Wednesday, November 30, 2011

JCDems Need Caucus Help

One big differences between Democratic and Republican caucuses is that when Republicans have an incumbent president, they don't conduct a presidential vote. (That's not normally significant, except maybe in 1992.)

We Democrats, on the other hand, do the full show even when we're in the White House. Old timers of course remember the epic Carter-Kennedy battle of 1980, and a few of our locals are still miffed that we swept five non-Bill Clinton delegates under the rug in 1996. (We won't let that happen again; I'm sticking with the president but uncommitteds are welcome too.)

Lots of other fun stuff on deck, too: who doesn't love a good Johnson County Dems platform fight? And odds are strong that the delegates will be getting together again after the 2012 presidential election. Mid-term county supervisor Sally Stutsman is running for the Iowa House in open, solidly Democratic House 77. If when she wins, if a special election happens the delegates chosen on caucus night nominate the Democratic candidate in a special election.

But someone needs to run the show. I'll be chairing my caucus again, in Iowa City Precinct 10. (Because the date is so insanely early, we're caucusing in the old precincts, because the new ones don't kick in till January 15. One more thing that's Florida's fault.) We need some more people to chair in some more places.

In case you've been under a rock, the date is Tuesday, January 3. Sign-in starts at 6:30 and the show begins at 7. Our 57 caucuses will be clustered into eight locations, so someone more experienced will be on site to lend you a hand. Some of the proceedings will be conducted in a larger group, before we break into individual rooms for election of delegates and officers.

Here's where we need a hand.
At West High: Iowa City Precinct 9. (East of Mormon Trek, west of Teg)

At City High: Iowa City 5 and 11 (downtown; dorms and apartments east of river), Iowa City 23 (north of Rochester and east of North Dodge)

At the North Liberty Rec Center: Madison Township (northwest of North Liberty), Jefferson East (Shueyville) and Jefferson West (Swisher).

At Solon Middle School: city of Solon, Cedar and Graham Townships (Sutliff and Morse).

At Clear Creek Amana High School in Tiffin: city of Tiffin, Clear Creek township (rural Tiffin), and Hardin Township (Cosgrove).

At Hills Elementary School: Washington Township (Frytown), Pleasant Valley township (Sand Road south of Iowa City), Lincoln and Fremont (greater metropolitan Lone Tree).
Let me know if you can do one of these ( If you're not in one of these, let me know anyway, because whoever is chairing your caucus could certainly use a hand. I know I could. If you don't know where you are, you can check here (lookup) or here (map of Iowa City)or just ask me. You can also stop by our central committee meeting tomorrow night at 7, at the old school district offices. (We need to move those in the near future...)

We're having a training session this Sunday, December 4, at 1 p.m. at the headquarters. Did you know we have a headquarters? 321 E. Market, across from the Bluebird Diner.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not Mitt Of The Month: This One May Last

Despite all the volatility, the GOP nomination race has been remarkably stable. One graph speaks volumes:

Bachmann didn't peak quite that high in July, but the dynamic is the same.

As we await the anoinments by the famIly leader and Steve King, remember this: FOr folks like BVP, winning is less important than control of the party. Witness the senate seats that were pissed away in Delaware, Nevada, and Colorado last year. As JohnKWilson puts it at Kos:
The establishment Republicans are terrified of an Obama vs. Gingrich match-up in 2012, but the Republican Party has been taken over by the far right wing of the party, and they would rather lose to Obama if they can preserve conservative purity.
My thoughts on the GOP race have evolved a lot in the last few days.

First off, I was long convinced that Romney's problem was simple religious bigotry. I still think that's a factor, but I think the larger factor is his long record of issue apostasy.

Next, and this is hardly a unique thought: This Newt spike isn't the ephemeral thing that the Trump-Bachmann-Perry-Cain spikes were. That's because the Knewt is Known, probably better known among the GOP base than any other live Republican who hasn't been on a national ticket. They're not in for a big surprise like Cain=Horndog or Perry=Dumber Than A Box Of Rocks. The big picture is Contract With America and Three Wives.

Once we get to a general election, of course, the book of Quotations From Chairman Newt will be full of surprises for weak voting independents. But the GOP base doesn't care about that, because to them it's better than Romney.

There may -- MAY -- still be time for a Santorum spike, but only if the social conservatives go there en masse in the next... week or so. It's starting to feel like this Newt thing is for real, and I for one am looking forward to it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gary who?

Remember Gary Johnson? He was that extra guy on stage at two debates, filling a slightly different libertarian niche than Ron Paul. Another politician who decided it was OK to come out for legalizing weed AFTER his last re-election race, in his case as governor of New Mexico.

Well Johnson, despite credentials that on paper outrank Mitt Romney's (a two term, not a one-term, ex-governor) is getting fed up with being left out, and is now openly making noise about a big-L Libertarian run.

The small-l libertarians are in love with Ron Paul, with Rand as heir apparent. (who the hell names their kid "Rand"? That's almost as goofy as a Palin kid name. Who's his other kid, John Galt Paul?) But my expectation is that the `88 Big L nominee does like he did last time: refuses to endorse the GOP nominee and instead pick one of the third parties. Maybe Johnson would make the cut.

If the rEVOLution is transferable, that could pull a fair number of votes off the top. It would take some from Obama, true, but my bet is Libertarians cost the Republicans two votes for every one they take from the Dems.

In other presidential news, the Manchester Union Leader endorses the Newt, in what can best be seen as a Screw Romney nod. But does it help?
Looking back, the Union Leader has only supported two Republican candidates who went on to actually cement the GOP nomination: Reagan in 1980 and McCain in 2008. The Granite State publication endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1976 and 1980, Pete du Pont in 1988, Pat Buchanan in 1992 and 1996, Steve Forbes in 2000 and John McCain 2008.
And only one general election winner.

But Rick Perry is trying to capitalize on Gingrich's immigration comments in the last debate by campaigning with none other than Sheriff Joe Arpaio. However, Perry's not pure himself. I can't find the cite at the moment, but I read a post-debate poll showing the GOP primary electorate split on immigration roughly 40-30-20-10 as mass deportation-guest worker program-path to citizenship-don't know. Was there a niche in the field for a Tancredo-like Kick Them Out candidate?

And there's always room for the political journalist's fantasy: the brokered convention story.

One more term - or one Moore term?

Redistricting victim and nominee for 2010 Fluke Of The Year Brian "Some Dude" Moore, R-Zwingle, has announced for re-election (Dubuque Telegraph-Herald is pay-walled) in House District 58.

Moore, through odd circumstances, won the most Democratic seat held by a Republican, and while the turf changes a lot here the margin stays about the same at an April Democratic reg edge of 4102. In fact, the area was so Democratic that Moore started 2010 as a Dem himself, losing a Senate primary to Tod Bowman.

The GOP talked him into switching parties and getting into the house race against Tom Schueller, who had been an unopposed winner in 2008. Moore came out of nowhere to win by 138 votes. Schueller has announced a comeback bid.

Moore, who lives right on the edge of the new turf, loses the pieces of northern Clinton County and southern Dubuque where he got his winning margin (Schueller won Jackson County by about 250) and instead gets eastern Jones County. The only good thing for Moore is that he's not the guy who had to move. Moore and Monticello Republican Lee Hein got paired up, but in June Hein announced a move to House 96.

With higher presidential year turnout and a former incumbent as a candidate, I'd put this neat the tom of the Democratic target list. Brian may want one more term, but he may get just one Moore term.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Davenport Alderman to challenge Lykam

Lost amidst the turkey and shopping, Davenport alderman Bill Edmond let it be known Wednesday that he's running on the GOP side in House District 89, held for a decade by Democrat Jim Lykam.

It'll be an uphill fight in a district with a 2600 Democratic registration edge; Lykam went uncontested last cycle (lucky guy, in a good year for Republicans in Scott). Lykam won one term in 1988, got knocked off in by Steve Grubbs in `90, then came back on friendlier turf in 2002. The lines are similar, shifting a but south and west but staying in the city limits, this decade.

Trivia: Davenport was the last city in the state with a partisan city council. They voted to go non-partisan in 1995. The code section allowing partisan city councils remains on the books even though no one uses it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

What does Thanksgiving mean? Well, for one thing, a giant hole where news should be (or, depending on your perspective, a break from the Republican presidential candidates, who I'm not thankful for and a lot of Republicans aren't either)

I completed my duties in this department two weeks ago, but for any self-respecting geek, Thanksgiving means fixing the parent's computer. This writer's goal for the holiday: the final death of Internet Explorer 6.

I'm thankful for the NFL schedule, because it gives me a rare chance to watch the Undefeated Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.

