Tag Archives: Chet Culver

ChetChase 2010 – The Week

It was a very active week in the race to become your Iowa governor.

Party of Five — Five Republican gubernatorial candidates/near-hopefuls/explorers met in a forum sponsored by Iowa Politics.com. If you couldn’t be there, I was not, Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson graciously posted the audio here.

There were gobs of agreement between Bob Vander Plaats, Chris Rants, Rod Roberts, Jerry Behn and Christian Fong. Another possible possibility, Paul McKinley, had a conflict and couldn’t make it.

They’re not crazy about the smoking ban, but nobody showed much interest in relighting that coffin nail.

Casinos? No more needed. State Budget? Chet messed it up big time. Medical marijuana? No thanks, although Sen. Behn, R-Boone, did wax nostalgically about the days of kinder, gentler pot. That’s just what he heard, anyway.

Speaking of nostalgia, the candidates were asked whether they’d welcome former Gov. Terry Branstad in the race. Polls show the old guy is still fly with folks who still use the term “fly.”

Here is the candidates’ composite answer, “I’d welcome such a fine statesman’s ideas. But, please, don’t dilly dally. Oh, and I’d just like to say future, future, future, future, future and, in conclusion, future.”

I wrote about the Branstad saga.

Kathie Obradovich did a better job here.

There were some disagreements at the forum. Rep. Roberts, R-Carroll, was the only one who doesn’t favor reinstating the death penalty. And although they all dislike gay marriage, only Vander Plaats thinks you can stop it with a magical/illegal executive order.

I guess Vander Plaats hasn’t explained to his rivals just how much fun impeachment would be.

So who won? You got me. Fong showed that he can hold his own and doesn’t need any training wheels. Rants had the best command of the issues. Vander Plaats didn’t stumble, but he also didn’t offer much evidence to prove why he’s the clear front-runner at this early date.

2. Roberts Fails to Tweet — What’s up with Rod Roberts, thinking he can get into the governor’s race with a thougthful speech to a room full of supporters that was all wordy with bio and viewpoints and stuff. Doesn’t he know he was supposed to send out a tweet?

Roberts does have a Web site, with a cool flag that waves. Neat!

3. That’s not My Name — Christopher Rants, who did tweet his announcement, is now Chris Rants, for the purposes of running for Iowa’s highest office. And he has a new Web site. It’s orange and blue, like the national champion Florida Gators. No waving flag, but there’s an odometer to show you how fast he’s wearing out his car.

He Chris, time for an oil change!

4. If I had $100,000 — I’d send out a press release, just like Christian Fong did earlier this week. His campaign reports raising that tidy sum in just its first three weeks of existence.

So who gave him the money? It’s a mystery that won’t be solved until disclosure supports are filed in January. Suspense is already building.

Perhaps the whiz kid will  use some of that scratch to finish his Web site.

5. Chetanooga Choo Chooo — Gov. Chet Culver will be riding the rails Sunday to officially promote passenger rail service. Any resemblance to a campaign whistle stop tour is completely coincidental.

Culver also started handing out I-Jobs bonding dollars for road and bridge projects. But then some pesky economists interviewed by The Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth questioned whether the huge program would actually stimulate anything.  

What? The governor couldn’t hear that over all the train noise. Sorry.

Retrolection 2009 — Democrat Harold Hughes and Republican Robert Ray were the big winners in last week’s retro gubernatorial primaries.

Hughes took 48 percent of the vote, holding off Tom Vilsack with 26 percent. Herschel Loveless and Ansel Briggs tied for third. Culver was 5th.

On the GOP side, Ray took 40 percent to Branstad’s 29. Samuel Kirkwood got 15 percent.

That sets up a dream Ray-Hughes match up.

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Chet’s Choo Choo Rolls East

This just in for our governor, who will be riding thr rails once again to promote his re-election campaign passenger rail service:

GOVERNOR CULVER’S IOWA UNLIMITED ROLLS EAST THIS WEEKEND

Train to promote passenger rail service throughout Iowa

DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver’s Iowa Unlimited is on the move again, this time with stops in Eastern Iowa on Sunday, July 26. Designed to raise awareness of passenger rail, the train will make stops in Iowa City, West Liberty, Durant, and Walcott before crossing the Mississippi and holding an event in Moline at the future site of the Quad Cities’ passenger rail depot.

