (currently the White House's deputy political director), who ran Chet Culver's successful 2006 Iowa gubernatorial campaign, is on board. So is his wife, Jen O'Malley Dillon (currently Democratic National Committee Executive Director). She worked on both of John Edwards' presidential campaigns in Iowa before leaving to work for Obama.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Culver Says Little About 3 More IDED Firings

Iowa Governor Chet Culver didn't have a lot to say about three more dismissals at the Iowa Department of Economic Development. He said it was a personnel matter. He mentioned the "quick and decisive" action on this.

The Des Moines Register published a story Saturday that identified three workers with the IDED and showed emails from the three detailing their involvement with the film tax credit. Two days later, all three were fired from IDED. A reporter questioned Culver on the quick and decisive action when it took five months to fire the three workers. You can see his response at the beginning of the video below.

I also asked him whether this was IDED Director Bret Mills' decision to fire the workers. Culver said, "Yes. The directors hire and fire. They run their agencies. It's what they do."

Culver Not Headed for D.C.

This past Sunday on Channel 13's "Insiders", Republican analyst Doug Gross said his sources said Democrats in Washington, D.C. were trying to get Iowa Governor Chet Culver a job there, so he could step aside and not have to face a tough re-election this November. Today was the first day we had a chance to talk with Culver about the claim. When asked whether he was asked to step aside, Culver said, "Absolutely not."

Some may question the validity of Gross' claims. He used to work for Terry Branstad when he was governor and he is now a supporter of Branstad's efforts to reclaim his old job.

Here's video of Culver taking questions about a primary opponent, why his poll numbers are so low and whether Democrats want him out of office. If you don't want to watch it all, fast forward about 2 minutes into it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vander Plaats Polls

Today, Republican Bob Vander Plaats' campaign combined a few, different polls to try to show he is the candidate moving up in the polls. Is this o.k. with you to try to show that Terry Branstad isn't the only candidate who could beat Governor Chet Culver or is this mixing apples and oranges for a misleading fruit salad? Read the release and decide for yourself.

DES MOINES – Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats leads Gov. Chet Culver by six points in the latest Rasmussen Poll, which is an increase of 3 percent from an Iowa Poll published earlier this month.

Vander Plaats leads Culver 46 percent to 40 percent among a survey of 500 likely voters contacted by the Washington, D.C., polling firm on Thursday. He led Culver 43-40 percent in the Iowa Poll. Meanwhile, Terry Branstad’s lead over Culver in the Rasmussen Poll is 53 percent to 37 percent, down from the 53-33 percent margin in the Iowa Poll.

Only 41 percent of Iowans approve of Culver’s job performance while 57 percent disapprove, according to the Rasmussen Poll.

Vander Plaats, a Sioux City businessman, said the latest poll continues to dispel claims by Branstad’s campaign that the former governor is the only candidate who can defeat Culver.

“The Republican primary is going to come down to the wire and I believe we’re going to prevail because voters want the clearest possible contrast between our nominee and Chet Culver. They want an energetic leader for the future – and that’s what our campaign represents,” Vander Plaats said. “What the Rasmussen Poll says to anyone who has been told that they have to nominate Terry Branstad if we’re going to beat Chet Culver is that that’s just not true. We can move the Republican Party forward in June and defeat Chet Culver in November – and that’s just what I’m going to do.”

Iowa Lawmaker Wendt Has Cancer

A fourth member of the Iowa legislature is now battling cancer. Today, Sioux City Representative Roger Wendt announced he will leave the house. Rep. Wendt told the Des Moines Register he has lung cancer.

Rep. Wendt, who is 76, almost always flashes his humble, friendly smile when you walk past him at the statehouse. I don't know that I've ever heard anyone say anything bad about him. House Democrats released this statement on behalf of Rep. Wendt:
"It’s been a great honor serving the people of Sioux City in the Iowa House of Representatives. As chair of the House Education Committee, I’m deeply proud of my record improving education for Iowa children and equalizing school funding for districts like Sioux City, which helps both property taxpayers and our schools.

Due to a serious medical condition and the recommendation of my doctor, I will not be returning to the Iowa House for the remainder of the 2010 session nor will I seek re-election as State Representative later this year."