Tomorrow marks my first Black Friday in the land of retail. My bar for busy days at work is set pretty high -- presidential election day in the auditor's office -- and it can't possibly be that intense and isn't nearly as long. I look on it as an interesting field study in sociology...

But mostly I'm thankful for a day with the people I'm most thankful for, Koni and our boys.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rybak: Romney Focus Not Prediction

"The only person who's decided Mitt Romney is the nominee is Mitt Romney," Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak told a room of 50-odd Democrats in Iowa City today.

"I'm more than comfortable drawing the contrast with any of these folks," Rybak, who is also vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, said, without naming other Republicans. "The president has a great record."

Rybak said the focus on Romney on today's Iowa visit was due to Romney's first television ad, which implied that Obama was expressing his own views when he was in fact paraphrasing John McCain. The spot earned a "Pants On Fire" ranking from Politifacts "Truth-O-Meter."

Rybak did get in a couble zingers at fellow Minnesotans Michele Bachman and the late unlamented Tim Pawlenty at another point in the informal talk at the Democratic headquarters. His mission was to fire up the local troops in advance of the caucuses, which for Democrats this year are less of a contest and more of an organizing tool.

"It was Iowa where we had a really honest conversation about a different way to do this," said the early Obama backer of the 2008 caucus cycle. "And Iowa said yes. And that's what we've got to do again."

The event was billed as a student-oriented conversation and Rybak pitched the Obama administration's signature policy to the younger crowd members. "There will be 12 million students who will walk out of college and stay on their parent's insurance because President Obama stuck his neck out on health care."

"He wanted to go further (on the economic stimulus) but he wanted to hold this country together," Rybak said of criticism from the left that Obama had not been strong enough in negotiations with Republicans. "It would have been smarter politics to play to the base. But even before he was president, he had to be the grownup in the room."

It will be tough, running in this economy," said Rybak, "but the people of Iowa believe in common sense and in the future."

Congressional candidate Christie Vilsack, challenging Steve King in the 4th CD, was also on hand prior to other Johnson County events this evening.

"I'm running to beat Steve King, but I'm also running to help re-elect this president," said Vilsack.

Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky emphasized the importance of a strong statewide effort, even though the only statewide office on the ballot is the presidency. "We will make the congressional races, expanding the Senate majority, and taking back the House statewide races," she said. "Nothing, nothing, nothing is more important than expanding the Senate majority." That's right, three nothings, I counted.

Tweet Of The Year

...comes from Talking Points Memo:
BREAKING: Romney tried beer, a cigarette as a teenager
Looks like Jason Sudeikis had it right last Saturday.

Naah, shouldn't pick on Mittens. New Hampshire at least is taking him seriously, according to this poll which has him way out front with 41% to Paul and Newt with 14 each. And pollster David Paleologos GETS the factor that will help Willard to a 26% win in Iowa: "Romney's best insurance policy... is Ron Paul, whose fixed support takes 14 percent off the table."

As we all know, BVP isn't taking Mitt seriously. Craig Robinson has the must read on who the famIly leader is looking at; like me his list starts with Santorum.

But the real GOP frontrunner, at least in debates? Zombie Reagan.

The Washington Post double-disses Iowa. First up, a big six 2012 endorsements list that names no Iowans. OK, so Grassley and Branstad have ruled themselves out, but you'd think Steve King would rank. Even better is a classic in over the top caucus hate from Richard Cohen. Iowa: we are the one percent.

Least. Surprising. Announcement. Ever: Yes, Mike Gronstal is running for re-election in Senate District 8 (one of my favorite District Of The Day writeups). Also announcing,on the opposite corner of the state, is fellow Dem Mary Jo Wilhelm in Senate District 26. She's paired up with Republican Merlin Bartz, who is learning the hard way that good fences do NOT make good neighbors.


And just for fun: the cats needed a bath.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Beret Bets Bob Backs...

Rick Santorum. It was always between Santorum and Bachmann, after the rollout of the flawed Purity Pledge or whatever the hell it was called.

Why Santorum instead of Bachmann (which would have made for a quintuple alliterative headline)? Because Mr. famIly leader is all about being the kingmaker. Bachmann has had her moment, and what's less important than her fade is that there are too many other people who can claim credit if she makes a comeback. Santorum is the only Iowa-contesting candidate who hasn't been a flavor of the month, so if he gets lucky at the last minute and that 99 county strategy pays off, BVP thinks he can claim it was all his doing.

As for non-Iowa contesting candidates, anyone else catch the real Jon Huntsman on SNL this weekend? He was OK on Weekend Update, but he was definitely upstaged by Kermit The Frog.

Back in Des Moines, Rahm Emanuel kept the focus on just one Republican, devoting a big chunk of his Jefferson-Jackson speech to Mitt Romney, but not mentioning. any. other. Republican. even. once. (I missed out in person, and tuned in on CSPAN just as Rahm started, so I'm sure the other speakers got in a few zingers at the rest of the field.)

A touchdown dance for Dems today: Liz Mathis officially becomes Senator Liz Mathis at a 5 p.m. swearing in at Ohnward Bank and Trust in Marion. Also in the Iowa Senate, Brad Zaun takes time away from the Bachmann campaign to announce for re-election in Iowa Senate District 20, which moves out toward the suburbs and is better GOP turf for the one-time congressional candidate.

More thoughs on the death of Iowa Independent (as of this morning: 404) from Bleeding Heartland and me at the Register.

Paul Krugman on why the failure of the supercommittee is good: "You see, admitting that one side is willing to make concessions, while the other isn’t, would tarnish one’s centrist credentials. And the result is that the G.O.P. pays no price for refusing to give an inch. "

404 for Iowa Independent

In traditional print journalism, the end of the story is - 30 - . On line, it's 404 Not Found. Either way, that's the story this week for Iowa Independent, which has folded after four and a half years.

In an "open letter to readers" which as of Monday morning appears to be off line along with the rest of the site (UPDATE: It was back up by 10 AM), editor Lynda Waddington said that a business "shift in strategy" had led to the closing of two other state sites that were part of the American Independent network. As for Iowa: "The decision, as it was explained to me, is not one of will I stay or will I go, but is centered on the timing of my departure."

It was a blogging supergroup, the original Iowa Independent of 2007 and 2008. The recruiters brought in the core of the Iowa liberal blogosphere that had emerged in 2006. A few names came and went, but the core stayed together. Doug Burns. Tom Lindsay. Chase Martyn. Lynda Waddington. Dien Judge. And me.

It was a model for journalism of the future, which I believe will be funded by political interests rather than advertisers, with the burden of "objectivity" placed on the reader. Yes, we leaned a bit left in our outlook, but we played our journalism straight and fair. We had this state blanket covered through the epic 2008 caucus cycle. We knew the lay of the land better than the national press did because we were here on the ground all the time. (I still don't think anyone in the national media really understands Democratic caucus apportionment and viability.)

But the business side of things broke up the band immediately after the 2008 general election, and I was one of the casualties. Lynda Waddington and the skeleton crew that survived continued excellent work, with occasional help from stringers. But without the resources to keep eight or nine half to full time people on the ground, the site was never quite the same.

The state's conservatives have figured it out: TheIowaRepublican is not even close to what the original IowaIndy was, but it's a great one-stop shop for GOP news, clearly conservative but not necessarily party line. And there's clearly some money coming from somewhere. The Democrats know this but haven't followed up.

I started blogging nine years ago, just as a hobby, with no intention of turning it into a side job. There's a little money involved in the Register column, not nearly as much as there was with Iowa Independent. But that's not really why I do it. One of the best things I've read recently on writing came from, of all places, humor site Cracked:
If you're making money online, it's because you kept at it for zero reward until that happened. Some people want to quit their jobs because they hate them and go write instead, which is the exact wrong attitude for a writer. You write because you love it. You write on top of your regular work, because words might be the true expression of your soul, but your unique spirit doesn't pay the rent.

Some people get hired straight into writing because they were smart enough to do the "find out what you really want to do and work at it utterly" thing in college, which is what college is for. The rest of us simply work two jobs, where the second is unpaid for a long time.

This means that you're pouring all your free time into writing, work that matters to you, instead of spending it in an endless parade of distractions to forget the next day's early start. You keep doing this until you're earning as much from the writing as you were from your old job, then you reward yourself by taking a 50 percent pay cut by going full time and betting "I can work twice as hard as I have been doing just to earn as much as I was."
I missed the Jefferson-Jackson dinner and the Republican events over the weekend because I was working at my second job. It's not a writing job; I use some of my tech skills at a major retailer. The money's not great but the work is OK and they're good about scheduling around my first job. The point is: When my second job was with Iowa Independent, I would have been at those events. But it's a lot harder for a writer to justify time off paid work and a tank of gas when it's a hobby and not a job.