“Restoring passenger rail service is one of the Culver-Judge Administration’s top transportation priorities,” said Governor Culver. “Reconnecting some of our largest cities to Chicago will add to Iowa’s economic success, and as Governor I look forward to working with all Iowans to expand passenger rail throughout the state.”

Following the stops on Sunday, the Iowa Unlimited will continue to Chicago where Governor Culver will participate in the Midwest High Speed Rail Summit on Monday. The meeting is designed to further efforts to make Chicago a regional passenger rail hub, with lines radiating from the city to communities in other states. Participants will discuss with the Obama Administration ways to utilize Federal Recovery funds to expand passenger rail service throughout the Midwest.

As part of the sessions with other Governors, Governor Culver is also expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on two proposed passenger rail lines – Chicago to Dubuque and Chicago to Iowa City. Current proposals call for the expansion of the Chicago-to-Iowa City route to Des Moines and points further west.

Traveling with the Governor on Sunday will be state transportation officials, advocates for passenger rail, and community leaders. Congressman David Loebsack will travel from Iowa City to Moline, and Amtrak Board of Directors Chairman Tom Carper will ride with the Governor to the Summit in Chicago from Moline.

Efforts have been taken in recent years to bring passenger rail service back to portions of the state, with current proposals to bring service to Dubuque, the Quad Cities and Iowa City and longer term plans to bring service to other communities such as Des Moines and Council Bluffs.

 To help spur efforts, Governor Culver’s signature legislative accomplishment – the I-JOBS Initiative — includes $10 million for multi-modal transportation projects in Iowa, including $3 million for expanded passenger rail service in the state. In addition, the Iowa Department of Transportation will be competing for federal passenger rail funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. All of these steps position Iowa to work with Illinois and Amtrak to bring new passenger rail lines to the state that connect more Iowa communities with Chicago.

 Governor Culver’s Iowa Unlimited is being provided thanks to the generous efforts of the Iowa Interstate Railroad, Ltd.

Below is the timetable for the Iowa Unlimited.

SUNDAY, JULY 26TH

12:00pm Governor Culver’s Iowa Unlimited Send Off Event

Old Rock Island Depot

119 Wright Street

Iowa City, IA

1:26pm Governor Culver’s Iowa Unlimited stops in West Liberty

The Depot

405 North Elm Street

West Liberty, IA

2:26pm Governor Culver’s Iowa Unlimited Stops in Durant

Pythian Sisters Park

Main Street

Durant, IA

3:06pm Governor Culver’s Iowa Unlimited Stops in Walcott

On the tracks (near 103 S. Main)

Walcott, IA

4:21pm Governor Culver’s Iowa Unlimited stops in Moline

Center Station

1200 River Drive

Moline, IL

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ChetChase 2010 – The Week

This week’s developments in Iowa’s race for governor.

1. Vander Poll— TheIowaRepublican.com continued releasing tasty tidbits from its  612-part poll, including numbers that showBob Vander Plaats leading the big ‘ol field of GOP hopefuls and potential hopefuls. Vander Plaats got support from 46 percent of Republicans polled, followed by Don’t Know at 27 percent and state Rep. Christopher Rants at 14 percent.

Vander Plaats was happy to grab front-runner status. John Deeth says that’s good news for Culver. Bleeding Heartland says, not so fast, it’s too early to be doing any anointing.

The TIR poll also showed Vander Plaats and Rants within striking distanceof Democratic Gov. Chet Culver in early head-to-head match ups. Culver led Vander Plaats 48-39 and beat Rants 46-36.

2. Parental Supervision— Republican candidate Christian Fong announced this week that Marlys Popma, a veteran Republican activist, will be guiding his upstart campaign.

