Four months ago as the Republican field began to form and potential candidates began poking around Iowa, a major issue they were forced to address was ethanol. Thankfully the conversation has since developed from a fringe stereotypical issue like ethanol to more serious and pressing issues like illegal immigration.
If in aÂ vacuumÂ and inÂ absenceÂ of other big problems ethanol subsidies may be a valid issue to talk about. Â A variety of factors, however, make it a silly topic to debate. First, the economy is in tatters and we have seen the result of politically driven subsidies on the other side with the Solyndra debacle. Second, we are now over 15 trillion dollars in debt and, beyond being irresponsible, pumping borrowed money to prop up an industry is bothÂ nonsensicalÂ and in direct opposition to Conservative philosophy. Third, a majority of Iowans don’t even support financially supporting ethanol at this point.
Immigration on the other hand has been a national outrage on both sides of the isle for over five years. The failure to deal with it one way or another not only has direct economic consequences, it unquestionably is an issue included in the Federal government’s charter–the Constitution.
Not by accident, Mr. Gingrich has brought the immigration debate back to the front burner by bringing it up in the CNN National Security Debate last week. You could almost see Mitt Romney’s eyes light up as Gingrich made theÂ politicalÂ ”mistake” of voicing his true opinion. Seeing a rare chance to get to the right of a fellow candidate, Romney acted aghast that someone would consider letting illegals who have been here for over 20 years stay rather than be deported or jailed–never mindÂ that this was nearly his exact position four years ago.
Watching the media operate on this story for the last five days has truly been a case study in how pathetic they can be. First, it is infuriating to hear them repeatedly characterize this as a “mis-step”. No my pointy headed friends, voicing your longstanding opinion on an issue during a primary is not a “mis-step”–its the point of the process. Acting like this was some kind of huge blunder assumes that the purpose of a primary is to just say a bunch of things that everybody in your party agrees with. If you think for yourself (yes you Mitt), sometimes you find your opinion differs from the conventional wisdom. When this occurs a politician has two choices, they can either changeÂ theirÂ opinion (sound familiar Mitt), or articulate it and try to bring the electorate towardÂ theirÂ belief.
In terms of illegal immigration you would have a tough time finding someone more hard-line on the issue than myself. I deal daily in an industry that largely exists on illegal labor and can prove my bona-fides with the fact that my front yard, for a time in 2008, was home to a Tom Tancredo for president sign. Having said that, a little less than two years ago I came to the conclusion that the issue was not ever going to be fixed without aÂ scenarioÂ that included many illegals staying in America. While they are too numerous to get into here, the two main reasons are the massive volume of illegals and that the Democrat party is, toÂ theirÂ very core, committed to pandering to them.
In my view, having accepted the realities involved, the real issue is achieving the steps necessary toÂ permanentlyÂ solve the problem before decriminalizing long-time, otherwise crime-free, illegals. To me these steps should include passing harsh penalties for future border crossings, implementing intense bankruptcy risking fines for companies hiring illegals, and an actual double-sided, full border fence.
While I don’t support the Gingrich idea of “citizen boards” to determine deportation–coming up with some sort of process, provided the prior mentioned steps have been taken, is a logical place for the debate to occur. Ironically the second major failure of the media is not pointing out that Gingrich’s “de-criminalization” status for some illegals is only to take place after the border is secure. While he does not define “secure”, his platform states the goal for doing this would be January 1st of 2014.
Since the media remains largely useless in honestly informing citizens on the true substance of what is taking place, every voter has the responsibility to research the issues and the candidate’s actual stances onÂ theirÂ own. While in the end it may be that many fellow Republicans will not agree with Newt’s, and largely my own, position on tackling the illegal immigration problem, he deserves credit for honestly and openly expressing his opinion.
How it plays out for him remains to be seen, but one thingÂ that’sÂ certain is this is a debate worth having…the same couldn’t be said for ethanol subsidies.
In all The Conservative Readerâ€™s previous debate reviews we have extended the courtesy of including an analysis and grade for all the candidates on stage. With now a mere 42 days until the Iowa Caucuses, the time for such courtesy has passed and the day has come to separate the candidates from the contenders.
