October 25, 2014

Ernst declines invitation from Des Moines Register editorial board

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, has so far declined invitations to speak with a handful of Iowa newspaper editorial boards, information that became public Thursday morning after The Des Moines Register revealed Ernst had cancelled a Thursday appointment with the paper’s editorial writers.

Sarah Benzing is the campaign manager for Bruce Braley — Ernst’s Democratic opponent — and Benzing spoke during a conference call arranged by the campaign Thursday afternoon.

“We don’t hide from questions or fail to have an open and honest debate,” Benzing said. “We talk about the issues, we lay out where we stand and that’s exactly what voters deserve from Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley.”

Braley’s campaign manager suggested Ernst is trying to avoid unscripted moments.

“It’s one thing to stick to talking points at events,” Benzing said. “It’s another to sit down with an ed board and answer tough questions.”

Ernst answered the questions of reports from Radio Iowa and other media outlets, including The Register, twice this week after campaign events in Boone and Des Moines. The Ernst campaign said this morning it is “still in the process” of scheduling some of the meetings between the candidate and newspaper editorial boards. But Ernst campaign spokesperson Gretchen Hamel says “recent editorials in The Des Moines Register make their position in this race perfectly clear” and the Ernst campaign decided with less than 12 days to go, Ernst “wants to spend every minute talking to undecided voters.”

Ernst also had invitations to meet with editorial writers for The Cedar Rapids Gazette, The Dubuque Telegraph Herald, The Quad-City Times and The Waterloo Courier. She met earlier this week with the editorial boards of The Sioux City Journal and The Omaha World Herald.

Ernst won The Des Moines Register’s endorsement during the Republican Primary in June, but the Ernst campaign cites five recent editorials in the newspaper that criticized Ernst’s past statements or positions on issues for leading to the campaign’s decision to cancel a meeting with the paper’s editorial board.

The Des Moines Register endorsed Mitt Romney late in the 2012 campaign after Romney met with the paper’s editorial writers in a barn on a farm near Adel. President Obama had granted the paper an off-the-record interview that became public after the paper’s lead editor concluded Obama’s statements about his post-election agenda were newsworthy and merited publication.

(This story was updated at 10:04 a.m. with additional information.)

King, Mowrer engage in feisty debate

The two major party candidates in Iowa’s fourth congressional district engaged in a bit of verbal combat tonight during a televised debate held at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. Democrat Jim Mowrer of Boone criticized Congressman Steve King of Kiron for suggesting the American soldiers being sent into west Africa to deal with the Ebola epidemic should be volunteers, since Ebola is a “silent killer.”

“As a soldier I understand that you volunteer when you raise your right hand and you’re willing to sacrifice everything for this country. Soldiers follow orders. This is a job that needs to be done. That’s why Congressman King never volunteered for the military,” Mowrer said.

As many in the audience murmured, King responded: “I think that this judgement to do this debate should speak for itself.”

After the debate, King told reporters Mowrer’s remark was an act of “desperation.”

“I think what’s going to happen is that people review this debate and they’ll go back and look at the facts and they’ll find out that we had a really good debate tonight and he had a really bad night of desperation,” King said.

Mowrer accused King of inciting panic about Ebola.

“We need to confront this outbreak in a calm, concise, deliberate way. We need to stop it from spreading here in the United States,” Mowrer said. “We need to confront it at the source in Africa…but Congressman King again has a TV ad up on the air telling people that they should be afraid.”

King, meanwhile, challenged claims in one of Mowrer’s ads that King had voted to raise his own pay “by $20,000 a year.”

“If you do the calculation on his rational, it comes to $2610, not $20,000 and my pay again has been frozen since 2009, so many of those statements are completely, blatantly, fabricated-from-thin-air false,” King said.

Tonight’s debate aired live on Iowa Public Television and is the only face-to-face meeting scheduled between these two candidates this election season. The fourth district is the state’s largest, geographically, covering 39 counties in northwest and north central Iowa.


Secretary of State candidates agree on ‘Safe at Home’ program

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

The two major party candidates for Iowa Secretary of State say they agree on a program that would help victims of some crimes vote without the fear of putting themselves at risk. Democrat Brad Anderson released his “Safe at Home” plan Wednesday.

“These polices help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault stay safe by providing them a designated address to use for official documents like voter registration,” Anderson explains. “And these services keep survivor’s physical address out of the hands of their assailment.”

Anderson says he heard about the program at a conference where the Secretary of State from Missouri and his counterpart in Minnesota spoke about their programs. He says 35 states have such a program, but Iowa does not.

“Currently in Iowa, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault who want to both remain anonymous and also vote are in a very difficult position,” Anderson says. “They are advised by the state to register and vote on election day, but then immediately cancel their voter registration. But, even given this cumbersome process, it still does not guarantee their anonymity.”

Anderson says it would take a change in state legislation to implement the program here. “We estimate about a thousand Iowans would participate in this program and the program would grow annually,” Anderson says. He says if he is elected, he would push to get the program passed in the next session of the legislature.

Paul Pate

Paul Pate

Republican Paul Pate is running against Anderson, and says he also favors such a program “It think the program is very important to protecting Iowans, it’s a top priority. As a former state senator I led legislation to toughen penalties for stalking victims in Iowa. I have first-hand experience as a state senator and mayor working with the state legislature and governor. And if I was the next Secretary of State I would make it a priority to join the other 35 states,” Pate says.

