(The following is a guest piece from Polk County GOP Co-Chair Chad Brown)
The political season in Iowa never ends, and the county leadership of Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District is on the move to organize. The harder we work to organize the counties, both Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District and RPI will grow in strength. Some of my activist friends have wanted an explanation of the District Executive Committees, so I wrote this explanation to detail their role.
District Executive Committees have traditionally been a vital ingredient to the success of the Republican Party in Iowa. Their important role is detailed in the RPI Constitution. Traditionally, the Republican Party is built as a grass roots Party that was always strong because it had a firm foundation and was built from the ground up. Unfortunately, the District Executive Committees were deactivated within recent years and that vacuum was filled by powerful single issue groups that dominated the leadership selection process by preventing Republican County leaders from talking to each other and promoting leadership from the grass roots. We want to restore the grass roots to the Republican Party and include more people. This is why people used to refer to the G.O.P. as The Big Tent.
It’s unfortunate that these long-standing Committees were deactivated and silenced, but the new counties’ executive leadership in the 3rd Congressional District are getting back to basics!Â We are here to improve and unify the Republican Party and get more people involved. The executive leadership of the county-level central committees of the Republican Party of Iowa located within the Third Federal Congressional District of the State of Iowa have called for its first official meeting to be held on May 7 to discuss and consider certain specific matters.
This is an exciting time as we begin to restore an important tradition of grass roots to the Republican Party in Iowa.
Chad Brown, Polk County GOP Co-Chair and 3rd Congressional District Executive Committee ————————————————————————————————-
Article VII, paragraph 1 of the RPI Constitution states:
Article VII District Executive Committees
1. The District Executive Committee shall consist of the Chair and Co-Chair of each County in the Congressional District plus one additional representative for every fifty thousand (50,000) population in that County based on the most recent federal census. The additional County representative sh…all be elected by the County Central Committee.
2. The District Committee shall: (1) direct and coordinate Republican activities in the district, including organizational, candidate recruitment, and finance efforts; (2) coordinate the congressional and legislative campaigns in the district for the duly selected Republican nominees; (3) perform all of the duties relating to any election to fill a district vacancy on the Republican State Central Committee; (4) advise the congressional district’s representatives on the Republican State Central Committee; and (5) do all other things which serve to promote the welfare of the Republican Party and the orderly and successful conduct of the election campaign in the congressional district.
The battle between traditional Republicans and Libertarians that began in Iowa on Caucus night in 2012 has risen to a destructive level and needs to be addressed.Â If it werenâ€™t so publicly obvious I would call this an opinionâ€”but the reality is itâ€™s a fact.Â Â What has transpired to this point is a lot of bomb throwing from each side and very little, if any, attempts to search for the potential common ground that would result in, at the least, a truceâ€”and perhaps even a mutually beneficial alliance.
The feud started when, after having a relatively modest presence in 2008, Ron Paul inspired Libertarians organized and made a concerted effort to acquire as many county central committee seats as possible on caucus night.Â Perhaps surprising even themselves, they encountered very little resistance and were hugely successful in many precincts.
Since that night in June the hostility level has ratcheted up several notches, and I believe both sides share some responsibility in what has become a very non-productive situation.Â Initially I understood the reaction and the lashing out from Republicansâ€”they were taken by surprise, infiltrated, lost a good deal of influence they had taken for granted, and their tone at first was a reasonable natural response.
On the other side, Libertarians went on to essentially take over RPI and gain a presence at the county leadership level.Â In the aftermath I feel there was a lack of reaching out to traditional Republicans that could have lessened the wounds, resulted in more unity, and ultimately led to more victories in November.Â The bottom line is they came up short on election night, and if they thought prior they didnâ€™t need inner-Party cooperation to win House and Senate races they were clearly proven wrong.
What makes this battle so maddening is that each side could have benefited greatly by working together.Â This was proven by the returns from the Iowa Senate races where only a few hundred more votes would have led to Republicans winning a majorityâ€”and thus controlling the Governor’s Office and both Legislative Branches in Iowa.Â Had this come to pass, both factions would today be much closer to implementing their principles into legislation.Â At a minimum traffic cameras would be banned, taxes would be lower, and the proposals being debated on education reform would look much different.
Each Side Shares Some Blame
For what itâ€™s worth here is how I see each sideâ€™s culpability in this conflict:
Where Traditional Republicans are to blame
â€¢Â Not enough interest at a grassroots level on caucus night to even fill central committee seats.
