Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Last Post About Cathy Glasson

Today is the last time I am going to write about Cathy Glasson.

There are certain rules and norms in politics. One of the biggest of those is, if you run in a primary, you buy into the outcome, and if you lose, you endorse the winner. That's not ideological - it's simply common courtesy.

But one of the more disturbing trends in the "Movement," for lack of a better term for the left edge of the Democratic coalition, has been the normalization of sore loser-ism. It began with Bernie Sanders' refusal to recognize simple math and his insistence that a nomination was still winnable long after that was possible, and his half-assed token "endorsement" of the woman who defeated him.

Fred Hubbell won an absolute majority in a five* way primary. John Norris, Andy McGuire, and Ross Wilburn immediately congratulated and endorsed him. (* The endorsement of the guy I voted for is not welcome.) That's how it's supposed to work.

But Glasson never said the appropriate words, and demanded speaking time at the Iowa Democratic convention. That was the moment the endorsement should have happened - yet it didn't. I grumbled that day, then set it aside for a bit.

A couple weeks back I got word that Glasson was speaking at the Iowa CCI convention, being held today. At that point I thought: "one more chance." It would be an awkward stage, sure, as Vote For Fred was not a message the CCI audience would want to hear. That made it even more important to say.
"Aside from those two lines," wrote Pat Rynard, "Glasson’s address was pretty much no different than one of her campaign rally speeches." Later in the day, he added: "after November she plans on shifting to a focus on presidential candidates and pressing the 2020 hopefuls who come into the state on progressive policy ideas & messaging."

That plays into the theory floated by the Des Moines Register that the "campaign" was never really about electing Catherine R. Glasson as Governor of Iowa - but was it was an elaborate mailing list building operation to help SEIU be a player in the 2020 caucuses.

Later in the day keynoter Nina Turner, the high profile Sanders backer who has never won a contested election larger than a city council race, made this thinly veiled dig at Hubbell: “Folks are just flat out buying elections, even people who we like... We shouldn’t support candidates who can buy the election"

True, Hubbell had the most money. But Glasson had the second most money of the candidates who finished the race (virtually all from the coffers of SEIU). She could not match Fred dollar for dollar, but unlike Norris and Wilburn, she had enough money to be visible and to make her case. And she made it well and she did so at the appropriate time.

And the voters rejected it.

Much has been made of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her defeat of congressional incumbent Joe Crowley on a "socialist" message. But Iowa is not the Bronx. Just weeks before, Cathy Glasson ran a much better funded campaign on a very similar message - and lost 55-20%.

What do you do when you lose 55 to 20%? You congratulate and endorse the winner. Refusing to endorse is not only rude, it's an insult to the majority of the voters. Primary night? Strike one. State convention? Strike two. Today? You're out.

Cathy Glasson has instead thrown in with those who think an 85% good Democrat is worse than a 100% bad Republican. Fortunately, most Glasson supporters I know have moved on and are ready for Hubbell to defeat Kim Reynolds.

Glasson's lack of endorsement will not harm Hubbell. The only damage is to her own credibility.

So today is the last time I will write about Cathy Glasson. She had a big stage today. It was  her last best chance to be a team player, and she refused.

Today is the last time I will write about Cathy Glasson - because through her own actions, she has made herself irrelevant to the 2018 general election.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Absentee Advice

Friendly advice from an election staffer: If you think you want to be part of a first day march to the polls on the first day of votingOctober 8, do NOT fill out a vote by mail request. Voiding out a vote by mail request slows down the line.
Also have realistic expectations. Your mailed ballot will NOT be in your mailbox October 8. That's the first day they can be mailed OUT - and because of the Columbus Day federal holiday they won't actually go out till October 9. (Columbus Day is the only federal holiday our office is open and I don't know of any auditors who will be closed that day - so you WILL be able to vote in person.)
Don't panic on day three and get scared about your ballot being "lost," and don't expect to see a mailed ballot in your box till the end of that week at best.
And don't fill out an absentee request just to make the staffer or volunteer happy if you have no intention of actually voting it and are thinking "I'll just go to the polls." That also slows down the line.
Personally I think in person early voting is a safer option for people who can. Vote-doesn't-count kinds of mistakes are not common, but when they do happen they are almost always on mailed ballots.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Johnson County Primary: Party Change Numbers

Iowa Starting Line took a look at party registrations in the just finished primary election.

