Hartsuch Believes Message Will beat Money in 1st CD
Two years ago, Iowa's 1st Congressional District was at the top of national target lists for both parties. Republican incumbent Jim Nussle stepped down to run for governor and Democrat Bruce Braley won the seat in one of the highest spending races in the country.
It couldn't be more different this year.
In a district that was held for decades, under varying configurations, by Republicans like Tom Tauke, Jim Leach, and Nussle, the Republican nominee is having trouble even campaigning door to door. State Sen. David Hartsuch of Bettendorf says he doesn't even have enough money in the bank to print flyers for doorknocking.
Still, Hartsuch thinks his solid conservative message will prevail in the district, which includes Waterloo, Dubuque, and Davenport. "I think the Republican Party doesn't even think this is a winnable race. They think it's a left leaning district. But Chuck Grassley got 69 percent of the vote in the 1st District in `04."
Hartsuch hopes to make a silk purse out of the sow's ear of an underfinanced campaign. "Three-quarters of his contributions come from trial attorneys," he said of Braley, who headed the Iowa Trial Lawyer's Association before he was elected. "He's got a spigot of fundraising. He turns it on, the money flows out. And he's been very responsive to that constituency"
The Democrats have a post-caucus voter registration lead of about 10,000 in the 1st District, but Hartsuch thinks many of those registered Democrats aren't going to be voting Democratic. "The Democrats have has a concerted effort to enroll Democrats. I believe in some case, particularly with regard to unions, I think they actually use coercive methods."
Braley defeated Republican Mike Whalen in the 2006 race, 55 percent to 43 percent. But Hartsuch notes that Mary Anne Hanusa, the little-known, last minute replacement Republican candidate for Secretary of State, won 42 percent in the 1st District. "That should tell you there's a substantial baseline Republican vote," he said. "I believe this is a winnable race."
Hartsuch, an emergency room physician who is also a certified public accountant, got his start in electoral politics two years ago, challenging and defeating long-time moderate Republican state senator Maggie Tinsman in the primary. Hartsuch then narrowly defeated Democrat Phyllis Thede in November, in a normally Republican district. Since Hartsuch is in the middle of his term, he can return to the state Senate if his challenge to Braley is unsuccessful.
"America is at a tipping point as to the preservation of its values. Liberalism has really laid waste to traditional American ideology, and the result has been a decline in our standard of living, a decline in our traditional values, and a lot of Americans are concerned about that."
Hartsuch says the issues he hears about most from voters are higher energy prices, higher taxes, border security and preserving patient choice in health care "Barack Obama is going to drive us into socialized medicine where people use their ability to choose providers," he said of the Democratic standard bearer.
As for his own party, Hartsuch said, "I think we are polarized right now, and I honestly don't know what's going to happen. I endorsed Mike Huckabee (in the caucuses), but I think in retrospect John McCain would be the best person to unite this country."
"Where we're at as a party is kind of where the Whig party was at at the formation of the Republican Party years ago with Abraham Lincoln," said Hartsuch. The Whigs didn't want to address the issue of slavery, and Lincoln was willing to take that issue on. I've been reading a lot of Lincoln's speeches lately, and those same discussions revolve around a lot of these social issues like same-sex marriage. The question is, does one state have a right to marry same sex couples that would otherwise be considered not married in another state. It was the same question in the Dred Scott decision with regard to slavery."
"I’m getting a lot of questions on the same-sex marriage issue, and certainly it's an issue which divides Bruce Braley and myself," said Hartsuch. "He already said in the last election that he felt it was discriminatory and he opposes any constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. I, on the other hand, of course have been a strong defender of traditional marriage in the Senate, and the general public supports traditional marriage."
"Bruce Braley has voted to raise taxes by not making the tax cuts permanent," Hartsuch said of his opponent. "He has consistently voted against any expansion of oil production or energy production. The Democrats have been trying to make it appear as if they're for expanded drilling but in reality those proposals are kind of empty."