Sunday, October 18, 2009

Supervisor Vacancy Factoids

Supervisor Vacancy Factoids

It's bad journalistic form to start with a disclaimer, but it's well known that I work for one of the deciders on the Johnson County supervisor vacancy. It's also well known that I'm a political activist in my own right.

What I'm saying here is my own opinion only, mixed with objective facts that I consider important. It may or may not reflect my boss's opinion at all, indeed, we've been known to disagree (anyone who remembers the 2000 caucuses can vouch for that.)

I've talked to all three deciders about process. Anyone can do that (granted, it's more convenient for me). I have not expressed to any of them my personal preference for any given name, nor have they expressed those preferences to me. Again, anyone can offer their thoughts on who should be appointed and many have.

Johnson County supervisor is an elected, partisan, policy-making position. It isn't a pure merit hire where a blind eye should be turned to an applicant's political views. This makes partisanship a valid consideration.

Personally, my hope was for an eminence grise, a placeholder, to step forward and serve through next November. My first choice would have been Dick Myers, but Carol Thompson would also have been good. They didn't apply, nor did anyone else fitting that mold.

So we need to look at the 16 we have. Four contenders have clearly shown more support based on letter writing efforts. Janelle Rettig is far and away ahead, but Mike Lehman, Norm Bickford and Edgar Thornton also have significant support.

Since the job is a partisan elected office, party affiliation and electoral history are relevant. People want to know the applicants' party affiliations, and should know. So here's where we stand, as of three or so weeks ago when I bought the voter file to prep the Democrats' barbecue mailing:
Democrats: Badgett, Bandy, Bickford, Dahms, Green, Lehman, O'Donnell, Pickett, Rasmussen, Rettig
Republicans: Knapp, Panzer, Phillips, Thornton
No Party: Bleam, Dils

Jim Knapp was a Democrat when he ran for supervisor in 2004 and finished last out of eight (behind one candidate who had quit the race). Maison Bleam has been active for Republican candidates and officials in the past but is now registered with no party.

Other than Knapp, five applicants have run campaigns for big scale offices. (Rettig gets an asterisk here, as she was up and running for the Board before Larry Meyers' death.)

Lehman and Mike O'Donnell both have mixed records with wins and losses. Lehman won a hotly contested primary in 1998, was re-elected uncontested in 2002, and lost the 2006 primary to Meyers. O'Donnell won city council terms in 1997 and 2001, narrowly lost the 2004 Democratic supervisor primary, then won a third council term in 2005. As for the rest:

  • Cindy Phillips lost two legislative campaigns (the 1992 general and the 1994 GOP primary) in an Iowa City based district (she now lives in Tiffin).
  • Bickford lost two supervisor primaries two decades ago.
  • Terry Dahms lost the 2006 general election for soil and water commissioner on an obscure provision of Iowa law. He finished second of three candidates for two seats. But because the first place finisher lived in the same township as Dahms, he was not seated and the job went to the last place finisher instead. In 2008, Dahms was fourth out of four in the supervisor primary, behind the three incumbents.

    Ron Bandy, Karen Dils and Cami Jo Rasmussen have won elections in smaller cities. Dils lost for re-election in Tiffin in 2007. Bandy stepped down voluntarily in 2003, but had lost his bid for North Liberty mayor in 2001. Rasmussen is on the Solon city council and currently seeking re-election unopposed.

    Thornton won a GOP convention vote to serve as a national alternate delegate, which you may or may not describe as electoral success. The rest have no electoral track record.

    With those things in mind, here are important factoids:

    Factiod: The three deciders were all elected and are all Democrats. Republicans have demanded that one of the deciders, Recorder Kim Painter, "recuse" herself, as she had previously announced her support for Rettig for the nomination for the full term. Not that she should stand aside, but it's not even clear to me in the code whether she can. And if one of the decider jobs were vacant, the replacement would also be a Democrat, County Attorney Janet Lyness.

    Factoid: Johnson County is a heavily Democratic county. The occasional personally popular Republican has carried the county, sure, but events eventually caught up to Jim Leach and may yet defeat Chuck Grassley. But at the top of the ticket, Chet Culver was at 68 percent and Barack Obama was just a smidge short of 70.

    Factoid: No Republican has won a top of the ticket Johnson County race since Bob Ray in 1978. For president, you have to go back to Nixon. Not McGovern-Nixon: KENNEDY-Nixon.

    Factoid: No Republican has won any courthouse office at all since Sheriff Gary Hughes won his last term in 1984.

    Factoid: No Republican has won an election to the Board of Supervisors since Oren Alt, who won his last term in 1958 and served until 1962.

    Factoid: Larry Meyers was elected in the 2006 general election, which was one of the few times the GOP has fielded a full slate of supervisor candidates in recent years. There was an active "Split Your Vote" campaign underway for Meyers and for one of the two Republicans, Alan Curry. The result:
    Sally Stutsman (Dem) 27,383 61.82%
    Larry Meyers (Dem) 27,300 61.64%
    Alan Curry (Rep) 13,775 31.10%
    Richard Benn (Rep) 10,613 23.96%

    The two Democrats nearly two to one ahead of the stronger Republican.

    Factoid: Local Republicans have taken a stance against the appointment process itself, calling instead for a special election. I certainly respect their right to do so; indeed, when the shoe was on the other foot in 1994 I participated in a partially successful petition drive. Partially successful in that we succeeded in getting the election--but lost the election itself. That's been the history around here with petitioned specials (1997 recorder as well as some small town contests): He who petitioneth, loseth, with the election itself usually the main issue.

    And as I know from experience in 1994, there is a certain cognitive dissonance between advocating on the one hand for a specific person to be appointed, while simultaneously arguing against appointment itself and for an immediate election. Insert the Dennis Miller Disclaimer here.
  • No comments: