October 21, 2014

First Lady returns to Iowa to campaign for Braley’s Senate bid

MIchele Obama at Drake University.

Michele Obama during an appearance October 10th at Drake University.

First Lady Michele Obama returned to Iowa today to appear at a campaign rally at the University of Iowa for Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

Obama drew national attention 11 days ago when she appeared at a rally for Braley at Drake University in Des Moines and urged the crowed to support “Bruce Bailey” seven times before being corrected.

Obama addressed that gaffe right away by twice saying emphatically she was there to support “Bruce Braley.” “Some of you may remember the last time I was here,” Obama said and someone in the crowd shouted ‘You got it right.” She replied, “No, I got it wrong, a couple of times. But, I sort of laughed to myself because I though people should follow me home. Talk to Malia and Sasha, because I never call them the right names. I call Barrack Bo, it just never works out very well,” Obama laughed.

She said the mistaken name didn’t matter. “Although I may’ve slipped up on Bruce’s name a couple of times, what I know I got right are Bruce’s values. That’s really what matters in these elections,” Obama said. Obama touted the efforts she said Braley has made to make college more affordable and accessible to students.

She went on to push the same theme as her last visit, the Democrats need young people to turn out and vote, citing the influence of young voters in her husband’s two presidential campaigns. “For years folks counted young people out. That was the conventional wisdom, that young people don’t care, that young people don’t show up for elections. But, boy did you’all prove ‘em wrong for Barrack Obama,” she said.

Obama says the margin of victory for her husband in the 2012 presidential race in Iowa worked out to just 27 votes for each precinct in the state. “I want young people to really hear that number, that’s just 27 votes. That’s why voting matters,” Obama says. She encouraged the young people to go an vote right after the event and told them to get their friends to register and also vote.

Braley is locked in a tight race with Republican Joni Ernst. Ernst is making stops today in Sioux City and Council Bluffs with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The First Lady has been out campaigning for Democrats, but the president is making very few appearances.

Governor Terry Branstad said today Republicans are going to benefit from the president’s poor approval rating. “The country is going in the wrong direction. The national debt is approaching 18 Trillion dollars, so we think we have a real opportunity in all four of the congressional districts, as well as winning this Senate seat. Joni Ernst is a great candidate in the United States Senate,” Branstad said.

Branstad says there is a clear contrast between Braley and Ernst. “You have somebody who spent all his elected life in Washington, D.C., he’s a congressman, a trial lawyer who said bad things about Senator Grassley and Iowa farmers, versus a woman who grew up working hard on a farm and had a lot of responsibility at an early age, and now has become a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard. And you don’t get to become a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard without significant leadership abilities,” Branstad said.

Branstad said he is happy to see the National Republican Party is putting money into the Iowa races, indicating the closeness of the races.

 

State unveils new emergency messaging system (Audio)

Alert-Iowa-logoThe Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management rolled out a new statewide electronic notification and emergency messaging system today at the department’s annual conference in Des Moines.

Audio:  Radio Iowa’s Dar Danielson reports  :68

State Homeland Security Department director, Mark Schouten, says the new “Iowa Alert System” was developed after the state learned 53 counties were paying for a system, 31 had no system, and 15 others were using a free system.

Governor Terry Branstad joined Schouten to send out the first message to the county emergency management directors in the audience and their cellphones immediately started beeping. Schouten says the system was developed by the federal Homeland Security agency and is known as the Integrated Public Alert And Warning System or IPAAWS.

County officials will be able to send out localized alerts and Schouten says the state will also be able to send state alerts that will be accompanied by a warning buzzer if there is an “imminent threat.” “It’s loud, it is obnoxious. I think it is made that way to get your attention,” Schouten says of the warning signal.

HSEMD director, Mark Schouten.

HSEMD director, Mark Schouten.

The Iowa Legislature and Governor Branstand approved $400,000 to get the system going. “As I’e seen this system developed, it is confirmed that it will be a vital mechanism for local governments to provide safety and other important information to your residents,” Branstad says. Schouten says 34 counties have signed up for the system, and he says they hope to eventually have all 99 signed up for the new system with the state is providing for free.

“I think that’s one of the attractions of the system, we hope to get all the counties on the same messaging system, it’ll be free to the counties, free to the cities, free to the schools within that county,” Schouten says. “They’ll all be allowed to use it on a subscription base. The county coordinators will be able to send out those FEMA wireless emergency alerts.”

The system allows users to be very specific in sending out messages. Schouten cited the example of how one county coordinator used it already to find a man who had some mental health issues. “He left without permission from a hospital and they wanted to take him back into custody,” Schouten explains. “So they drew a circle on a map and messaged the people just within that circle, and within minutes, two or three people called up law enforcement and said ‘here he is he’s walking down our street.'”

