Some conservative Republicans are upset with Senator Chuck Grassley for his recent remarks on the gay marriage issue. A Des Moines Register reporter asked Grassley this week whether he supports amending Iowa’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage and Grassley said he needed a month to think about it.
Bill Salier of Nora Springs, a Republican activist, says Grassley’s statement is outrageous.
"Clearly, he is not the same conservative that he was when he originally ran," Salier says. "…And if it takes you a month to find your opinion on whether or not there should be an amendment (banning gay marriage), as far as I’m concerned, don’t run for reelection."
Grassley was elected to the Iowa House in 1958. In 1974, Grassley won a seat on congress and he’s been a U.S. Senator since 1981. In 2010, Grassley plans to run for reelection to another six-year term in the Senate and despite the grumbling, Salier hasn’t heard of any Republican who’s willing to step forward to challenge Grassley in a primary.
"There is a certain amount of angst for folks when they look at running against somebody who is an icon in Iowa, having been there so long and, you know, he wins by tremendous percentages in the general (election)," Salier replied. "But if anybody was ever vulnerable to a primary who is an icon, it would be Chuck Grassley now…People become more and more and more incensed to more they start to pay attention to how far he has drifted."
Grassley issued a statement the day the Iowa Supreme Court ruling was issued which legalized gay marriage. Grassley cited his votes for the federal Defense of Marriage Act which defines married as a union between one man and one woman and his support of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would ban gay marriage.
Salier, though, is "incensed" that Grassley is taking a month to consider whether he’ll back fellow Republicans who are trying to amend the Iowa Constitution.
"If you’re not willing to stand up against a runaway judiciary, if you’re not willing to stand up for the republic, at least be willing to stand up for the principles that you hear when you’re in church on Sunday," Salier says. "If you’re not willing to and it takes you a month to figure these things out, then perhaps it’s time that you go back, put your two lawn mowers together and drive around in circles."
Some Iowans may remember Grassley’s 2004 campaign ad which featured the riding lawn mower and the two "push" lawn mowers Grassley welded to it in order to cut wider swaths of grass.
Iowa Republican Party chairman Matt Strawn dismisses the idea that conservative Republicans are grumbling about Grassley.
"I’ve been statewide. I’ve been in front of, oh goodness, I would probably say almost a dozen to two dozen (county) central committee meetings. We’ve done seven ‘Listen and Learn’ forums across the state," Strawn says. "Not once have I had a single Republican activist or county leader approach me with a concern about Senator Grassley." Strawn was elected chairman of the Iowa G.O.P. earlier this year.
Salier ran for the U.S. Senate in 2002, but lost to former Iowa Congressman Greg Ganske in the Republican primary and Gankse went on to lose to Senator Tom Harkin in the general election. Salier, who has married and become a father in the past eight years, says he is not interested in running for office now.