The following is a recap of the performances of the candidates that are realistically contending to win Iowa. We made this distinction by including only those polling over 10% in the Hawkeye stateâ€”in other words Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain. They are listed below in order of how well each did from best to worst.
1st)â€”Newt Gingrich (Art)
Newt again demonstrated his ability to speak with eloquence, intelligence and candor.Â He has improved dramatically in the past few months in his presentation so that the professorial tone and vocabulary have largely given way to policy explanations that can be understood by us mere mortals.Â Moreso, Newt demonstrated that he gets where the majority of conservatives are heading, with one glaring exception…
Gingrich managed to surprise us last night with by saying that Americans are not not going to want to break up families and deport their neighbors and friends of 25 years or more becuase they are not here legally.Â He proposes that, without a path to citizenship, these folks should be provided a legal way of remaining residents here in the US.Â Naturally, his opponents on the dias were quick to call him on the carpet for promoting “amnesty”, a dirty word in conservative circles.
We can save my complete thoughts on this for another day, but bluntly I think Newt is right.Â It was definitely not the best time for him to say this from a political standpoint (we just got done dragging Perry through the mud on a related topic a month ago), but it certainly is a mark of Newt’s leadership and integrity that he wouldÂ promote what he almost certainly knew would be a controversial position.Â I do think that Kathy Obradovich at the Des Moines Register put it well last night when she said “…itâ€™s not only the most humane but the most realistic.”
On other topics related to national security, Newt held the hard line against terrorists and nations who support terrorists. Â He went toe-to-toe with Ron Paul at the very start over the question of extending the investigative authority granted by the Patriot Act. Â Newt was very clear that civil rights in criminal matters were critical, but that the Patriot Act is focused on plans and acts of war being conducted by terrorists. Â When Paul referenced Timothy McVeigh as an example (in his mind) of where the system worked as designed, Gingrich established the key point by saying “Timothy McVeigh succeeded!” and then, “I don’t want a law that says, after we lose a major American city, we’re sure gonna come and find you. Â I want a law that says, you try to take out an American city, we’re going to stop you!”.
His comments on Pakistan after taking out bin Laden were also spot on. Â He said that our relationship with Pakistan should (as described by others) have sunk to a new low, because Americans should be furious that Pakistan was essentially protecting bin Laden. Â He said Pakistan needs to just get out of the way if they aren’t going to stop and kill terrorists. Â Similarly, the question was asked (a while after it was discussed with some other candidates) of Newt if he would attack Iran. Â He said he would only do it as a last resort and only if the goal was to completely take out the current regime.
Since the federal budget itself was laid out as a national security issue (I don’t embrace that, but there’s no question they impact each other), a question about entitlement reform was raised. Â Gingrich discussed his proposal to reform Social Security to work like the Chilean model. Â This idea does not have broad support at this point, but at least demonstrates that the Speaker is looking for ideas that would help reduce the deficit.
2nd)â€”Mitt Romney (Justin)
Mittâ€™s performance in this debate was, in three specific areas, almost a carbon-copy of how he has run his campaign since the beginning. First, he was soft on the subjects he really didnâ€™t want to talk about and very firm on the ones he did. Second, he focused nearly all his criticisms toward President Obama and not on the rest of his fellow candidates. And third, he displayed he is and likely always will be a conventional and strictly in-the-box thinker.
He came out of the gate soft by implying, and not firmly answering, that he would fully extend the Patriot Act and that the roughly $112 billion we spend a year in Afghanistan is worth it . As the debate unfolded and spread to areas that he wanted to comment on his tone and answers gained strength. These areas included heavily criticizing the large impending cuts to the defense budget and remaining a staunch ally of Israelâ€”in which he and Michelle Bachmann were the most forceful.
On pulling our troops out of Afghanistan, he argued with Jon Huntsman that doing so before the date that the generals had set would be foolish, also saying that what victory looks like in the country was â€œclearâ€â€”leaving a situation behind in which the Taliban could not re-claim power.
