Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Actual Action in Democratic Primary

Glad I got that joke post about Some Dude out of the way Sunday, because today there's an actual development in the Democratic primary for governor.

Sure, State Rep. Tyler Olson, in stepping down from his extracurricular gig as Iowa Democratic Party chair, said only " I can best serve Iowans through a conversation that is not possible as chair of the IDP." But all the rumors have pointed toward governor, rather than Congress. There's not room for a third Linn County candidate alongside Monica Vernon and Swati Dandekar in the 1st CD anyway.

Olson's timing is interesting, coming close on the heels of 1) former governor Tom Vilsack's announcement that he's staying on as Secretary of Agriculture and 2) a weekend Des Moines Register poll showing the main declared Democratic candidate, Jack Hatch, running behind Terry Branstad 55-27 in a matchup and with very low name ID.

So Hatch is the front runner for Worst Week In Des Moines and it's only Tuesday. But Olson's name ID outside Cedar Rapids is probably equally low. I'm undecided so far here and not making predictions yet.

The 30-something Olson made a pretty clear generational play in his announcement resignation, saying (in the form of a Vilsack paraphrase) "it was time for a new generation of leaders to help move the state forward." An unsubtle shot at the 60-something five term governor... but also at the 60-something Hatch.

Olson has a geography advantage in that Linn County will be part of the 1st District primary between multiple strong Democratic candidates, the two Linn women and Dubuque white male Pat Murphy, boosting turnout. Hatch's Polk County base is in the 3rd CD, where the only announced Democrat against Tom Latham is Some Dude Gabriel De La Cerda.

Don't overlook the All Politics Is Local factor: any statewide Democrat in a contested primary would be wise to pay some attention to Johnson County, where hot courthouse primaries - and we expect one in 2014 - boost turnout. There have been years when we had the highest turnout in the state. Not percentage: I mean numerically more Democratic primary voters than Polk. Jack, Tyler: our fall barbecue is Sunday, October 13, mark your calendars.

As for Olson's old job over on Fleur Drive, his five month tenure was dominated by the event that happened five minutes into that tenure: Tom Harkin's retirement announcement. Olson was widely seen as Harkin's pick for the job, and everyone - EVERYONE - was assuming Harking was in for one more run and Bruce Braley was running for governor. My bet is Olson went in with good intentions to serve the full term and pursue higher ambition later, but opportunities don't always wait for you (attn: Liz Mathis).

The fix seems to be in for a comeback for 2008 IDP cycle chair Scott Brennan. That's expected to be rubber-stamped Saturday.  Bleeding Heartland grumbles about the "Soviet" nature of IDP succession, but I was happy with Brennan as chair. He was a success at the most important job of any Iowa chair of either party: keeping the caucuses first. Even in the off year, the chess pieces keep moving on that front, and it's good to have an experienced hand on deck for that sort of national high stakes game.

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