Christie Vilsack: compromise not a dirty word (audio)

Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, a Democrat, kicked off her congressional campaign this morning with a speech in which she said it was time for folks in D.C. to “lower their voices and raise their sights.”

According to Vilsack, “Iowans are sick of the partisanship and fingerpointing that has blocked our politics.  They want us to be civil.”

Vilsack never once mentioned Congressman Steve King, her likely Republican opponent in 2012. Vilsack told the crowd she didn’t “want to score points.  I want to make progress.”

Vilsack’s husband — US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack — was at the event [photo], which was staged in Iowa State University’s Memorial Union in Ames.  The Vilsack’s two sons, a daughter-in-law and their grandchild were also standing at the front of the room for the speech.

AUDIO: Vilsack’s speech. 14 min

AUDIO: Christie Vilsack talks about campaign

Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack just called into the Radio Iowa newsroom to ahve a conversation with me about running for congress.  Listen: Christievilsack (mp3 runs about 9 minutes).

Here’s Vilsack’s answer to a question about the voter registration edge in the district (GOP has the edge in the new fourth district): 

“I looked at the numbers and they were pretty much the same as when Tom ran for governor all across Iowa and I think it’s a winnable district. Everybody I’ve talked to and all the people who are working with me think it’s a winnable district and I think it’s the most winnable district for me. I am a small town person and this is a district of small towns flanked by two or three really good-sized Iowa cities and I just think, all things considered, I thought it was the best district and I’m in it to run. I’m in it to win and if I decide to get to get in it, when the time comes after my exploration is done, then I’m going to go for it and I think this is the best place to win.”

I’ll be back with more from the interview, including Vilsack’s response to Governor Branstad’s “fish out of water” assertion and her own husband’s characterization of a Christie Vilsack versus Steve King match-up as a “holy war.”

UPDATEHere’s the Radio Iowa story.  From that story:

On her husband’s “holy war” statement: “Well, I think my husband two days ago wasn’t the spouse of a potential candidate and I don’t think he’s got the spouse thing down quite yet,” she told Radio Iowa. “But today he is and I think he’ll be able to stand next to me and be supportive.”

On Branstad’s “fish out of water” staement: “I could have run in any of Iowa’s districts because I feel like all Iowa is my home,” Vilsack said this morning.  “But, you know, I was in Emmetsburg in the parade at St. Patrick’s Day, right behind (Governor Branstad) and I’ve been in Crawford County — I’ve been traveling all over that district for the last 12 or 14 years and they’re my people and I feel very comfortable with them and I feel like it’s the best district for me as I reviewed it.”

I also asked her why she didn’t run against Congressman Boswell (D-Des Moines) in the new third district or against Congressman Loebsack (D-Mount Vernon, moving to Iowa City)  in the new second: “I really used quite a process and spent a long time trying to decide, really, what’s best for me and my family, what district fits me best and what’s best for my party,” Vilsack said. “…I wanted to run where I had the best chance of winning and I think I have the best chance of winning in the new fourth.”

Andrea Bozek of the National Republican Congressional Committee emailed the following:

After floating her name for practically every political office in Iowa, Democrat Christie Vilsack today announced her plans to move into Iowa’s new 4TH Congressional District to run against Republican Rep. Steve King.

 Please consider the following quote as you follow Vilsack’s announcement.

“Considering Vilsack’s support for the government takeover of healthcare she will fit right in with liberal Nancy Pelosi’s big government and spending agenda. Iowa voters understand that sending Vilsack to Washington will only result in more debt and a vote to try to put Nancy Pelosi back in the Speaker’s Chair. ” – NRCC Spokeswoman Andrea Bozek

 New District Breakdown:

 Steve King has represented nearly half of the new Fourth District since 2002.

 McCain received 50.2% in the new fourth.

Republican Gov. Terry Branstad received 59.4% in the new fourth.