One of the few eyebrow raising exchanges of the night came between him and Newt Gingrich on the subject of illegal immigration and the best way to deal with the millions already here. The two had a back-and-forth in which Romney maintained that any hint of amnesty was an undesirable magnet leading only to more border crossings while Newt took the position that, beyond being unrealistic, it was â€œinhumaneâ€ to tear longtime illegal residence from their communities and families. While this will no doubt generate headlines the issue was not discussed at a level deep enough to truly understand either ones position.
In what should not be a surprise considering we learned this week that only once, â€œas a wayward teenagerâ€, has he tasted a beer and tried a cigarette, Mittâ€™s strategy in dealing with Iran and Syria would be governed by caution and conventional wisdom. In the case of both countries he favors using sanctions and covert means to overthrow the regimesâ€”even though both methods have been failing for decades now.
On this night he showed precisely what he has been showing voters throughout the campaign. Namely that he would be a very capable, cautious, and probably successful presidentâ€¦while being relatively uninspiring in the process.
(3) Ron Paul (Art)
I have to say, I have always liked a lot of the ideas that Ron Paul has promoted. Â And I’ve also been frustrated with his isolationist approach to foreign policy and deadly embrace with his idea of “liberty”. Â Last night was no different, and frankly the Congressman almost certainly galvanized his base (solid libertarians) while alienating 80% or more of the party. Â What is unfortunate, is that while I personally advocate a number of policies that Paul also proposes (including the medicinal availability of Marijuana), his blind assertions about foreign policy and national security make him appear to be completely out of touch with reality. Â Those looking for fireworks in this debate found them all within the exhortations of Congressman Paul.
There’s no question that there have been mistakes made in every administration, and that understanding those who hate America is critical to both improving relationships across all cultures and protecting the interests of the United States. Â Paul seems to believe that he understands the Taliban… he says that they don’t want to kill us here on our own soil, they only want to kill us when we are invading their land. Â Now, that is a very respectable manner to put one’s self in another’s shoes. Â I think that is a valuable skill, especially when negotiating with others. Â But to gamble the safety of the people of our country by believing we have our enemy figured out and can let down our guard is not just naive, it is downright irresponsible.
But clearly Ron Paul is just frustrated (he looked visibly angry at times) because these things that should be so obvious to us, that we should “mind our own business” and “[Israel] can take care of themselves”. Â He comes across as almost condescending at times. He said: “I think we’re using too much carelessness in the use of words that we’re at war. Â I don’t remember voting on — on a declared — declaration of war.” Â The implication is that the only way to define war is when Congress declares it. Â Among many problems with that idea, is that you can only declare war on an existing nation… how do you do that with terrorists?
Dr. Paul’s comments eventually seemed to advocate that the United States should not ever see itself as more important, more powerful, more anything than any other country, and should let all of the other countries just do their own thing and “suffer the consequences”. Â Interestingly enough, Romney last night stated that President Obama believed that the US was “just another nation with a flag”, which actually sounded a lot like Paul’s perspective. Â This is not the perspective of most Americans.
Ron also tends to use poor logic. Â For example, when asked about whether he would aid Israel in an attack on Iran, his response was that he would not because it would never happen. Â Sure, okay, but that’s a bad answer to a hypothetical question. Â The purpose of the question is to see whether you support Israel, but the answer was pure political deflection. Â As was the continued rambling answer that finally got to Ron’s core foreign policy message of “let everyone else take care of themselves”. Â As a result, we have no idea of whether a Ron Paul administration would support Israel or not.
But he’s right when he says that the War on Drugs has failed. Â When asked if he thought drugs should be legalized, he only went as far as medicinal use being legal (I’ve promoted that here as well), but then also said we should treat illegal drugs like alcohol, and then went on to vilify (rightfully) the evils of alcohol. Â For Ron, it’s unfortunate that the debate was focused on national security. Â It’s just not his strong suit when it comes to connecting with Americans… most of us just don’t want to consider any idea aside from killing the enemy and making sure we build strong relationships with our friends around the world.
Regardless of what I think about Ron’s opinions, he holds his own in a debate, he espouses a model for change that is consistent with his view of the world, is rabid in his reliance on the Constitution and has thought these things through. Â He has a committed following who are equally rabid in their defense of everything he says. Â In a world and government where excesses and the potential for lost liberty are becoming the norm, Ron Paul would be a strict guardian. Â Perhaps something can be said for pushing the opposite extreme far enough to get the middle ground to a better place than it is right now. Â But it’s unlikely that Paul will convince enough Republicans to support his view of the world.
