Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Corbett, Caligiuri Crossed Off

It's worth noting none of yesterday's must be record setting ChallengePalooza to candidate's nomination papers came from Democrats. Six of the eight challenges came from Republicans, and the other two, the most frivolous, cane from a Libertarian.

Contrast that with the scene on filing deadline day: all the Democratic governor campaigns,  and primary opponent Pete D'Alessandro PERSONALLY, collecting signatures in the failed effort to get Therese Greenfield on the ballot.

(A shoe yet to drop: The back story on the fraudulent signatures submitted by Greenfield's now fired campaign manager,)

One thing I don't get:  Why didn't the victims of ChallengePalooza hire one of the many professional petitioning firms if they knew they were on the bubble, which they should have know at least by caucus night? That's an expense, sure, but worth it compared to not being on the ballot at all. Most of the blame for these failures falls on the candidates themselves - even Greenfield, whose initial petitions (leaving aside the forgery issue) were just barely adequate. This is a task that should always always always be overkilled.

With Ron Corbett, the primary challenger for governor, and congressional candidate  and Caligiuri, both off the ballot, the Republican primary in Johnson County just got way more boring. GOP voters have only the five candidate SecOfAgPalooza on the ballot. This will boost crossover votes in the Democratic races for supervisor and open Senate District 37.

Also, Governor Reynolds and the state Republican Party are no doubt furious at the Johnson County Republicans. The Caligiuri petition challenger, Matt Evans (a decent dude who I worked with on caucus arrangements) is not only campaign manager for Christopher Peters, who is now the only candidate on the ballot. He is also the Johnson County Republican chair.

While it's always risky for a Democrat to try to grasp Republican internal politics, it seemed clear to me that Caligiuri was the insider choice. Peters' ties to the Republican Party are weak. He ran as a capital L Libertarian in a 2010 Senate race, and it seemed clear in 2016 that the GOP was a flag of convenience for him. Peters also denounced Donald Trump late in the campaign and said he was not voting for Trump - but c'mon, he was never gonna vote for anyone but Gary Johnson anyway.

Caligiuri, meanwhile, has deep roots in Iowa social conservative politics, and I always bet on a SoCon over a libertarian in a Republican primary. She was recruited to the race late, after Peters had been on-stop running since 2016, had been raising significant money, and not insignificantly hails from the same small town, Osceola, as Reynolds. But that's not a priority for Johnson County Republican leadership, who would rather focus on running one of their libertarian friends against Joe Bolkcom in the number one Democratic state senate seat.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Convention followup

As usual I misssed more or less all the speeches at the Johnson County Dems convention. I have a specific role that I've been in for 20 years: as credentials co-chair I'm the one pounding the data into the computer, an invisible role that can be the bottleneck of the whole convention.

This year I was doing it on a borrowed machine: In my 5 AM exhaustion I packed my mouse, my cord, my printer, paper, the Big Box of caucus packets in case an issue came up (one did, one always does)... and forgot the COMPUTER. Luckily one of my committee members was better prepped than I was!

So I crunched data for three hours, emerging only for bathroom breaks (a task I could not delegate to anyone else). I did manage a quick hello to a just-arriving John Norris.

I emerged to a Glasson-led floor fight challenging the request of one of our sitting legislators to speak as a Fred Hubbell surrogate. (Ironic, since at our barbecue last fall, Glasson had a surrogate speak for her even though she was in the room at the time; all the other candidates had been at the same event in Ames before ours, but arrived and spoke for themselves.) This was shot down, by a narrower margin than it should have been, and Mary Mascher gave a speech focused as much on unity as on Hubbell to much applause, though a bigger than it should have been share of Glassonistas sat on their hands.

So I expected a long day, but things simmered down and the similar request from Team Boulton was greeted with just token opposition.

There was an unfortunate schedule conflict with the March For Our Lives, and unfortunately the mission-critical business of delegate election landed right at the same time window which made our planned symbolic recess for a "mini-march" unworkable.

On the initial alignment Hubbell, Norris, and Uncommitted all landed just short of viability, and former Iowa City mayor Ross Wilburn showed a small share of residual support in his old county.

The Sage of Solon, Paul Deaton, is a Norris backer and says that Team Glasson was not willing to discuss shares of delegates and instead only offered reasons that Norris people shouls switch to Glasson.

Instead Team Norris and Team Hubbell formed a Big Coalition with the Actually Uncommitted under the Uncommitted banner. They earned 25 of Johnson County's 75 delegates, and split them proportionally: 9 each to Hubbell and Norris and 7 Uncommitted Uncommitted.

