August 22, 2014

EMILY’s List, Iowa Farm Bureau PAC announce endorsements

EMILY’s List today endorsed the Democrat who’s running for lieutenant governor of Iowa. EMILY’s List is a group that helps women candidates from the Democratic Party who support abortion rights.

EMILY’s List is publicly backing Monica Vernon, the lieutenant governor candidate who is the running mate of Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor. It means the Hatch-Vernon campaign will get a cash infusion from the group.

In a prepared statement, the president of EMILY’s List called Monica Vernon “an experienced problem solver, small business owner and public servant.” Vernon is a member of the Cedar Rapids City Council who ran for congress this spring, then signed on as Hatch’s running mate in June.

In other endorsement news this week, The Iowa Farm Bureau’s political action committee endorsed Republican Terry Branstad in the governor’s race and Republican Joni Ernst in the U.S. Senate race. In a prepared statement, a spokesman for the Farm Bureau said the group’s “Friend of Agriculture” designations are given to candidates who support “key priorities for agriculture” like renewable fuels and expanding trade opportunities abroad.

The Farm Bureau is also supporting three of the four Republicans running for Iowa congressional seats. Republican Congressman Steve King serves on the House Ag Committee and he was named a “Friend of Agriculture” by the group. Rod Blum, the Republican running in the first congressional district, and David Young, the Republican running in the third district, also got the Farm Bureau’s backing.

Last week the National Federation of Independent Business endorsed Blum and this week the group endorsed Ernst.


Branstad and Hatch continue discussion on tax breaks

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

The two candidates for governor continued their back and forth over tax breaks today. Republican Governor Terry Branstad was asked about the criticism of the state’s tax deal with a fertilizer company by Democratic challenger Jack Hatch.

Branstad says Hatch, a state senator and real estate developer, is being critical of the deal while at the same time refusing to release his income tax information. “I think Iowans have a right to know that information, and I think it’s interesting that with only investing 12-hundred dollars he has made seven million,” Branstad says. “And that while he rails against tax credits that have created jobs in southeast Iowa, he has made millions in tax credits.”

Branstad says he has released 24 years of his own tax returns, while Hatch’s campaign released one year and had promised to release four more. “But then when Senator Hatch found out about it he said ‘No’ and he refuses to this day. I think Iowans deserve to know how much money that he made and how much taxes he paid and the kind of tax credits he was able to get,” Branstad says.

Branstad says Hatch and his fellow Democrats in the Senate have wrongly attacked his economic development director Debbie Durham over the deal. “So Jack Hatch thinks he is a better professional developer than Debbie Durham and that he is better the count officials in Lee County,” Branstad days. “I submit that Debbie Durham — who has a tremendous track record of being a tremendous economic developer in Sioux City and now for the state of Iowa – has helped grow the economy, reduced the unemployment rate in the state by about 30-percent, brought all kinds of good jobs to all parts of the state, knows a lot more about this than Jack Hatch. “This has broad-based bipartisan support in southeast Iowa. Maybe Democrats in the Senate don’t think it is important, but the people who live there and the farmers of Iowa think this is, and it’s making a difference. It makes more sense to have nitrogen fertilizer produced in Iowa than overseas,” Branstad says.

Jack Hatch.

Jack Hatch.

Hatch held a meeting with reporters shortly after Branstad’s weekly news conference. Hatch says Branstad and the Republican Governors Association have been trying to make a political issue out of his business practices.

But Hatch says a review by the Des Moines Register shows he has done everything right when it comes to getting tax credits while working the Iowa Senate. “And they are then just trying to intentionally to provide a false and misleading profile of me to that is contrary to what we all believe is required or should be tolerated in a Democratic election,” Hatch says.

Hatch says it has been a precedent to release just one year of tax returns once you announce you are running for governor. He was asked why he is against releasing more tax returns. “Well I think you’ve seen what happens with full disclosure of my business and they still are going to be attacking, making false statements,” Hatch says. “Why would I want to give them more? That’s just going to give them another wave of attacks that are false and misleading and incomplete. And that’s why we are not going to do it.”

Hatch says releasing his tax returns won’t stop the Republican attacks on his use of tax credits. “Why give a robber a combination to another safe and you really think he’s not going to take any money?,” Hatch asks. Hatch also addressed the governor’s claim that Hatch and fellow Democrats are against the economic development brought to southeast Iowa with the new fertilizer plant. “The issue with Orascom has never been about whether we should have a fertilizer plant. It was always about the negotiated agreement that governor Branstad and his team put together. And that has always been the issue,” Hatch says. “And I think they went way over the top and gave them an unbelievable deal and really gave them too much.”