(4 ) Herman Cain (Justin)
Since this debate dealt almost exclusively with foreign policy, and he recently said he was a â€œleaderâ€ and not a â€œreaderâ€, it should shock few that Mr. Cain did not flourish in this setting. Following a very rough start he was able to eventually steady himself and ease into a performance that could be best described as slightly below average.
The rough start referred to above was created by him being pushed on and attempting to answer the question of whether he supported profiling Muslims in airport security lines or not. He officially answered â€œnoâ€, but unofficially answered â€œyesâ€ by choosing to call the profiling â€œtargeted identificationsâ€. What unfolded during his attempted answer sounded like someone thrashing about in a pool of the English language and culminated with him twice calling Wolf Blitzer â€œBlitzâ€. This did not sound like an honest mistake or a nickname amongst friends, but instead sounded more like he truly did not know the moderators name.
As has become customary for Mr. Cain, on issues not related to 9-9-9 his answers were mostly insufficiently vague. A perfect example of this was his response to the question of whether he would support, and perhaps even assist, Israel should they decide to bomb Iranâ€™s nuclear plants. His first answer was, â€œIf Israel had a credible plan that appeared it would be successful then yes, if the plan was very strong than I would commit Americaâ€™s military to help.â€ When asked to clarify a minute later he added, however, that it was doubtful that Israelâ€™s plan would in fact be good enough to support due to the mountainous nature of Iranâ€™s topography. Besides being a strange doctrine, to my knowledge this claim that the mission would somehow be logistically too difficult is not supported by military experts.
While in its entirety his performance was not as bad as his first few answers suggested it could have become, what transpired for Mr. Cain likely will be far from helpful. My sense is that this showing will only further solidify the growing sentiment amongst Republicans that his days as a front runner will not be returned to, and that he simply is not presidential enough, nor prepared enough, to be our next Commander-in-Chief.
This is second installment of a 2-part interview.Â To read part one click here.
Health Insurance Exchange
The debate raging on a national level regarding Obama Care has produced 50 separate state level clashes on this unpopular legislationâ€™s viability, practicality, and future. Currently 27 states are suing the Federal government on the grounds the law is unconstitutional, while last week a referendum in Ohio resulted in 66% of voters expressing their wishes to be excluded.
In Iowa the form this debate has taken largely centers on the state level requirement to set up a health insurance exchange to work in accordance with Obama Care. Democrats tried last session to construct this exchange but the measure failed and set the scene for an all-out slug fest in 2012.
The roll-call from this Democratic attempt, in which 12 Senate Republicans voted in favor of the exchange, was a major factor Ms. Rogers cites in spurring her decision to run for this House seat, â€œIt was something that some of these Republicans campaigned against and then went in and voted for, and that was a real thorn in my side.â€
Besides viewing it as flatly unconstitutional, she would have voted no on the exchange for two main reasons. The first is due to differing interpretations on what failure to set up the exchanges would result in. Though the Republicans who voted in favor did so on the grounds that failing to do so would trigger authorization of the Federal government to do it for us, Ms. Rogers believes that not having the exchanges would result in Iowa receiving a waiver from the Executive branch:
â€œWe have to fight the full implementation of Obama Care every way we can. The Supreme Court could announce as early as tomorrow whether they will hear the Obama Care challenges. Why would we volunteer to set up a new state bureaucracy before the Supreme Court has ruled? We shouldn’t. Why would we set up a state exchange and volunteer to pay for that unconstitutional debacle? We shouldn’t. Obama has stated publicly that he feels he will be forced to grant waivers to states that havenâ€™t passed the exchanges because there is no way to administer Obama Care without them. That means that by refusing to implement the health insurance exchanges, Iowans effectively have the ability to opt out of a major portion of Obama Care.â€
The second reason is funding, and more specifically the long and destructive history the states and the federal government have in jointly paying for programs, â€œState governments, including Iowa, so often get duped on the promise of free federal money. The issue with these exchanges is that they come in partially funded, and sure there is that promise of federal money there but the other part has to come from the stateâ€”and that means from the taxpayer. Itâ€™s not just a tax hike up front with the federal government, that we canâ€™t control, but it is going to be a tax hike up front for the portion that our state has to pay.â€
Issues Going Forward
Having spoken to many Republicans, and interviewing multiple candidates and elected officials, you donâ€™t need to be a political expert to see that Governor Branstadâ€™s outline for reforming Iowaâ€™s educational system is in real trouble. Although constructed as a proposal big enough to build a legacy on, when you get equal blow-back from Conservatives and the teachersâ€™ union the chances of breaking ground, let alone building anything, are slim.