Glasson scored 29 while Nate Boulton earned 23. So basically a third a third a third, with Uncommitted also split a third a third a third, and the Uncommitted Uncommitted people probably trying to decide between three candidates (Boulton, Hubbell and Norris).

I'm on Team Boulton and I was first to put my hand down to be an alternate - or alter-NATE - rather than run for delegate. It was tough going but all the groups managed to choose delegation without going through the lengthy balloting process. So we were back to other convention business by 2 PM; I crawled away at 3 and we adjourned around 4.

What did we learn from convention day? Iowa Starting Line did the Lord's work on statewide delegate counts and most counties did not split. Of those who did, Boulton emerged from the day with a lead.

I still believe and hope that one candidate will get hot at the end and win the 35% needed to avoid a convention. So can my guy Nate translate organizational and labor support into primary votes? And how much quiet support from the kind of people who DON'T go to conventions is there for Hubbell and Norris?

There's one candidate I haven't mentioned. Yes, I know there was supposedly a "Go Uncommitted "strategy." And my grudge against Andy McGuire is both well known and (maybe) petty. No, it's not just that I very visibly got left off the caucus review committee, even when it was opened up again and members were added AFTER my absence had been the subject of criticism. And unlike most, it's not because she "stole the caucuses for Hillary." You would have to be COMPETENT to do that.  It's her whole mismanagement of  the caucus process and IDP. If she can't run a party, she can't run a state.

There was virtually zero visible support for McGuire Saturday. Objectively, she has one way to influence the race: Drop out and endorse. The official dropout deadline was Friday, so McGuire missed that chance and will be on the ballot. But in 1990, JoAnn Zimmerman dropped out post-deadline to make a ticket with Don Avenson. She still got 1% or so of the vote but that didn't keep Anenson from winning.

But McGuire won't get lieutenant governor out of an endorsement. In 2006 she may have helped Mike Blouin, but in 2018 she would COST a running mate votes because she is persona non grata to the Sanders wing.

Speaking of which:

I often hear from activists that they like Cathy and her ideas just fine but they really really dislike her campaign - the style and the people.  And misleading claims like this are right in character.

I expect to get beat up by the Red Roses on Twitter, but I'll say it.  The "revolutionary" rhetorical style, from Sanders or Glasson or anyone, that thrills a certain type of person and maybe even brings them into the process, alienates more voters than it wins. There are more Obama-Obama-Trump voters in Iowa than there are left-left voters - and maybe the support of those two groups is a mutually exclusive trade off.

The left-left is NOT the 40% or so that they believe they are based on the 2016 primaries. Glasson failed to hit 40% at a CONVENTION in a BLIZZARD in her HOME COUNTY. A big share of the "left" vote in 2016, I'd say at least half, was simply the I Hate That Bitch vote.  Without a bipolar election between Hillary Clinton and One And Only One Not Hillary, that vote scatters. And I don't see room for growth - if you like "bold progressive" as style or if you're into Move The Party Left as your identity politics, you're already there.

Given their ideological support for pushing for preference groups at caucus and convention, and the tendency of  supporters to be loud and proud, it's safe to say there are not many Glasson supporters in the Uncommitted groups. In the counties that did not form groups, Glasson is almost certainly under the 15% she needed to form preference groups. It's also worth remembering that 17 of the 34 "Glasson" delegates in Polk are actually Norris supporters.

Going into the county conventions I believed a convention scenario would come down to Glasson vs. whoever emerged as the Not Glasson. Now, instead, I think in a convention scenario the decision gets made by the semi-uncommitted who are at the moment wavering between Hubbell, Norris and Boulton in various combinations. I don't see Glasson being many people's second choice. I see her being a lot of people's LAST choice.

Not mine - I could rank my candidates 1 through 6 but won't because I don't want to undercut my #1, Boulton. I will say that McGuire is 6th, and was 7th until Jon Neiderbach dropped out.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Corbett Challenged

Semi random thoughts on the challenge to Republican governor candidate Ron Corbett's nomination papers:

Not an accident. Petition challenger and host of "The Iowa Republican" site Craig Robinson is not a Random Some Dude Blogger, he's seriously connected in Iowa Republican politics.  Remember, Craig is the one who broke the Bruce Braley "Iowa farmer who's not a lawyer chairing Judiciary" video - and not by accident on the same day Joni Ernst released the Hog Castration ad.

