“Walmart Moms” & the national “funk”

Just got off the phone with former Iowa Governor/US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. During a discussion of federal government grants/efforts to expand the power grid so the electricity generated by wind turbines can actually be used, Vilsack offered up this:

“I think it sends a positive, confident message. I mean, Kay, the reality here is there are a lot of good things happening in the country today and we really have to get ourselves out of the funk that we’re in by focusing on those good things and making sure that we can do more of them more quickly, which is why the president’s proposed the Jobs Act, why we are trying to streamline the transmission line approval process and why we’re trying to get the free trade agreements passed.”

Made me think of the song “We Want the Funk” by George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic.  Suffice it to say, Vilsack and the rest of the Obama Administration do not want the country to keep focusing on our collective funk.

I saw and heard the poster children for the national funk myself, firsthand, last night when I watched a focus group meet at a place called Essman Research in Des Moines.  (The 90-minute session was organized by two firms, the Republican-leaning Public Opinion Strategies and the Democratic-leaning Momentum Strategies.)

The 10 women were characterized by the research firms as “Walmart Moms” and the group talked about their collective efforts to manage their family budgets, from bargain-shopping to extreme couponing. “I don’t even look if it’s not on sale,” one woman said, before revealing: “It kills me to spend $3 on toothpaste.”  Three of the 10 have taken a second job to try to make ends meet.

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Vilsack takes the T-Paw challenge

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty offered up a “prize” during last night’s debate in Ames to anyone who could “find Barack Obama’s specific plans” on the “most pressing financial issues of our country.”

Pawlenty’s prize? “I will come to your house and cook you dinner or, if you prefer, I’ll come to your house and mow your lawn.”

I just talked with U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor who has just moved to Ames, Iowa. Vilsack said he could “very easily” win Pawlenty’s prize.

“I don’t have much of a lawn for Tim to mow,” Vilsack said, “but dinner would be fine.”

Here is Vilsack’s entry for T-Paw’s contest:

“It’s simply stated this way: a government that spends less, but invests resources wisely to grow the economy. The economy is one that creates, makes and innovates products that the rest of the world wants and so therefore we export, creating wealth and jobs in this country. And the proof of this formula that it works is agriculture.

“Farmers, with less debt (and) investments in research, have led to extraordinary productivity gains…We’re able to produce new products…as well as exporting grains and livestock to the rest of the world. We’ve created $135 billion of economic activity this year, which is a record in agricultural exports. Every billion dollars of sales generates 8400 jobs.

“And the president has been focused on trying to create that same formula in manufacturing which is why we’ve seen manufacturing job growth over the course of the last 15, 16 months. The auto industry is a good example of things that are coming back.”

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

A week away

I’ve been away from the blog for a week.  A lot of political hay has been made in that time, from Tom Vilsack’s firing of a black USDA employee to campaign cash reports to a senate committee’s vote on Elena Kagan.

Here are some of the bales of political hay that I’ve missed, in no particular order:

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, the US Ag Secretary, has a starring role in this week’s DC tempest.  Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Todd Dorman has a link to the video of Vilsack’s apology for firing Shirley Sherrod.  Wonkette has been blogging about it.

Money, money, money.  Bleeding Heartland had a take on fundraising in the US Senate race and the five Iowa congressional races.  The Iowa Republican offered its analysis of the $$$ in the congressional races.  Blogger John Deeth did an analysis of fundraising in state legislative races.  The Des Moines Register’s Tom Beaumont reports on the fundraising in the Culver v Branstad race.  Hint:  the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations are spending mightily.  Politico’s Jonathan Martin reports potential ’12 presidential candidates are raising money, an indication of intentions down the road.

Senator Chuck Grassley voted no on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan when her nomination came up in the US Senate Judiciary Committee.  Roxanne Conlin, Grassley’s Democratic opponent, issued this statement:

(Des Moines)—Senator Grassley continued to obstruct progress today as he voted against the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Below is a statement from Democratic US Senate candidate Roxanne Conlin:
“Senator Grassley opposes Wall Street reform, he opposes extending unemployment benefits to thousands of jobless Iowans and now he opposes filling the Supreme Court vacancy despite decades of support for past nominations.  Senator Grassley’s failure to act on unemployment benefits is costing Iowans food and shelter.  He gave $700 billion to Wall Street but refused to hold them accountable and now he’s casting only his second vote against a Supreme Court nominee in his thirty years in the U.S. Senate.”