West Des Moines Republican Senator Pat Ward, Ocheyedan Republican Senator David Johnson and Newton Representative Paul Bell are all also battling cancer.

Coincidentally, Tuesday morning Governor Chet Culver signs HB 2075, which forces insurance companies to cover some cancer clinical trials.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Roberts Won't Seek Re-Election; Running for Governor

Carroll Republican Rod Roberts had to make a decision. The filing deadline is March 19th. Roberts had to decide whether to file to run again for his statehouse seat or whether to file for governor. He can't do both. He told me today he is running for governor. He will not seek re-election in the house for the seat he has held since 2000.

I reminded him of a prediction he made to me about six months ago. At that time, there were 7 or 8 Republicans seriously looking at running for governor. He told me he expected 3 of them to actually run. I wonder if he would be as good at predicting the Powerball numbers:)

Roberts said campaigning has a way of "winnowing the field". He expects the winnowing to be finished now and he will be running for the next 4 months against Bob Vander Plaats and Terry Branstad. No one else will enter the field for his party, he expects.

Roberts acknowledges the other two men have raised a LOT more money and are better known. After all, Branstad has been governor 4 terms before. Vander Plaats has run for governor 3 times. Roberts plans on not just going after typical Republican primary voters to make up for his lack of recognition (he also added that he will just have to outwork the other 2). He plans on getting Democrats and Independents who are unhappy with the money Governor Chet Culver has spent since he took over and who are also unhappy with the overall direction of the state. Roberts told me this will be the year for the outsider. And he said he will be the outsider. Vander Plaats, by the way, has told me HE would be the outsider.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods Apologizes

Watch Tiger Woods' news conference video here.

Did you watch Tiger Woods' apology this morning? As a reporter, it's always frustrating when journalists don't get a chance at follow up questions. But that's how Woods' handlers constructed this news conference this morning. No questions and hand-picked people in the room.

Woods is not accused of breaking any laws. He's just been a sleaze to his wife and family. He defended his wife and said there has never been any domestic violence in his marriage. I assume he means no physical violence. It seems rather obvious his actions have caused plenty of emotional distress to those closest to him.

Having said all of this and after watching his words this morning, what do you think? How much should the public have a right to know about what has happened? Woods is a celebrity by his professional stature, endorsements, public appearance, etc. But he isn't an elected official. He is not John Edwards in that sense. Edwards was also a lousy husband and we now know a liar. He was also close to becoming President of the United States, or perhaps, Vice-President or U.S. Attorney General. Is his situation different because he was an elected official? What do you think? Who's worse?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rants Drops Out

Sioux City Republican Chris Rants went all in. He said he wouldn't run again for his legislative seat. He would only run for governor. And he had no plans to stop short of the primary. Today, his run took its last step. He dropped out, leaving three others in the race for his party's nomination.

Here's part of what Rants sent out to supporters:
The Last Rants & Raves
Today I am ending my campaign for the office of Governor. I’ve enjoyed meeting and learning from so many Iowans I’ve encountered on my 54,346 mile journey around our state. It has been a rewarding experience for me, and I hope that I’ve given my fellow Republicans some ideas to consider as they shape an agenda for the 2010 election.
Last fall it became evident that my campaign was a long shot. I continued out of a belief that campaigns should be about issues and ideas, and it was worth the effort to shape the public debate around issues that concern my supporters and me. It is now clear that those opportunities for such a debate are not materializing, and I cannot in good conscience accept or solicit support for an effort I know will be ultimately unsuccessful.
Here's the rest of his message.

Rants' departure from the race will surprise some and not surprise others. To outsiders, a former speaker of the house should be one of the front runners for a gubernatorial primary. This never proved to be the case for Rants.

Rants' standing with fellow lawmakers changed over the past few years. He held leadership titles of majority leader, house speaker and minority leader. But as his party continued to lose seats in the house, his colleagues voted to put someone else into leadership. As a candidate for governor, he was never able to transition his fundraising prowess as speaker into his new campaign. His campaign reports in January showed he had just a few thousand dollars left. His campaign operation was in many ways a one-man band. He often drove himself, by himself, to campaign events. He sent out his own news releases. But he was easily accessible to reporters with no filter keeping us out. He was most always up-to-date on the important issues and didn't need time to form the perfect thought or soundbite. Most every interview was "Rants Raw" filter, just feelings. In television, editors like the good 10 to 15 second thought filled with emotion and Rants would deliver it. That shoot-from-the-lip quality seemed to make him beloved by his supporters but put off by his detractors in and outside the Iowa Statehouse.

