Cedar Rapids businessman wants shot at Harkin

I’m sitting here at my computer kiosk in the statehouse press room where a relic of Art Small’s 2004 US Senate campaign is tacked to my bulletin board.  It is a crumpled sheet of paper on which Small — in his own hand — wrote the details of his campaign kick-off. 

It begins with the word "Note" written as a headline (and boldly underlined), followed by:  "Art Small will file his nomination papers for the U.S. Senate tomorrow and at 1:30 p.m. will hold a press conference in Room 24, behind the Senate, to respond to any questions and make his announcement."  How do I know this "advisory" was hand-written by Mr. Small?  Well, there is a signature at the bottom, and it is the signature of "Art Small" — who as you may recall employed the campaign slogan "Think Big. Vote Small."  Grassley trounced him.

I was reminded of that campaign today as I covered the campaign launch of a Republican who hopes to face-off against US Senator Tom Harkin in 2008.

Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Rathje (pronounced ROTCH-ee) flew around the state today, holding public appearances to announce he’s running to be the GOP’s US Senate nominee in 2008.  (You can listen to his speech and news conference in Des Moines by clicking on the audio link at the bottom of the Radio Iowa story.)  WHO-TV’s chief photographer Mike Borland and I were the only two news-types to attend Rathje’s Des Moines event.  In talking with other media outlets, including Rathje’s hometown Cedar Rapids Gazette, it seems none received an advisory alerting them the events would be taking place.

So, for those of you who weren’t there, I’ll briefly describe the event:  Republican Party of Iowa vice chair Leon Mosley stepped behind a small lectern to introduce Kathy Pearson of Cedar Rapids, the president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women.  But Mosley couldn’t remember the name of the group, and had to consult with a GOP staffer off to stage right to, um, get it right.  (As Mosley was donning his cowboy hat afterwards, Mosley pleaded with me not to mention his mental lapse on IPTV on Sunday.  Wish granted.  The show for this weekend is already "in the can" — it’s an interview with former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack.)

Kathy Pearson stepped to the mic to give a testimonial about Rathje:  "It’s certainly an exciting time for Republicans in Iowa…We all know that today’s preparation will determine tomorrow’s achievement and I’m excited to see good candidates like Steve Rathje getting started early in the race," she began. (Rathje might want to show that "today’s preparation will determine tomorrow’s achievement" line to his campaign staff.)

Mosley offered a few words of introduction for Rathje:  "It’s my honor and privilege to introduce Mr. Steve Rathje.  Steve is from Cedar Rapids, (a) businessman.  Steve believes in God.  He’s got all the principles, virtues and everything that Iowans stand for.  Conservative. And it’s an honor and a privilege for me to introduce to you Mr. Steve Rathje.  He’s cleaner than the Board of Health and he is from Iowa, not the Bahamas."

The Bahamas reference, as you may know, is a jab at Harkin’s holiday home in the Caribbean.  You may have heard about that during the unsuccessful campaigns of Greg Ganske, Jim Lightfoot and Tom Tauke — the GOP congressman who ran against Harkin in the past.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.