(Give Braley credit: he called that one right!)

Team Reynolds does not mess around. They want to teach Corbett a lesson for DARING to primary her. Corbett's GOP bona fides are already under challenge because he worked with Democrats and labor while mayor of Cedar Rapids. This is a message: You'll never eat lunch in this party again.

Of course, Corbett made it easy. He has been up and running for a year and handed in a barely adequate petition at the last second, without even the excuse of a felonious campaign manager that Teresa Greenfield had.

One side effect is: this makes the GOP side of the primary ballot even more of a nothing burger in Johnson County, so more voters will cross over for hot Democratic primaries for county supervisor and open Senate District 37.  That hurts the congressional campaign of Coralville's anti-Trump libertarian Christopher Peters, which benefits Ginny Caligiuri -who is from Osceola, just like Reynolds.

Of course I would always bet on a social conservative over a libertarian in a GOP primary. And the right to lose to Dave Loebsack not much of a prize, or much of a draw for voters. In fairness, my friend Dave has his own nomination papers problems once, in his first run in 2006 when he had to go to Plan B and have a convention. But at the time he was a Some Dude, not a former Iowa House speaker and mayor of the second largest city in state

Nomination papers are harder to get done in a governor year because the bar is higher. It's based on a percentage of the presidential vote, so the GOP bar was raised to the highest level in ages because of Trump winning the state.

The Democrats had the benefit of their highest off year caucus turnout ever for folks to collect signatures. I have a couple personal rules about signing nomination papers. I only sign for the people I'm actually supporting - but many Dems went down the line and signed everyone's papers.

My other rule is relevant here: I only sign on caucus night. That way I'm certain I'm not doubling up anyone - which was the problem Corbett had, people signing twice.

The Republicans had much lower caucus turnout than Democrats, and also had lower turnout than at their 2014 caucuses. Four years ago Terry Branstad was pushing people to attend as the first step of taking control of the state party organization back from the Ron Paul faction led by then-chair A.J. Spiker.

So how does an uncontested GOP governor primary - because from what Craig is showing I don't see Corbett getting through this - have on the DEMOCRATIC governor primary?

I hear the questions voters ask when they're getting ready to vote and one question I hear a lot is "do I have to vote on everything"? That gives me the sense that few crossover voters monkeywrench (the technical term is "ratf*ck") the other party's primary. They crossover to vote FOR someone, or sometimes against someone, but rarely do they vote because they think SoAndSo will be the weakest opponent in the fall

I also hear people ask to vote and they say what they think the election is about. Last fall it was "School bond" or "school tax" instead of "school board," for example. And in June I hear "supervisors election" or "sheriff's election" more than I hear "primary" or "governor."

In Johnson County the Democratic primary is decisive for courthouse offices, and a lot of  crossover voters just undervote the top of the ballot. In the 1998 primary we had 1000 more votes for county recorder than we did for governor.

So what about the crossovers who DO vote for governor? The handful of "ratf*ckers" will see Glasson as weakest fall opponent. Hubbell's business appeal is negated by Planned Parenthood.

Friday, March 09, 2018

What Rural Voters Think Johnson County Supervisor Districts Would Look Like

What Johnson County Supervisor Districts Would Actually Look Like

Want to see the math and the history? These posts from five years ago have turned out to be evergreens.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gereric Mass Shooting Response

Re-post as needed.

Liberals are losing the gun debate because we are too timid. We are either pleading a vague "do SOMEthing" or offering the most obvious and easy solutions - the background checks and the machine gun bans. While the other side's response is literally "do nothing."

It's time to start asking for more significant measures, moving the terms of debate and saying what we really think about guns.

The fundamental problem is that there is a sliver of the electorate who are single issue gun voters. And they really do literally believe that even the mildest of regulation is a slippery slope toward the government taking away their guns.

It's not about the NRA money. It's about the ideology. The NRA money just follows to the people who are already inclined to the ideology.

My uncle in northern Wisconsin is one of these people. He told my dad "I would vote for Hitler before I would vote for Hillary" because he literally believed she would send the feds to take away his guns.

Their numbers are tiny but their influence is magnified in low turnout Republican primaries. And their absolutism has closed the Overton Window of acceptable terms of gun debate into a narrow crack above the sill that you could block with a towel.