‏Here in Johnson County, the Democrats are up 2132 active registrations through the end of June. The peak was even higher but invariably we see some double switchers every primary.

By percentage, Dems jumped from 45.69% on May 4, the Friday before voting started, to a peak of 48.32% on June 14 when voter history was updated. That's just short of the all time Johnson County Democratic peak of 49.26% after the 2016 caucus and primary cycle. Double-switches and new registrations have dropped the Democrat's share to 48.15% as of Thursday June 18.

When there's not a caucus or primary going on, new registrations, especially from the Department of Transportation, tend to default to No Party. I cannot remember the last time I saw a registration come through from the DOT changing from No Party to a party, any party. DOT changes are ALWAYS the other way around - from parties to No Party.

Republican registration in Johnson slipped from 20.17% just before primary voting started to 19.79% after primary, and even with double switching has continued to drop slightly.  (Most primary double switchers in Johnson were No Party to Democrat to No Party, rather than R to D to R.)

Also, a pet peeve: The Secretary of State's stats including the statistical category "Other" - when there is only one thing in "Other," the Greens.

Here's a full look at party switching in the People's Republic:


Party Absentee Polls Total
Democrat stayed Democrat 4396 10425 14821
No Party to Democrat 351 1518 1869
Republican to Democrat 110 301 411
Green to Democrat 10 21 31
Libertarian to Democrat 2 26 28
Democratic total 4869 12291 17160
       
Republican stayed Republican 220 1032 1252
No Party to Republican 20 110 130
Democrat to Republican 8 41 49
Libertarian to Republican 1 5 6
Green to Republican 0 0 0
Republican total 249 1188 1437
       
Libertarian stayed Libertarian 5 25 30
No Party to Libertarian 1 29 30
Democrat to Libertarian 5 10 15
Republican to Libertarian 1 8 9
Green to Libertarian 1 0 1
Libertarian total 13 72 85

Monday, June 11, 2018

Post-Primary Number Cruncher 2018

When you ask someone in Johnson County, "what's the turnout gonna be?" they say "I don't know. Ask Deeth."

The problem with that is I have no one to ask, and once the projections get beyond past records, I have nothing to go on.

It is literally my job to project turnout and I had predicted close to record turnout on the Democratic side - ballpark of 11,000 voters in Johnson County, tying the past record set in 2006. It was a similar political scenario - contested governor primary and a hot supervisor race (in 2006 as in 2018, an incumbent supervisor got knocked off).

But when the absentee numbers passed the 2014 final absentee number a week before the election, I started to fret.

Were people just voting earlier? Or was it a Great Leap Forward scenario like we've seen in other states where turnout breaks projections and records dramatically rather than incrementally? And if so, would it be across the board or would there be hot spots?

As it turned out with the turnout, it WAS a Great Leap Forward. Which is why they call us the People's Republic. And we saw some unusual hot spots.

For the first time in a very long time, it appears that a legislative race played a big role in boosting turnout - as percentages were noticeably higher in the precincts in Senate District 37. Given the outcome, it looks like non-typical primary voters were drawn to the polls by Zach Wahls. Throughout the election there were many questions about the district lines and many voters looking at their ballots and wondering where Wahls was (and to a much lesser extent his opponents). Late in the day I told Joe Bolkcom, the senator representing most of Iowa City, "a lot of people are really disappointed to be voting for you." He was amused.

Other hot spots included high-growth precincts in North Liberty, Tiffin, and Iowa City 24 on the east side - which is not surprising. More surprising was a spike on the southeast side at precincts 12, 14, and 15, and in the downtown precincts that included off-campus and non-student housing (11, 13, 20 and to a lesser extent 3). My bet is the governor's race drove those.