I wish Lynda and the rest all the best; any news organization in the state would be smart to sign her up ASAP.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dumb Mistake, Dumber Law

Occupy is by design a leaderless movement, but in Des Moines, David Goodner had emerged as a major de facto leader. I'd feuded with David and others, most significantly in August, about the role of civility in political discourse. I threw the phrase "getting their kicks out of getting arrested" around a lot. I like David and I think we're basically on the same side of things. But I think his personal commitment to confrontationalism has colored the direction of the whole Des Moines group from early on.

Goodner was arrested again on Friday as a part of an Occupy march, but unfortunately a drug charge was thrown in. He sent a very sincere letter of apology to movement members and says he's going to step back for a while.

It must be a very painful time to take a semi-voluntary break when so much excitement is happening. Occupy's enemies will no doubt use this to try to discredit a whole movement. But it's really just one very smart, very sincere, very passionate young man working things out.

Goodner talks of possible drug rehab in his letter. I don't know his situation, but it's not necessarily substance abuse just because the substance is illegal. Putting yourself in a risk of arrest situation while you're holding is just a dumb mistake, one that a veteran protester like David should never have made. You know what's even dumber? Marijuana being illegal in the first place. "Rehab" may be less necessary than just some time for Goodner to think about his priorities and approach. I wish him well and hope we can be on the same side more often than not.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dems have Senate 46 Candidate

The Republicans have two incumbent senators in Senate District 46, and now Democrats have a candidate:
Muscatine firefighter and paramedic Chris Brase, 49, will seek the Democratic nomination for Senate District 46 next spring.

If he wins the primary on June 5 Brase will face one of two incumbent Republican senators, Jim Hahn of Muscatine or Shawn Hamerlinck of Dixon. Both GOP senators reside within the boundaries of the newly redrawn district.

Brase said he’s received encouragement to run from other Democrats, including Sen. Tom Courtney, D-Burlington. He also has the support of many of his fellow firefighters.
Courtney's from the safe adjacent district to the south so he's likely to help out a lot.

The district is exactly half Muscatine County, half Scott. It pairs long time legislator Jim Hahn of Muscatine and freshman Shawn Hamerlinck, who was on the Davenport city council when elected in 2008, but has moved to Dixon. The general Map Day assumption was that Hahn, who'll be 76 on Election Day 2012, would retire. But he's announced. The rumor mill is now saying that Hamerlinck, who's had a job transition, may just go home.

Whoever Brase faces, it'll be in a swing seat (D + 461 registration in April). Muscatine had been trending Democratic in the 2000s decate, but the house seat flipped back to the GOP last year.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dawson Tries Again In House 14

We may have another Iowa House rematch, but a redistricting pairup makes it a bit uncertain.

Democrat Dave Dawson has announced a second try in House District 14, in west Sioux City. He lost a similar district by about 600 votes to Jeremy Taylor in 2010; the seat had been held by Democrat Wesley Whitead before that.

But the minimal line changes shifted Taylor into the east side House District 13, held by freshman Democrat Chris Hall. Hall, one of a very few Democratic freshmen, took over from fellow Democrat Roger Wendt, who retired in ill health and passed away earlier this year.

14 is slightly more Democratic (D + 1976 registration in April, vs. D + 848 for District 13). The registration margins overstate Democratic strength since Woodbury County is historically among the lowest turnout parts of the state. With Dawson running in 14 we can infer that Hall is staying in 13. Taylor has a tough battle either way: move to 14 and get a rematch, or stay in 13 for a two incumbent race.

Friday clip show

THIS didn't take long post-election:
The City Council on Monday will discuss changes to the 21-only bar ordinance that would place more rules on establishments like restaurants that want to be exempt from the law.

The proposal comes from the Partnership for Alcohol Safety (sic), which is a group of city leaders, University of Iowa officials and students, business owners and community leaders.

The group wants to stop what it sees as establishments taking advantage of exemptions to the law, which bans people younger than 21 from being in places with liquor licenses after 10 p.m.
Doc Dobyns is jumping up and down in anticipation.

From the Deeth Blog's Department of Shameless Self-Promotion, here's the Talking With Yale Cohn city election post-mortem I did with Garry Klein and Adam Sullivan.

Branstad is fined for spreading BS, only it's the wrong Branstad. And it's not metaphorical rhetorical BS, it's actual BS.

A handy checklist here for caucus-watchers that lists staffing and endorsements in Iowa.

Iowa legislative stuff; Bleeding Heartland has a good overview of the Senate 26 pairup of Dem Mary Jo Wilhelm and Republican Merlin Bartz, who has a tin ear about his fence line. And a routine re-elect announcement from Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City) that emphasizes the small changes in a District Draws Itself seat (Mason City proper is something like 90% of ideal district size).

Sad news in the Iowa journalism world. An open letter from Iowa Independent editor Lynda Waddington indicates that the site is likely in its final days.

It was a blogging supergroup, the original Iowa Independent of 2007 and 2008. A few names came and went, but the core stayed together. Doug Burns. Tom Lindsay. Chase Martyn. Lynda Waddington. Dien Judge. And me.

One of the best things I've read recently on writing came from, of all places, Cracked:
if you're making money online, it's because you kept at it for zero reward until that happened. Some people want to quit their jobs because they hate them and go write instead, which is the exact wrong attitude for a writer. You write because you love it. You write on top of your regular work, because words might be the true expression of your soul, but your unique spirit doesn't pay the rent.

Some people get hired straight into writing because they were smart enough to do the "find out what you really want to do and work at it utterly" thing in college, which is what college is for. The rest of us simply work two jobs, where the second is unpaid for a long time.

This means that you're pouring all your free time into writing, work that matters to you, instead of spending it in an endless parade of distractions to forget the next day's early start. You keep doing this until you're earning as much from the writing as you were from your old job, then you reward yourself by taking a 50 percent pay cut by going full time and betting "I can work twice as hard as I have been doing just to earn as much as I was."
Good luck to Lynda and everyone else associated with the site.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Four Way Stop

Polling doesn't get much wackier than this: I know I'm a little late to the party but I have to note the Bloomberg survey released late Monday that shows a four way dead heat in Iowa.
Cain 20
Paul 19
Romney 18
Gingrich 17
Perry 7
Bachmann 5
Santorum 3
Huntsman 1
It reminds us caucus vets of the four way Kerry-Edwards-Dean-Gephardt tie on caucus eve 2004.

But my gut check is this one's a fluke. It catches the flavor of the month transition of the Not Mitt role from Cain to Gingrich. The more I think about it, the more I buy Rachel Maddow's theory that the Cain campaign is in fact a performance art project.

I can't see Newt lasting long in this role either; his personal failings are too much for the Vander Plaats constituency to accept. Speaking of the famIly leader (remember, the upper case I is for Bob's self-importance), he's saving his venom this week for Romney. Miffed that Mitt is the only major candidate to skip the royal command performance this weekend, he calls Romney "not smart enough to be president.” Strong statement when the options are Herman Cain and Perry the Platypus.

I think the Ron Paul spike here is a statistical fluke. Paul has a rock solid 12 to 15 percent that won't get much bigger or much smaller; he's not going to climb to, say, 30. He could take second if the rest of the field splinters enough. And statistically, a strong Paul performance helps Mitt. By soaking up an indigestible X percent, Paul lowers the share of the remaining 85 percent or so that Romney will need to place first. Everything is still pointing to a Dole-like 26 percent win.

Michele Bachmann, meanwhile, has a new web ad that slams Mitt, Cain, Newt, Paul and Perry, multiple times each, with their own words, for deviations from conservative orthodoxy.

"Don't Settle," it pleads. But notice who she didn't bash? Rick Santorum. It may be because she's ahead of him, or it may be because those litmus test failures can't be found. (She may have been scared of Googling him...)

In any case, Santorum has not yet had his turn as flavor of the month. Who knows: he could get lucky and be the latest Not Mitt at just the right moment. I may check him out tomorrow; 7:30 AM, Hamburg Inn.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Our Demands: Putting Cliches First

Register today:
Protesters occupied Herman Cain’s presidential campaign headquarters and the business office of Mitt Romney’s Iowa campaign leader Tuesday morning in protest of the candidates’ plans to reduce government...

In an e-mail release sent today to the Register, CCI leaders said they delivered letters to the Cain office and the office of Romney’s consultant.

The letter demands that the candidates put people first...
Register Friday:
Occupy Des Moines protesters showed up at Iowa’s largest health-insurance company today to demand relief from rate increases.