Those who thought there's no way he would quit before the primary are likely surprised by his announcement. Since the race had whittled down to four candidates, some thought there was no reason for him to quit. But others sensed what Rants had told me several times along the campaign. He thought the campaign could be about the guy who could just keep putting out ideas. He constantly highlighted his ideas on his campaign website. He thought that would be enough to win. But he acknowledged everything changed last summer when it looked like former Governor Terry Branstad would get in the race. The money, he said, just dried up. And he never found a way to get it flowing again.

I'll be curious how involved Rants will be in the remaining weeks of his final legislative session. Will he be the same outspoken, hard-charger or will he be more subdued, more reflective of his career in elected office that may soon run out of time?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fair Share Public Hearings

Des Moines Dem Bruce Hunter said there are more "pro" bill people than "con" speakers. So he is letting some pro people to go back to back, instead of rotating, so it's not all pro people at the end.

I'm sure I have butchered some spellings of people's names along the way. My apologies!

It's been a quiet, very respectful crowd. No drama.

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn in the chamber. Greenfield Repub Clel Baudler laughing it up with a state trooper who is helping with security (Baudler is a former trooper) Looks like he's holding some kind of food. How 'bout some food this way, representative?

Lynzey in Des Moines... contrary to Jim Hawkins' assertion...I'm not a victim. said both both parents were union members. It is not a mandate. It is not a forced unionization.

Quite a few more empty seats in the legislature's section now. Dinner is calling.

Fair Share Public Hearing

Union member...said he grew up in Southern Illinois (as a fellow Southern Illinoisian, I wish I would have caught his name!) said when he signed up in human resources for his job, the person said he could join union and pay more or get the same union services without joining union and pay less. said he chose joining union so he could have a say.

Mike Ralson, Association of Business and Industry. said he was scrapping his remarks, because he didn't think he would sway anyone after they had already heard previous speakers' words. But he urged lawmakers to vote against bill.

Jeff Payne, corrections officer and union member, said payments wouldn't go to campaigns. Used reasonable reimbursement instead of fair share.

Joe Grandenetti...Des Moines teacher and Clive businessowner...pointed out how debated has changed from fair share to reasonable reimbursement. said it's semantics. used analogy that he wants to golf on the course of his choice, not being forced to join union. said he ran for office four times and lost by only 13 votes in race for Polk County supervisor. First guy to get pretty fired up. Ran out of time, too.

Fair Share Public Hearing

Union representative...said he heard from someone why should he join union if he can get services for free from the union? Said he works 60 to 70 hours a week. (He should be well-suited for journalism:) Said he misses time with family because he has to represent to non-union workers.

Robin Anderson...Mason City Chamber of Commerce...said she is exhausted because of everyone explaining to her about politics. She said she doubted any legislators would say their vote is for sale (I can't imagine she is surprised by this?) When you consider legislation, is this going to contribute to job growth?

Susie Baker...Cedar Falls...union member from Univ of Iowa...every grievance filed helps union member and non-union member.

Jim Hawkins...wants lawmakers to learn about the hearts of people. I don't know how the unions came to have the power in this case, encouraging legislators to follow their power. I want unions. I want unions to compete. Don't want them to extort money. Just compared right to work with Trigger, Roy Rogers' stuffed horse. Both are gutted, he said.

Fair Share Public Hearing

Ben Humphrey...Des Moines attorney...said his firm represents workers (although doesn't every firm represent workers to some degree? Maybe I'm taking this too literally) It's only fair if a person pays for legal representation for you to keep your job, you should pay reasonable reimbursement for that.

Professional Developers of Iowa (sorry missed his, this goes fast. I wish they put the speakers' names on the giant board in here)...called this Fair Share Light. The moment one worker loses his/her job because won't join union, Iowa ceases to be right to work state. First speaker to go over his time limit. DSM Dem Bruce Hunter now in the speaker's chair. Told him his time was up.