The good news is that Popma lends some conservative heft to Fong’s fledgling effort. She’s got church cred with the religious right and could help Fong convince some skeptical conservatives that he’s the real deal, even though he contributed to a few Dems and says Republicans shouldn’t emphasize the whole gay marriage thing.

Popma also worked for Phil Gramm, Gary Bauer and John McCain, so she doesn’t always pick a winner.

3. Republican Roberts Reveals Readiness — State Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, has called a Statehouse press conference Tuesday, apparently to jump into the governor’s race. He’s an ordained minister who has served five terms in the House. And he promises to add a dose of much-needed alliteration to the campaign.

4. Fallon Out of Lug Love — Former state rep. and failed governor/congressional candidate Ed Fallon says Culver is in trouble unless he dances cheek-to-cheek with the Democratic Party’s liberal base. Some flowers might also be nice. Maybe a spa day.

Fallon contends Culver has sidestepped issues such as campaign finance reform that are important to liberals. Fallon also contends that although it’s nice to be important, it’s also important to make your former rivals feel important.  He laid out his arguments in an an op-ed piece:

Few leading Iowa Democrats will admit it publicly, but Governor Culver is in deep trouble. If something doesn’t change, and soon, he could be the first incumbent Iowa Governor ousted from office since Norman Erbe lost to Harold Hughes in 1962.

Gov. Erbe could not be reached for comment.

5. Nostalgia Polling— TheIowaRepublican also jumped in the wayback machine, releasing polls on how a 2006 rematch between Culver and Republican Jim Nussle would look today. They also matched up Culver against former Gov. Terry Branstad. There’s been some buzz lately that Branstad might try for a comeback.

Culver edged Nussle, but a Branstad reunion tour pasted Culver 53-37.

That gave me the idea to do some legacy polling of my own. This week, you can vote in the Republican and Democratic nostalgia primaries. Next week, the general election.

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Tuesday Column — Missing All the Fun

Miss a week, miss a lot. There were developments on many fronts during my week away. A few thoughts on what I missed:

I Can’t Believe it’s Not Popular — The Iowa State Fair-Michael Jackson butter sculpture debate has Iowans on the edge of their seats. First, the fair announced that Jacko would be cast full-scale in butter. Then, after being whipped by criticism, the fair clarified, saying butter Jackson would be small and off to the side. That explanation melted into an online vote to determine whether a buttery Jackson will appear at all.

I predict butter Jacko will lose this first-in-the-nation creamery caucus, clearing the field for butter Sarah Palin.

Governor’s Race May Violate Fire Code — There are now roughly 46.5 Republican candidates and near-candidates for governor. The maximum capacity for the 2010 campaign is 48. Luckily, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey says he’s not running.

But Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, is “aggressively exploring” a run. McKinley is vying to be only Iowa’s second mustachioed governor since 1917, when Republican Gov. George W. Clark gave way to 66 years of clean-shaven chief executives. Terry Branstad broke the streak in 1983.

Shocked, Shocked — Gov. Chet Culver got his re-election bid off to a rousing start by accidentally increasing taxes on flood victims. Apparently, Democrats who run the Statehouse forgot to pass legislation changing Iowa’s tax code to couple with federal tax changes. So flood victims who received a federal credit for disaster expenses owe more state taxes.

Culver ordered regulators to halt collection of those extra taxes. Republicans argued that Democrats knew this would happen back in February, but did nothing because they needed the money.

The Legislature passes tax coupling legislation almost every year. It’s standard stuff. Democrats are peddling a dog-ate-my-homework explanation. Nice try.

Movin’ On Up — Linn County’s heroic $12 million effort to add a penthouse office suite to its Administrative Office Building may depend on winning a state I-Jobs grant. I-Jobs is the massive bonding program to create jobs and help meet critical infrastructure needs. And by critical, it clearly meant more office space for politicians.

A Season of Progress or Propaganda? — Mayoral candidate Ron Corbett and others questioned the Cedar Rapids City Council’s decision to spend $31,000 on an election-year mailing touting city flood-recovery accomplishments. Corbett said it’s an example of the disadvantage he faces running as a non-incumbent. Not having an opponent, however, sort of makes up for it.