Grassley and Conlin, on what happens in Vegas & DC. 

The Iowa Taxpayers Association issued a news release with its take on the FY 2011 state budget the 2010 legislaure drafted.

The largest state employees’ union — AFSCME Council 61 — endorsed Governor Culver’s reelection bid.

Des Moines, IA – This Saturday, July 17th, at the AFSCME Iowa Council 61 PEOPLE Endorsement Conference, the PEOPLE Committee made the decision to endorse Chet Culver for Iowa’s Governor.
Governor Chet Culver received the nod from AFSCME due to his support of such programs as the State Employee Retirement Incentive Program (SEIRP) and efforts to reform state government through the massive reorganization that the state began this year.  Cuvler’s opponent, Terry Branstad, has a record that public employees remember that includes refusing to honor collective bargaining agreements bargained in good faith and contracting or attempting to contract out state services and jobs.  His current pledges concern AFSCME members as well, like his pledge to eliminate many of their jobs that are important to the operation of state government, and to drain the state treasury further by cutting corporate income taxes further at a time of tight budgets at all levels of government.

“Our members who worked under Terry Branstad remember the way in which he treated public employees during his rule, and our younger members are aware of his current pledges to cut them if he is elected.  With those options in front of AFSCME members, the choice was very clear to them,” said Danny Homan, President of AFSCME Iowa Council 61. “We need to continue to move forward under Chet Culver, not backward under Terry Branstad.”

In Iowa, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61 represents 40,000 public employees including law enforcement and correctional officers, home health care and child care providers, firefighters, mental health workers, professional school staff, emergency responders, and many other workers.

The three Democrats and two Republicans in Iowa’s congressional delegation  agree on something. 

Iowa Congressmen Seek Presidential Approval of Disaster Declaration Request
House Members Act to Spur Relief for Iowans Impacted by Severe Weather

Washington, D.C.- House Members of the Iowa Congressional delegation today sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking that he quickly approve Gov. Chet Culver’s request for a disaster declaration for Iowa counties that have recently suffered significant damage from a severe weather system that began on June 1, 2010 and continues today.  The storm system has produced high winds, heavy rain, hail, thunderstorms, tornadoes and flooding which have caused extensive damage throughout the state. Gov. Culver submitted his official request for a disaster declaration to President Obama on July 6.

Statements of Congressmen Braley, King, Boswell, Latham and Loebsack follow:

“In recent weeks and months, severe weather has taken a serious toll on communities across the state of Iowa,” said Braley. “It is critical now, just as it was following the floods of 2008, for the federal government to respond quickly and efficiently to give our communities the tools they need to recover. I look forward to working with President Obama, Governor Culver and my colleagues here in Washington to make sure Iowa’s small towns and families aren’t hung out to dry.”

 “Iowa has been hit hard by the severe weather systems that have moved through our state, and the people who have been affected expect a swift and efficient response,” said King. “In Cherokee County, for example, the waters exceeded the 1993 flood levels. There is no doubt that the request for federal help to these areas is appropriate and I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Culver, the members of Iowa’s Congressional delegation and President Obama to ensure that this assistance is approved quickly.”

“For the second time in two years, flood waters have ravaged homes, farmland and businesses across the state,” said Congressman Leonard Boswell. “I support Governor Culver’s request for presidential disaster declarations for several Iowa counties that have been impacted by the flooding. Many Iowans are still trying to recover and rebuild from the floods of 2008 and this summer’s weather has set them further behind. I encourage the President to issue these declarations in order to help Iowa’s families and small businesses get back on their feet.”

“The severe weather that has recently struck throughout Iowa requires a coordinated and efficient response,” said Congressman Latham. “Iowans are no strangers to severe weather and I have no doubt that the impacted communities will come back stronger than ever. However there is a legitimate need for federal help, and I’ll do everything I can to work with my colleagues to make sure that need is met.”