Interestingly, the places that usually turn out in high numbers for a Johnson County primary, the townie east side precincts, did NOT see a turnout spike. Rather, the rest of the county increased toward the usual east side levels.

We do turnout update calls at 9, 11, 3 and 6, and our rule of thumb built up over many years is: Turnout usually doubles from 9 to 11, from 11 to 3, and from 3 to close. (The 6 PM update is relatively new.) Usually, I start to worry at the 3 PM if a precinct has used more than 40% of its ballot supply.

At 3 PM Tuesday, 38 of the 57 precincts had used over 40% of their ballots.

From noon to about 8 PM it was one long game of Whack-A-Mole as we ran ballots around town and tried to stay a step ahead. We ran out of the standard pre-printed ballots briefly in a couple places but no one was delayed or turned away; a couple people had to vote on the "Express Vote" machine, the handicap-assistance device that prints a ballot. Luckily, we did not have a line of people all waiting to use the one Express Vote per precinct at the 9 PM close.

We ended up with 17,144 Democrats, about 6000 above my projections. Even the Republicans saw a spike with 1438 voters, almost twice my projection. For the first time in several low-key GOP primaries we did NOT have a precinct with zero Republican voters. We had little trouble running out of ballots on the GOP side, though; we had sent every precinct one pack of 50 Republican ballots and only one precinct (Shueyville) topped that.

Even the Libertarians, in their first primary, set records. Their 82 voters topped the Green's 48 voters from their lone primary in 2002. I REALLY had nothing to go on for projecting Libertarian turnout, but we didn't have more than four Libertarians in any one precinct. And does anyone know why, even though they had an actual contested two candidate primary, 7% of the Libertarian governor vote was write-in?

As for the Democratic governor's race, I had long predicted that, as in the multi-cornered 2014 Republican Senate primary, one candidate would get hot at the end. I had hoped that would be MY candidate, but we all know what happened there. (Nate Boulton winning his native Louisa County despite dropping out was the saddest and most bizarre factoid of the night.)

The candidate who got hot at the end, Fred Hubbell, seemed to benefit from Boulton's implosion. He was far enough ahead of the rest of the field that the dropout of the second-place contender seemed to be a catalyst for consensus. While normal voters are not especially aware of the 35% rule, most of the activist class was relieved to avoid the drama of a nominating convention - even if their candidate lost.

A lot of the party-regular activist class (as opposed to the Sanders-wing activist class) had come out for John Norris late in the game. I was surprised that the late boom for Norris did not seem to translate into support from rank and file voters, as he finished a poor third with just 11%.

In second with 20% was Cathy Glasson, and that figure illustrates the limits of the Bold Progressive rhetorical style and reinforces my argument that half of Bernie Sander's 2016 support, in Iowa and nationwide,  was simply opposition to Hillary Clinton in a two way race (or, as I usually put it, "I Hate That Bitch") and that the "язvolutioи" style alienates more voters than it attracts.  Boulton was polling better than Glasson with a similar platform presented in a less confrontational manner. The trick for Democrats is how to appeal to the hipster niche who are turned on by this style and who seem to be turned on by nothing but this style, without actually making their case in this style.

Glasson's one county level win in small Mills County was more of a statistical quirk than anything. Andy McGuire, thanks to Mike Gronstal's backing, had a relative hot spot in and around Council Bluffs, and her vote seemed to come almost entirely out of Hubbell's. John Norris also performed above average in Mills, as it's next door to his native Montgomery which he won with a whopping 69%. The split let Glasson carry Mills with just over 30%.

Glasson did NOT win here in her home county, the most progressive in the state, losing to Hubbell 44-30%. In fact, Hubbell won 96 counties, all but the three exceptions mentioned above.

Precinct-level results are hard to analyze since the absentee vote (28% of the Johnson County total but much higher in some precincts) is not broken out by precinct. Hubbell had a strong absentee ballot program that included multiple mailers (expect more of that in the fall) and he led the early vote over Glasson 50-24%.