Brandon Stanley...from Graceland in Lamoni...said he is a college student. Wants to come back to state with fair wages, so he can pay back his student loans.

David Moss...Greater DSM Partnership...Iowa will go off the list for companies looking to expand because this bill will take it off the right to work list. Went over the time. Just got caught off.

Shawn Johnson just tweeted that she has her own bobblehead. She said you can get it at the Des Moines Bucs hockey game this Saturday night. Which lawmaker would you like to see in bobblehead form?

Fair Share Public Hearing

Man said he was from Atlantic Coca Cola bottling company...said this bill is anti-jobs proposal. Sorry, I missed his name.

Sue Dinsdale, union activist, said this bill won't force people into unions.

Donna Houston, music teacher from Marion County...called it forced unionization. Bill excludes school employees but still erodes right to work. Forcing people into unions "erodes of all of our freedoms." Her voice sounds like Jane Krakowski, the actress from 30 Rock.

Dave Price, reporter from West Des they serve food at these things? My PB & J sandwiches are wearing off!

Fair Share Public Hearing

I'm going to live blog some of the comments, so please forget some shortcuts and the possibility of mis-spelling some speaker's names. West Des Moines' Repub. Peter Cownie is leading the speakers from the house speaker's chair. He has asked speakers go one pro-fair share bill and then one con, back and forth. So here we go...

Tom Jochum, on behalf of Plumbers & Steamfitters, thanked Repub. Lance Horbach of Tama for not using "histrionics" in his opposition to the bill. Singled out Des Moines Dem Bruce Hunter and Altoona Dem. Geri Huser for their work on this bill.

Spencer businessman Toby Shine said he would hate to have his employees pay to have a job.

Fred Bowie, businessman, he pointed out also a Democrat...said competition agressively marketing their right to work status. He opposes bill.

Brad Clark, gay rights activist, said too many misconceptions about this bill. He isn't union member. Said this is about fairness and justice.

Fair Share Public Hearing

At 5:14, the Iowa House gaveled in for the public hearing on the so-called "Fair Share" bill in the house chamber. What do we have in store for us? Drama? Civility? A good exchange of ideas? Perhaps, a bit of all three.

The night begins with a little joint announcement (warning?) from Altoona Democratic Rep. Geri Huser and Tama Republican Rep. Lance Horbach. They both said how they are glad to hold this hearing. They said all lawmakers in here were glad of that. Huser announced there would be no cheering, booing, hissing or outbursts of any kind. Do any of those things, she said, and your party would be removed from the chamber.

Lawmakers are going around the room right now introducing themselves one at a time to the chamber. 100 people make up the house, of course, so this will take a while.... About 11 minutes later or so, the introductions are finished. No major problems:)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Steve King Shoots Raccoon

Iowa Congressman Steve King, gunslinger. The raccoon never knew what hit it. Apparently, the raccoon was trying to push its way into the King family home in Kiron. Kiron pulled out his trusty Desert Eagle. The coon didn't stand a chance. Here's the story.

PETA isn't a fan of the story. Here's a followup story on Roll Call:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has weighed in on Rep. Steve King (R) killing a raccoon that tried to crawl its way into his Iowa home — and not surprisingly, the animal welfare group isn’t too pleased.

PETA spokesman Jaime Zalac tells HOH that King should pick on someone his own size, “not a small animal seeking warmth in a blizzard.”

“It doesn’t give you comfort in your representatives when a member of Congress finds it amusing to boast of shooting a desperately cold animal who is 100 times smaller than he is and whose only misstep was trying to get into a large, warm house,” Zalac said in a written statement. “I hope he’s not on any committees that make decisions regarding cruel and unusual punishment. Decent people would call animal control for help, not get on Twitter to boast about having a really, really big gun.”

King tweeted on Feb. 9 that he killed the raccoon with a Desert Eagle pistol when he spotted it crawling into his house. In an interview last week, King told HOH that he felt he needed to kill the critter because he believed it was rabid and could potentially hurt his family.

And King insisted he appreciates wildlife, noting he often sees deer, rabbits, squirrels and other animals on his property.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Romney Returning to Iowa

I mentioned last month (I think it was last month) that Mitt Romney would be returning to Iowa to push his new book. His people have officially released his tour schedule, which shows two Iowa stops in Des Moines and Ames next month.