â€¢Â Rhetoric has been too harsh and focused on a small number of political operativesâ€”by extension this has served to alienate libertarian leaning voters who may be persuaded to support the Republican candidate in their district.
â€¢Â Lack of success in building the Party base and, so far as I know, doing very little youth outreach.
â€¢Â Especially at the Federal level, the chance was blown to control government expansion and spending throughout the 2000â€™s.
â€¢Â Not realizing that Conservative and Tea Party Republicans are now closer on the spectrum to Libertarians than they are to traditional Republicans.
Where Libertarians are to blame
â€¢Â Not enough reaching out by new leadership after taking over RPI.
â€¢Â Rhetoric has been too harshâ€”sending mass e-mails impugning the personal integrity of media members is not the way to conduct yourself.
â€¢Â Too many rank and file Libertarians in the movement donâ€™t care about winning elections and are uninterested in working to shape the Republican Partyâ€”if a Libertarian is not on the ballot they disappear.Â The all or nothing approach is irrational, and in fact is counter-productive if you hold strong convictions.
â€¢Â Lack of realistic policy goalsâ€”the Federal budget isnâ€™t going to be balanced in a year, nor will we go from marijuana being illegal to all drugs being decriminalized in a 2 year timespan.
â€¢Â Complete lack of pragmatism from many rank and file in the Libertarian movement.Â To me the litmus test for this are Libertarians who could not bring themselves to vote for Mitt Romney, even though he was running against a president that was the proven antithesis of everything they claim to stand for.Â You can say what you want about Romney, and I get the criticisms, but the guy ran on the Paul Ryan budget for heaven sakeâ€”no more aggressive approach will ever be championed by a presidential candidate (prior to a total economic collapse that is).
Whether you agree with my specific assessments of blame or not doesnâ€™t really matter.Â What matters is that both sides start attempting to bridge this divide well before the 2014 elections.
Personally I donâ€™t have a dog in this increasingly silly fight.Â What I want is for Conservative principals to be implemented and this can only happen if Democrats are defeated in elections.Â When it comes to primaries I subscribe to the William F. Buckley philosophy of supporting the most Conservative candidate who can win.
If Conservatives, traditional Republicans, and Libertarians all followed this mantra in both primaries and general elections all would benefit and success would be had.Â If segments of each faction continue being concerned about what kind of Republican is on a general election ballot (unless there is a specific and compelling reason to withhold support), then Democrats will win.Â As long as Democrats win society will continue to get more progressive and taxes and spending will riseâ€”itâ€™s just that simple.
One of the top three priorities for the upcoming legislative session will be finally putting something on the books to bring Iowaâ€™s commercial property tax rate in line with the rest of the nation.Â After much angling by both sides last year, ultimately no adjustments were made to the tax code.
Below you will find a very brief recap and analysis of the three plans that were on the table last year. Â They areÂ important to know since past will certainly be prologue in this debate.Â Both sides are essentially pushing the same proposed solutions as they did a year agoâ€”and one way or another the law will reflect whichever side wins on the issue.
Governor Branstadâ€™s Plan (House Study Bill 519)
This plan would reduce the taxable value of Commercial and Industrial property by 5% a year for 8 consecutive years.Â The taxable value for these properties is currently at 100%, so in 8 years the plan would allow the State to collect on 60% of the valuation instead of the current 100%.
- The cap for increasing valuations on Residential and Ag properties would be lowered from the current 4% a year to 2% a year.
- The first 3 years of the 5% reduction in valuation would be guaranteed, with the additional 5 years of the 5% reduction being subject to the value of commercial property rising in its assessed value.
- To offset the lower revenue being brought in by local governments the State would pay cities money every year.Â $50 million in year one, $100 million in year two, $150 million in year three.Â After the third year the amount would be raised an additional $30 million per year until it got to a $240 million backfill.Â This backfill would then remain on the Stateâ€™s books every year going forward.
- The proposed money to local governments would be administered in different amounts based on how much a local government was affected by the revenue loss.
Analysisâ€”This, much likeÂ the Governor’sÂ education reform, would essentially be an increase in power and control at the State government level.Â The positive is that, in theory, the local governments would be forced to cut spending as the backfilled money that they receive is projected to be less than the revenue loss experienced by the local governments.Â In the prior incarnation of this plan the â€œadministered based on needâ€ language was not included, so it is quite possible that the backfill sent to the local governments would in fact not require them to actually cut their budgetsâ€”it really would just depend on how different the property valuations were from city to city.
