The 2010 Iowa General Election is history

More than a million votes were cast.  Some candidates won; others lost.  Iowa voters, for the first time, ejected judges from the courts. 

The national Republican “wave” was rather wavy in Iowa, with crests and troughs for the Iowa GOP.  Iowa Republicans won key races for governor and the U.S. Senate and picked up a lot of seats in the Iowa legislature, but the three Iowa Democrats in Iowa’s five-member congressional delegation survived the night.   And the Democrats who’ve served as state treasurer and as Iowa’s attorney general for a total of 56 years between the two of them were reelected.  Attorney General Tom Miller’s race wasn’t even that close — he won by 10 points.  The Iowa GOP alone poured over a half million dollars into the campaign of Miller’s Republican challenger, Brenna Findley.

The three Iowa Supreme Court justices — at 12:33 a.m. — issued a statement acknowledging they lost their retention elections:

It was our great privilege to serve the people of Iowa for many years.  Throughout our judicial service we endeavored to serve the people of Iowa by always adhering to the rule of law, making decisions fairly and impartially according to law, and faithfully upholding the constitution.  

We wish to thank all of the Iowans who voted to retain us for another term.  Your support shows that many Iowans value fair and impartial courts.  We also want to acknowledge and thank all the Iowans, from across the political spectrum and from different walks of life, who worked tirelessly over the past few months to defend Iowa’s high-caliber court system against an unprecedented attack by out-of-state special interest groups.  

Finally, we hope Iowans will continue to support Iowa’s merit selection system for appointing judges.  This system helps ensure that judges base their decisions on the law and the Constitution and nothing else.  Ultimately, however, the preservation of our state’s fair and impartial courts will require more than the integrity and fortitude of individual judges, it will require the steadfast support of the people.  

Chief Justice Marsha Ternus
Associate Justice Michael Streit  
Associate Justice David Baker

At 1:29 a.m., the group which campaigned to get rid of Ternus, Streit and Baker issued a statement:


DES MOINES – Iowa For Freedom State Chair Bob Vander Plaats said Tuesday’s election was a referendum on leadership – failed leadership in the governor’s office, the legislature and the Iowa Supreme Court.

Vander Plaats and Iowa For Freedom have spent three months educating Iowans how the Iowa Supreme Court overstepped its boundaries with its April 3, 2009, ruling on same-sex marriage. Vander Plaats contends the state’s high court legislated from the bench, executed law from the bench and attempted to amend the Constitution with its ruling.

“The people’s voice has fallen on deaf ears for too long and tonight they spoke for a need for new leadership across the state, including three Iowa Supreme Court justices,” Vander Plaats said. “Iowans stood up with a common sense, and measured voice. Tonight we made history, we led on freedom and the rest of the country is going to hear our voice.”

Iowa For Freedom Campaign Manager Chuck Laudner thanked Iowans for their support.

“This result was certainly a group effort, but it was mostly a testament to the resiliency and strength of character of Iowans who cherish their Constitution,” Laudner said. “I am humbled to be associated with all Iowans who put this campaign on their own shoulders.”

Shortly before 1:30 a.m. this morning, the Republican candidate in Iowa’s first congressional district issued a statement (he hasn’t yet conceded the race).  I’m guessing the “in the morning” reference would be to the morning of Wednesday, November 3 rather than Thursday, November 4:

Dear All —

It has been a long night and the Lange campaign intends to review the final vote totals in the morning and proceed in a manner that is in the best interest of Eastern Iowans.

With kind regards,

Cody M. Brown
Campaign Manager
Ben Lange for United States Congress

The Des Moines Register’s “Iowa Poll”

The Des Moines Register has posted some of the details of its latest “Iowa Poll” on the newspaper’s website.   The full details will be in Sunday’s paper, but their snapshot of the governor’s race shows Branstad ahead of Culver by 12 points and Grassley leading Conlin by 31 percent.  The Register also polled on the judicial retention election and the first sentence of The Register’s online story suggests the poll found a “growing likelihood” that the three Iowa Supreme Court justices on the ballot may get voted off the bench.