“Iowa has struggled since the Floods of 2008, and the current flooding is hurting our state’s ongoing recovery efforts,” said Loebsack. “I support this request to help affected residents, businesses, and farmers and look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to ensure that this is handled in a timely manner. Iowans are in trouble and we must assure them that help is on the way.”

The text of the letter follows:

July 20, 2010

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. President,

We respectfully request that you grant the request made July 6, 2010 by Iowa Governor Chet Culver for a declaration of a major disaster for the State of Iowa as a result of damages from a severe weather system that produced high winds, heavy rain, hail, thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes beginning June 1, 2010 and continuing. Governor Culver has determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments and that supplementary Federal assistance is needed.

We thank you for your prompt consideration of this request.


Steve King
Leonard Boswell
Tom Latham
Bruce Braley
Dave Loebsack

Governor Culver says a lot of people have I-JOBS jobsDave Price of WHO-TV reports there’s no way of knowing how many I-JOBS jobs there are.

Are they drinking Bohea, Singlo, Congou, Souchon, or Hyson? (Those are the types of tea dumped during the original Boston Tea Party in 1773.)

Washington D.C.- Congressman Steve King (R-IA) today issued the following statement announcing his decision to join the newly-formed  House Tea Party Caucus. The House Tea Party Caucus, which will be chaired by Rep. Michele Bachmann, was approved by the House Administration Committee on Friday afternoon. The caucus will focus on injecting the American people’s desire for fiscal responsibility, fidelity to the United States Constitution, and limited government into policy formation.
“America’s Tea Party organizations believe that Washington’s policymakers are ignoring the public’s demand for a limited government that is fiscally sound and that adheres to the principles of the Constitution,” said King. “The forced passage of the unconstitutional Obamacare bill over the objections of the American people shows that this belief is well founded.  As the new majority-makers in American politics, the views of the Tea Parties deserve a Congressional forum.  Rep. Bachmann should be commended for making sure that Tea Party voices extend from town-hall meetings to the halls of Congress.”

Hot, hot, hot! Feels like 111 degrees

According to KCCI-TV’s website, it is currently 93 degrees in Des Moines, Iowa, but the “heat index” or “feels like” temperature is 111 degrees.  I am quite content inside my air conditioned, windowless Radio Iowa office as I type this at 2 p.m.

A variety of political stories has cropped up over the past few days.  

  • Tea Party tempest: a billboard goes up in Mason City; then it gets papered over.  Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo, Iowa) is scheduled to be on The Ed Show on MSNBC this afternoon to talk about it.
  • Financial reform bill:  Grassley said Tuesday he doesn’t know how he’ll vote, then today Grassley announced he’ll vote no on financial reform.

Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley  

I’ll vote against the conference report because of concerns about changes made to the Senate bill, which I supported.

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Democrats elect Dvorsky chair

Late Monday the Iowa Democratic Party issued a news release about something that happened last Sunday, so I’m getting to it late Tuesday afternoon. 

SCC Elects Dvorsky Chair, Kiernan 1st Vice Chair
DES MOINES, IA – Last night, the Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee unanimously elected acting-Chair Sue Dvorsky as Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.  She has been acting-Chair since June 10, 2010 after Michael Kiernan stepped down due to personal health reasons.  Kiernan was unanimously elected 1st Vice Chair last night, as well.

“I’m honored to be accepting this position,” Dvorsky said. “Michael Kiernan laid a fantastic groundwork for this election season. Along with the staff and our volunteers, I will carry out the charge: re-elect Governor Culver and our Democratic members of Congress, elect Roxanne Conlin, Bill Maske and Matt Campbell, and maintain our majorities in the State House and Senate.”

Sue Dvorsky, 55, recently retired from teaching special education in Iowa City for 30 years.  She was instrumental in Tom Vilsack’s historic election in 1998 and has been a tireless advocate for Democrats her entire life. She lives in Coralville with her husband Senator Bob Dvorsky and their daughters Ann and Caroline.

Michael Kiernan, 35, was elected Chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party in February of 2009 and served until resigning in June of 2010. Kiernan ran Governor Chet Culver’s campaign for Secretary of State before serving two successful terms as an At-Large Councilman in Des Moines. He was born and raised in Madison County, Iowa.

