In Memoriam: Marvin Pomerantz

Long-time Republican party insider Marvin Pomerantz passed away last week at the age of 78.  Pomerantz made his last public speech this past May at a campaign rally in Des Moines featuring John McCain.  Before McCain arrived, McCain’s Iowa campaign chairman handed the microphone to Pomerantz and Marvin — remaining in his scooter chair — took the opportunity to offer a testimonial for McCain.

I’ve been at this job for more than 20 years and during the early years at Radio Iowa, Marvin Pomerantz was an oft-quoted voice on our airwaves in his role as chairman of the Board of Regents — that’s the nine-member panel which governs Iowa, Iowa State, UNI and the state’s "special" schools for blind and deaf students in Council Bluffs and Vinton.  Pomerantz was a reporter’s dream:  he returned phone calls and wasn’t cautious or afraid to rock the boat.  Pomerantz is one of two Iowa political folks who routinely called me "Miss Kay" when addressing me over the phone and in person.  Pomerantz was dogged in the political arena and not to be trifled with, but he also had a keen sense of humor.

Pomerantz delivered a fabulous eulogy at Mary Louise Smith’s memorial service in 1997, just the right touches of humor and honor for his long-time friend (Mary Louis Smith was the first woman to chair the Republican National Committee; former president George Herbert Walker Bush attended her funeral). Rod Boshart of The Cedar Rapids Gazette covered the memorial service for Pomerantz. The Des Moines Register’s write-up is here.  Krusty, the unknown blogger, wrote this post about Pomerantz.

Pomerantz focused most of his energy in politics on education issues.  In addition to his work in, on and for higher education in the state, Pomerantz was a key player in the effort to get Polk County voters to approve the local option sales tax for school improvements.  The passage of that proposal in Polk County, Iowa’s retail hub, ultimately led to the legislature’s action this year to make the local option sales tax statewide (all 99 counties had approved the tax by 2008) and distribute the proceeds on a per pupil basis. 

In former Governor Terry Branstad’s last year in office, Pomerantz tried but failed to get Republican legislators to embrace a significantly higher minimum salary for teachers in Iowa.  While Pomerantz had been a staunch advocate for school infrastructure improvements in Iowa’s most populous county, he argued passionately that students in rural schools were being shortchanged because the data showed a direct link between the low pay for teachers in small districts and the lower test scores of small school students in subject areas like math and science.  He lost that battle.

Pomerantz had a major role in the gubernatorial campaign of Doug Gross, the Des Moines lawyer who ran for governor in 2002 on the Republican ticket (and lost to Democrat Tom Vilsack, who won a second term in office in 2002).  The Pomerantz-Gross link was begun during Terry Branstad’s term as governor, when Gross was Branstad’s chief of staff.

A 1952 graduate of the University of Iowa, Pomerantz was awarded the university’s "alumni medalliion" in 1998. Over the course of his lifetime Pomerantz and his family contributed $24 million dollars to the university.  Of note, Democrat Governor Chet Culver was the first to issue a public statement following Pomerantz’ death.  The chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa issued a statement the next day.  Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and his wife issued a statement; Pomerantz was a Romney backer.  I’ll post their statements later.

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Stewart Iverson has issued the following statement on the passing of Marvin Pomerantz: "We are deeply saddened by the loss of Marvin Pomerantz, a man who was known by far fewer people than he helped during his lifetime.  His generosity and tireless work ethic has forever changed the face of education in Iowa.  Marvin’s loyalty and counsel were highly prized by governors and Presidents.  He was a true educator, a true patriot, and a true friend of the Republican Party."

Mitt Romney’s statement:  "Iowa and the country lost one of our heroes when Marvin Pomerantz was called home. As a tireless champion for youth, a creator of economic vitality and employment, and a voice for principled leadership, Marvin shaped the community in lasting ways. I will miss his brilliance and candor, but mostly, I will miss his indefagtible good humor and cheer. A truly great soul has left us. Ann and I are saddened by his passing."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

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