About a dozen protesters delivered a letter addressed to John Forsyth, chairman of Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The letter demands that the insurer drop its premiums. “Enough is enough. It’s time to put people before profits. It’s time to put patients first. Consider yourselves on notice.”
Enough is enough: where have I heard that before?

So we've doubled down on DEMANDS and (with minor variation) PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST. A couple months back I argued that one of the C's in CCI was for "Counterproductive." It seems the other one is for "Cliche." (Which I honor by reviving the five year old Snakes On A Plane meme.)

This is what democracy looks like.

Priceless Register line: "The letter doesn’t specify what will happen to the insurer if it ignores the notice." Some variation on Hey Hey Ho Ho, I would guess.

Just to make sure the humor impaired get it: by and large I think the goals here are good, but the tactics and ESPECIALLY the rhetorical style are nails on chalkboard to me. What do I want? New Slogans! When do I want them? Now!

Dad's Independent Wisdom

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he'd learned in seven years.” - Mark Twain

I found a coffee mug with this quote a while back on one of my weekend crawls around resale stores, and knew I had to get it for my dad. (Since my sons are tweens, maybe I should have kept it.)

I spent the long weekend at my parents' home in Wisconsin for an early Thanksgiving. Trips home are my escape from the political bubble of the People's Republic of Johnson County, my semi-annual reality check. Mom and Dad are my barometer of pure independents. And not apathetic independents, either. They're the journalist's idealized independents who "study the candidates" and often vote split tickets. And they're a shrinking part of the electorate.

A generation ago, maybe a quarter of the electorate was made up of swing voters. I'm basing that on low water marks for the major parties: Goldwater `64 and McGovern `72. Now that swing vote is probably 10 percent or less, so an LBJ or Reagan size landslide is no longer possible. Obama and his GOP opponent will each start next fall with about 45 percent of the national popular vote locked in.

Now, fair disclosure: my parents are retired teachers. Retired Wisconsin teachers. Gov. Scott Walker's anti-government employee agenda has steered Mom and Dad toward Democrats in general. They live in one of the two Senate districts that changed hands in the August recall elections. Before that, their vacant state House seat also flipped from R to D in a special election brought about when the incumbent resigned to take a key job in the Walker administration. (A dude I went to high school with, who is as annoying now as he was then.)

I warned my folks to expect nonstop phone calls stating today as the recall effort against Walker begins collecting signatures. But -- this is where exposition ends and substance finally begins -- they may not sign.

Dad argues: Democrats haven't got a candidate who can beat Walker and is willing to run. (Their first choice is former senator Russ Feingold, who they always supported.) "If they're not going to win anyway," says Dad, "why spend all that time and money?"

After watching the Badgers clobber the Gophers, we stumbled onto the first part of the Republican debate, which prompted another significant look at the independent mindset. It's the flipside of the Walker recall: lack of a candidate.

Dad: If the Republicans don't even like their own candidates and can't decide which one to pick, how do they expect to persuade someone like me?

Me: OK, Dad, let me ask you this. Last time, when the Democrats took forever to decide between Barack and Hillary, what did you think?

Dad: I think you liked both of them, and I think this year the Republicans don't like any of them.
So take heed, Republicans. Your lack of enthusiasm is being noticed and isn't playing well. My survey is highly unscientific and probably biased, but it's a different set of biases than my own, and the older I get, the smarter my parents seem.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Catch-Up

I was mostly off the grid this weekend celebrating an early Thanksgiving in my native Wisconsin. A few items of note:

  • The yard signs appear to be down in Senate 18 but on the drive home we saw a large Cindy Golding billboard. Golding is still talking about a run next year in new Senate 48, but the other two contenders aren't stepping aside.

  • Craig Robinson looks at the post-Battle of Marion Senate GOP leadership fight. In my opinion Bill DIx emerges as a bigger loser than even McKinley, and Dix-faction senators are openly calling Jerry Behn's election more of the same. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  • Also noted in Robinson's piece:
    Republicans also elected a new minority whip. Senator Brad Zaun was selected to replace Senator Steve Kettering, who, like McKinley, stepped down and is also not seeking re-election in 2012.
    First I'd heard of that. Kettering was fairly lucky in redistricting; Senate District 6 keeps four whole counties in a five-plus county seat. Buena Vista, Sac, and Carroll counties stay intact, and the eastern Crawford shunk is similar. The district adds tiny Audubon County and keeps a pretty similar solid GOP registration edge (2187 in April).

  • Also at TheIowaRepublican, Kevin Hall chides Gingrich:
    Newt plans on opening offices in Des Moines and Iowa City (???) soon … A GOP campaign office in Iowa City makes about as much sense as Christie Vilsack opening a headquarters in Sioux Center. Or thinking she can beat Steve King.
    Au contraire, my conservative colleague. The mistake with an Iowa City HQ isn't Iowa City per se. Johnson is one of the top 10 GOP counties in the state based on sheer number of registrations and voters, which is how Republicans count their caucus votes. (Democratic caucus results end up weighting the counties by size and party strength based on general election results.) Johnson is lousy for the GOP in terms of percentage, but even 20% of registration in a big metro county is quite a few.

    But the mistake in an Iowa City effort is the timing. A January 3 date in a campus county is deadly. I'd have put the eastern Iowa office in the QC or Cedar Rapids. But then, it's not my job to give Newt advice.
  • Friday, November 11, 2011

    Number Crunching University Heights

    Someone needs to write a book, or at least a good long journal article, about the Battle Of University Heights. Development battles are always the nastiest fights in local politics, and in the surrounded west side enclave, an entire generation of Zoning War has been distilled into one lot. The Build It or Don't feud between neighbors was battled to a stalemate Tuesday, with a margin of two votes for the last seat.

    Both sides in the fight over redevelopment of the St. Andrew Church property - in a supreme irony, the church is the city's polling place - had tightly organized, clear slates of candidates. The WeR4UH side opposes the One University Place plan; the U H Moving Forward side supports it.

    Even though all five seats were up (UH is now the last city in the county with two year terms) both sides deliberately ran slates of just four candidates. The Votes Per Voter number - in a vote for more than one race, add up all votes then divide by number of voters - was 4.08, meaning (approximately) 92 percent of voters left a spot blank. The trend was even more pronounced for early voters; an amazing 96 percent only voted for four.

    (The Votes Per Voter number is imprecise and just an estimate. Doesn't mean EXACTLY 8 percent voted for five, because some folks could have voted for three, two, even none. Donald Baxter proudly threw the stats off by 0.2% by declaring a pox on both houses, leaving the council race blank, and just voting for the library levy.)

    All other things being equal, WeR4UH seems to have a 20 to 30 person edge in a maximized electorate - 60 percent turnout, just short of gubernatorial levels, for a third straight record breaking turnout. But all other things are not equal and the WeR4UH margin is less than the individual strengths and weaknesses of candidates. It was the tiny handful of ticket splitters, five vote voters, inadvertent mistakes, and other miscellany that decided the election - or, rather, produced an improbable split decision despite the polarization.

    I call the sides "party" below but there was no simple way to vote a straight ticket. You had to know it to get it right, but a quick drive (or, for Donald, a bike ride) through town would make the task easy.

    McGrath (I)WeR4UH141145286
    Hopson (I)WeR4UH139145284
    Leff (ex-ICCSD)WeR4UH135141276
    Haverkamp (I)U H Moving Forward17995274
    Lane (ex-appointee)U H Moving Forward17198269
    Yeggy (I)U H Moving Forward16189250
    WhitmerU H Moving Forward15690246

    WeR4UH won the early vote (236) roughly 60-40, while U H Moving Forward carried the slightly larger election day vote (298) by a less precise margin.

    The WeR4UH vote was slightly more solid, with a 19 vote gap between first place Brennan McGrath and sixth place Rachel Stewart. On the U H Moving Forward side there were 28 votes separating fourth place Mike Haverkamp from last place Amanda Whitmer. The absentees - more decisive, ready to vote NOW - were more solid for both sides than the election day voters.

    On both sides, first time candidates ran the weakest. WeR4UH elected 2009 winner McGrath, January special election winner Rosanne Hopson, and Jan Leff, a well-known former school board member. (Her husband Al, who was also on the school board, narrowly lost the 2009 mayor's race.) The low vote getter for WeR4UH was newcomer Rachel Stewart.

    U H Moving Forward re-elected Haverkamp and elected Jim Lane, who had briefly served on the council as an appointee before losing the special election to Hopson. (I spotted a handful of houses with Lane signs next to the WeR4UH sign, and just one or two of those was enough to make the difference.) Incumbent Pat Yeggy lost, and first time candidate Whitmer finished last - but with 46% and just 40 votes behind frontrunner McGrath.