The House Republican Plan (House Study Bill 500)
In many ways this plan has a lot of the same principals as the Governorâ€™s plan.Â One major differences is that it implements in 14 years instead of 8 (interestingly the Houseâ€™s prior proposal called for the 8 years that the Governor has now adopted).
- The biggest difference is that instead of paying local governments to offset the revenue loss, this plan would eliminate the 12.5% â€œ2nd effort levyâ€ (and I believe the $5.40 per $1,000 taxable valuation known as the â€œuniform levyâ€) and instead, by the year 2019, would have the State fund 100% of the per-pupil cost of K-12 education.Â Note: Right now the uniform levy is taken from property owners statewide and the State pays to take that amount up to 87.5% of each years determined per-pupil costâ€”the remaining 12.5% is paid by local property taxes taken from inside each district.
Analysisâ€”There are smaller components to this that I did not investigate fully, but in many ways this approach is the same as the Governorâ€™s in that it limits the local governments taxing authority.Â While the Governorâ€™s plan would take general fund money and give it to the locals, the House plan just takes the responsibilityÂ of paying for things that the locals would otherwise have to spend on with local property tax funds (mainly education).Â Also, like the Governorâ€™s plan, it would not fully offset the drop in local government revenues and theoretically would force local entities to cut the size of their budgets.
Though “local control” is usually a Republican battle cry, in this case it is largely a Democrat argument against the Republican plans. I happen to findÂ the criticismÂ validâ€”but for different reasons.Â The Democrats oppose the taking of local control because it would limit the amount that taxes can be raised, I see it more as limiting the decision making of local communities to pursue what their residents think is best (within the broader State law).Â One of the unresolved issues I have here is how the State paying all of the education funds would play out in terms of funding each school district.Â I believe the current formula allows a discrepancy range ofÂ a $175 per-student from district to district but, given the fact that the State would fund 100% of the burden, the questions existâ€”would this remain and how so?.
The Senate Plan (SF 522)
This bill passed the Senate last year 46-4.Â The only 4 to vote against it were Republicans Chelgren, Dix, Whitver, and Sorenson.
- It would tax the first $30,000 of commercial property at the same rate of residential property.Â This would result in an estimated $555 to $714 reduction for typical Commercial taxpayers (this small amount is one of the reasons that theÂ four Republicans listed above voted against it).
- The plan would top out at a reduction of $6,856 (paltry when you consider thatÂ large retailers routinely pay overÂ $500,000 a year in property taxes).
- The biggest distinction from the other plans is that the savings contained in the bill would not be concrete, but instead would be tied to the total revenue amount brought in by the State.Â Tax relief would only fully materialize as long as the States revenue increased.
- The plan basically offers a $50 million reduction in Commercial property taxes per year, as long as the States revenue increased 4% in that year.
Analysisâ€”In many ways this last bullet point means that it is not really a significant cut in taxes or spending at all, and frankly itâ€™s shocking that only four Republicans voted against it. It has some other provisions that make it, more or less, a way to stop the impending increase in property taxes faced by everyone.Â The positive here is that it does not affect the local governmentâ€™s revenue stream or sovereignty (nor does it backfill anything with other State funds).Â The flip-side is that it does not allow for any reduction in government spending.Â It basically says that as long as the economy is good and values of property increase we will agree to give you a tax credit to soften the burden of your taxes rising along with the value of your Commercial property.
Stating the obvious hereâ€”this proposal is totally insufficient to deal with the size of the problem.Â What makes this plan ridiculous is that one of the major advantages in a tax reform plan is that businesses will know that lower rates are solidly in place for future spending and hiring.Â By having a bulk of the tax savings tied to the amount the State brings in in a given year, you are in essence not able to tell a business owner what his rate will be going forwardâ€”andÂ clearly uncertainty is a killer for business owners
Overview & Summary
All these plans seems somewhat flawed and I donâ€™t endorse any of them on their merit.Â Since Democrat votes are needed to pass something, if I had to I would support the House plan.Â My strong belief is that all three are unnecessarily over-complicated.Â More than anything they are just moving money around and telling local governments that they canâ€™t raise taxes beyond a certain pointâ€”how much you want to bet that this doesn’t stop the same legislature from mandating that the same municipalities do more things every year?
Ultimately my skepticism comes from the fact that these proposals are all about people paying less taxes without putting forth a dollar of specific spending cutsâ€¦funny how that works.