Branstad reveals running mate choice Thursday

Terry Branstad, the 2010 Republican nominee for governor, is scheduled to reveal his choice for a lieutenant governor/running mate on Thursday morning at 9 o’clock in Ankeny, then he’ll be traveling around the state in a plane (weather permitting) to six other cities.  (Read more below.)

As you may know, Iowa’s governor and lieutenant governor began running together, as a team, in 1990.  In the election cycle before that, 1986, Republican Terry Branstad was re-elected to a second term as governor and Iowans elected Democrat Jo Ann Zimmerman as lieutenant governor. Zimmerman was the first woman elected as lieutenant governor of Iowa.  Since then, no man has been elected lieutenant governor and the major party tickets over a 12 year string were a male/female team until 2006, with the Nussle/Vander Plaats ticket.

*1990 Republican ticket: Terry Branstad/Joy Corning

1990 Democratic ticket:  Don Avenson/Jo Ann Zimmerman

*1994 Republican ticket:  Terry Branstad/Joy Corning

1994 Democratic ticket:  Bonnie Campbell/Leonard Boswell

*1998 Democratic ticket: Tom Vilsack/Sally Pedersen

1998 Republican ticket: Jim Lightfoot/Almo Hawkins

*2002 Democratic ticket:  Tom Vilsack/Sally Pedersen

2002 Republican ticket:  Doug Gross/Debi Durham

*2006 Democratic ticket:  Chet Culver/Patty Judge

2006 Republican ticket:  Jim Nussle/Bob Vander Plaats

2010 Democratic ticket:  Chet Culver/Patty Judge

2010 Republican ticket:  Terry Branstad/?

(* — denotes winning ticket)

Here’s the Branstad campaign press release:

(URBANDALE) – The Governor Branstad 2010 Campaign today announced the Thursday, June 24, 2010 schedule for a statewide tour with former Gov. Terry Branstad and his selection for lieutenant governor. The lieutenant governor selection will be announced via our LieuTEXTant Governor Campaign prior to the tour. To sign up, please visit www.GovernorBranstad2010.com.

The following press conferences are open to the media and public:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

9 a.m.                        Gov. Branstad announces his lieutenant governor selection
                                    Exec 1 Aviation
                                    3700 Convenience Boulevard
                                    Ankeny, IA
10:15 a.m.               Gov. Branstad announces his lieutenant governor selection
                                    Advanced Air Inc., Council Bluffs Airport
                                    16801 McCandless Lane
                                    Council Bluffs, IA                          

11:15 a.m.               Gov. Branstad announces his lieutenant governor selection
                                    Jet Sun Aviation
                                    5815 Mitchell St.
                                    Sioux City, IA

12:30 p.m.               Gov. Branstad announces his lieutenant governor selection
                                    North Iowa Air Service , 2nd Floor Conference Room
                                    9184  2565th St.
                                    Clear Lake, IA
2 p.m.                        Gov. Branstad announces his lieutenant governor selection
                                    Dubuque Jet Center
                                    11000 Airport Road
                                    Dubuque, IA                                   

3 p.m.                        Gov. Branstad announces his lieutenant governor selection
                                    Carver Aero
                                    9230 North Harrison St.
                                    Davenport, IA
4 p.m.                        Gov. Branstad announces his lieutenant governor selection       
                                    Landmark Aviation
                                    9430 Shepard Court SW
                                    Cedar Rapids, IA

A bunch of numbers

If you’re wondering what turnout may be like for today’s Primary election, here are some numbers to ponder:

In 1994, about 300,000 Iowans cast ballots in the Republican Primary.  That was the year Republican Congressman Fred Grandy challenged then-Governor Terry Branstad.  There was lots of cross-over voting, as Democrats became Republicans for a day to vote against Branstad in June rather than wait ’til November.  Grandy came within four percentage points of Branstad in that primary.

In 1998, Branstad was not seeking reelection and there were three Republicans running for governor.  The contest was among Jim Lightfoot, Paul Pate and David Oman and Lightfoot won the G.O.P.’s 1998 nomination for governor.  About 162,000 voters cast ballots in that Republican Primary. 