Hatch says he is a better negotiator than the governor’s economic development director and would not have given Orascom such a good deal to build the fertilizer plant. The two will get to talk more about the issue at their next debate which is scheduled for Burlington on September 15th. Governor Branstad says he specifically chose the southeast Iowa location for the debate because of the discussion over the deal for the fertilizer plant in the area.


Lifesaving awards presented at the Iowa State Fair


Seth Thompson with the Governor, Lt. Governor and his family.

Seth Thompson with the Governor, Lt. Governor and his family.

Six Iowans were honored at the Iowa State Fair today for actions they took that likely saved the lives of other citizens. Seth Thompson of Treynor was presented with a Governor’s Lifesaving Award for his bravery on the morning of December 14, 2009.

The wind chill was five-below-zero and roads were icy at the time Thompson and a co-worker were driving near Storm Lake on their way to Okoboji for a construction job. The truck in front of them spun around, rolled twice off the road, and landed upside down in a frozen creek.

Thompson and his co-worker, Nolan Strobehn, stopped, ran through the snow, and jumped a fence to reach the truck. “We both jumped down on our stomachs and started feeling around in the water. We just barely felt a hand or an arm or something, grabbed a hold of that and pulled the guy out,” Thompson said. “As we were all standing there, in disbelief of what just happened, the guy slowly muttered out as he was freezing, ‘there’s another guy.’”

Seth Thompson talks with Radio Iowa's Pat Curtis.

Seth Thompson talks with Radio Iowa’s Pat Curtis.

Thompson reached back in the submerged pickup and pulled the driver out as well. Thompson said both men in the pickup, Jesus Alvarado and Joshua Allsup, would have likely drowned had they not been followed on the highway. “If we were not behind them, there was nobody else on the highway…the truck was not visible from the highway, so there would have been cars passing all day,” Thompson said.

The two men in the pickup suffered only minor injuries and were treated at a hospital for symptoms of hypothermia. Thompson credits his six years of service in the Coast Guard for his quick response to the accident. “I was used to crazy, gruesome stuff happening, so it was just respond, do what you need to do to help out, and that was it,” Thompson said.

While Thompson has not kept in close contact with the men he helped rescue over five years ago, he did hear that one of the men, inspired by the incident, became a volunteer firefighter. Paula Lash of Runnells was also recognized for her response to a serious car accident that occurred on May 21, 2013. Her actions helped minimize the injuries suffered by a passenger, Molly Urfer. “It’s very special to be recognized, although I think it’s something that everyone should do. I just did what I thought was right and I’m thankful that Molly is healing up. That is very gratifying,” Lash said.

Molly’s husband, Jim, was also in the car. He died of his injuries. Molly Urfer attended today’s (Friday’s) ceremony and said she’s grateful for Lash’s quick action. “By putting her hands through window and holding my neck still, and she said, ‘I will stay with you Molly until the ambulance comes.’ And with a brake in my second vertebra of my neck, if I had moved or jostled around, it could have been a lot different story,” Urfer said.

Lash said she noticed people had stopped at the site of the car crash, but no one was checking on the vehicle’s occupants. “I actually had a friend of mine who stopped at an accident scene after this because they heard about me stopping and I think that is one of the best things that came out of this,” Lash said. The other Iowans honored at the ceremony are residents of Ireton, Tiffin, Coralville, and Webster City.

Here is more from the Iowa Department of Public Safety on the other award winners:

Tara Dekkers — Meritorious Service — Ireton, Iowa

On December 6th, 2013 at approximately 3:27 in the afternoon, Tara Dekkers was driving with her daycare children to a local book fair. After driving approximately 1 mile, Tara heard a noise come from the rear of the van and the children began to complain of an odor. Tara looked in the rearview mirror and saw smoke in the rear passenger compartment. She pulled the van safely onto the side of the roadway and observed that the smoke had now spread to the driver area as well. Tara went to the back of the vehicle to open the rear door and saw flames underneath the vehicle near the rear axle. As the fire grew closer to the fuel tank Tara worked quickly to have the children unbuckle their seatbelts and evacuate to a nearby ditch. The temperature was just 5 degrees that day with a wind chill of 14 below, thankfully a passerby noticed their situation and stopped to assist. Tara began removing the younger children from their safety seats and handed them to the passerby who then placed them in a nearby vehicle to keep them warm. Once all children were evacuated they backed the passerby’s vehicle away from the burning van and waited for fire and rescue. They watched as the van became totally engulfed in flames. Thanks to Tara’s bravery everyone escaped unharmed.