Culver's Popularity Falls in Iowa Poll

Spin is a dizzying thing. But it can be an interesting insight into the minds and psyches of the people involved. So I'm curious how all the campaigns will spin three stories in the headlines Sunday.

The Des Moines Register released its much-anticipated Iowa Poll Sunday. The poll shows continued falling levels of support for Governor Chet Culver, despite his campaign ads and job tours across the state. The poll shows Culver is losing support even among Democrats. The poll finds Culver's approval is the lowest of any Iowa governor in about 40 years.

The story is just one of three in the paper that don't offer much apparent good news for the governor. Another article reports on the slow start of what has been the governor's signature piece of legislation, the I-JOBS program.

The third story reported on Iowans' falling confidence in the direction of the state. The poll finds the lowest support in its 11-year history.

So here's the spin from everyone I have so far...

The Iowa Democratic Party puts the focus on Terry Branstad's numbers, not Culver's:

The Iowa Poll released today shows candidate Terry Branstad has fallen by 4 points in the polls in the two weeks following the announcement of his attempted political comeback. Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan released this statement:

“As Governor, Branstad horribly mismanaged state government, kept two sets of books, and raised taxes on Iowans. Now that he’s a candidate, Branstad is flip-flopping on issues, including on taxes, to help him survive the Republican primary.

"Branstad should have gone up in the polls after announcing. The poll released today shows that when Iowans hear about the Two Faces of Terry Branstad, his numbers have only one way to go: down.

“The fact is Governor Culver is working on passing a balanced budget, fighting for policies that will help Iowa’s hard-working families, and making the tough decisions that will continue to move this state forward. As always, he is focused on governing, not politics."
Culver's campaign sent out this release. The last line resembles the theme of the last line of the party's release:

“Governor Culver is doing what Iowans elected him to do, which is moving Iowa forward with bold ideas and building a strong economic future for all Iowans. Governor Culver is not paying attention to who’s up or who’s down in the polls.”
Branstad's campaign is sending out messages from national reporters. Here's what NBC's Political Director (and former staffer for Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin's 1992 presidential campaign) Chuck Todd said about the poll numbers:

@chucktodd: With numbers like these, IA Dem Gov. Culver may be inviting a primary challenge.

And here's what the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza said about the numbers:

@TheFix Absolutely devastating numbers for Iowa Gov. Culver

GOP candidate for governor, Rod Roberts, pointed out his numbers:

Rod Roberts More momentum! New DMRegis. poll shows Roberts v. Culver race already a statistical dead heat 8.5 months from election!
The Register's political columnist, Kathie Obradovich, recommends Culver start working on his resume for a new job because of the numbers:

Here's the link.

What's your take on the numbers? Can Culver come back from this? Remember, Branstad's numbers were once nearly as low as Culver's and he managed to get re-elected.

Please leave your comments below in the comments link.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Iowa Poll

The political types are anxiously awaiting their morning paper in Iowa. The Des Moines Register puts out its new Iowa Poll. I'm told no sneak peaks on-line tonight. We will have to wait for the hard copy in the paper. What will the numbers show for Governor Chet Culver's popularity? He's already run political ads, he starting meeting more with the media and he's stepped up his public appearances lately. Will that help him in the polls. I know Democrats who are very nervous right now. Republican candidate Terry Branstad even mentioned the poll to me when I interviewed him in Osceola Wednesday night.

Thanks to those of you who have emailed about this week's Purple Matters internet show. Usually I can post the archive of the show right away. But they are putting in new software, which is greatly delaying the process. So I'm still waiting on the archive before I can post it. In the meantime, I hope you will vote in our weekly Purple Poll. Our question this week is whether lawmakers should ban texting and driving. What do you think? You can leave your comments below and cast your vote on your cell phone by dialing 72466 and texting the word, matters.

Canada didn't exactly have a good opening night Friday for the Winter Olympics. Obviously, it would seem to be premature and possibly wrong to blame Canada for that horrible luger death. But the ceremonies themselves don't seem to match what I remember from Beijing. Blame Canada.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mark Rees for Congress and Baconfest!