Grassley/Conlin Radio Debate

The two major party candidates for the U.S. Senate met this evening in WHO Radio’s studio in Des Moines for an hour-long debate.  What follows is a live blog of the event:

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley’s opening statement started with a declaration that he doesn’t “take voters for granted” and then he bypassed his biography and he talked about a few issues, emphasizing that he hears this most often from voters: “I’m scared.”

Democratic challenger Roxanne Conlin’s opening statement started with her “personal story” including her childhood and her work as an attorney.  She talked about jobs, the deficit, veterans issues.  “The biggest issue for everyone is how do we get people back to work…Senator Grassley’s plans are simply more of the same that plunged our economy into this crisis, that punished the middle class and exploded the debt.”

When both were asked why they are running, Conlin said she “decided to run because I felt that Senator Grassley had lost touch with the people of Iowa.”  She cited first his vote to bail-out Wall Street and his comment about “pulling the plug on grandma.”  She called that comment “pure fear mongering and I felt like somebody should stand up for regular Iowans.” 

Grassley was given a chance to respond, and he began by saying Conlin “has done good thru the practice of law…to improve our society” and Grassley said he’s worked thru government as an elected official “to improve our society.”  Grassley mentioned several pieces of legislation and in two instances cited his work with the late Senator Ted Kennedy to illustrate he works “in a bipartisan way” in the senate.

“Congress is a place where you don’t solve every problem, but you can set an environment” for problem solving, according to Grassley.

At this point, Grassley made this declaration, which he soon abandoned: “I won’t answer the charges…because I’d like to keep this a very positive campaign.”

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The weekend wrap-up

A bunch of newspapers have issued endorsements in the race for governor.  If you subscribe to an Iowa newspaper, turn to the editorial page and check for yourself.  Branstad got the endorsement of The Cedar Rapids Gazette last weekend, along with editorial page endorsements from The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, The Fort Dodge Messenger and The Sioux City Journal this weekend.  Culver got the endorsements of The Des Moines Register, The Ottumwa Courier and The Mason City Globe-Gazette.

Two legislative leaders were on Iowa Press this weekend.  Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) and House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) say they were surprised by Farm Bureau opposition to the land and water legacy amendment; they don’t think the judicial retention will have much “up ballot” impact and they both think quicker disclosure of campaign donations is a good idea and do-able. Neither would offer specific predictions on House/Senate make-up in January.  And neither, by the way, have ideas to share about how they’d organize a constitutional convention if voters decide to have one.

Democrats have been raising money online to air this attack ad against Senator Grassley.  Meanwhile, Grassley’s campaign ridiculed Grassley opponent Roxanne Conlin for her “meager” fundraising report.

Vice President Biden is scheduled to headline a rally in Dubuque on Friday for Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo).  Details just released Sunday afternoon:

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Grassley, King camps talk about Palin

Politico’s Jonathan Martin has a piece this morning about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s 2010 campaign schedule.   “Seat of the pants” is the first descriptive phrase in the story, which includes two backstage stories about the interaction Palin’s camp had with the campaigns of Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Steve King.

The 2010 Jefferson-Jackson Day program (Audio)

“We aren’t going back,” Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky just told the crowd as she concluded her opening remarks at 7:42 p.m.  There was a delay in the program’s launch this evening, due to a false alarm.  Party officials say 1400 tickets were sold for the 2010 Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner.  There are tables set for a little less than 1200, however.

The night’s cash haul?  “We have broken $300,00o,” Dvorsky announced to the crowd.

What follows is a live blog of the evening.

Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo) was the first elected official to speak.  I don’t recognize the music they played as Braley makes his way on stage.  (Braley staffer emailed to say it was “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” by the Beastie Boys.  Braley grew up in Brooklyn, Iowa.)  “In 2006, we gave them hope.  In 2008, we gave them change and in 2010 we’re going to give them hell.  We’re just going to speak truth to lies and speak truth to fear and they’re going to think it’s hell when they’re listening to it,” Braley said to open his remarks.

Braley next said the pundits who are predicting November 2 will be “doomsday for Democrats” are wrong.  “We are at our best when we are standing together, fighting for what we believe in…and that’s why Democrats are going to win all over this state on November 2.”