Glasson managed a near-tie in the election day vote in Iowa City proper, losing just 38-37% and by less than 100 votes. But Hubbell won by about a dozen points in Coralville and North Liberty, and ran even stronger in rural areas.

John Norris ran ahead of Hubbell (but behind Glasson) in a couple of the more lefty Iowa City precincts but was below average in student areas. It seems older activists who caucused for Jesse Jackson in `88 remembered Norris fondly, but he did not reach younger voters. His hot spot was in Cedar Township at 37%. Ross Wilburn ran fourth in the county where he was once Iowa City's Biking Mayor, with his hot spot on the southeast side near his old neighborhood.

What might have been: The Des Moines Register ran its Boulton "me too" story the afternoon of May 23. Through the close of business that day 1520 Johnson County Democratic ballots were turned in. Boulton ended up with 339 absentee votes - which is 22% of 1520. (However, he also got 216 Election Day votes, so no assumption is going to be perfect.)
 
My vote DID count for something, though, as Andy McGuire finished dead last in the county.  She did run (barely) ahead of Boulton statewide.




Me and Zach on Caucus Night
Time and time again I have emotionally invested in young candidates, only to get my heart broken by the voters. Despite our massive young population, Johnson County did not have an Anesa Kajtazovic or a Stacey Walker or an Abby Finkenauer or a Chris Hall to call our own.

Until now.

On Tuesday, a 20something finally got a win in Johnson County, but it took someone so extraordinary that he's already an Iowa City and generational icon to do it.

Zach Wahls, who at age 19 passionately defended his two-mom family in front of a hostile legislative committee and shot to overnight viral video fame, is now near-certain to return to the capitol at age 27 (next month) as my state senator.

Wahls' landslide (60-35%) win indicates that voters were ready and eager to support him, and merely needed a little reassurance that he was ready for the job.

If he wasn't, there was a good backup plan. Retired diplomat Janice Weiner ran a much stronger race than expected in terms of fundraising and message, and in the process made Wahls a stronger candidate. Her only mistake was choosing the wrong race at the wrong time, a mistake she also made when she joined the 2016 special school board election late, after everyone had already chosen sides.

In a way, running the wrong race at the wrong time was also Jim Mowrer's mistake in the secretary of state's race. And like Weiner, Mowrer faced an opponent in Deidre DeJear who excited the activist base. There needs to be a place in the system for Jim, and there needs to be a place in the system for Janice. It'll be harder for Mowrer, who now has his third loss in a row.

The issue differences between Wahls and Weiner were minimal and this was a race about biography: rising star vs. resume.  Retiring incumbent Bob Dvorsky and ex-Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky did not formally endorse in the race, but virtually their entire network of local support (of which I'm a small part) was with Wahls, as was the core of an increasingly organized Solon activist base. Wahls also had an unusually high number of high school volunteers, cutting their teeth on their first campaign.

Weiner kept the race positive and there was a positive core to her coalition: old friends from the neighborhood and the synagogue, veterans of the 2016 Democratic HQ where she staffed, and assorted Women's March/League types.

But Weiner also drew some negative support -  though she didn't ask for it and it had little to do with her. Some supporters hurt Weiner more than they helped. A few Iowa City old guard types were anxious to shoot Wahls down now, before he becomes a threat for higher office. Other people attacked "insiders" and "machines" and nursed grudges against the Dvorskys over who they supported in races past and present. And the far left was mad about Wahls' very prominent 2016 support of Hillary Clinton - because no one gets forgiven for endorsing Hillary except Cathy Glasson.

For various combinations of these reasons, the No To Everything faction (who editorialized that Wahls should drop out simply because he is male) was with Weiner.  But they may have helped Weiner a little in Newport Township, which she almost carried - Wahls was in the 60%+ range in the rest of northeast Johnson County.