Having worked her way through college teaching private pre-school and kindergarten this is an area that Ms. Rogers has a special interest in:
Â â€œI donâ€™t think its rocket science to figure out why people arenâ€™t rushing to support a plan that takes the best teachers out of the classroom at a time when we are trying to find ways to better reach children. The major problem I have with it is that the good teachers are going to be teaching 50% less, and how on earth are you going to help children when you are taking their teachers away? What the plan does is it increases bureaucracy and decreases the number of good teachers we have in the classroom.â€
Beyond disliking it for those reasons, she fears, and was told by a Department of Education employee in the Branstad administration, that one of the effects of the reform would be to divert good teachers from Ankeny to Des Moines. If true, this would not only threaten losing quality teachers in the classroom but possibly losing them to a school district outside of HD 37.
In place of the current system, and the Governorâ€™s proposed reform, the changes she would push to implement would have a different focus:
Â â€œEducational choice is one of my number one issues. I love open enrollment because it does introduce an element of choice into the public school system. I would also go further and allow more freedom for home-schoolers, more freedom for charter schools, and more freedom for private schools. If vouchers are a part of that, even better, because they are a tool that introduces a market element into the system that lowers the cost and increases the amount of learning that is going on.â€
Though failure to take control of the Iowa Senate last week severely reduced its likelihood, a widespread willingness of Iowa Republicans to address illegal immigration is beginning to form. Ms. Rogers indicated that she would favor potentially passing legislation to hamper Iowaâ€™s influx of illegal aliens and when asked specifically about Arizonaâ€™s recent attempt had this to say, â€œI donâ€™t see anything wrong with what Arizona has done, because when they joined the Union they basically said that we are going to give you (the federal government) the responsibility to protect us and that this is no longer just our stateâ€™s border but itâ€™s now a Federal border. All the Arizona law does is re-enforce the fact that it is still a state border. If the Federal government is going to back out of their responsibility to protect it as our nationâ€™s border I think that Arizona has every right to protect it as a state border.â€
Although the list of Republican legislative priorities is long and getting longer, itâ€™s safe to say that passing a Constitutional Amendment barring gay marriage in Iowa has a home in the top three. In one of the most cowardly and inexcusable political maneuvers in our stateâ€™s history, Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) has managed to save rural Democrats by robbing all Iowans of the opportunity to have their voices heard.
As one would suspect, being an attorney and a Conservative, Ms. Rogers has a strong opinion on the Varnum decision. From a legal perspective the two problems she has with the Supreme Courtâ€™s ruling was that they considered some issues that were not part of the legal briefs filed and â€œthey applied a heightened level of scrutiny to a new class, and created this class based on a behavior and not a real and immutable characteristic.â€ Noting that she was not surprised by the unanimous nature of the decision she added, â€œI think it was a political decision from beginning to end and that they had the result in mind before they ever read the briefs.â€
Analysis of the Race
Three factors that are likely to come into play for her candidacy are how the district views the Tea Party, how she navigates through a crowded field, and how voters react to her relative youth. Far from shying away from any of them, she actually views all three as positivesâ€”and makes some very convincing arguments in the process.
