Loebsack, Conlin, Culver Confident at Dvorsky Dinner
Conlin: Grassley comments on her appearance after joint Iowa Press appearance
Senate Appropriations chair Bob Dvorsky (D-Coralville) drew an all-star lineup to his annual birthday fundraiser Friday: the governor, the congressman, the US Senate candidate and the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. It helps to be married to her.
But the news of the night came from keynote speaker Roxanne Conlin, who arrived hot off her well-reviewed Iowa Press joint appearance with her opponent, Chuck Grassley.
"It was certainly interesting," Conlin said of the joint appearance. "The guy couldn't defend his record, or even look me in the eye. He couldn't even say my name. He called me 'her' or 'my opponent.'"
Conlin said in conversation after the taping, reporters asked Grassley about his odd body language and failure to look at Conlin. To which, Conlin said, Grassley responded: "She's a really good looking woman. I don't have a problem looking at her."
"Whaaaat?!?" Conlin told the Coralville crowd. "He really said that."
Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson, one of the Iowa Press panelists, confirms Conlin's anecdote.
It's not the first time Republicans have commented on Conlin's appearance, or the crudest thing anyone has said,but those comments came from bloggers and not from her opponent. It's a little reminiscent of Strom Thurmond greeting the "lovely ladies" from NOW and NARAL in the 1991 Anita Hill hearings.
As for the substance of the discussion, Conlin called Grassley to task for his ad bragging of 6000 consecutive Senate roll call votes. "6000 votes. How many of those were on behalf of the people of Iowa and how many were for the people who pay his bills?"
Conlin cited some of those recent votes. "Five times in the last couple of weeks he voted against extending unemployment. Why? Because now he has discovered the deficit that he created" as chair of the Senate Finance Committee when the Senate was in GOP hands.
The program had offered a full hour, but Grassley agreed to only a half hour. "It was frustrating to have such a short exchange," writes the Register's Kathie Obradovich. "Rather than satisfying voters, this may whet appetites for some formal debates. I hope Grassley considers a rematch in a more structured forum." It's a call Conlin has repeated many times on the campaign trail, calling for a robust schedule of Lincoln-Douglas style debates. Grassley has said he will consider a couple of standing debate invitations depending on the Senate's schedule.
As for the rest of the evening, the who's who of Johnson County Democratic politics was brimming with confidence despite the nationwide doom and gloom outlook for the Dems.
"We have been preparing for this challenge for a very long time," said IDP chair Sue Dvorsky. "We planned this campaign before the polls came out. It changes nothing. Just remember that what we are doing is executing the plan."
"We have other numbers and they are terrific," she said, citing the Democratic Party's lead in voter registration and absentee ballot requests.
Governor Culver, trailing in polls, said "there is not a doubt in my mind we are going to win. As long as we get the truth out there, we're going to win."
"During Terry Branstad's tenure they neglected their duties after the `93 flood," said Culver. "He had a long list of recommendations but did nothing."
Culver focused much of his speech on his signature IJobs program. "We've got an IJobs project right outside the door," he said, referring to the Coralville arts center under construction just outside the public library (rain moved the event indoors from its traditional Morrison Park duck pond site).
"We decided two years ago to invest in local projects and infrastructure, and I want to be here to see it through," the governor said in asking for a second term. "This is no time to switch horses."
In contrast, said Culver, "the last thing we need is an income tax cut for out of state corporations."
"I don't know how Terry Branstad gets a vote over here," said the governor, who's quite familiar with Johnson County's margins (he won 68% here in 2006, his best margin in the state.)
Congressman Dave Loebsack was also grateful for the 2006 Johnson County margin that put him over the top in his upset win. "Republicans grudgingly respect Johnson County. This is an absolutely critical place, and it is a more serious year this year."
"The country is so divided along partisan lines, but the American people are tired of it," said Loebsack. "They want us to move forward, and that's what I'm going to keep doing," he said, citing his efforts to work across the aisle.
However, Loebsack said, "we cannot go back to the Republican policies that got us into the ditch in the first place."
Loebsack focused on his work on the Armed Services committee. "Whether you agree with the mission or not, we need our National Guard troops to have what they need for their missions, domestic or overseas, and when they get home. Our veterans paid the price for their services, and they deserve it."
State auditor candidate Jon Murphy spoke early in the evening. Murphy is challenging two-term Republican incumbent David Vaudt, who was unopposed in 2006.
"We'll have more transparency, professionalism and performance in the office when I'm auditor," said Murphy, a sentiment echoed by Bob Dvorsky.
"The last real auditor we had was a Republican, but he was a straight-up guy," said Bob Dvorsky, referring to Vaudt's predecessor Richard Johnson, who served from 1980 to 2002 and who very prominently questioned Terry Branstad's budget numbers in the 1990s. "The current state auditor is essentially a political hack. He's very biased and he has hurt the office."