Wahls won the Coralville core of the district with 66%, and his best showing was 75% in Iowa City 8, where Weiner now lives (her roots are Coralville) but also where Wahls grew up and where The Moms still live. (One of the best parts of Zach's campaign for me was getting to know Jackie Reger and Terry Wahls.)  Weiner won Cedar County and Scott Township in Johnson; Wahls won the city of Wilton, the one Muscatine County precinct.

There were two other candidates in the race and both ended up as asterisks. Eric Dirth got some positive reviews for his forum answers but there wasn't a lane for a second 26 year old man, one who didn't have magic internet money and a life story that is literally a best seller. As for Imad Youssif, he ran an even weaker race than his last place run for Coralville city council last year, and he seems well on his way to perennial candidate status.
 


After disposing with token opposition from the Libertarians (Republicans may just let this one go), Wahls will go to the Senate with a high profile and high expectations, and if Fred Hubbell falls short Wahls will be the most prominent new face in the Capitol period. Zach has been an in-demand stump speaker for three cycles already, and has proven that he is a fund-raising magnet. In his new role as de facto senator-elect you can expect to see a lot of Wahls on the trail this year.




It's a big deal when an incumbent loses a primary in Johnson County. The last supervisor to lose a primary was Mike Lehman in 2006, and the last incumbent period was auditor Tom Slockett in 2012. (I still like saying that.)  Now Mike Carberry is out after one term. A story that resurfaced exactly when voting started about Carberry's dismissal from a prior job may have played a role.

There was a lot of grumbling about dissatisfaction with the Board, but it seems not to have affected Janelle Rettig, who finished in a strong first. With the high turnout, Rettig set a new record for most votes in a contested primary at 10,826.

That was about 1900 votes ahead of second place Pat Heiden, who had been about 300 votes short of the third and final nomination in 2016. The former Oaknoll director had never really stopped running and had worked hard to build her Democratic Party bona fides in the intervening two years. She'd been attacked as a "stealth Republican" in 2016 even though her Democratic donor record dates back to 2006.

Heiden's win sets up the first-ever female majority Johnson County Board of Supervisors, with Heiden and Rettig joining holdover Lisa Green-Douglass. It's not a first in state history, but it's believed to be the only one now. (While this was just the primary, the Republicans have no candidates, and no Republican has won a general election for supervisor since 1958.)

Rettig finished first in every precinct in Iowa City and Coralville and in most of North Liberty. Heiden won high growth North Liberty 6, the west part of the city, and carried most of the rural-rural precincts (Rettig carried some of the small towns and the suburban-rural precincts). Carberry's strongest showings were second places in the core Iowa City lefty precincts, 18 and 21, on the southeast side in 12 and 15, and in scattered rural precincts.

Going into the election it seemed like each of the three candidates had their own unique coalitions, and there was a lot of thought that voters would cast strategic "bullet" votes, using only one of the two available votes.

Using my patented Votes Per Voter statistic, we see that the average voter cast 1.58 votes for supervisor. That means on average 42% of voters cast only one vote in this race - and even more among people who voted for supervisor at all, because X number of people skipped the race entirely and just voted for governor or in the state senate race.

That tells me that this contest was not a concerted effort to get rid of any one person. You need to vote for two to do that. Rather. people voted for their first choice but held off on a second choice, worrying that their second choice might push their first choice into third place.

Greg Morris, a Hawkeye football equipment manager, had made some noise about getting into the race in March but didn't file. Days before the election, he announced a write-in effort. A total of just 249 write-ins were cast, and even if they were all for Morris (they weren't - I was told I got one vote) that would be below the 5% that would require his name to be included in the canvass. There was a noticeable bump in write-ins for supervisor in greater metro Solon, where Morris lives.

The biggest dud of the night would have to be Ginny Caligiuri's write-in campaign for the Republican congressional nomination. Caligiuri filed in March but was knocked off the ballot by a challenge.

I honestly thought that that Caligiuri might be able to pull off a write-in win. The circumstances were perfect for it: low Republican turnout, an actual campaign with money and stuff, and a Republican base not in love with 2016 candidate Christopher Peters, a small-l libertarian who has run in the past as a big-L Libertarian.