In 1998, Tom Vilsack and Mark McCormick competed in the Democratic Primary for their party’s gubernatorial nomination.  About 115,000 Democrats cast ballots for that contest, which Vilsack won en route to winning the governorship that fall.

In 2002, there were three Republicans seeking the G.O.P.’s nomination for governor.  About 199,000 Republicans voted in that Primary which Doug Gross won with 35.88 percent of the vote.  Steve Sukup was second with 32.37 percent and Bob Vander Plaats was third with 31.66 percent.

In 2006, there were three Democrats running for governor.  About 148,000 Democrats voted in that contest among Chet Culver, Mike Blouin and Ed Fallon.  Culver won the Primary — and the General Election.

On January 3, 2008, Iowa Republicans held Caucuses.  Below are the numbers that were released by the party that night (the numbers are the raw straw poll vote total for each candidate).  For comparison purposes, consider that Vander Plaats’s 2010 campaign has plugged into that Huckabee network and Branstad has many Romney-connected folks working on his 2010 campaign.

Mike Huckabee  40,841     
Mitt Romney  29,949 
Fred D. Thompson  15,904     
John McCain  15,559    
Ron Paul  11,817      
Rudolph W. Giuliani  4,097         
Duncan Hunter  524 
Tom Tancredo  5

Finally, at the close of business on Friday, Iowa Republicans had cast about 20,000 absentee ballots for today’s Primary compared to about 7,000 absentee ballots from Democrats.

DMU to honor former governor

Des Moines University, the osteopathic medical school, is holding its commencement this weekend and they’ll be honoring a former Iowa governor.  No, not that former Iowa Governor, Terry Branstad, who until October served as DMU’s president.  They’ll be honoring former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack.  Full details below.  (When you see the phrase “mace bearer” in the last line of the news release, it’s a reference to a ceremonial weapon — sometime maces look like a staff.  It’s not a reference to a guy carrying a spray can of mace.)

Des Moines University to give 466 degrees Saturday at 110th commencement ceremony

Sec. Vilsack to speak at commencement, receive honorary doctor of laws degree

DES MOINES, IA (05/25/2010)– Des Moines University (DMU) will award 466 degrees at its 2010 Commencement service May 29 at 10 a.m. at the Polk County Convention Complex, 501 Grand Ave. The dean from each of the three DMU colleges will present their classes and DMU interim president, Stephen S. Dengle, M.B.A., will confer degrees. Visit www.dmu.edu/commencement for a full schedule.

Continuing a tradition started in 1899, the College of Osteopathic Medicine will award the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree to 211 graduates, the Master of Science in Biomedical Science to three and the Master of Science in Anatomy to nine graduates. The College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery will award the Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) degree to 52 graduates and the College of Health Sciences will award degrees from five programs – Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) to 50, Postprofessional Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T) to 63, Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (M.S.) to 45, Master of Public Health (M.P.H) to 12 and Master of Health Care Administration (M.H.A.) to 21 graduates. Some students earned dual degrees.

The commencement speaker, Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack, J.D., the 30th secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree, based on his distinctive career in public service and his many contributions to the welfare of Iowans and the nation.

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Paul Danny Pate endorses Terry E. Branstad

Former Iowa Secretary of State/former Cedar Rapids Mayor Paul Pate has endorsed former Governor Terry Branstad’s bid for the GOP’s 2010 nomination for governor.  Pate ran for governor himself in 1998, losing in the GOP primary to Jim Lightfoot who lost the General Election to Democrat Tom Vilsack.  Pate, a former state representative who then won a seat in the state senate, served one term as Iowa’s secretary of state.  When he decided to seek higher office in 1998, Democrat Chet Culver ran for the job of secretary of state job and served two terms in that office before winning the 2006 race for governor. 

Pate had considered a “comeback” of his own in 2010, but adandoned plans to run again for secretary of state.  (In case you’ve missed it, Branstad’s using the word “comeback” a lot these days.)  Pate’s endorsement of Branstad comes on the heels of State Auditor Dave Vaudt’s endorsement, a signal the party establishment is rallying behind Branstad who is competing against Sioux City business consultant Bob Vander Plaats & State Representative Rod Roberts of Carroll in the GOP primary. Read today’s Branstad campaign announcement below.

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