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Conlin goes after Grassley & wife for “Bridge to Nowhere”

Roxanne Conlin, the Iowa Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate, held a two o’clock news conference this afternoon during which she criticized her opponent, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, for voting on the bill that funded the “Bridge to Nowhere” and for which his wife’s employer received tens of thousands of dollars in fees for lobbying on the bill.

Here’s more from Conlin’s statement: “The 2005 Transportion bill contained 6000 pork projects, including the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska. Iowa’s Chuck Grassley brought his staff to the floor of the Senate to congratulate them on their work on the bill.  What he failed to mentionwas that Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell — the lobbying firm where his wife “crafts legislative strategy” received more than $250,000 in fees to secure the Bridge to Nowhere.”

Conlin, saying “patriotism has been hijacked by greed,” accused Grassley supporting proposals — including tax cuts — that “brought us the greatest crisis since the Great Depression.”

Conlin, a few minutes later:  “We need someone with a spine to stand up to corporate special interests.”

Conlin said Grassley has authored bills that extend tax credits which “directly benefit the firm that pays his wife’s salary.”  A break for the railroad industry amounts to about half a billion dollars annually, according to Conlin’s staff.

Conlin finished her opening statement at 2:15.  Time for questions from the reporters.

Q: Are spouses fair game?

Conlin: “Well, certainly mine has been and mine doesn’t work for a lobbying firm.  His wife, Barbara, works for a lobbying firm that lobbies him and that lobbies on behalf of governments and corporations that have business with the United States Senate.  I’ve given you three examples of what we perceive to be a pretty direct connection.”

Q:  Do you think Senator Grassley should abstain from voting on bills on which his wife’s lobbying firm lobbies?

Conlin: “I think that’s up to Senator Grassley and his sense of ethics…The people of Iowa probably are generally not even aware that Senator Grassley’s wife works for a lobbying firm, let alone that Senator Grassley himself was responsible for that infamous Bridge to Nowhere and that his wife’s lobbying firm got a quarter of a million dollars to get that in the bill.”

UPDATE:  Eric Woolson, a spokesman for Grassley’s campaign, issued the following statement:

“People who live in very large houses and go out of their way to avoid paying taxes should avoid throw stones.

“We’ve criticized Roxanne Conlin’s hypocrisy but we’ve never attacked her husband. The fact is that she’s listed as a co-founder, co-manager and co-owner of Conlin Properties so when we pointed out that they received $1.2 million in federal stimulus money that did not create a single job, that was criticism of her hypocrisy.
She claims to want to end tax breaks for the wealthy but then goes out of her way to take them.

“Mrs. Grassley has never been a lobbyist.

“Everyone who knows anything about the governing process knows that earmarks originate in the Appropriations Committee, which was chaired at the time by Ted Stevens of Alaska. Chuck Grassley wasn’t even on that committee. Rep. Don Young of Alaska chaired the conference committee on the transportation bill.

“At some point, I’d think Roxanne Conlin would be embarrassed by some of the out-and-out falsehoods she’s telling about Chuck Grassley but I guess her Campaign to Nowhere has made her so desperate she doesn’t care what she says.”

In case you didn’t click on the link, this is Mrs. Grassley’s bio on the firm’s website:

An integral professional staff member of CC&H for nearly two decades, Mrs. Grassley’s well-honed communications, business and administrative experience packs a uniquely qualified combination for the firm’s clients who have grown to depend on the policy expertise, grassroots mobilization know-how and legislative strategy skills. Mrs. Grassley has sharpened through her commitments and obligations developed in Iowa politics and on Capitol Hill as the wife of Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator.  Mrs. Grassley began her tenure at CC&H in 1987 as the firm’s accountant and assistant to the managing partner bearing primary responsibility for the business and administrative affairs for the company.  Since that time, Mrs. Grassley’s professional duties have expanded to include organizing and managing client conferences, shaping corporate development, crafting legislative strategy and assisting clients with message development and drafting of communication materials. A key staffer for the firm’s work on behalf of the railroad clients Mrs. Grassley has amassed extensive expertise in the regulatory and legislative affairs affecting the industry. In addition to her full-time job at CC&H, Mrs. Grassley continues an active role in Iowa politics and is involved in a variety of civic and service organizations. A former board member of the Cedar Valley Mental Health Clinic, she also lends her support to fund-raising efforts of the American Cancer Society. Mrs. Grassley has a degree in Accounting from the University of Northern Iowa.