There are about 100 Republicans who want the chance to run against 3rd District Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell. O.K., I'm exaggerating, but not by much. At last check, there are 7 Republicans strongly considering a run for the primary. 7! I'm too tired to type all their names. Let's see how many actually file in March. Then I will list them all.

Mark Rees, a retired architect, is one of them. He told me he will set himself apart from the rest by running as a "moderate". He also thinks all the criticism about Sarah Palin writing reminders on her hand has gone too far.

Rees makes his debut on my "Purple Matters" internet show.

Brooks Reynolds is all things bacon. His Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival is an all-day baconfest bonanza. He told us the 650 tickets sold out in 24 minutes. That's a lotta love for the bacon! But he does have a way you can still get some tickets.

Here's the link to listen to our show with Rees and Reynolds. (scroll down to the Purple Matters 2/9/2010 link)

And our Purple Poll question this week is whether lawmakers should make texting and driving illegal. To vote in our text poll, just dial 72466 on your cell phone and text the word, matters.

Thanks for listening and thanks for reading.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Tom Wheeler charged

We are still waiting to hear from the Iowa attorney general's office on the specifics but a statement from former Iowa Film Office Director Tom Wheeler indicates his client now faces criminal charges in the state's film office tax credit scandal. (Updated: Here's the release on the attorney general's website. Wheeler is not the only one to face charges.)

Here's what we got from attorney, Gordon Fischer:

Press Statement: We have been told that the Office of the Iowa Attorney General is filing charges today against Tom Wheeler based on his previous employment with the Iowa Film Office. We are disappointed with the Attorney General's decision to file criminal charges under the facts and circumstances of the situation as we know them. The state has decided to pursue a novel theory of criminal liability and it is our position that their decision is a mistake that is not supported by the facts or the law. However, because they have chosen this path, Tom's focus must now necessarily shift from trying to help the state develop a functional, and economically beneficial, tax incentive program to defending against the criminal charges. Because of this shift in focus, we will need time to review the state's charging documents before anyone can make specific comments about the facts underlying the Attorney General's allegations. We anticipate that someone familiar with the case will be prepared to address more specific questions in the very near future.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Culver Defends Iowa Against Schwarzenegger

This week has brought us an interesting back and forth that started with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger saying about Iowa, "There's no one screaming, like, 'I can't wait to get to Iowa.' That I can guarantee you. They want to come here to California."

Iowa Governor Chet Culver defended the state in a rather unusual back and forth with a tv reporter in eastern Iowa. The reporter tried again and again to get Culver, the former college football player, to say he could take Arnold, the former bodybuilder.

The story keeps going in San Francisco this weekend.

Here's the link.

Could a celebrity deathmatch be next for this battle of big dudes? Surely, NBC could find room in its prime-time lineup, right? Or maybe the Culver-Ah-nold cage battle could be a late addition to the WWE in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena later this month???

Let's not forget this classic moment as a reminder of Culver's chances... Sylvester Stallone had a death-defying comeback with his battle with Ah-nold a few years back.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Purple Matters this week

Eastern Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley is pushing his COOL for Fuels plan (knowing which country produces your gas). Juice's Young Professional of the Year Andrew Allen tells us how he overcame a lot of mistakes as a youth and how he works so others don't repeat his problems. Rod Roberts, GOP candidate for governor plays "7 things inside my head". Has he ever lied in office? What grade does he give Governor, Culver on money management? Who is the worst father, Tiger Woods or John Edwards? We covered it all.

We also give the results of our weekly Purple Poll where you tell us what the priority should be for our national leaders now. If health care is a big one for you, you might have special reason to care about these results.

Our question for this week has nothing to do with politics. Who will win the Super Bowl? Text the word, matters, on your cell phone to 72466 to vote. Remember, do it before kickoff Sunday!

Thanks for reading and thanks for listening.

Here's this week's Purple Matters show. Click this link (it's just audio this week, no video until they get the new software up to speed). By the way, you can hear the show live at 8pm central on

Fong criticizes media, Fiegen criticizes Grassley

Facebook seems to be the place for criticism this morning. Christian Fong, the former Republican candidate for governor, takes a shot at the media through the actions of a little girl (hey, what did the media do to you, Christian?:) Perhaps, it's all in fun.