For any Tea Party politician, whether running or governing, an issue always in play is the political peril inherent in cutting government and removing services that people have become accustomed to. While its effect will be softened by the fact that this is a Republican primary, and that applying Tea party principals at the state level as opposed to the federal level is a far different animal, it still will remain an issue. An example of this is that next session will gavel in with the Governor seeking legislative approval to cut Medicaid. This is a reality that Ms. Rogers recognizes and will seek to deal with in the following way, â€œYou have to educate people and make them realize that some of these things are not theirs and that government canâ€™t give them anything that they donâ€™t first take away from somebody else. And if you wouldnâ€™t reach into your neighbors pocket and take it then you shouldnâ€™t be living your life in a way that you are willing to take it through the government.â€
The fact that there will be many other contenders vying for the seat does not intimidate her in the slightest and is something she sees as a net positive for the district, â€œIâ€™m not afraid to run in a primary against five or six other people, and really Iâ€™m excited for the district because they will have an opportunity to vote for someone who is as Conservative as this district is and that shares their principles. Even being a lot younger than the other candidates, I still probably have a longer track record of political activism and fighting for these principles.â€
As she mentioned, at 25 she will be both the youngest person in this race and one of the younger candidates in recent memory to run for the Iowa House. While I could be wrong, my sense is that this wonâ€™t play a big role in the race. I say this, first, because it would have to be brought up by another candidate and itâ€™s unlikely that this contest will devolve into that type of an unseemly affair. Second, as she notes, she has the background and the experience to offset and eliminate it as a viable factor, â€œI think that youth and inexperience can go together, but Iâ€™ve been in this long enough that inexperience isnâ€™t a word that applies to me. The two things that are really important are your motivation and your principals, and I have both in spades.â€
After spending a few hours with her, this is a claim that is hard to doubt. She has a keen sense of tactical politics and one could easily see her going toe-to-toe with both the fellow Republicans in this primary and opposing Democrats should she be selected.
The results of the recent Ankeny City Council election, in which the most Conservative candidates running all won, indicates that voters will certainly give her a chance to win them over. She will likely make the most of itâ€”and in doing so make this race very, very interesting.
Photo courtesy of Dave Davidson, whose work can be found at prezography.com
This is part 1 of a 2 part interview.Â Â Part 2Â dealsÂ with Obama care, education reform, illegal immigration, the Tea Party, and other topics.Â It can be linked to at the conclusion of this installment, or by clicking here.
With a 68% increase in population since 2000, and Bloomberg reporting it is now the fastest growing city in Iowa, there is no doubt that Ankeny is rapidly expanding.
As population over the last few years has shifted to Ankeny, so too has the ideological focus of the Republican Party shifted to the right.Â Just how far right this Des Moines suburb, and longtime Republican stronghold, has moved politically will go a long way in determining who wins the Republican primary to represent Iowaâ€™s House District 37.
This impending barometer has been put in play by the candidacy of Tea Party Republican Stacey Rogers, who will be one of at least four Republicans seeking this house districtâ€™s nomination.Â I recently sat down with Ms. Rogers to discuss her political resume, her ideology, and how she would like to influence the future of HD 37.
Though she was born in Colorado, Ms. Rogersâ€™ parents grew up on family farms down the road from each other near State Center, and in an ironic twist her mom actually attended high school with fellow HD 37 candidate John Landon.Â These roots caused her to return to Iowa during the summers as she was growing up, before eventually leading her to come back to our state for law school. After graduating in three years from Colorado State University she headed back for good and enrolled at the University of Iowa School of Law.
Her time attending law school at the University of Iowa pushed her into the world of politics, a push initialized by being exposed to and surrounded by a level of left wing ideology that took her by surprise.Â Having decided to politically engage, she applied and was granted the opportunity to spend a summer working in Arizona for one of the most esteemed Conservative think tanks in the Countryâ€”The Goldwater Institute.
In addition to this she has worked as a staffer for Iowa State Senator Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa), became active in The Iowa Tea Party, and recently served as Republican Graig Blockâ€™s campaign manager in his successful re-election bid to the Ankeny City Council.Â She is currently practicing law for the Ankeny based firm Block, Lamberti & Gocke, P.C.
Paramount to gaining an understanding of a candidate is learning how they see their district, where they stand on local issues, and how they analyze their districtâ€™s role in the larger state-wide picture.Â Ms. Rogers has strong views on all three.