The way TCR: Iowa set the table for the Iowa Senateâ€™s 22 contested races was as follows: 9 races we predicted heavily favored one Party or the other, 8 races we predicted as leaning one way or the other, and 5 were deemed toss-ups.
The reason I was personally so bullish on a Senate takeover by Republicans was that if these predictions held Democrats would have had to run the table of the 5 toss-up races to keep control of the chamber.Â In the end, and impressively I might add, this is pretty much what they did.Â While most of my prognosticating here was accurate, they won victories in 4 of the 5 I deemed toss-ups and managed to flip one seat I had leaning Republican, the end result was not.
Looking For Answers
The best way to fix the problem the GOP had on Tuesday is to dissect what happened.Â We will have much more on this next week, when I will post a data chart, but for now letâ€™s take the birds-eye view of the facts in the 4 toss-up contests Republicans lost and the one race where a â€œleanâ€ Republican incumbent was upset.
The spending numbers below represent the cumulative amounts of money that were spent in each race by each side in the last 3 Â½ months of the campaigns (July 19 to November 2nd).Â This includes the money the candidate raised and spent added to the number the Party spent for each â€˜in-kindâ€.Â Since it is common practice for both sides to have the candidate donate large portions of their funds to their Parties, to spend both on their individual behalf and on other candidates the leadership feels could use it, I have gone through all the reports to subtract out this number. The result gives an accurate view of the actual dollars spent on the race (trust me it wasnâ€™t a barrel of fun).Â Looking at the dollar amounts and the timing of ad buys for each side is very telling and we will break this down further later this week.Â For now here is the general overview.
SD 49â€” Naeve (R) defeated by Hart (D)
This race was an open seat due to no incumbent residing in the newly drawn district.Â It was a very tough district for Republicans but they had a great candidate who ran strong and should be commended.
Bottom Line= Naeve (R) was outspent by $84,000, faced a (D+3,721) registration deficit, and lost by 2,907 votes.Â Despite being outspent he cut into the registration advantage by 800â€”he was the only Republican in this list to beat the numbers.
SD 46â€” Hamerlinck (R) defeated by Chris Brase (D)
This was an incumbent Republican seat that I wrongly had projected to lean Republican.Â Republican Hamerlinckâ€™s final report was not filed for some reason, but in the first filing he showed spending $30,000 on his own while the Party spent $30,000 for him.Â On the other side Brase (D) spent $330,000 on the effort.Â Very telling here is that of this total $259,000 in assistance came directly from the Democrat Party.
Bottom Line= Itâ€™s hard to say much on the Republican side without the last report filed, but on the Democrat side the story is a lot of money poured in to facilitate this upset.Â Between July 19th and October 19th Democrats spent $167,000 before throwing in an additional $157,000 in the final few weeks.Â The result in ballots cast ended up being a D+409 advantage turned into a 1,954 Democratic victory.Â Something tells me this ends up being aÂ story of an incumbent hugely outspent and not being backed up with enough dollars from the Party.
SD 36â€” Jech (R) defeated by Sodders (D)
This was an uphill fight from the jump for Republicans, which many say started when Jech defeated former Senator Larry McKibben in the primary.Â The conventional wisdom was the Tea Party candidate Jech, who had already lost two runs at a House seat, was a far less formidable candidate than the Branstad backed McKibben.Â In the final 3 Â½ months Jech impressively raised over a $100,000, but the GOP only threw in $46,000 total, including a miniscule $14,000 for the final push.Â Conversely, Democrats did not take Jech lightly, giving Sodders $358,000 in the final months.
Bottom Line= In the end Jech was outspent by $206,000 in an R+121 district, and she lost by 2,263 votes.Â There is a ton of interesting stuff going on here.Â At first glance you could explain away the GOP only giving Jech $46,000 by assuming she was polling poorly.Â The only problem with that is if she was thereâ€™s no way Democrats pump $224,000 to Sodders in the final two weeks.Â Clearly one Party had a bad read on this race, and itâ€™s likely it was the Democrats.Â Since Sodders won by 2,263 votes itâ€™s hard to believe he needed the near quarter-million dollars at the end.Â I tend to agree with the establishment that this race became too heavy of a lift with Jech as a candidateâ€”even though she was badly outspent, it is still pretty amazing to have a 121 voter registration advantage going in and lose the election by well over 2000 votes.