Christie Vilsack seems “in” for fourth district showdown

Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack and her husband, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack (the current U.S. Agriculture Secretary), are moving to Ames, Iowa, and Vilsack has formed an “exploratory committee” to run for congress, in Iowa’s fourth congressional district.  That means she’d be running to unseat Congressman Sreve King, a Republican from Kiron.  Here is her statement:

Serving Iowa is both a privilege and a responsibility.  The decision to run for Congress deserves serious consideration.  Next month, I will move to Ames and continue to explore the possibility of representing Iowa in the US House of Representatives.  It’s important to listen to Iowa families about the issues they want addressed in Congress.  Hearing directly from citizens about their concerns and ideas is very important to me.  Too often in campaigns, it’s the other way around.  More than anything, this should be a discussion about Iowa values-the value of work, the value of opportunity and the value of community.   Input from fellow Iowans will help me make the best decision and will give our state a campaign focused on collaboration and results, encouraging a new way to do business in Washington.”  

Technically, she has formed an “exploratory committee” for congress, the ramping-up “toe-dipping” phrase with which you’ve become familiar because of all the presidential hopefuls who form exploratory committees enroute to a real, bona fide campaign aparatus. 

Yesterday, Republican Governor Terry Branstad said Christie Vilsack would be a “fish out of water” in the fourth district.  Last summer at the Iowa State Fair, Christie Vilsack talked about running for congress.

…Vilsack announced (in the fall of 2009) she had decided against running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Chuck Grassley. Vilsack said during an interview at the Iowa State Fair that she is considering “other options” like running for congress.

“I just turned 60, so timing is important — political timing as well as personal timing,” she said.  “It’ll be a whole new ballgame after the election and after redistricting, where we see the districts line up.”

The Iowa Legislature will redraw the congressional district lines in Iowa for the 2012 election and it’s likely Iowa will lose one of it’s five congressional seats due to population gains in other states.

“Nobody will actually have a claim on any particular district, I think, because it’ll be a whole new set of voters and a whole new set of constituents,” she said.

Being a first-time grandparent is one factor that’s pulling Vilsack in one direction. But Vilsack said women like her, who are in “the third part of their lives” are being recruited to run for office and she feels the tug toward putting her own name on the ballot after working a lifetime to elect others.

According to Vilsack, she’d enter a race with her “eyes open” to what it takes to run and win. “I know, which maybe makes the decision harder. If you have illusions or thinking that it’s glamorous — it’s not that I’m not optimistic, I just understand. I know how much hard work (is required),” Vilsack said.  “I know what the personal sacrifice is.”

 In December, Tom Vilsack indicated he would not step down as a caibnet secretary if his wife were to seek a seat in congress.  (He cited other examples of spouses who’ve worked in the two branches of the federal government at the same time.)

Harkin doubts about Boswell/Vilsack primary

Senator Tom Harkin said this weekend he doubts former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack will challenge Congressman Leonard Boswell in a primary next year.  Harkin was the guest on this weekend’s Iowa Press on IPTV (watch the episode here) and — brace yourself — Harkin and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich agree on ethanol policy.  Subsidies can be phased out/end under certain conditions.  Gingrich said in January that carmakers should be required to make every vehicle that rolls off the line a flexible fuel vehicle.  Harkin adds another caveat: subisides can end when all vehicles are flex-fuel and there’s a pipeline, plus pumps to dispense the stuff. Here’s the transcript:

Hsrkin: Well, I think we have reached the point now in ethanol as a liquid fuel where I don’t know that we need the price support so much anymore but what we need is market access, market access.  I have been trying for some time, again, with Senator Lugar, so we have had a bipartisan approach on this, to expand the market for ethanol.  That means we need more blender pumps, we need more flexible fuel cars and we need dedicated pipelines to carry the ethanol from the Midwest to the east.  Let me expand on that just a second.  We called in some of the auto companies just a few years ago and met with them to ask them why they weren’t building more flexible fuel vehicles because they build them in Brazil, Ford every car they build in Brazil is flexible fuel or GM or Honda or Toyota.  So, we called them and we said, why aren’t you building more flex fuel cars here?  Well, their answer was because there’s no blender pumps.  There’s no pumps out there.  So, we called in the oil companies and we asked them, why aren’t you putting in more blender pumps?  Do you know what their answer was?  Because there aren’t any flexible fuel cars out there.

Henderson: So you would support requiring the auto makers to make flexible fuel vehicles?

Harkin: Absolutely, I have a bill in to do that.

Henderson: And get rid of ethanol subsidies?

Harkin: Well, a gradual reduction in the ethanol subsidies but to get the — and we’re going to have to confront that this year, by the way.  But we have to mandate flexible fuel vehicles and we have to mandate, I believe, blender pumps and I worked a couple of years ago to get some changes in the tax law to make it easier to build a pipeline and I believe that is going to happen in the next few years, a pipeline that will go from Iowa to New York City and so we’re going to be able to deliver ethanol to mass markets. That is what ethanol needs, market access.