    Despite the division, UH residents agreed on one thing: the library levy was renewed with 79%.

    Two other cities set turnout records: Shueyville, with multiple write-in candidacies and a one vote margin, and Tiffin, where banker Steve Berner defeated incumbent mayor Royce Phillips.

    I haven't had the heart to seriously number-crunch the Iowa City contests, though a short version of my wee hours of Wednesday post is in today's print Press-Citizen. One factoid: 28% of voters either skipped the Rick Dobyns-Steve Soboroff District A race or cast a write in. 43 percent did the same in District C, but that's not unusual in an uncontested race.

    And little Aredale in Butler County, population 74, has shown up Iowa City by electing an 18 year old mayor.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Schueller To Try Comeback

    Democrat Tom Schueller, one of 2010's unlikeliest victims, is on the comeback trail, seeking to regain the House District 58 legislative seat he lost last year to Brian Moore.

    Schueller was unopposed in 2008, and looked to be unopposed again in 2010. But after losing a Democratic Senate primary to Tod Bowman, Moore switched parties, filed against Schueller, and rode the wave for a 138 vote shock win.

    This was a pair-up on Map Day, but Republican freshman Lee Hein is moving to House 95 in a My District Just Not My Farm situation.

    The old district was the most Democratic seat held by a Republican, with about the same 4000ish Democratic registration margin. But Moore, who lives right on the edge of the new turf, loses the pieces of northern Clinton County and southern Dubuque where he got his winning margin (Schueller won Jackson County by about 250) and instead gets eastern Jones County. It's a must-win for Democrats, and a tough hold for the GOP.

    Bleeding Heartland is looking to steal my District Of The Day crown and has a good look at open House District 28. Republican Rich Arnold is retiring and desmoinesdem, who earlier caught the candidacy of Democrat Megan Day Suhr, also sees that Republican Greg Heartsill, a "homeschool(er) with nine children," is in.

    desmoinesdem notes:
    Iowa House Democrats did not appear to be represented at the (Suhr kickoff) event, nor did I receive a press release about Suhr from the House Democrats. In contrast, the House Democrats publicized campaign announcements by Joe Riding in district 30, Rich Olive in district 48, Bill Heckroth in district 63, Art Staed in district 66, Daniel Lundby in district 68, Rachel Bly in district 76, Joe Judge in district 80, Sara Sedlacek in district 88, and Frank Wood in district 92.
    And, as I write, the Schueller release from the House Dems hits my inbox. Suhr seems serious, but lists her profession as "doula," which loosely translates as midwife. My guess is that "doula" sounds kind of, how do I say this, Fairfield in Knoxville. Home birth vs. home school: House 28 sounds like quite the culture clash.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2011

    Iowa City to Students: Drop Dead (Part 2)

    I'm supposed to be a happy little Democrat tonight with the Liz Mathis blowout. But I'm not. I'm miserable. Some wins and losses you feel more than others, and as you could tell from reading these past couple weeks, I was deeply committed politically and emotionally to Raj Patel. This one hurts.

    Patel's loss proves beyond all doubt that under the present Iowa City political and electoral structure, it is impossible to elect a student to the city council. The only way to achieve a representative democracy in my city is with a rewritten city charter.

    There's plenty of blame to go around for Patel's loss, but little of it goes to the candidate himself. He was the best prepared, best funded - yes, from his pocket - hardest working young candidate I've seen in two decades in town. He knocked on more than 5000 doors in every part of the city. He did what he needed to do.

    So what went wrong in tonight's results?

    1. Love The Hawkeyes Hate The Students. All that the voters on the east side needed to know about Raj was that he was 20 years old. The 50 and 60 and 70 somethings won't vote for a young person any more than white people will vote for a black governor of Mississippi, and old school "progressives" have aged to the point that they no longer identify with students like they used to.

    2. Pink Signs. All Manville Heights, ironically one of the more pro-public power parts of town six years ago, cared to know about Michelle Payne was that she was female. They felt "progressive" supporting her. So now there's a Republican MidAmerican employee on the council. Given how lame Mike Wright turned out, why didn't we just save time four years ago and elect Terry Smith?

    3. Lack of support from the Daily Iowan. The headline every day for the last four weeks should have been "Chance To Elect Student, Vote Now!" Instead they quibbled about Patel's enrollment status, overstressed Payne's, and didn't emphasize the very likely UI administration pressure on Patel. The front page was All Occupy All Month. They offered a weak, and counterproductive, co-endorsement of Patel and Payne just Tuesday morning.

    4. Vote Only For Jarrett Mitchell. Told ya so. The Chicken Man was, as I predicted with great evidence and accuracy, a distant fourth, 1000 votes behind Patel. Patel was just 232 votes behind Payne. Lefties (sic) were lulled by Mitchell's buzzwords and persona. Those bullets for the pullets could have elected Patel, but instead we have Payne. Bullet voting on all sides was rampant this election; average voter cast just 1.57 votes at large meaning (roughly) 43% left one blank.

    5. The students themselves. Turnout was low; Payne goes to the council with the lowest vote total of any winner in decades (Randy Larson in 1987, when the city population was much smaller). Brandon Ross in 2003 got damn near as many votes as Payne did today. John Robertson got more in 2001 in fourth place. Despite massive efforts from Team Patel, 700+ absentees never came back. (Consolation prize: Patel probably won the mental votes of a plurality of those who attempted, however incompletely, to vote.)

    6. Structural barriers. I'm not just talking about the normal confusion of young people learning to vote for the first time. I'm saying that if you make the rules of the game, you determine the outcome. We elect the city council in off years, when participation and interest are lower. We have lengthy four year terms, as long as many young people are here. Raj at least could commit to staying in town because he has work waiting for him at graduation; how many students have that? And worst of all, you cannot get elected without winning city-wide.

    25,000 students. 32 years. Zero representation. But it's not taxation without representation because, as Payne's supporters will tell you, "students don't pay taxes."

    So here's my charter plan:

  • True districts where only the people who live in them run. If you have seven or nine or eleven, you get a district that's downtown dominated and winnable for a young person. I say more districts and a bigger body; 25 would be wonderful and give you precinct-size districts.

  • Two year terms. That's a more reasonable time commitment to ask of a young person.

  • Elections in even numbered years, on the general election ballot. That's when the most people vote, and more voters means more representative democracy. I'd make it partisan, too, but I could settle for non.

    But till then, we have another polarized result. The people who want to scrub and sanitize and neuter Iowa City have won another round, and we will have to look at Rick Dobyns sitting in smug self-righteousness for the next four years of council meetings.

    We'll just have to settle for voting down the jail next year. I know that's punishing the county, when it's the city and the University who are most at fault for the anti-student attitude. But as long as law enforcement's student harassing behavior doesn't change, and as long as students still have no seat at the table, the jail is the only place we get to say no.

    On to our other cities. University Heights is sitting at a one vote margin for the fifth seat, with seven absentees out. That's not over yet. Jim Fausett hangs on narrowly in Coralville, Mitch Gross is a consensus, and congrats to Jill Dodds. North Liberty says no to wards and Solon says Hell No to new city building. In Tiffin, mayor Royce Phillips is out. Blowout of the night goes to Tim Kemp, new Hills mayor, winning 137 to 9; Steve Cook gets less votes than he had nomination signatures.
  • Tuesday, November 08, 2011

    Election Day

    As usual I have my Election Day obligations so don't expect much till very late. Don't expect much on Battle of Marion either; I'll be covering the Johnson County local beat.

    During the day watch the turnout. Also mid-day check the early voting numbers. Through end of yesterday there were 951 mailed ballots not back; vast majority of them from student precincts in Iowa City. Raj Patel's chances depend largely on that 951 number getting smaller.

    If you still have a ballot DO NOT MAIL IT. Bring it to the auditor's office. If you lost it, go to the polls and vote a provisional. Polls open till 8.

    Looking ahead: Tomorrow the U is hosting a two day conference on "Conflict and Civility in Political Discourse: Where Is the Line?" at the Sheraton. All sessions are free and open to the public. It's a largely distinguished panel* of academics, politicos and journalists, including a Wednesday night keynote from Jim Leach and a Thursday morning address from some former political science prof named Loebsack. If you look up "civility in political discourse" in the dictionary there's a picture of those two guys from 2006.

    The * in "largely distinguished panel" is for the 10:45 Wednesday discussion on Social media and political discourse which includes... me. I've been revisiting the early September flame war with CCI in preparation. I promise to be very civil and if you don't like what I say, well, bite me.