Tom Fiegen, the Democratic former state representative, and long shot candidate for U.S. senate, took some stronger shots at Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. I feel a little safer in saying this criticism isn't just for fun.

Here's what they each posted on Facebook:

Christian Fong:

80 sec video of a 10 y/o mocking a journalist. If only more people treated media this way:
Here's the video.

Tom Fiegen:

FYI, new jobless claims were 530,405 last week (480,000 adjusted), an increase of 28,234 over the previous week. That is equal to laying off all of Des Moines. Enough of the stalemate, act or retire. Senator Grassley, how many more jobs will we lose before you help President Obama create jobs? Tree stumps have done more to boost jobs in the last year.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Congressman Tom Price coming to Iowa

Iowa Republicans are welcoming Tom Price to the state later this month. Here's the release. He is a congressman from Georgia. My brother's name is Tom Price. He lives in Illinois. He is not a congressman. David Price is a congressman from North Carolina. I live in Iowa. I'm not a congressman. Illinois did have a congressman named Mel Price. He represented my hometown in southern Illinois. I'm not related to him. And, of course, there is the show, "The Price is Right". But that has nothing to do with this conversation. By the way, "The Price is Right" was my slogan for my student council run in fifth grade. My friend, Doug Patton, beat me in this election. We don't talk any more. But that doesn't have anything to do with this conversation either.

Governor Chet Culver sent out a very brief release today on the legislature's passing of the early retirement bill.
I congratulate the legislature for passing an early retirement bill. This legislation could save Iowa taxpayers up to $60 million this year alone and is a vital step to reforming state government, finding cost-savings, and moving Iowa forward. I look forward to signing the legislation next week.
If you think that was especially brief, I wonder how short the statement will be on the state efficiency bill:)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Game Change

I'm no literary critic, but the new book, "Game Change" is a tough one to put down. I think I had the bags under my eyes today to prove it. I interviewed the two authors, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. I just got the book yesterday, so I had to do some heavy-duty, late-night reading to try to get ready.

The highlights of their work with Iowa references...

Hillary Clinton wasn't much for Iowa and she thinks even less of it now (and I'm being REALLY kind). Clinton and Barack Obama had a heck of a fight before they boarded their respective campaign planes out of D.C. for Des Moines. A heck of a fight! And both claimed to win the fight. John Edwards lied to the faces over dinner to two of his dedicated campaign workers who had come to Des Moines to help. And they knew he was lying. Oh, and he liked to go out of dates in Des Moines, not with his wife, of course. The Obamas were dining on caucus night at Fleming's, one of our favorite restaurants in the metro. The Clintons counted on former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to know the numbers for caucus night in Iowa. He terribly miscalculated the numbers.

Yes, these comments were mostly about the Democrats. That seems to be the bulk of what I've read so far. I'll have to see if there are interesting insights and juicy tidbits about the Republicans, too.

Here's our interview from today:

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

House Approves Reorganization

The Iowa House overwhelmingly approved a plan Tuesday to encourage thousands of state workers to retire early. I say overwhelmingly. It wasn't unanimous. Sioux City Republican Representative Chris Rants offered the only "no" vote. He said it wasn't an attention getter, even though he is running for governor and trailing badly in popularity and money in the polls and reports I have seen so far.

Rants said he just can't justify spending so much money to lure long-time state workers into retirement at a time so many in the private sector are getting laid off without much, if any, kind of severance plan. He said after doing the math, his no vote just made sense. He said offering retirees $1,000 per year of service up to 25 years, plus five years of state paid health care at $8,000 a year could add up to $65,000 per employee. He said that's too much, so he had to vote "no". He said he does question whether his vote even made sense politically since saving money (supporters said this could save nearly $60 million in the coming year by getting workers to retire early) is what Republicans have been calling for for years.

Democratic leaders disagree, obviously. They sent out this release:


Des Moines, Iowa – The Iowa House today approved a plan to save the state $60 million with in the next year and help balance the state budget.

“In these tough budget times, I’m glad we’re taking action to find savings and provide services to Iowans more efficiently. The plan we approved will help keep the budget balanced while protecting key priorities for middle class families like education, good-paying jobs, and affordable health care,” said State Representative Marcie Frevert of Emmetsburg, who managed the bill in the House.