Back to Gingrich, The Wall Street Journal wrote an opinion piece responding to the statements Gingrich made in Des Moines about ethanol.

Vilsack on farm policy, his wife’s future, Obama ’12 & Iowa judges

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is the guest on this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press” which will air Friday night at 7:30 on IPTV.  The show was taped this morning (Thursday) and Vilsack covered a variety of topics, from farm subsidies to genetically-engineered crops

Vilsack touted the tax deal President Obama struck with Republican congressional leaders, a deal which passed and was signed into law in the past week.  It includes an extension of the taxbreaks for ethanol and biodiesel, as well as estate tax changes the farm community sought. 

I asked Vilsack about the prospect of his wife, Christie, running for congress in 2012.  “What sort of advice have you given her?” I asked.

“Husband and wife conversations are confidential under Iowa law, if I remember correctly,” Vilsack said, laughing.  “I would just say this:  Christie has extraordinary options.  She is well-respected and she has devoted most of her life to public service in one form or another and I think she has many options ahead of her.  These are decisions that she has to make and I will support her whatever decisions are.”

Vilsack predicted Obama will be a two-term president. “If he chooses to run for a second term, I think he will be reelected,” Vilsack said on the show. “I have no doubt about that.”    Vilsack said when voters “take a step back” they’ll “recognize the leadership” Obama has provided in “many different areas and in difficult political circumstances.”

Vilsack, an attorney who publicly urged Iowans to vote to retain the three justices who were defeated in last month’s judicial retention election, addressed the court’s circumstances in the closing moments of the show.  (Three newly-elected Republicans in the Iowa House are drafting articles of impeachment to try to oust the four remaining justices.) “When I travel around the country, there’s nothing but admiration for two things about Iowa: the way we select our judges and the way we create legislative and congressional districts.  We really need to understand what we’ve got.  It’s something the rest of the country’s envious of and we ought to be doing everything we can to keep what we’ve got,” Vilsack said. 

You can watch the show online, or see it over-the-air at 7:30 Friday night or 11:30 Sunday morning.

Last minute hits of 2010 campaign

The big news of the weekend for (most) Iowans is that both Iowa and Iowa State won today. Iowa beat Michigan State 37-6; Iowa State beat Kansas 28-16.  Many Iowa politicians, though, are waiting for their “scores” to be posted on Election Night. The Iowa Democratic Party has a countdown clock on its website, if you want to know how many hours, minutes & seconds are left ’til the polls open on Tuesday. The Republican Party of Iowa’s website doesn’t have a countdown clock; it does have something about party chair Matt Strawn’s “power hour” tour which concluded today. 

There are a few skirmishes in the closing hours. Democrats are pointing to this story in The Cedar Rapids Gazette about GOP lieutenant governor nominee Kim Reynolds.  Republicans are pointing to this story about Attorney General Tom Miller’s fundraising.

There was a debate about the judicial retention election on IPTV’s “Iowa Press” this weekend (the show is rebroadcast Sunday morning at 11:30).  After the show, Iowa for Freedom issued this news release:

[Read more…]

Boswell sends message to Christie Vilsack

I’ve been swamped and unable to blog for a few days.  I’ll point you to two Radio Iowa stories which may be of interest.

First, former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack visited the Iowa State Fair last week with her husband and had some things to say about perhaps running for congress in 2012.

Congressman Leonard Boswell had some things to say about the potential of a Boswell versus Vilsack primary in 2012.  Here’s the key passage:

“Christie is a smart person. I’m planning on doing this for a while, so I hope that she has got other things she likes to do for a while because I’m going to continue to do this,” Boswell said last week at the Iowa State Fair.

A reporter followed up with this question: “Does that mean you’re announcing for 2012?”

Boswell replied: “Well, it’s not far from it.”

As you may recall, the party establishment rallied around Boswell in 2008 when Ed Fallon of Des Moines challenged Boswell in a Democratic Primary.  What would happen if Vilsack runs against Boswell in a Primary in 2012?  And what would happen if Boswell’s defeated in 2010?  Would he try to recapture a seat in congress in 2012?