Shondra Eister — Outstanding Service — Tiffin, Iowa

On December 31st, 2013 at approximately 5:00 p.m. Shonda Eister (I-stir) and her father Lawrence had been working in their yard doing chores. After coming into their home Lawrence’s clothing caught on the basement railing. After attempting to remove the clothing from the railing Lawrence slipped and fell to the bottom of the stairs where he became unresponsive. Shonda immediately assessed the situation and called 9-1-1. Upon receiving the call the dispatcher gave Shonda instructions on how to perform CPR. Shonda immediately started and continued CPR until help arrived on scene. Thanks to Shonda’s immediate actions her father received lifesaving treatment.

Paula Lash — Outstanding Service — Runnells, Iowa

On May 21st, 2013 Paula Lash was driving home from work and came upon a car crash. Paula noticed that other cars were not stopping to see if anyone needed assistance therefore Ms. Lash stopped to render aid. She checked on the occupants of both vehicles and while checking the second vehicle she could tell both occupants were in significant pain. Paula spoke with the couple and observed that the woman, Molly Urfer, appeared restless and kept reaching for her neck. Fearing that Molly had seriously injured her neck, Paula immediately stabilized her neck and tried to reassure her to help keep her calm. Paula continued to speak with both Molly and her husband, Jim, until paramedics arrived. The couple were immediately taken to the hospital where Molly’s husband, Jim, tragically succumbed to his injuries. It was also determined that Molly Urfer had broken her second vertebra in the crash and required weeks of recovery. Thanks to Paula’s immediate response and intuition to stabilize Molly’s neck, Molly’s injuries were minimalized.

Sandra Morrow — Outstanding Service — Coralville, Iowa

On December 10th, 2013 Sandra Morrow was working at her place of employment in Iowa City that day and went into the office break room where she noticed that coworker, McKenzie Paulsen, was choking on something that she was eating for lunch. Sandra immediately checked with McKenzie and verified that she was in dire need of assistance from something lodged in her throat. Other employees in the lunch room ran to dial 9-1-1 to try to get assistance. Immediately after assessing the situation Sandra began performing a technique known as the Heimlich maneuver and was able to dislodge the object from Ms. Paulsen’s throat. With Sandra Morrow’s quick observation and action she helped a fellow employee.

Seth Thompson — Outstanding Service — Treynor, Iowa

On December 14th, 2009 Seth Thompson was headed to work in Okoboji. It was a very cold day with a wind chill of 5 below zero, the roads were icy and the winds were making navigating the roads a challenge. During his drive Seth noticed a truck with two occupants in front of him begin to lose control on a patch of ice and then watched it roll into a creek and break through the ice coming to a stop. When it finally came to rest, it was on its top. Seth quickly stopped his vehicle and he and his passenger ran down to the truck. Seth observed that the windows in the truck had broken on impact and the cab was quickly filling with water. When he arrived at the truck, which was near the creek bank, Seth was able to reach in the passenger window by laying down on the edge of the bank, his stomach and chest were submerged in the icy water as he felt for the passenger’s arm. Seth grabbed the arm and pulled the disoriented passenger from the truck and onto the bank. Knowing that the driver was still inside he again reached through the passenger window and just barely reached his outstretched hand. Seth grabbed the hand and pulled the second person onto the creek bank. Both the driver and passenger of the truck, Jesus Alvarado and Joshua Allsup, were taken to the hospital and treated for their injuries and symptoms of hypothermia.

Wayne Judkins — Governor’s Lifesaving Award — Webster City, Iowa

On March 3rd, 2014 at approximately 4:30 p.m. Tom Boeding (Bay-Ding) and Wayne Judkins were playing racquetball at a recreation center in Webster City, during this exercise session Tom unexpectedly collapsed. Wayne Judkins immediately ran to the front desk of the recreation center to get help and advised employees to call 9-1-1, he then quickly ran back to help Tom by administering CPR. In a short period of time with the help of an employee an Automated External Defibrillator was used to deliver lifesaving treatment to Mr. Boeding. After the shock was delivered Tom began breathing again. He was transported to the hospital where he underwent bypass surgery.