Part 2 Upcoming
Later this week we will look at the other two painful Senate loses (SD 30 and SD 26), document some trends occurring in these five races, and then, finally,Â make someÂ judgementsÂ on what could have been done differentlyÂ Â The ultimate goal here is not to call any particular person or organization outâ€”the goal here is to identify the shortcomings so they can be corrected.Â Ironically it appears that two years from now Senate Republicans will be in the exact same spot of needing to flip two seats for control.
If a better effort and strategy are not employedâ€”the brutal result will surely be the same.
((To Go Straight To Part 2 Click Here))
While the direction of the Country will be decided at the top of the ballot this November, the epic struggle for control of Iowa’s political landscape will be decided down ballot.
Of all the races taking place across the state, the long blocked agenda of Iowa Republicans is only two Senate seat gains away from being able to be implemented.Â Since the Iowa House is in no danger of flippingâ€”the fate of this agenda lies in the Iowa Senate’s 26 open seats.
While anything can happen in these legislative races between now and November, this following analysis reflects where they stand today.Â Here is how we get from the 26 Senate seats up for grabs down to the 5 that will determine control of that chamberâ€”and hence political control of Iowa for the next two years.
First things first: From 50 to 26 to 22
From 50 to 26â€” There are 50 seats in the Senate and all even numbered districts are on the ballot this year plus SD 49, which holds a race for a two year term before going back on the ballot in 2014.Â This means that there will be 26 seats in play, with the Democrats starting with an advantage due to having 13 of the hold over seats to the Republicans 11.
From 26 to 22â€” Of the 26 races, Republicans have fielded a candidate in all of them while the Democrats have let four seats go unchallenged (SD 2, SD 10, SD 12, and SD 20).Â This takes us from 26 possible races to 22 that will actually take place.
From 22 to 13â€” Of these 22 races, nine heavily favor* one party or the other.Â Four favor the Republican candidate (SD 40, SD 28, SD 6, and SD 4); while 5 favor the Democrat candidate (SD 50, SD 34, SD 32, SD 18, and SD 16).
*Note: This analysis is largely based on the past history of communities making up the districts, registered voter advantages, and money raised and on hand for each candidate.Â In all likely and leaner districts there are more than enough registered Independents to technically make up R and D registration advantages.
The Battle Field
From 13 to 5â€” This leaves 13 races left which will be heavily contested and which will draw the attention of, and funds from, the state political parties.Â Of these, I see five leaning Republican and 3 leaning Democrat– for Republicans they are SD 46, SD 38, SD 24, SD 22, and SD 14, and for Democrats they are SD 44, SD 42, and SD 8.
Of note here is that, for the time being, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal is given SD 8 over Al Ringgenberg.Â Also, the best shot for Republicans in these Democrat leaners are SD 42 and SD 8, while Democrats look to have the best chance in SD 46 and SD 38.
The Final 5
The remaining 5 races can truly go one way or the other and are absolutely critical for control of the Iowa Senate.Â They are SD 49, SD 48, SD 36, SD 30, and SD 26.
Here is a recap of how we got there:
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â RepublicansÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Democrats
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Hold Over SeatsÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 11Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 13Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â UncontestedÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 4Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 0 Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Likely R or DÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 4Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 5 Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Lean R or DÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 5Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 3 Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â ——————————————Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 24Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 21
As you can see from above, assuming my â€œlikelyâ€ and â€œleanâ€ numbers hold true, Republicans are in great shape to take the Senate as they only need to win 1 of the â€œfinal 5â€ races to tie and only 2 of the 5 to gain outright control.Â Conversely, Democrats would have to win 4 of the â€œfinal 5â€ for a tie and would need a clean sweep to retain control.
Two interesting facts here are that all the big action is in Eastern Iowa, which is home to all 5 of these decisive races, and that 4 of the 5 are contained in U.S Congressional District 1.Â This is further good news for Republicans as Ben Lange is a great candidate who seems to be gaining steam against a sputtering Bruce Braley.
In the coming weeks The Conservative Reader: Iowa will be featuring interviews with Republican candidates from across the state.Â Additionally, we will be taking in-depth looks at the 8 races which will be highly contested and the 5 that will be utterly critical for taking the Iowa Senate.
The voters in these 13 districts will ultimately answer the questions of how much property tax relief we receive, what reforms are made to our declining education system, and whether Iowa will set up health insurance exchanges for Obamacare.Â One thing I have no question about is that these districts are where the battle for ideological control of Iowa will be won or lost.