Schouten says it’s an investment that helps all Iowans. “I think it’s such an effective tool that we are compelled to do it. I think it will end up saving lives,” according to Schouten. “There are just so many events in Iowa that we have not a lot of notice, but some notice. And if we can give that notice to the people who are affected by those disasters, then they are better able to take steps to preserve their own safety.”

Schouten says some counties still have contracts with the providers of their current service and they expect them to sign up with the new system once those contracts expire. He says the cost of the system should come down to around $300,000 a year once all counties are signed up.

The counties now signed up to use the system are: Black Hawk, Winnesheik, Jackson, Clinton, Scott, Cedar, Linn, Iowa, Johnson, Washington, Louisa, Henry, Marion, Warren, Clarke, Ringgold, Decatur, Wayne, Worth, Mitchell, Floyd, Humboldt, Webster, Clay, Buena Vista, Sac, Carroll, Gutherie, Adair, Cass, Pottawattamie, Harrison, Shelby, Woodbury.

 

Senator Grassley says Burg King protestors have the wrong focus

Senator Chuck Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley

A protest is planned this afternoon outside a Burger King in Des Moines, demonstrating against the company’s proposal to move its headquarters to Canada. The list of speakers at the 4 P.M. event includes the heads of two unions, a local teachers’ association and the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says the protesters should be focusing their efforts elsewhere. “They ought to be demonstrating to Congress to change the corporate tax laws, reduce the corporate tax rate so we’re competitive,” Grassley says, “and at the same time, any organization is going to have to be able to compete in the United States and expand their business or they won’t be in business.”

Burger King, which has more than 75 Iowa restaurants, is planning to acquire a successful Canadian donut shop chain and would move the fast-food company’s headquarters from Miami to Toronto. Grassley, a Republican, says the move is understandable, given America’s tax structure. He say the U.S. corporate tax rate is 35-percent while states add another four-percent — for a total of 39-percent.

“We’ve got to reduce the corporate tax rate to at least what the international average is of about 23%,” Grassley says. “Think how uncompetitive we are at 39, get it down to 23 so we can compete.” Drug store chain Walgreens came under fire in August after its leaders announced they were considering a plan to move the corporate headquarters overseas.

In an interview with Radio Iowa in August, Grassley called the United States’ tax system “unpatriotic” as U.S.-based companies have a very hard time competing in the global marketplace. Burger King is the latest corporation to weigh such a move.

“It’s another example of several other companies that are trying to be internationally competitive and do it in a way that compensates for the biggest corporate tax rate in the entire industrialized world,” according to Grassley. A former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley says U.S. corporations are storing up to two-trillion dollars in offshore accounts, money that could be used for “economic good” in the U.S.

 

Michelle Obama in for Braley, Mike Huckabee in for Ernst today

First Lady Michele Obama returns to Iowa today to campaign for Democrat Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

First Lady Michele Obama returns to Iowa today to campaign for Democrat Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

Prominent party voices continue to stream into Iowa to campaign with the two major party candidates for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat.

First Lady Michelle Obama will headline a rally at the University of Iowa today with Democrat Bruce Braley. Last week Republican Joni Ernst’s campaign sent out video links of late-night comics who’ve made fun of the first lady for misstating Braley’s name seven times during an event at Drake University. Ernst herself brought it up with reporters on Monday.

“This is kind of her ‘Mulligan’ event, I think, to try and get things right after she messed up so badly the last time she was in town,” Ernst said.

On Wednesday evening, Ernst will be on the University of Iowa campus for a rally with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will make stops in Sioux City and Council Bluffs today with Ernst.

During her solo stops, Ernst is stressing her work as a Republican state senator. Braley’s been traveling the state focusing attention on issues like retirement security. On Sunday during a rally in Des Moines, Braley got a big crowd reaction with this statement: “Unlike Joni Ernst, I will never ever vote to privatize your Social Security.”

Ernst has said it might be an option for younger workers. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a rising populist voice in the Democratic Party, campaigned alongside Braley on Sunday. A dozen current members of the U.S. Senate have flown to Iowa this year to campaign on behalf of either Braley or Ernst and that pace will continue through Election Day.

Branstad punchline aimed at Braley (AUDIO)

State Representative Chip Baltimore listens as Governor Terry Branstad speaks.

State Representative Chip Baltimore (left) listens as Governor Terry Branstad speaks.

A state legislator from Boone and Governor Terry Branstad drew peals of laughter from a crowd in Boone today with a couple of quips aimed at Bruce Braley, the Democrat who is running for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat. State Representative Chip Baltimore, who is an attorney, got things started as he thanked the 50 Republicans in the room for showing up.