Christie Vilsack: “I’m well-qualified.”

UPDATE:  Here’s the Radio Iowa story.

Christie Vilsack, wife of former Governor Tom Vilsack, spoke with WHO-TV’s Dave Price earlier this afternoon.  Price asked if she was the “mystery candidate” who would emerge to seek the Democratic Party’s 2010 nomination for the U.S. Senate and the change to face-off against U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-New Hartford, Iowa) in November, 2010.

Christie Vilsack told Price she was “honored” to have people talking with her about running.  “I’m well-qualified to serve, so time will tell, Christie Vilsack said. 

WHO-TV will post the raw audio of the interview later this evening. Earlier today, U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack declined to answer when asked about a “Christie Vilsack 2010” candidacy.

Having covered two Vilsack campaigns for governor and a  (brief)Vilsack for president campaign (as well as watching both Vilsacks campaign for pal Hillary Clinton once Tom Vilsack dropped out of the race), I can tell you that the Vilsacks are well-matched.  Tom Vilsack, as he once told me, loves to govern.  Christie Vilsack, as I’ve observed, loves to campaign.  She likes the process.  She likes meeting people.

Her husband once credited her with being the only person on the 1998 Vilsack for Governor campaign who had the, um,chutzpah to campaign in the home territory of Republican opponent Jim Lightfoot.  She went to Shenandoah, Lightfoot’s hometown, and campaigned elsewhere in Page County.  As I recall Tom Vilsack’s version of this story, he ended up winning Page County.

Vilsack declines to answer “Christie Vilsack 2010” question

Tom VilsackU.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor, made two public appearances in Des Moines this morning.  The first, at the 13th annual Community Food Security Coalition” convention, marked the first time an ag secretary has visited the event.  It also was remarkable for another reason: Vilsack got booed, as you can read about here in this Radio Iowa story and on Des Moines Register columnist Kathie Obradovich’s blog post from this morning.

Vilsack’s second appearance came at 10 a.m. when he joined Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller in calling for creation of a U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

As Vilsack was leaving the attorney general’s office, Charlotte Eby of the Lee Enterprises newspapers in Iowa asked Vilsack if his wife, Christie, would be running against U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-New Hartford, Iowa).  Lynn Campbell of followed, asking Vilsack what he thought of Terry Branstad, his predecessor as governor, running for a fifth term.  Here is Vilsack’s response to both questions:

“Honestly, when I come into a setting like this, it’s probably not appropriate for me to respond on political questions, so I hate to beg off, but I’ve been told by our ethics people that that’s not advisable.”

Hi-yo, Silver, away! Vilsack’s wearing boots!

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor, held a forum at the Iowa State Fair today and he was sporting a pair of cowboy boots that were a gift from his wife, Christie.  Vilsack was quizzed about his attire.

Joyce Russell of Iowa Public Radio: "Did you buy the boots?"

Vilsack: "No."

Russell: "Tell me about how long you've had those boots."

Vilsack: "These were a Christmas present from my wife."

Russell: "What year?"

Vilsack: "Well, last year they were a Christmas present."

Russell: "Were you anticipating being named ag secretary when you got cowboy boots for Christmas?"

Vilsack: "I don't know when Christie (his wife) ordered them, but these are the most comfortable — I'll tell you, do you know why I'm wearing.these?  I was on a trip to Africa with Bill Clinton and I noticed Bill Clinton was wearing cowboy boots and he said, 'You know, these are the most comfortable things you'll put on your feet.' I said, 'Really?' — skeptically — and he said, 'No, seriously. These are really comfortable.'"

Lynn Campbell of "What are they?"

O.Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa: "Cowboy boots."

Vilsack: "They're from Texas and they're made for my particular foot so they are, indeed, the most comfortable things I have had on my feet."

Russell: "Are these your first cowboy boots?"

(A USDA staffer, at this point, tries to guide Vilsack away for another engagement on the fairgrounds, but Vilsack answers Russell's question.)

Vilsack: "No. No.  I've had cowboy boots when I was, going back, when I was five years old.  I was the Lone Ranger."

The Lone Ranger started as a radio series in 1933 and ended in 1954. The Lone Ranger TV series ran from 1949 to 1957.  Tom Vilsack was born in 1950, so he would have been inspired by Clayton Moore, the actor who portrayed the Lone Ranger on TV.