    Monday, November 07, 2011

    Vote Patel To Make History

    I know that for the national politicos, Iowa's all about the presidency right now. And my statewide readership is probably focused entirely on the Battle of Marion.

    But for me, the last couple weeks have been about the Iowa City council election.

    I've done the math, I've looked at issues, I've pointed out the connections. But for me, personally, this election is about diversity and the principle of representative democracy.

    Iowa City prides itself on diversity and likes to think it has reflected that in its electoral politics. In some ways, we have. Iowa City's legislative delegation has been female-dominated ever since Minnette Doderer became one of the first women elected to the state senate. We also had a couple years of a woman-majority city council.

    We have elected African Americans to the school board, the city council and the legislature, and Ross Wilburn served two years as mayor. For a brief time we had four LGBT elected officials in major local office at once. We've elected a Socialist and even a couple registered Republicans (!) to local non-partisan office.

    But you know who we haven't elected in all that time? A student. And don't quibble about Raj Patel's enrollment status or Michelle Payne's classes. Everybody knows that in the context of Iowa City politics, "student" means someone 18 to 24. The youngest person I see winning office in the last 30 years was Karen Kubby, age 28 in 1989, after losing at 25 and 27.

    There are about 25,000 students in the city limits, more than a third of the population. The students ARE Iowa City. There are our economy: our shoppers, our tenants, our tuitions. Yet too many Iowan Citians, frankly, would be happy if the university was nothing but tenured faculty, international grad students who never leave the lab, and football players.

    Nowhere is this reflected more than in city politics. It has been 32 years, since David Perret won a second term in 1979, since Iowa City has elected a student to the city council. That's ten years before most of the current undergrads were even born. Many people, sadly, think that's just fine, unfortunately including some "progressives," who were more than happy to herd young voters to the polls for Obama in 2008 but got squeamish when they showed up in 2010.

    The local conservatives, the kind who care more about zoning fights than about which party runs the legislature, don't have to balance the cognitive dissonance like liberals and are more direct. Sometimes they'll openly argue, against legal precedent that's been fought to the Supreme Court, that students shouldn't be allowed to vote here, let alone hold office. Even when the old timers begrudingly accept it, you can tell they're thinking it. The argument is almost always "they don't pay taxes." Meaning, specifically, not sales taxes or income taxes but local property taxes. Which of course they do; they just write the check to the landlord instead of to the treasurer.

    But it's a failing of representative democracy to have so large a group so unrepresented for so long. As I have often argued, if we were a city of 70,000 with 25,000 African Americans who had been unrepresented for 32 years, we'd be in federal court under the Voting Rights Act. The system is stacked against students, probably on purpose: to get a seat at the table, you have to win city-wide, and historically townies refuse to vote for students.

    This year, that can change.

    Before candidate filing started, I swore up and down that I wasn't going to vote for anyone over 25 until a student was elected. I've used that as an excuse for not running myself; we've got enough old straight bald white guys in office as is.

    Jim Throgmorton, despite being an old straight bald white guy, is a qualified enough candidate to earn an exception. I'd vote for just anyone anyone against Rick Dobyns, and while Steve Soboroff is not young, he recognizes that the condescending attitude toward the student community is one of the fundamental flaws of our city.

    But in the at large race, the best opportunity to elect a student, and the best qualified young candidate, in literally a lifetime has happened.

    Yes, I'll admit for me part of Raj Patel's appeal is his age. I know that voting by demographic, by identity, is risky. Understand that the candidate who is making the strongest push on that front is not Raj Patel. Republican Michelle Payne is hiding her of, by, and for the traditional powers that be agenda behind unsubtle pink yard signs. And libertarian Jarrett Mitchell, whose persona is appealing to many old-school liberals, only looks like a lefty.

    But I didn't vote for Raj Patel simply because he's 20 years old, any more than you should vote for Michelle Payne because she's female or for Jarrett Mitchell because he has long hair or for Matt Hayek because of his family name. Raj Patel has a solid grasp of issues and experience. And he offers actual plans, not niche issues, on sustainability.

    Patel has avoided most of the traditional criticism aimed at young candidates. "The students are only here for a little while and leave"? Patel's family is here and he has a career in the family's businesses ahead of him. "Can't win"? The primary showed Patel far ahead of any previous student, well within reach of victory, and leading the field in some non-student areas. "Inexperienced"? Patel was well up to speed as council liaison. And his effort as a candidate shows the effort he'll make as a council member.

    Voting today at the library and Auditor's office, tomorrow at the polls. Please join me in voting to make history in Iowa City. Join me in supporting Raj Patel.

    Saturday, November 05, 2011

    Last Minute Endorsements

    The Gazette gets one right, backing Raj Patel and Matt Hayek; earlier they'd backed Rick Dobyns in District A.

    Regular readers know my endorsements: Soboroff, Throgmorton, and Patel and anyone but Payne. The Press-Citizen pages have been full of letters to the editor. Suggestion to the P-C for layout: The NAME is more important for the headline than the actual content. I dug through them all anyway. Several of note:

  • Dave and Lynnette Jacoby for Mitch Gross and Jill Dodds for Coralville City Council. School board member Tuyet Dorau also endorses Gross, as does the NFL's Nate Kaeding.

  • Outgoing city council member Mike Wright (a vote I regret) is for Hayek and Dobyns.

  • Former mayor John Balmer gets a second letter for Michelle Payne, (he had one in the primary)and throws Hayek in for good measure. None of this "Vote ONLY For" stuff on the Old Guard side. Based on this letter and a couple others, the anti-student code word (along with the usual "life-long resident" applied to Hayek) is "maturity."

  • Democratic Party vice chair Mike Carberry lays out the case against Mid-American and Payne, and backs Hayek and Patel.

  • North Liberty council member Gerry Kuhl (not up this year) endorses no on the ward issue

    Voting this weekend: today at the Iowa City library, tomorrow 11 to 5 at all the Hy-Vees.
  • Friday, November 04, 2011

    It Gets Weirder In Altoona

    Bye Bye Betty

    Kevin Hall speculates that Kim Pearson... recruited her own primary challenger?

    Other Iowa House Republican news:

    Rep. Betty De Boef blinks on a redistricting pair-up and announces she will NOT seek re-election. De Boef was one of the few veterans passed over for committee chairs when the GOP took over in January, and aligned herself with the Krazy Caucus of freshmen Pearson, Massie and Shaw and fellow veteran Dwayne Alons. There were rumors she might move and make a Senate run; De Boef moved in 2001 during her first term to get out of a pairup. De Boef's retirement cedes Washington-Keokuk based House 78 to freshman Jarad Klein.

    Mark "No Relation" Dix is dropping out in Grinnell-based House 76: "Avoiding a primary will maintain party unity and conserve vital resources." No name on the other GOP candidate is business owner David Maxwell; Dem Rachel Bly is in.

    And Quentin Stanerson of Center Point jumps into open House 95 based in rural Linn and Mt, Vernon-Lisbon. That's home to Cindy Golding but not Liz Mathis; Lisbon Dem Nate Willems lives in the lines but is running for Senate.

    The Wayback Machine: History Lessons

    So you're telling me there's a chance!

    The last couple days I've pointed out the perils of Michelle Payne and shown that Raj Patel has a solid sustainability platform. But the reaction seems to be: maybe, but Jarrett Mitchell is the kind of candidate I want to vote for.

    So today is Realpolitik day, as I don the beret to play the local version of Nate Silver. You might be saying: just because Jarrett Mitchell was way back in the primary, that doesn't mean he won't win!

    Well, actually, it does.

    Over the past two decades, Iowa City's October primaries have been a solid leading indicator of November election results. How could you get a better survey of the status of the field than an actual election in the same lines just 28 days earlier? All that changes is the elimination of the also-rans and one month of campaigning.

    Other candidates have had leads as big as Matt Hayek's, and none had ever lost that lead in one month. And no one has ever rebounded from fourth place in October to a top two win in November. Indeed, no one has even moved up even a notch from fourth to third. The order has flipped, but the shuffling has all been within the top three.

    Could it happen, in theory? Sure.

    But in the past two decades, the candidate who made up the most ground in the last month was Leah Cohen in 2001. She went from 12 percent behind in October to just 58 votes short of Mike O'Donnell in November. That was with a then-unprecedented student-aimed absentee ballot drive and a well-funded campaign. 400 mailed absentees never came back, and Leah lost by 58. That still haunts me, as it should haunt any Patel supporter right now.

    Jarrett Mitchell was 24 percent short of second place and ultimate victory in October, with just 14% of the vote. Leaving aside the bizarre 2009 cycle with its primary for two of three students to earn the right to lose to Terry Dickens and Susan Mims, Mitchell started the final month in the weakest position of any fourth place finisher since the city went to its current electoral system in 1975.