“I know there’s a lot of farmers in the field and I know that probably as you came in, you probably saw a few trial lawyers out there on combines, too,” Baltimore said.

As the crowd laughed at Baltimore’s reference to Braley’s remark about Senator Grassley’s status as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school,” Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and several people in the crowd yelled out “Bailey.” First Lady Michelle Obama’ called Braley “Bailey” seven times during a recent rally in Des Moines before the crowd corrected her.

Then, Governor Branstad, who also holds a law degree but describes himself as a “recovering” lawyer, closed the Boone event with this.

“Since you talked about lawyers and combines, do you know how many lawyers it takes to grease a combine?” Only one, but you’ve got to feed him in real slow,” Branstad said, as the crowd hooted and applauded.

Braley opponent Joni Ernst was there as well and, while she laughed, she did not add her own joke to the mix. Ernst had earlier promised the crowd she’d visit all 99 counties each year if she’s elected, just like Senator Chuck Grassley does. Ernst is in the midst of a 99-county tour of the state, with 49 counties to go before Election Day.

AUDIO of Baltimore, Reynolds, Branstad and crowd in Boone, 2:00

Branstad’s ‘IowaNEXT’ board to cement his ‘legacy’ (AUDIO)

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad is unveiling his “legacy” vision for Iowa — a new state board that would coordinate and accelerate state government efforts to improve Iowa’s quality of life. Branstad said today that if he’s reelected to a sixth term next month, he’ll find new ways to pay to improve parks, “cultural hubs” and historic sites around the state.

“Improving these areas is not only good for our overall quality of life, it is also good for our economic growth,” Branstad said.

Branstad would dismantle the legacy of a previous Democratic governor to enact his plan, though, by getting rid of the “Vision Iowa” Board created by former Governor Tom Vilsack. The Vision Iowa board helped direct significant state investment in large-scale community projects like the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, the National Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, the River View Center in Ottumwa and the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs. The “Vision Iowa” board continues to hand out grants for community attractions, but Branstad would replace it with what he’s calling the “IowaNEXT” Board. The directors of four state agencies would serve on Branstad’s new board, along with seven citizen members.

“As Iowa grows and changes for a brighter future, it’s critical that our state build a living, lasting legacy of quality of life enhancements,” Branstad said today during a news conference in Boone. “We want to give Iowans an unmatched quality of life and have a state that is the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

Branstad said he’d “repurpose” some state spending and seek out private funding to accomplish those goals.

“State government spends tens of millions of dollars each year on a variety of quality of life efforts, but we lack an overall vision for the totality of Iowa’s efforts and oversight,” Branstad said.

One of the governor’s ideas is to “transform” the State Historical Building into what Branstad is calling the “iowa Cultural Center.”

AUDIO of event featuring State Rep. Chip Baltimore of Boone, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Gov. Terry Branstad & Iowa GOP U.S. Sen. nominee Joni Ernst, 34:00

Branstad will campaign in Carroll, Harlan and Greenfield today as well. Jack Hatch, Branstad’s Democratic opponent, says Branstad’s “final campaign tour is the capstone on a career misleading Iowans and pulling voters’ attention away from his dismal record of mismanagement, scandal and terrible decision-making.”

Polarized political climate leads to more ‘straight ticket’ voting

vote-002Iowa is one of just is one of just 14 states that allow “straight ticket” voting — letting Iowans check a single box on the ballot to cast a vote for every candidate from one party. Drake University political science professor Arthur Sanders suggests the option fits with voting trends.

“As our political system has become more polarized, we find less split ticket voting,” Sanders says. “People are much more likely now to be consistently Republican or consistently Democratic.”

According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, for example, 43 percent of the ballots cast in Linn County two years ago were “straight ticket” voters. Data isn’t available for all 99 counties, but for the 81 counties that did, about one-quarter of the ballots in the 2014 General Election in those counties came from “straight ticket” voters.

Sanders says incumbency is a major factor that leads to “split ticket” voting. For example, in 1990 Republican Governor Terry Branstad beat his Democratic opponent by 22 points, while Democratic Senator Tom Harkin won reelection that same year by nine points. Since there’s an open Senate race in Iowa in 2014, Sanders says a decisive Branstad win “could” help the Republican candidate, Joni Ernst.

“Coattails? The best political science evidence we have is that coattails can matter under certain kinds of elections under certain kinds of circumstances,” Sanders says, with a laugh.

Democrats like Bruce Braley are counting on the Democratic Party’s effort to get Iowans who are less inclined to vote in non-presidential elections to cast a ballot this year. Democrats have 35 “field offices” around the state for their outreach to prospective voters. Republicans have 13, aided by the outside group “Americans for Prosperity” which has five other offices around the state from which it is deploying vote-seekers.