When asked about the districtâ€™s positive attributes, she pointed to its unique geographic make-up, â€œThis district has some of Ankeny in it but it also has some rural areas in it, it really is a great sample of Iowa.Â The good thing about Ankeny is that it is growing but it still has that extremely small town feel where everybody knows their neighbor.â€
On an economic level she commented that, â€œFor the most part, and compared to the way the economy is going overall, Ankeny is doing really, really well.â€Â Weighing in on the reason for the districtâ€™s Republican leanings and general weariness of ever-increasing taxes she noted, â€œEspecially in the northern part of Ankeny, the people are largely living in new housing developments and they clearly worked hard for that money, and they worked for it recently.â€
Also making her list of positives is the relative high quality of the school system, something she largely attributes to the areaâ€™s residents, â€œProbably the greatest difference between Ankeny schools and the schools in Des Moines is the amount of parental involvement.â€
The school district and community involvement are both things that have been front and center recently as the cityâ€™s school board has made the somewhat controversial decision to split the town by simultaneously building two brand new high schools.Â Though not under the jurisdiction of the seat she is running for, Ankeny residents would no doubt be curious as to where she stood on this hot-button issue:
â€œEventually two high schools were going to be a necessity; the questionable spending was that they somehow needed two identical high schools at the same time.Â I would have been against the second high school from the beginning but at this point you really canâ€™t un-ring that bell.Â That whole debacle just exposed this community to debt and the threat of more debt that could threaten its status as an engine of economic growth and development right now, because people are not necessarily going to want to continue moving to Ankeny if there is that threat of more bonding.â€
While noting the need to heal the rift between more moderate Republicans and the Tea Party, she views this seat as having a particular function in the larger statewide picture:
â€œWhoever gets elected to this seat is going to have the opportunity to use this seat as a bully pulpit.Â We need to make sure we elect a Conservative that understands the importance of this seat, and that they have a chance to be the voice of the true Conservative position.Â Somebody under the golden dome needs to draw the line in the sand about what that position really is, and I think too often what happens is that the Republicans who are interested in â€˜good governanceâ€™ offer the compromise solution up front and give up a lot of ground in that approach.â€
Issues From Last Session
Even though Republicans controlled two of the three segments of government last session, you can count Ms. Rogers among the large contingent of Conservatives unhappy with the resulting state budget.
At the heart of this displeasure is what she saw as a tactical error by the Governor in structuring our outlays, â€œI think our budget this year could have been much lower, and that we sacrificed a lot to the idea of two year budgeting.â€
Instead of insisting on a two year budget, and eventually bartering in order to achieve it, she would have taken an alternate approach:
Â â€œ0% allowable growth was still an increase in funding for schools because it was fully funded, something that the Democrats never didâ€”and we still gave up the 2% allowable growth in the second year in order to get the two year budget.Â I would much rather of had the fight about allowable growth again next year because I think people started waking up to the fact that we are actually giving the schools more money by fully funding them.â€
Commercial Property Taxes
The overwhelming evidence and the inescapable mushrooming nature of Iowaâ€™s commercial property tax code resulted in a political rarity last sessionâ€”partial bi-partisan agreement.Â The fact that nationally Iowa ranks in the top 10 in every type of property tax levied on commercial and industrial property, and that The Tax Foundation rated Iowa as the 45th worst business tax climate in the Country, led to all three players in our state government laying tax reform proposals on the table.
On the Republican side were competing proposals from the Governor and the House of Representatives.Â The Governorâ€™s plan would have ultimately taken a bigger bite out of the bill currently paid by Iowa businesses and would have been the one a Rep. Rogers would have embraced, â€œI would probably have supported the Governorâ€™s plan.Â It went deeper and I think that if you are going to do property tax reform then you need to do it all the way, and I think that his plan was a tougher stand than the House Republicans.â€
To read this articles conclusion, dealing with pending issues facing Iowa and analysis of this race, click here for part 2.
Photo Courtesy of Dave Davidson, whose work can be found at prezography.com
This is the second installment of a two-part interview, to read part one click here.
Governor Branstadâ€™s legacy-minded education reform proposal has struggled to draw support since its release on October 3rd, and you can count Mr. Landon as one of those lacking in enthusiasm.