    Still, there's a first time for everything. But there's no real world indications that Mtchell is doing what it takes to close the gap. You need more than a platform and a persona to win; you need a campaign. I've now gotten mailings and seen significant efforts from all three other at large candidates. It's Raj Patel's crew chasing the mailed absentees. It's Raj Patel who narrowed the traditional student candidate gap in the townie precincts and even WON precinct 15 on the southeast side.

    I don't want to be accused of hippie bashing again; like I said I used to have long hair myself. It's a risk, but this really is the best analogy, the best combo of delusion and false hope. The folks who ignore the strategic reality on the ground and wish really, really hard for a Mitchell victory remind me of Wavy Gravy telling the Woodstock crowd, "If we think really hard, maybe we can stop this rain," while the thunder booms behind him.

    Hop into the Wayback Machine with me and look at the last couple decades of primaries and November elections.

    2009: The primary and general mirrored each other almost precisely. Mims and Dickens in the 70s and Shipley and Tallon in the teens.

    2007: Incumbent Dee Vanderhoef was a weak fourth in the primary with 22%, 12% behind Terry Smith and 15 points behind Michael Wright. That year as this, Matt Hayek was a couple laps ahead of the field. The finishing order, and the proportions, stayed almost the same in November.

    2005: This is the year people will point to, because the finishing order changed. The primary was Rick Dobyns, Amy Correia, Mike O'Donnell, Garry Klein, and in November it was Correia, O'Donnell, Dobyns, Klein. But look at Klein, who at the moment is one of Mitchell's biggest on-line backers. He stayed stagnant in fourth place: 29% in October, 30 in November.

    2003: The primary eliminated a weak field and left two tiers. Bob Elliot and Dee Vanderhoef were way out front, Brandon Ross and Steve Soboroff well behind. The proportions stayed about the same in November; Soboroff climbed from 21% to 26.

    2001: We talked about Cohen already. But the fourth place guy, John Robertson?  He absorbed some also-ran votes but actually ended up further behind third place Cohen despite increasing his own share from 25% in October to 35% in November.

    1999: November saw the closest election in city history. Steven Kanner went from 40 votes behind Charles Major in October to TWO votes ahead in November. But fourth place finisher Tim Borchardt only went from 21% to 25.

    1997: Ross Wilburn finished a respectable fourth, not a weak fourth, both times. The candidates bunched up at 3-4-5 in the primary and 2-3-4 in November. But Wilburn was far, far closer to being in the money in October than Mitchell.

    1995: Three candidates clustered near the top in both elections: Dee Vanderhoef, Karen Kubby and Howie Vernon. Julianna Johnston was well back in fourth both times.

    1993: Clyde Guillaume was a mediocre fourth both times.
    Before that, there's a ten year gap between city-wide primaries.

    So two decades, and not even one remotely close example that makes a credible case that Mitchell can close the gap. There are multiple examples that show a strong third-place finisher in October, like Raj Patel, can change the finishing order and win in November.

    If all you care about is sending a message, and your message is worth giving Mid-American a seat on the city council, sure. You can Vote For Only Jarrett Mitchell. If we think really hard, maybe we can stop this Payne.

    But the truth is, Jarrett Mitchell is not going to be on the city council. And Matt Hayek is going to be on the council. If you care about who IS on the council, you're choosing between Raj Patel and Michelle Payne. And opting out of that choice by bullet voting for Mitchell helps Payne.

    As I looked back over the last two decades, I was struck. There's never been a cycle where the strategic decision mattered so much. Maybe you're not ready to vote FOR Raj Patel. Then at least cast an effective, winnable vote AGAINST Payne, and marking Patel is the only way to do that.

    Thursday, November 03, 2011

    Kim Pearson Gets Primary Challenge from...

    ...well, it's really hard to tell what direction, in the overall multi-dimensional universe of the far right.

    Jim Carley, founder of Save Our American Republic (SOAR) is challenging House freshman Kim Pearson (R-Pleasant Hill), the stand-alone hard liner who calls herself a tea partier first and a Republican second, in Altoona-based House District 30.

    It's clearly not a moderate challenge, as both candidates serve slightly different flavors of tea. The SOAR site seems more worried about Socialism, rather than Pearson's first session focus on fetuses.
    “Our rights and our liberties are vanishing at an alarming rate,” Carley said. “What has always been wrong is now somehow right, and what has always been right is now somehow wrong. We must right our compass and advance in the appropriate direction.”
    I'm having trouble grasping the rationale for a hard-right challenge to the hard-rightest House member (well, Tom Shaw gives Pearson a run for her money).

    My gut check is that Carley, despite his self-description as an "activist" and "organizer," is a self-starter. A Some Dude. (Of course, Pearson was also a Some Dude - the term isn't gender specific - and she won.) The Carley announcement doesn't take on or even mention the incumbent. It seems more like "I want to run, this is where I live."

    The upshot might be an opportunity for a moderate to jump in and split the difference. Or Pearson, who's won few friends among her leadership to put it mildly, might just decide she's had enough and quit after one term, as fellow Crazy Caucus member Glen Massie has hinted he might.

    Joe Riding, moderate-ish Altoona city council member, is already in on the Democratic side. The district as revised is actually a little more Republican than the old turf, where Pearson upset conservaDem Geri Huser last year with under 50 percent of the vote in a three way race.

    Sustain, Not Payne

    The buzzword of the Jarrett Mitchell campaign has been "sustainability." That sounds really nice to Iowa City lefty environmentalists, recycling their stuff and riding their bikes to New Pi.

    But a closer look shows that Mitchell offers little in the way of practical solutions, and that the real choice for sustainability in the at large race is Raj Patel.

    On his entry into the race, much mirth was made about Mitchell being "the chicken guy," due to his support for the urban chicken permit proposal that fizzled a couple years ago. He embraced the label, posing with a chicken for his campaign photo. The resulting ID ("I'm voting for the Chicken Man") probably gave him the eleven extra votes he needed to overcome a heavily favored Mark McCallum for fourth place in the primary.

    To be direct, Mitchell's appeal is his persona. Lefties who'd like to Stick It To The Man love the vision of a pigtailed coffee shop owner carrying a chicken into Harvat Hall. And image is part of any candidate's complete package. Iowa City lefties have elected unconventional politicians before. Some, and Karen Kubby stands out, have been extremely effective at working within the system while pushing the boundaries. Others, like Steven Kanner, have been obstacles that in the long term set the local progressive cause back. Mitchell shows signs of the latter.

    I'm not trying to pick on appearance, I had shoulder length hair myself until it fell out around age 30. Let's look at substance. Here's how Mitchell leads his discussion of sustainability.
    I am concerned with both sustainability and discouraging governmental favoritism of corporate interests over local business.

    Sustainability through cycling and urban farming is becoming exponentially more popular regardless of City Council’s stance on these issues. Will City Council be proactive in changing zoning and animal ordinances to allow citizens to legally provide for themselves and the community, or will they continue to obstruct and compartmentalize our lives?

    Urban chickens and urban farming are symbiotic. Ordinances in countless other communities have proven that only the most responsible citizens take advantage of the legal right to own chickens. They will be the ones who recognize how important our proximity to our food source is.

    Sustainability proliferates through tangible experience; let us not make this experience illegal.
    Chickens take up way too much space. There's more, sure, but the emphasis seems very single issue, axe to grind.

    What's the impact? The Gazette recently looked at the issue in Cedar Rapids and found only 19 chicken permits in a city of over 100,000. Iowa City is smaller but more earthy-crunchy, so let's round that up to a couple dozen. How many jobs is that? How much carbon footprint is that? It's a cool symbol, and matters a whole lot to a very few people, but it's not a real solution.

    Here's what Michelle Payne (R-Midamerican) has to say about sustainability.
    (chirp... chirp...)
    OK, so it's not her thing. What IS her thing? "We need to grow our community through economic development. Growing the existing businesses and encouraging new development will increase our tax base and create more jobs."

    As noted yesterday, Payne is the candidate of the old guard, business as usual crowd in Iowa City, the developers and contractors. So if you're about sustainability, you need to stop her.

    Raj Patel puts sustainability at the very top of his platform page:
    I Want to Make Jobs and Quality of Life a Priority in Iowa City by…

  • Promoting a sustainable future in Iowa City

  • Incentivizing businesses and residents to improve the environmental efficiency of their buildings by providing tax incentives to individuals willing to retrofit their dwellings

  • Working with organizations like the homebuilder’s association to determine what would be necessary to ensure that new development projects that provide housing in the city also include affordable housing units.