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Fallon Says Culver’s In Trouble

This op-ed piece arrived in our inbox this afternoon from former state lawmaker/candidate for governor/congressional hopeful Ed Fallon. He says Gov. Chet Culver could be the next Norman Erbe unless he dances with the Democratic base:

Culver Needs to Learn to Dance

by Ed Fallon

Few leading Iowa Democrats will admit it publicly, but Governor Culver is in deep trouble. If something doesn’t change, and soon, he could be the first incumbent Iowa Governor ousted from office since Norman Erbe lost to Harold Hughes in 1962.

A litany of woes afflicts Governor Culver. Most notably, he has had issues with issues.

• Iowans have seen little to no progress on key front-and-center concerns such as climate change, labor law, campaign finance and the regulation of corporate hog confinements, to name a few.

• Right or wrong, there’s a broad perception that flood recovery efforts and the budget crisis have been mismanaged by the Governor’s office.

• Iowa’s economy continues to struggle – a situation somewhat beyond the Governor’s control, but depending upon his response, one that inevitably affects his popularity.

Governor Culver’s problems are reflected in a recent SurveyUSA poll that found his overall approval rating a dismal 42%. Among that all-important block of voters known as “independents,” it was 35%. (By comparison, Senator Grassleyscored a 58% overall approval rating, with 59% approval among independent voters, and Iowans gave President Obama a 57% approval rating, 50% among independent voters.)

Yet the Governor has another problem, a deeper problem, one that is frequently overlooked. While Culver may be out of favor with the vast majority of independent voters, even among Democrats, his approval rating is only 62%. That’s indicative of a profound dissatisfaction within Culver’s base.

Candidates – even incumbents – rarely prevail if their base is not with them.

Culver seems to have forgotten the all-important maxim “dance with the one that brought you.” A disturbing number of Party activists have told me they’ve been snubbed by the Governor, as have many elected officials. While failing to maintain good relations with one’s political base is always a bad idea, snubbing one’s base in advance of re-election is a recipe for political suicide.

I encourage other disgruntled Democrats to share their stories. Sometimes, it’s cathartic, even necessary, to air one’s dirty laundry. In a nutshell, my story is this:

After a series of meetings in July of 2006, Culver promised me that, as governor, he would advocate for campaign finance reform and support legislation to control urban sprawl. After nearly two-and-a-half years of mostly unreturned phone calls and of trying to build a working rapport with him and his staff, I finally shared my discontent publicly this past April.

What was the Governor’s response? He or his staff could have called. They could have addressed the substance of my dissatisfaction. But instead of offering to dance, Culver’s staff chose to publicly deride my concerns.

Some conventional political strategists argue that cultivating one’s base isn’t that important. They argue, in this case, that even if Democrats are deeply dissatisfied with Culver they’ll still vote for him. Those strategists may want to spend more time hob-knobbing with the rank-and-file, who tell me they may not vote for a Republican, but unless something changes, they don’t plan to vote for Culver either.

And what happens on Election Day is contingent upon the strength of a candidate’s organization leading up to Election Day. In 2006, I spoke on behalf of Culver at numerous events. I raised money for him. I actively encouraged everyone I spoke with to vote for him.

This time around, unless something changes, that’s not going to happen.

Like so many other disgruntled Iowa Democrats, I’m tired of being asked to be a campaign foot soldier only to be ignored – and to have the issues I care about ignored – once the election is over.

Governor Culver needs to turn over a new leaf. He needs to demand that his staff be more responsive. He needs to follow-through on the issues he promised to address. He needs to stop stepping on so many toes.

And he needs to dance with those of us who helped bring him to Terrace Hill. Otherwise, the next Iowan calling the tunes at the Governor’s Office could well be a Republican.

So is this unfair friendly fire from a snubbed pol with a healthy ego and no access, or is Fallon speaking hard truth to Lug?