A core tenet of Landonâ€™s philosophy is local control. The benefit he sees in applying this principle to education is that the parents of each child, and the teachers in the actual class room, will have their voices better heard and their concerns more directly dealt with,
â€œMy first reaction (to the governorâ€™s plan) is that it drives us towards more state control and more mandates on levels of performance. I think that we are going to have to reform the system, but I think that instead of less local control we need to focus on more local control. I think we need to make sure that the families, the school teachers, and the administrators all have their say on how this should be done. I really believe that parents and school teachers, the people who are in that sector, know the best for their kidsâ€.
The Democrats failure last session to construct Iowaâ€™s insurance exchange program in accordance with Obama Care means that a nasty, brutal fight awaits next year. By all accounts this will be one of the three most high-profile issues debated by the Iowa Legislature in 2012, and one that ultimately drew fellow candidate Stacey Rogers (R-Ankeny) into the race. Landon, for one, would have voted no last year on SF 404 and sounds ready to engage in the fight,
â€œWhat would guide me is local control. The rights of District 37 residents and the rights of Iowans have to come first. Anything thatâ€™s done has to be for their benefit and their economic interests. And frankly, I view Obama Care as unconstitutional from the get-go. I am not in favor of taking care of this through the government because they (the people) will not be taken care of the way they should be.â€
On Illegal Immigration
â€œI am a proponent of legal immigration. It is probably not that big of an issue in this particular district, but there are areas in Iowa where it is. As a state issue I would say that the Federal government, like in so many other things, has failed. I am against the taxpayer having to pay for the upkeep of people who have come here illegally.â€
Barring an unexpected Federal resolution to this problem Landon indicated a willingness to possibly engage at the state level, â€œIf the Federal government wonâ€™t do it and they are going to continue to let the border be porous, from the standpoint of public safety and who is going to protect the taxpayer, there has to be a process that protects you the citizen.â€
On Varnum (Gay Marriage)
â€œThat should have been decided by the voters. That is a monumental shift in society and voters need to have their say. If a constitutional amendment is the only way for voters to get their voice heard on it, then we need to do it.â€
On The Tea Party
In response to a question seeking his thoughts on the Tea Party and if he would consider himself a â€œTea Party-ishâ€ candidate, he answered, â€œI havenâ€™t found anything in their platform that offends me or that I take issue with. I am for individual rights. I think people can make their own decisions and government would be well advised to pay attention to that. Having said that, I am part of the process and a consensus builder, I just donâ€™t think you can go out there as a maverick and get a whole lot done. What I want is for Lincoln and Douglas townships to flourish and for Ankeny to flourish. The only way I can do that is by being an effective voice, and the only way to be an effective voice is to be a part of the process.â€
Race Analysis and Summary
The contest for the Republican nomination in House District 37 will be of elevated importance as the probability is high that the nominee will ultimately be the Representative. Due to the fact that the district has a 2,400 advantage in registered Republicans over registered Democrats in what is already shaping up to be a Republican wave year, it is likely that the nominee may run un-opposed. Even more likely is that if the Democrats do choose to field a candidate they will not bother to recruit a top-notch challenger or commit substantial resources to the effort.
In what could end up being a crowded field of Republicans, John Landon is a serious contender who will be in it for the long haul. He appears both fired up for the race and ready to put in the time and work that will be required to win the seat. The major pillars that his candidacy will be built on are: less intrusive government, more local control, simplicity in legislative solutions, sensitivity to Iowaâ€™s taxpayers, and a vehement opposition to unfunded mandates.
In particular, emphasizing that the failure to make budget cuts leads to higher taxes and a crusade against unfunded mandates could garner wide-spread appeal in District 37.
As his background suggests he is clearly positioned in the race as the â€œbusiness candidate.â€ While often times the â€œbusiness candidateâ€ moniker is attached to folks who have had professional success, itâ€™s worth noting that the business-like way Mr. Landon breaks down large issues as he thinks through them suggests that he would translate these skills to governance should he be elected.
Though we are early in the process, as Republicans begin to look at the field they will find much to like about John Landon as a person and as a candidate.