A candidate for the Iowa legislature will change his party affiliation after finding out his own Republican Party launched a harsh partisan attack on his behalf, without his knowledge.
Kevin Wiskus of Centerville says has is upset by a mailing that arrived in his district last week attacking the record of his Democratic opponent, Kurt Swaim of Bloomfield. Wiskus says a friend who lives in Davis County saw it in the mail when he went home for lunch and called Wiskus to describe it to him, even before Wiskus had seen it for himself. Wiskus says he was “shocked and appalled” that something like that was done without his knowledge. The mailing accused Representative Swaim, a Democrat, of helping sex offenders get out of prison early by voting for shorter prison sentences and through his work as a public defender.
Republican Party of Iowa executive director Cullen Sheehan says the decision by Wiskus to leave the GOP is regrettable, but Sheehan defends the mailing. “I respect his decision, but politics is about educating voters,” Sheehan says. He says in order for voters in a district to know who they want as their representative and make an informed decision, it’s “fair and accurate” to let them know how their current representative voted.
The politician attacked in the mailing, Kurt Swaim, says he works as a court-appointed attorney. “To get it thrown against me seems to me to be intellectually dishonest,” he says. Swaim says he was shocked by the mailing because as a public defender he cannot choose who he represents, even if it’s a sex offender. Swaim says it’s like being a doctor who treats anyone who needs it, regardless of their situation. He says an attorney working as a public defender is called upon by the court to represent someone. Swaim says he found the charge that he “helps” sex offenders offensive.
Wiskus says the party composed and mailed the “offending” flyer on his behalf but never consulted with him while preparing it. “I did not know that this specific brochure, or direct-mail flyer, was being done, so it was done without my knowledge and without my approval and had I known about it, I absolutely would have insisted that it not be sent out.” Swaim says the sentencing-reform bill he supported in the House, which the mailing cites as proof he helped get sex-offenders out of prison earlier, was a bill sponsored by Republicans.
Swaim says this is the first time “this kind of thing” has happened in his district, which includes Appanoose, Davis and Wayne counties. He says the people don’t appreciate it: “We’ve got to stop this — if this keeps goin’ nobody’s going to want to run for the legislature.” Wiskus announced he’ll quit his affiliation with the Republican party and register and run as an Independent.
GOP head Sheehan says the Republican Party is simply trying to educate the voters of that district on how Swaim has voted, and “I don’t feel like we owe an apology, it’s simply stating facts,” Sheehan says. Wiskus says he’s not concerned about giving up his affiliation with the Republican party, saying party support “should be an asset, rather than a liability.”
Wiskus says he has five kids in the Centerville School District, and he says when you walk into those schools, posters on the walls proclaim “Character Counts.” Wiskus says: “We’re teaching our children in the state the pillars of character, yet it seems that in the political realm, those lessons are disregarded.” It’s too late to change his listing on the ballot, so Wiskus will appear as a Republican, but he has sent a letter to the Secretary of State’s office saying if elected he’ll serve as an Independent. The GOP currently holds a 51-49 majority in the Iowa House.