  • Encouraging new buildings to seek US Green Building Association LEED certification
  • Look at the primary results. Payne and Raj Patel finished very, very close, 72 votes apart and well behind Matt Hayek. Mitchell was an order of magnitude behind. Candidates have recovered from narrow primary deficits to win in November, but no one in the 36 year history of Iowa City's present electoral system has ever come back from a poor fourth place in the October primary to win.

    Yeah, in a theoretical way this election would be a neat test of a ranked voting system. We don't have that. We have the top two wins. Jarrett Mitchell will not be in the top two. He will not be in the top three. The choice is between Raj Patel and Michelle Payne.

    What's more significant to sustainability: a niche proposal affecting very few people, or LEED certified buildings?

    What's more significant to the progressive cause in Iowa City: a protest vote for a guy with a funky persona, or actually electing someone with a constructive plan?

    If your motivations are partisan, the two Democrats in the race are Hayek and Patel. Mitchell is a libertarian and Payne, in a strong statement of core beliefs in a 70% Obama county, is a registered Republican.

    What if your real motivation is Sticking It To The Man? It's clear who The Man wants: Michelle Payne. Sticking It To The Man means defeating her. A bullet vote for the earthy-crunchiest candidate -- Mitchell is openly asking people to only vote for him and not use their second vote -- risks electing her.

    If you're willing to give Matt Hayek a pass for being "a good Democrat," a vote for him doesn't really hurt. I like Matt personally and don't really want him to lose. I just didn't feel like I could affirmatively vote for him again, and he's going to win anyway without my one little vote.

    But if you do, don't mark that ballot just for Matt. The important thing is not to be fooled by the pink signs and the unfortunate lack of other women on the ballot, and take the most positive action you can to stop Michelle Payne. If you really feel the need to make that Jarrett Mitchell statement, then mark that second choice for the electable sustainable candidate, Raj Patel.

    And if you're thinking Hayek and Mitchell, think strategically. Matt will win without your second vote just as well as he will without mine. Why risk getting Hayek and Payne instead?

    And if you really want to Stick It To The Man, what better way than electing the first student in 32 years?

    Wednesday, November 02, 2011

    McKinley Out

    Paul McKinley makes the inevitable official, stepping down as Iowa Senate GOP leader and, for good measure announcing he won't run for re-election next year.

    The news itself isn't a shocker. Consensus seems to be that Bill Dix had the votes in September when he tried his coup d'etat, but his co-conspirators got squeamish about pulling the trigger while McKinley was vacationing outside the country.

    But the timing, just six days before the Battle of Marion special election that could have made McKinley Co-Leader, not Minority leader, is interesting.

    As always, I note that Iowa Senate Republican leader is the Spinal Tap Drummer of political posts: three coups and a retirement in bad health since 2006. Dozens of leaders spontaneously combust each year, it's just not widely reported. And as often happens, losing a leadership fight leads to a complete retirement from the chamber.

    In addition to the internal GOP battle, McKinley's retirement opens up Senate District 14, which had changed quite a bit from his old turf. The new district is swing turf, with an April GOP reg edge of 622. It includes Clarke, Lucas, and Decatur counties, most of Marion County (but not Pella) and southern Jasper all the way up to the Newton city limits.

    The House members in the district are both Republicans: freshman Joel Fry and retiring Richard Arnold. Democrat Megan Day Suhr has announced in House 28, the open Arnold seat.

    Paying for Payne

    I keep talking about the "old guard" of Iowa City in the context of the city election, but I haven't defined it yet. And now it defines itself with the campaign finance report (pdf) of Michelle Payne (R-Midamerican).

    None of the scattered "progressives" and "public health" types that you see donating to Hayek and Dobyns are here. No, this is a nearly pure, old-school list of the traditional power structure in this town. Ambrisco. Lehman. Bywater. Pagliai. (Don't like their politics, love their pizza.) Dee (-feated) Vanderhoef. Streb. West. Ed Barker. Five different Balmers. The only name I see missing is Dickens.

    So don't be fooled by the content-free campaign and the pink yard signs: a Payne vote is a Good Old Boy vote, and that crowd already has plenty of representation. The viable, electable alternative, just a handful of votes behind Payne in the primary, is Raj Patel.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2011

    Least. Surprising. Endorsement. Ever.

    P-C Makes Predictable Picks

    Steve Soboroff was so sure he wasn't going to get the Iowa City Press-Citizen's nod that he asked the editorial board to "be gentle" when they inevitably endorsed Rick Dobyns, which of course happened today.

    The rest of the picks were just as predictable. The paper had already backed Matt Hayek and Michelle Payne in the primary, and Jim Throgmorton is unopposed.

    As for the meat of the editorial, the Press-Citizen proves it is still more obsessed with the 21 bar issue than anyone other than John Deeth. (More so, actually; my real obsession is the drinking age itself.) Dobyns' long-time "leadership" (sic) on 21 seems to be the main reason, or at least the main emphasis, for the endorsement.

    Speaking of which, did you know Raj Patel does not support repealing 21? Here, look for yourself (Word document, platform page).
    Like I have stated repeatedly. I have no intentions of repealing the 21-Ordinance and want to work to ensure that the focus of Iowa City is to now work to ensure that we are making sure our downtown is a vibrant place for everyone. It is also important for the city to promote the creation of venues for students to feel like downtown is a place that they can go to feel safe and have alternatives to alcohol only venues.
    Yet that assumption is making the rounds as "progressives" (what does that even mean anymore?) try to make their second choice between newly minted Democrat Patel, registered Republican Michelle Payne, and libertarian Chicken Man Jarrett Mitchell. (All this assumes that Matt Hayek is as good as re-elected. BTW his mailing landed in my mailbox a couple days ago, the first I got. The Patel mailing landed today.)

    Who's encouraging this misinformation? Occam's Razor points once again to University middle-ups and higher-ups, who want payback against Patel for his efforts to stop 21 last year.

    I wasn't planning on beating this dead horse again today. In the next couple days I'll be looking at Jarrett Mitchell's buzzword, "sustainability," and showing that Raj Patel's plans on the subject are more significant and practical.

    But with the P-C endorsement today, I'm just joining the club. So let's look at UI logic. Why do they still care so much? Didn't they already win?

    The fight is no longer about 21 itself. That ship has sailed, at least until we start talking about the drinking age itself. (Remember, the ordinance says "the legal age".) It's about the ancillary issues: the details of exemptions, the rates of the fines, the enthusiasm and aggression of the enforcement.

    Here's how I read the UI thought process:

    The "binge drinking" (sic) "problem" (sic) frankly, is a relatively small minority of the student body proper. Maybe a couple thousand folks who show up in Iowa City with a mindset out of "Animal House." Oops, forgot. I'm an old man. Insert Jersey Shore as less dated example. (That Number 4 Party School rank, right after they shoved through 21, has got to stick in the administration's shorts.)

    And now that they have 21, Sally Mason, Tom Rocklin (who's made a maximum donation to Dobyns), and company want four, maybe five years of draconian laws and throw the book at `em enforcement because they want that guy not to come to UI in the first place. They want him going back home to Aurora and telling his similarly inclined little brother, "Don't go to Iowa, man. They'll bust ya."

    Maybe you think that's a good thing. The problem, other than the 26th Amendment which says you're an adult at 18, is that zero tolerance policies sweep up a lot of really good people along with the genuine problems. Good kids who make one mistake, or people who are doing stuff that frankly shouldn't be against the law.

    Ultimately, the university is showing contempt for its own student body. Iowa City's obscene arrest rate sends one in four UI grads out into life with a police record. That simmering resentment is going to cost the county its jail next year. As well it should: if you were 20, would YOU vote for a new jail in this town?

    And at some point the balance tips, and you scare away those "good kids" along with Bluto and Otter and Flounder. Less jobs in town? I don't care, I have tenure.

    The University is putting its narrow interest in its "reputation" ahead of larger community needs. They're willing to elect Michelle Payne, who wants to be Mid-American's representative on the council, just to block a young and highly qualified candidate who's actually in touch with what students are thinking. We could have shut down all the bars, if it weren't for you meddling kids.

    And the UI's partner in this is the Love The Hawkeyes Hate The Students old guard townies, which thinks students should just pay their rent (but always claims "they don't pay taxes") and shut up. They're hoping the pink yard signs and the Vote For The Woman vote will fool progressives and put Payne over the top.

    It's not good for a city to be as town-gown polarized as Iowa City has been these past five years. The only way to make peace and build a whole community is to give the students a seat at the grownup table for the first time in three decades. Just one more reason to support Raj Patel.