So how do gun absolutists respond to tragedy? Usually, with silence.  But after Las Vegas, Bill O'Reilly slipped and said what they really think. In October he wrote: "This is the price of freedom. Violent nuts are allowed to roam free until they do damage, no matter how threatening they are. The 2nd Amendment is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection.  Even the loons."

It seems from the context that O'Reilly was only describing, not fully endorsing, this view of mass shootings as a sad but necessary evil - but it's the best summation I've ever seen of the otherwise unspoken mindset.

So what do I think about guns?

I loathe guns.

Guns are barbaric.

We need more people to say that. We need to create a culture where it is just as acceptable to declare loathing of guns as it is to declare love of guns.

It is not going to be possible to make it harder for the mentally ill to get guns without also making it harder for regular people to get guns. We need to make it harder for regular people to get guns and we need there to be fewer guns.

We need to destroy the myth that we "need" hunting to control wildlife populations, and we need to restore an environment with more natural predator-prey relationships.

We need to fight back against the "culture" and "values" arguments for hunting/guns just as hard as conservatives push back against marriage equality and choice. No. I don't like your "lifestyle."

Unconstitutional? Hey, the right proposes unconstitutional shit All. The. Time. It doesn't (usually) pass but it moves the terms of debate.

I have much more to say but I'm not ready to and I think it would be counter-productive. Hey, what I've already said may be counterproductive.

Am I an extremist? Sure.

But I'm less extreme than "mass shootings are the price of a free society and the correct response is to do nothing." Yet that position is in the mainstream and mine are not.

What seems to be different about this shooting is that the kids are speaking out and that they were aware enough mid-crisis to send messages and take pictures. Also relatively unusual that shooter was captured alive.

Of course the fact that school shootings are common enough to have patterns to compare is literally insane.

Machismo is part of the problem. Another part of the problem is that we have 89 guns per 100 people while even countries with "lots" of guns have more like 30. Background checks and bans on "extreme" guns are NOT enough. We need to start demanding FEWER guns in America. We need to reduce a gun ownership rate that's TRIPLE that of places like Canada. We need to treat 89 guns per 100 people as the public health hazard it is.

I am sure the thoughts and prayers of conservatives are sincere. But they think of the gun violence epidemic as mere tragedy, as senseless, as no more possible to control than weather. But "this is the price of a free society" is policy. It's ideology.

No. This is NOT the price of freedom. All freedoms have limits. And when it comes to guns we need less "freedom."

Time to move the mainstream.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

How to deal with Ernst?

A tweetstorm turned into a blogpost:

In order to come up with an effective attack on Joni Ernst, Democrats have to first understand her appeal - and they seem incapable of that.

Urban Democratic activists instinctively want to attack the Ernst persona - and that kind of attack plays right into her hands. Her persona is EXACTLY WHY SHE WON. What exactly is WRONG with being a Harley-riding Guard-serving farm gal in Iowa, anyway?

Most Democratic activists still think of Ernst as a fluke and a joke who was only elected because 2014 was a bad year and because Bruce Braley was a spectacularly bad candidate. Both those things are true but they don't explain the depth of the loss.

Periodic reminder that Ernst's pig castrating ad debuted the same day as Braley's "Grassley a farmer from Iowa not a lawyer" video leaked. That timing was not an accident. And that day was the day I knew Ernst would be the next Senator.

Here in the People's Republic of Johnson County in 2014 I had more random discussions initiated by non "political" people about Ernst than any other pre-Trump candidate.

And they can all basically be summed up as: that crazy pig lady can't possibly WIN, can she? And in private I answered yes. Yes she can. Wish I had written it but I was trying to be a Team Player.

It was a classic case of the Democrats' "Everybody I Know" problem: no one I know is voting for her, so she can't possibly WIN...

Ernst's bread bag schtick actively turned off voters in Johnson County and other scattered lefty enclaves. But what my people couldn't and still can't understand is: It plays very, very well in about 95 counties.

The Ernst persona is a cultural signifier that repels urban and activist liberals but connects with more or less everyone else in Iowa.

That forces an anti-Ernst effort to be about record and policy - and detailed wonky campaigns about record and policy tend to work best with the kind of urban liberals who are already turned off by Ernst.

In contrast, the attack on Grassley was easy: Too Old. Which didn't work (and may not have worked even with a younger Democratic nominee) but at least it was an actual vulnerability. Attacking Ernst on persona is attacking her strength.

Friday, February 02, 2018

My Caucus Endorsement

Monday night's Democratic caucuses have gotten more discussion than usual off year caucuses because of the seven way primary for governor. As political blog readers know, Iowa law says that if no one gets 35% in the June primary, a convention settles the nomination.