Pate says he has already started the groundwork to get such legislation passed. “I’ve had conversations with the speaker of the House and with the governor’s office and started the dialogue. They were very receptive to it. I think we could get something worked out and I think we would see something passed in the upcoming the legislative session,” according to Pate.

Pate says he’d also like to see another voting issue passed in the next session. “Just as Safe at the Home offers participants an additional safeguard for their protection, I think we also have to protect the integrity of all Iowa voters with a voter ID safeguard,” Pate says. “I think both priorities are important, they need to be approached in a bipartisan manner, and I think I have the experience to get that done.

Current Secretary of State, Republican Matt Schultz, is not seeking reelection.

Ernst touts enthusiasm edge for GOP

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Iowa’s U.S. Senate race could be headed for a “photo finish” with Republican Joni Ernst at 48 percent and Democrat Bruce Braley at 46. The survey shows Braley with a wide lead among early voters, as 58 percent of those who’ve already voted told the pollsters they voted for Braley, while 37 said they had voted for Ernst. Ernst says that’s not worrisome to her.

“We have got some great grassroots out there and so many supporters,” Ernst told reporters this morning. “A lot of Republican voters will typically go out to the polls on Election Day.”

Iowa Republicans announced Wednesday that for the first time, more Republicans than Democrats have voted early. Democrats argue they’re getting independents to cast a vote for the Democratic ticket. Ernst says Republicans have the enthusiasm edge.

“I guess last night over at the ‘Victory Office’ there were more volunteers than phones,” Ernst says. “People are so energized right now.”

Ernst spoke early this morning to the Greater Des Moines Partnership, a group representing 21 central Iowa chambers of commerce, and she repeatedly referred to her “opponent.”

“I don’t want to get his name wrong,” Ernst said, as the crowd of about 20 laughed. “Unfortunately, you know, it’s become a big joke and I’m afraid I’m actually going to call him the wrong name.”

Earlier this month First Lady Michelle Obama called Braley “Bailey” seven times before the crowd at Drake University corrected her. Obama was in Iowa City Tuesday and she joked that she often calls her daughters and the family dog by the wrong name, too.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is campaigning with Ernst today and he told the crowd it was out of “self-interest” because he’ll become a Senate subcommittee chairman if Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate.

“The best thing I can do for South Carolina, I think, is get the Senate under new management. It’s broken, fundamentally broken. I think she is the solution, not the problem” Graham told reporters. “…Her voice, the voice of a military commander — would be a welcome addition.”

Ernst is a battalion commander in the Iowa National Guard. Eighteen senators are military veterans, according to a Roll Call analysis, and Ernst would become a veteran if she’s elected. Ernst has said she’d have to resign her post in the Iowa National Guard if she wins this Senate race.


Republican Rand Paul campaigns in Iowa; Vice President Biden returning Monday

Rand Paul

Rand Paul

Big names from both parties are visiting the state in the final weeks before the November 4th election. Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul is in Iowa to rally support for Republican candidates up and down the ticket. Speaking today at the University of Northern Iowa on behalf of First District candidate Rod Blum, Paul says he believes Republicans will do well in the upcoming election..

“In Kentucky where I’m from, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate can’t remember who she voted for for President, and then you come to Iowa and everybody comes here campaigning for the Democrat but they can’t remember his name either, ” Paul says, “I really do wish the best to Bruce Bailey well, I hope that Bruce Bailey does well.”

Paul was making reference to an appearance by First Lady Michele Obama earlier this month when she called Bruce Braley “Bruce Bailey.” Senator Paul has several appearances scheduled in the next day and a half including one to endorse Republican Joni Ernst in the U.S. Senate race.

Texas Governor Rick Perry will be in Marion tomorrow for a campaign rally with Ernst. Braley’s campaign reports Vice President Joe Biden will appear with Braley in Davenport on Monday.

Huckabee campaigns for Republican Senate candidate Ernst

Joni Ernst and Mike Huckabee in Sioux City.

Joni Ernst and Mike Huckabee in Sioux City.

The winner of the 2008 Iowa Republican Caucuses was in Iowa Tuesday campaigning for US. Senate candidate Joni Ernst.

Former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee campaigned in Sioux City, where he says electing Ernst to the Senate is not only important for Iowa, but also for the whole nation.

“She’ll be the first woman to be elected as any member of the Congressional delegation in all of Iowa. But it’s not just because she is a female that she deserves to be elected,” Huckabee says. “That’s important, I think women should have far greater representation in the House and Senate and executive offices across the land. This isn’t about electing her just because of her gender. This is about electing her because of her superior ideas and qualifications.”

Huckabee says if Republicans gain control of the Senate that means legislation will actually make it through congress. “Harry Reed has created nothing less than the Roach Motel of the U.S. Senate, where bills go in but they never come out,” Huckabee says. He says some 360 bills have passed, but they have never left Reed’s office for discussion, debate or a vote.

It was the first of two stops for Huckabee and Ernst, as they also campaigned in Council Bluffs. Ernst is running against Democrat Bruce Braley.

(Reporting and photo by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)


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 Barack 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.