Republicans are criticizing Bruce Braley, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate, for a neighborhood squabble over chickens. American Crossroads, the conservative group founded by George W. Bush’s top political aide, has produced an on-line video ridiculing Braley for complaining about chickens that were running loose on his vacation property.
Pauline Hampton lives at Holiday Lake, a vacation community near Braley’s hometown of Brooklyn and she bought the chickens last year. Braley’s wife, Carolyn, went to the neighborhood association’s meeting in May and complained about the chickens and the smell. Hampton, who is a mental health counselor, said she uses the chickens as “animal assisted therapy” for her clients.
“You know I could have resolved this issue face-to-face,” Hampton told Radio Iowa this week.
Hampton said she was unaware the neighborhood’s rules require property owners to keep their pets on their own property and she has put up a pen to keep the “therapeutic chickens” in her own yard. A Grinnell lawyer who works for the neighborhood association wrote an email posted on TheIowaRepublican.com indicating Bruce Braley had phoned him to talk about the chickens. Attorney Thomas Lacina, who has not responded to Radio Iowa’s phone calls this week, wrote that Braley wanted to “avoid a litigious situation,” but Braley, according to Lacina, “believes strongly that chickens are not pets.”
Hampton, the owner of the four hens, said the Braleys did not threaten legal action against her, but Hampton said Carolyn Braley did refuse her offer of eggs that had been laid by the chickens. William Nagle of Malcomb, who serves on the board of directors for the Holiday Lake Owners Association, told Radio Iowa he wishes the Braleys had handled the situation “like adults” rather than involve the neighborhood association.
“Really, I don’t know why it got to be such a big deal,” Nagle said. “…All we can do is enforce the covenant, which we did.”
The American Crossroads video accuses Braley of waging a “war on chicks” since his first campaign ad against Republican rival Joni Ernst featured a baby chick. The video also suggests the episode shows Braley isn’t a “true Iowan” who would “just talk to his neighbors” to resolve this kind of a dispute.
Jeff Giertz, a spokesman for Braley, issued a written statement.
“The wild claims made in this Karl Rove smear video are simply false,” Giertz said, “and it’s sad that the Ernst campaign and her special interest friends are trying to smear Bruce and his family just to distract from her extreme views, like privatizing Social Security, voucherizing Medicare, and opposing a federal minimum wage.”
Hampton, the chicken owner who lives next door to the Braley’s vacation home, is a registered Democrat. She won’t comment on whether she’ll vote for Braley or for Ernst.
“I am still mulling over my options at this point for both candidates,” Hampton told Radio Iowa on Tuesday, adding that her recent experience with the Braleys “would seem…kind of contradictory to what (Bruce Braley) represents.”
Other neighbors say they didn’t like Hampton’s chickens roaming around either, but they didn’t file a formal complaint with the Holiday Lake Owners’ Association.