Charges of ‘crazy’ and ‘stale’ fly at debate between Branstad, Hatch

Democrat Jack Hatch  and Republican Terry Branstad. (L-R)

Democrat Jack Hatch and Republican Terry Branstad. (L-R)

The two major party candidates for governor met in their first, face-to-face debate of the campaign Thursday.

Republican Governor Terry Branstad and Democratic challenger Jack Hatch quarreled over the past and traded jabs over their proposals for the future. Hatch repeatedly used this theme: “We need better leadership and a fresh start.”

It was his way of emphasizing Branstad’s 20 year career as governor.

“There’s stale leadership in the statehouse,” Hatch said.

Branstad described himself as a life-long Iowan who grew up on a farm and suggested Hatch, who is a state senator from Des Moines, can’t relate to rural Iowans.

“Somebody who has never really represented the whole state of Iowa, just represents a safe Democratic district here in the largest city of the state,” Branstad said.

Hatch responded: “I may be from Des Moines, but I’ve lived in Iowa my whole adult life and this state is important to me.”

The candidates spent several minutes of the debate focused on the previous governor, Democrat Chet Culver. Hatch defended Culver’s decision to borrow to build infrastructure and recover from the floods of 2008. Branstad was on the edge of his chair, waiting with this response:”Last time I ran against ‘big debt Chet’ and now (Hatch is) supporting the big debt that we ended up with…I can tell you, most of the people of Iowa didn’t like the state of Iowa going into debt.”

Branstad said the state is now dealing with natural disasters, without borrowing to finance recovery efforts. The debate’s moderator tried to move on to another topic, but Hatch interjected, suggesting the eastern Iowa cities hit by flooding six years ago would still be struggling if the borrowed state money hadn’t been there.

“What he’s saying is, ‘If you don’t have the cash, we’ll wait ’til next year,’” Hatch said. “In this case, it would have been 10 years later.”

The two quarreled over the state package of incentives for the Egyptian company that’s building a fertilizer plant in southeast Iowa. Hatch said the company got too much.

“In all, public taxpayers paid $3.2 million per job for that,” Hatch said.

Branstad responded: “Site Selection magazine said this was the second-best deal in the whole world last year.”

And Branstad said Iowa farmers will benefit from the plant’s cheaper fertilizer.

On the subject of gambling and the Racing and Gaming Commission’s decision to deny a casino license to Cedar Rapids, Branstad said regulators should follow the law and “determine what’s in the best interests of the state of Iowa.” Hatch said state regulators shouldn’t deny Cedar Rapids a casino because it might take business away from casinos in Waterloo and Riverside. Hatch said the market should decide winners and losers.

As the debate opened, Branstad said he had “only just begun” and promised to serve all four years if he’s elected to a sixth term as governor. Hatch repeatedly criticized Branstad’s management style and brought up allegations that the governor is changing job classifications so Branstad can threaten immediate termination if administrative law judges don’t decide cases as the governor wants.

“I think people feel that the governor’s been there too long, that he’s not in charge of his administration, that he didn’t know about all these scandals that are coming out,” Hatch said.

Branstad called Hatch “crazy.”

“All these wild accusations he makes. Iowans know better. I go to every county, every year,” Branstad said. “They know that they’re not true.”

Branstad also used the debate to unveil what he called his “Connect Every Acre” proposal, new state incentives to businesses to expand broadband service in rural areas.

“Because it is so important to agriculture and right now we have a gulf of what happens in our cities,” Branstad said. “They have high speed internet. Many of the rural areas don’t.”

Hatch said Branstad’s “Connect Every Iowan” incentive plan failed to make it through the legislature this past year because “special interests” killed it and Hatch said it may be time to regulate broadband like a utility.

“If the big guys try to stop the little guys from getting broadband across the state, then we’ll take a look at what we have to do to regulate the industry,” Hatch said.

The debate was sponsored and broadcast statewide by Iowa Public Television and it was staged inside a livestock sale ring on the state fairgrounds. Over 300 spectators were in the stands, watching. At the end, both candidates were asked to name a state fair competition they might be able to enter and win. Hatch went first.

“I’d like to think it’s the pie eating contest,” Hatch said, getting laughter from the audience.