I don't think that will happen; I expect an outcome like the 2014 Republican Senate primary where one candidate gets hot at the end. But multiple campaigns are prepping for the possibility.

Some people and campaigns are pushing for preference groups like we have at presidential caucuses. This is not an automatic thing like it is in a presidential year. Someone has to make a motion, and it only takes a very small share of the room (15%) to force groups.

I believe that the last thing Iowa Democrats need right now is literal division.

I also think that many - not all, but many - of those who are pushing preference groups do not have the long term best interests of the Democratic Party in mind. There will be people at the caucus who would rather repeal and replace the Democratic Party than build it. And I have not devoted the last 27 years of my life, since literally the day I moved to the state, to the Iowa Democratic Party and the Johnson County Democrats only to watch us become the Occupy-Revolution Party. Issues are one thing, but that rhetorical style and those tactics cannot and will not win in this state and will set us even further back.

I long ago chose and endorsed my candidate for governor, for both policy and personal reasons, and nothing between now and primary day is going to shake my support for Nate Boulton.

But support for governor and caucus night behavior are different things. The important thing about caucus night is not preparing for an unlikely what-if scenario. It's building the party for the general election.

That's why I am not going to vote to go to preference groups. If they happen, I will caucus as Uncommitted, even though I have already decided to support Nate.

I ask all Iowa Democrats to join me. If a motion for groups is offered, please do not support it. If they happen, no matter who you support or if you have not decided, please come over to the Uncommitted corner with me.

Let's not divide on caucus night. Let's unite.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Senate Bandwagon Ends With Endorsement

Thompson began to write extensively about how it was rumored that Muskie was addicted to a West African drug called Ibogaine, an upper of sorts that keeps a person awake in a very menacing fashion. Thompson speculated that this was probably the reason why Muskie had been acting so “erratic” of late. Unfortunately, he could not confirm it one way or the other because he had been banned from the campaign. Readers and other reporters took the allegation seriously and questions were put to the Muskie campaign. Denying the charge, Muskie expressed outrage. After the campaign ended, Thompson stated that he never accused Muskie of using Ibogaine. “I said it was a rumor to that effect,” Thompson explained. “I made up the rumor.” 

I never said I was running for State Senate in District 37. All I said was that I was moving into the district, and that a big announcement was coming soon.

Both of those statements are cold hard objective facts, but a surprising number of people have jumped to the wrong conclusion. How could that have ever happened?

The fence of the former Smallest Farm in the Miller-Orchard neighborhood has been dug up and we closed on the house in Iowa City Precinct 9 on Tuesday. The move is in progress and if anyone wants to help haul boxes and furniture, Friday and Saturday are the big days. (If anyone wants a sublease, you can have a big yard with a close-in location.)

The big announcement in Senate 37, however, comes not from me but from my friend Zach Wahls.

I first heard of Zach the way most of us did - through his iconic and viral "two moms" speech to  an Iowa legislative committee in 2011. One of my jobs as a now senior activist is to spot and help new young talent. Johnson County has had a poor track record of electing young people and I've long wanted to fix that. Too often we export our young talent - but Zach grew up local and has long been committed to building his life here.

And as soon as I got to know Zach as a person and not just a video, I knew we had a special talent here.  Zach isn't a show horse coasting on his moment of fame. He took that lightning-strikes opportunity and built from it.

Wahls' first big project was Scouts for Equality. Like so many Eagle Scouts Zach was frustrated by the Boy Scouts' anti-LGBT policies, which had been in place since since 1978 and successfully defended all the way to the Supreme Court. That meant change had to come from within, and Zach and the Scouts For Equality team led a three year effort to successfully persuade the Boy Scouts to voluntarily change the policy.

But Zach is not  a one issue person and in his campaign he plans to focus on health care, education, and workers rights. He has a depth of knowledge and interest in a broad range of issues, and the homework a candidate and legislator needs to do.

He's done the political hard work too, locally in the trenches and on the road helping other candidates  And he's an all-around great guy who hasn't let political celebrity get to his head.

I'll miss voting for Joe Bolkcom and Mary Mascher, and I regret not having one last chance to vote for Bob Dvorsky. (I lived in Coralville my first five years in Iowa, but moved before Dave Jacoby ran.) But my life transition has given me the opportunity to participate directly in this open race.

And I am proud to support Zach Wahls to be my next state senator.