Senate File 2062, which was approved on a 96-1 voted, implements an early retirement plan for eligible state employees. The bill is just one piece of a package of state government reorganization plans under consideration by the Iowa Legislature this year. The bill now goes back to the Senate.

Lawmaker Rushed to Hospital

A real Iowa lawmaker had a fake heart attack. It was all an awareness campaign. It's pretty compelling video to watch. And you almost have to remind yourself, this isn't real.

Here's the story Channel 13's Andy Fales did...


Monday, February 01, 2010

John Edwards' love child and thinking out loud

Edwards, the adulterer: Here's an interesting blow-by-blow of how a North Carolina tv station broke the John Edwards' lied to his wife-lied to the country-let down all of his supporters-could have caused a national crisis if he would have become president-paternity scandal. Here's the link.

Rants uncensored: Perhaps, this is a rare glimpse that offers some genuine insight into a legislator's mind, thanks to the emerging social media... On his Twitter account, Sioux City Republican Rep. Chris Rants just asked for advice on the early retirement idea to give cash incentives to long-time state workers to get them to leave their jobs to save the state money. Rants, of course, is also one of the 4 remaining Iowa GOP candidates for governor. Here's his tweet:

I'm struggling how to vote on Early Retirement Bill. It saves money, but Iowans are losing jobs w/out such generous severance. Thoughts?
Out of tune Taylor? As you know, I'm a big country fan. Did anyone else think Taylor Swift was WAAAAY out of tune last night during the Grammy's? Yikes, my ears are still bleeding. Dying cats sound better!

Monday Musings

I started my day off in a meat locker. At least it felt like it. Apparently, Governor Culver's staff tried to avoid the sweating that took place last week during his news conference (it had nothing to do with the questions from his friends in the press:) So this week, someone opened the windows. Wow, that was a Morning morning eye opener! Definitely, no drooping eyes during his news conference. Not that there ever are, of course.

Now, to the real news...Culver didn't seem to be too worried that the senate's bill doesn't come up with nearly as much reorganization savings as he wants. He said he is looking for about $200 million from the bill. And his budget depends on the savings. He admitted last week he doesn't have much cushion in it. But Mary Mascher, the Iowa City Democrat leading the savings bill in the house, said she couldn't rule out a second reorganization bill, if the first bill doesn't come up with enough savings. She added that she told her members if they take anything out of the bill (which would reduce the amount of savings), they need to add something back in it.

As I write this at about 4:45, we are still awaiting senate debate on the bill. A lot of caucusing on the topic so far. The original email I got was that senators would start debating at 10am. Apparently, a lot of debating going on here before the debate.

NBC's First Read had an interesting story about Sarah Palin. Obviously, a lot of people are trying to figure out whether she will run for president or whether she is just trying to make a bunch of money (not that she couldn't try to do both). First Read's story will likely give fuel to the folks who think she is only after the money right now. The story shows her political action committee spent more money on her books than giving money to candidates (which is often how potential prez candidates try to win over influential leaders across the country).

Speaking of money, Republican Jim Gibbons campaign is trumpeting (I played trumpet in school, so I just like to work that word into my writing from time to time) how he out-raised Democrat Leonard Boswell in Iowa's Third District race. Here's part of the release from the National Republican Congressional Committee:

Gibbons, former wrestling coach for the Iowa State Cyclones, raised $207,310 in the first six weeks of his candidacy, leaving $205,069.90 in the bank. Most of these contributions came from individual donors and not Political Action Committees (PACs).

In contrast, Boswell raised $ 169,621.27 in the final three months of 2009, with $462,193.02 in the bank, with most of this money, $133,400 coming from PACs and not individual donors. Not only is Boswell getting out raised by one of his opponents, he is also struggling to find the necessary signatures to get his name on the ballot. Boswell’s campaign put an ad on Craigslist earlier this year that offered Iowans $2 for every valid petition signature they turn into the campaign. If Boswell continues to lag behind in fundraising and grassroots organization, he’ll be in for a rude awaking on Election Day.

You can view Boswell’s FEC report here.

You can view Gibbons’ FEC report here.