But the message must not have gotten out beyond the inner circle, as only 12.5% of the vote was for write-ins period. So instead of a social conservative with full party backing and the enthusiastic support of a governor from the same home town, Dave Loebsack faces the same opponent he bested in the bad 2016 cycle.

Now the biggest question I have left is: What's turnout gonna be in the fall?

Monday, May 28, 2018

Thoughts on the governor's race


1) As you all know I supported Nate Boulton for governor and voted for him on opening day. Since I have already voted, I do not see the point in making a Plan B endorsement. After a long weekend I do have some thoughts.

2) I am not ready to discuss the #MeToo issues surrounding Boulton and I may never be. I still hurt too much and it’s all personal. A week ago I thought the guy who was my high school doorknocking volunteer could be governor. Now, I’ve lost not just my candidate but my vote.

3) The only thing that’ll make me feel better is if my candidates in other races win. Given how Boulton worked out you may consider me a poor judge of character, but I still want to put in a good word for my friends Zach Wahls and Janelle Rettig.

4) I’m also not going to get into the “who was behind the story” question because it doesn’t matter.

5) Now, as for the governor’s race itself. The Register tried to dismiss it in their editorial endorsing another candidate, but I believe that Andy McGuire‘s incompetent leadership of the Iowa Democratic Party is disqualifying to consideration of her as governor.

6) This isn’t just about me being petty about being left off the caucus review committee; that exclusion was just one more example of McGuire’s overall poor leadership.

7) I voted for Ross Wilburn a couple times for Iowa City council, and voted against him once for a no-chance opponent out of my obsession with the 21 bar issue. He’s a good guy, but he is not going to be a factor in this race.

8) As for Cathy Glasson. This is the hard part because every time I criticize Glasson I get personally attacked by a bunch of no-names with red roses in their handles. That’s exactly part of the problem.

9) The confrontational, “bold” style of the Glasson campaign wins over some hipsters and members of the grad student proletariat who would probably vote third party or not at all otherwise.

10) Yes I said “hipster” on purpose. There’s a hybrid cross-breed of Rand Paul-Bernie Sanders cat who will probably vote Libertarian over any non-Glasson Democrat, because they’re too dumb to know the difference between libertarian and socialist. Revolution, dude!

11) And I said “grad student proletariat” on purpose because a lot of leftists remind me of me when I was 25 and I am embarrassed for my former self.

12) But within the actual “working class” the ideological lefty style alienates more voters than it wins over, and the effect is a net loss of votes.  It’ll be tough going whoever is nominated – but Glasson is unelectable and will cause downballot damage.

13) As evidence, the issue difference between Boulton and Glasson was narrow but Boulton was presenting it in a way that was much more appealing to voters, as seen by his 20-13 lead over Glasson in the poll taken days before his collapse.

14) The Glasson style is more than rhetoric – it’s the glee many Glasson people showed before Boulton even dropped out, and the immediate, bullying pressure on us Boulton supporters to switch to Glasson. (Monitor responses to these tweets for more evidence of the bullying style.)

15) I have reports that Glasson was personally calling key Boulton backers within hours of his dropout. Our tears weren’t even dry yet.

16) That's in keeping with the style they showed at our county convention when Norris supporters offered a delegate deal and Glasson backers responded only with demands for them to switch to her. As always: it's their way or no way, which is a dangerous approach to politics.

17) I’m sure a lot of people who chose Sanders over Clinton will point out that I ranked the two female candidates lowest. In the four contested races on my ballot (one a vote for two) the gender split of my personal choices was 3-2.

18) That leaves us with John Norris and Fred Hubbell.  Both are good men who could do the job. Both have paths to victory, though those paths differ in some ways.

19) I will of course support the nominee but I think Hubbell and Norris are the choices with the best chance to win. This is not an endorsement of either. But I voted for Boulton so what do I know.

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.