Branstad noted he has already won the Governor’s Charity Steer Show at the state fair three times, then debate moderator Dean Borg asked Branstad:”He said he’d like to eat a pie. Would you bake it?”

Branstad and Hatch laughed, then Branstad responded: “My grandmother used to make the best apple pies. He probably wouldn’t eat it if I made it.”

After the debate, Hatch told reporters he wouldn’t rule out eating a Brantad-made pie, but needed to know: “What kind?”

First Branstad-Hatch debate set for Thursday

The first debate between Republican Governor Terry Branstad and Jack Hatch, the Democratic challenger, is scheduled for this Thursday, at the Iowa State Fair. Hatch says he’s probably “not doing enough” debate prep since he’ll be facing someone who’s been involved in 18 previous debates.

“I’ve never had a debate and this is going to be a new experience for me,” Hatch says.

The debate will be staged inside the ring where the state fair’s champion livestock are auctioned off. The two candidates will sit next to one another.

“I sat across from Terry Branstad once and he did all the talking, so this will be different,” Hatch says.

Branstad’s first gubernatorial debate was held at the Iowa Fair in 1982.

“I’m going to talk about Iowa, why I love Iowa, why I want to continue to represent Iowa and that we’re not done yet,” Branstad told reporters Monday. “We’ve got a lot more to do. I think we accomplished a lot..and I think people that know me know I go to every county every year. I only have one speed: overdrive.”

The debate will start at 4 p.m. Thursday and air live on Iowa Public Television’s WORLD channel and be livestreamed on IPTV’s website. The debate will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on IPTV’s main channel.

Hatch’s father died on Sunday. Funeral arrangements are still pending, as the family plans to bury Frank Hatch at Arlington National Cemetery. Frank Hatch was 95. He served in the Army in World War II and retired from the Army Reserve in 1954.

Frank Hatch, father of Democratic gubernatorial candidate, dies at age 95

The father of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch has died.

Frank Hatch served during World War II and was a captain in the 87th Airborne Division when he retired from the Army. He went on to serve in the Army Reserve until 1954. According to a statement released by the Hatch campaign, the family plans to bury Frank Hatch in Arlington National Cemetery.

Frank Hatch was 95 and died of natural causes. He had been living in a care facility in Massachusetts and Hatch, a state senator from Des Moines, took time off the campaign trail in early June to visit. Senator Hatch said he “was aware” his father was “not in the best health,” so he’s glad they “had the chance to talk.”

Hatch issued a statement requesting privacy and thanking his family and friends for their “great support” at this time. Funeral and burial arrangements are pending.

Governor Branstad issued a written statement through his campaign late this afternoon.

“I express my deepest condolences to Senator Hatch,” Branstad said. “I respect and salute the service that Senator Hatch’s father gave to our nation in uniform. My thoughts and prayers are with Senator Hatch and his family at this time.”

(This post was updated at 4:48 p.m. with additional information.)

Branstad laments ‘unwarranted attacks’ on Iowa ag products

Governor Terry Branstad used a speech at the Iowa State Fair this afternoon to criticize “unwarranted attacks” on Iowa agricultural practices and products.

“I’m really proud as governor to have stood up for and fought for the interests of agriculture,” Branstad said.

Branstad blasted a California law which sets minimum dimensions for the cages in which laying hens are kept and bans the sale of eggs from states, like Iowa, where producers use smaller hen cages.

“We cannot let the State of California with its wacky ideas prevent Iowa farmers from being able to compete,” Branstad said, to applause from the crowd gathered at The Des Moines Register’s Soapbox on the state fairgrounds.

Iowa’s attorney general has joined officials in six other agricultural states who have filed a lawsuit challenging that California law. Branstad also brought up the 2012 controversy over “lean, finely-textured beef” which led to the closure of a plant in Waterloo that processed beef trimmings. Due to higher beef prices, the product is making a comeback. During his speech earlier this afternoon, Branstad repeated his contention that the recent decline in corn prices is because the so-called Renewable Fuels Standard is in limbo and may be reduced.

“And so we’ve tried to do everything we can to rally on a bipartisan basis everybody to support this important industry which means so much to the state of Iowa in terms of reducing our dependency on foreign oil, creating jobs and growing the Iowa economy and helping increase farm income,” Branstad said, to applause.

Branstad also got some hoots and applause from the crowd after he revealed that for lunch he had an “Iowa chop” at the Pork Producers Tent on the fairgrounds.