Read the Radio Iowa story, which covers the dispute between the two campaigns about the $400 million “Bridge to Nowhere”. Grassley camp says Barbara Grassley’s firm didn’t lobby for it — the one that became infamous during the ’08 presidential campaign.  Conlin camp says the firm did lobby for another “Bridge to Nowhere” elsewhere in Alaska and the $200 million price tag for that other bridge was a waste of money, too.

Mike Pence @ Iowa F&F banquet

Indiana Congressman Mike Pence is this evening’s keynote speaker for the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition banquet.  It’s part of a reallignment of the old Christian Coalition.  The Iowa Christian Coalition renamed itself the Iowa Christian Alliance in 2006, and when Ralph Reed launched the national Faith & Freedom Coalition last year, the Iowa Christian Alliance allied itself with Reed’s group.

What follows is a live blog of the event.

Gopal Krishna is the master of ceremonies this evening and he joked with the crowd about the process of becoming a naturalized citizen, then Krishna offered a top ten list for immigrants, beginning with “speak English” and also including:  “If God offends you, we suggest you consider some other part of the world as your new home.”

Krishna introduced the statewide GOP candidates who are in the crowd, including GOP lieutenant governor nominee Kim Reynolds (Terry Branstad is not here).

Third district congressional candidate Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, was allowed to speak to the crowd.  “You have probably turned on the TV and you’ve seen some personal attacks on me that have been taken out of context,” Zaun said. “…Congressman Boswell is a nice man…but I feel very passionate about what’s going on and it’s unfortunate about these ads and campaign.  I would challenge Congressman Boswell just one time, in one ad, just give us a solution.”

Zaun gave a very brief speech, mentioning what his living situation will be if he’s elected: “I’m going to get a sofa that folds up to a bed and live in my office.”

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Grassley, Conlin again spar over Conlin’s personal finances

Read the two statements below, representing the latest skirmish in the race between U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, and Roxanne Conlin of Des Moines, the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2010 nominee for the U.S. Senate. 

Today’s installment is a dispute over the property taxes Conlin pays on her home.  Eric Woolson, Grassley’s communications director, wrote this: “When they cast their votes in the Senate race, Iowans who are paying more than their fair share might want to remember that Roxanne Conlin has once again avoided paying taxes.” 

Conlin issued a statement in reply; here’s a snippet: “I am, in fact, supporting tax increases that will apply to our family.  That is putting the public interest ahead of my personal interest.  Grassley’s campaign loves to distort the truth and, at times, outright lie. ” 

Read the statements from both campaigns below.

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Iowa Insurance Commissioner gets lots of ink

Susan Voss, the Iowa Insurance Commissioner, leads the national association for officials in that position in other states.  She is mentioned in this Wall Street Journal story, as Maine & Iowa have asked for a temporary waiver from portions of the health care reform plan — that 80 percent of health care premiums be used on patient care.

An industry publication has a bit more about this.  The Des Moines Register has this story and a DC based blog called The Hill has it, too.

Senator Chuck Grassley was the lone member of Iowa’s congressional delegation to issue a written statement on the subject:

Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Finance Committee, today made the following comment on news that state insurance commissioners told the White House that insurers in several states may not be able to meet the Medical Loss Ratio requirement set for next year in the health care overhaul law, and reports that Susan Voss, president-elect of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and Iowa’s insurance commissioner, asked the federal government for a gradual phasing-in of the requirement in Iowa to avoid having consumers lose their insurance if companies are forced to exit the market.

“News that Iowa is already seeking to delay some of the new insurance requirements in the partisan health care overhaul is just more proof of how poorly this law was put together.  Concerns have already been raised about how the new federal Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) standard will hinder disease management programs and efforts to reduce fraud and abuse, but now it is clear that the timeline for this new standard may also cause Iowans to lose their coverage.  Since the health care bill was written behind closed doors without public input or bipartisan support, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing states trying to avoid all the flawed policies that are scheduled to go into effect over the next few years.”