Some of the points Fallon makes are valid. But he sort of loses me when he complains about his own inability to crack the administration firewall. I feel my eyes about to roll.

Still, his central point, that Culver made lots of promises to the base that he didn’t manage to keep, is an obstacle to re-election that the governor needs to navigate.

And again, much will depend on who Republicans nominate. If they veer hard right, they’ll make Culver’s base-repair job much easier.

Speaking of Republicans, they’ll love Fallon’s piece. Although I doubt he’ll get much acces to Gov. Rants’ office either.

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Thursday Column — In with a tweet, and lots of questions

So Christian Fong couldn’t wait.

The Republican Cedar Rapids marketing executive kicked off his run for governor with a Twitter tweet. Contrast that with the last GOP nominee, Jim Nussle, who entered the 2006 race with glitzy fanfare usually reserved for presidential hopefuls. We’ve gone from bunting and balloon drops to 140 characters on my BlackBerry.

Nussle burst in with the stature of a congressional power-broker known far and wide. Fong, 32, looks as if he’s still growing into his suit. He’s well-known and well-regarded locally. Elsewhere, he’s a question mark.

And questions swirl. Will Republicans send someone born in the days of disco to the big dance, to go toe-to-toe with the Big Lug? Can Fong’s bid to make history, as the youngest governor and the son of a Chinese immigrant, overcome his troubling lack of an electoral history? Can he convince the agitated right that “progressive conservative” isn’t shorthand for a squishy moderate who contributed bucks to Democrats?

Can a guy whose name rhymes with “wrong” weather the shots he’ll get from seasoned pols eager to take him out?

And will Iowans make a blogger governor?

Many candidates blog. Most offer small treats. Fong blogs in treatises.

Still, for a fresh face, there’s plenty of boilerplate. There are calls for investments and zones and a task force on tax policy. Big government is “too often the problem.” Teachers should be paid more if they meet higher standards. Rural schools are great. Marriage is between one man and one woman.

It’s not all bad. Just not all new. But there are glimpses into how Fong might shake things up.

He warns against practicing single-issue, ideological politics and urges the rejection of a “bizarre stream of conservatism that values ideological loyalty above all.” Fong decries labeling opponents as “extremist” in what he calls a “playground insult war.”

He might want to share that with one of his top backers, Iowans for Tax Relief chief Ed Failor Jr., who recently told a GOP crowd the Democrats’ agenda is Nazi-like.

Fong toes the party line on marriage, but he also wrote this before the Legislature adjourned: “The GOP needs to stop playing political games. Their frantic calls for a marriage amendment, ‘or it’s too late,’ are counterfactual to the realities of how the constitutional process works … let me suggest that turning a moral issue into a political chip is both disrespectful to the people involved and trivializes an important debate.”

But will he say that at a Sioux County soup supper? We’ll have to wait and see.

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Lug on the Rocks

Krusty Konservative and others are pointing to new poll numbers from Survey USA that show Gov. Chet Culver’s approval rating sitting at just 42 percent.  His disapproval rating in the poll is 51 percent.

The poll of 600 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent. And for Dems, the survey yields a few troubling numbers.

Culver’s approval rating among Democrats is a paltry 62 percent, and only 36 percent of respondents ages 18-34 approve of his performance. He does best with voters over 65, who are split 48-48 approval/disapproval.

One piece of good news for Culver is that 54 percent of respondents who described themselves as “moderate” approve of his performance.

So is Culver vulnerable in 2010? Sure, but with a lousy economy and a budget mess you really didn’t need a poll to tell you that.

And again, vulnerability matters only  if Republicans nominate a quality candidate with broad appeal. That’s a big if at this early date.

Incidentally, in my unscientific GOP gov race poll over the weekend – with a margin of error of plus or minus 100 percent – the winner as of today was (drum roll) none of the above.

“Waiting for someone else” got 28 percent, nipping state Rep. Christopher Rants with 26 percent. Steve King was third with 13 percent.

In all, 127 people with nothing better to do voted. The polls remain open, however. You still have time to waste your time.

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