October 24, 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 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.

 

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.

 

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.”

Quinnipiac Poll of Iowa’s U.S. Senate race: Ernst 47, Braley 45

Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst remain deadlocked in their U.S. Senate race.

Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst remain deadlocked in their U.S. Senate race.

A shift among independent voters is making Iowa’s U.S. Senate race too close to call. Peter Brown is assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, which found Republican Joni Ernst had 47 percent support and Democrat Bruce Braley had 45 percent.

“He seems to be doing better among independents and that has brought the race essentially to a ‘too close to call’ status,” Brown says.

A Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” conducted early this month found nearly the same result, with Ernst ahead of Braley by just one point in that poll.

Quinnipiac’s more recent poll found a “12-point turn” toward Braley in the past four weeks among independent voters. Brown suggests another wild card in this Senate race is Governor Branstad.

Quinnipiac-graph“Will his anticipated solid victory or maybe more than solid victory help drag Joni Ernst across the finish line, if he has coattails?” Brown asks.

The Quinnipiac University poll found Iowa’s Republican governor holds a 15-point lead over Democrat Jack Hatch. Only 10 percent of voters say they might change their mind on that race before they vote. The Quinnipiac poll was conducted over six days, starting last Wednesday and ending Monday. It has a margin of error of 3.2 percent.

In final debate, Hatch says Branstad ‘close to…lying’ while Branstad dismisses ‘wild accusations’

Tonight Republican Governor Terry Branstad and Jack Hatch, the Democratic challenger, met in Sioux City for their third and final televised debate. The hour-long event gave Hatch’s low-budget campaign perhaps its final chance to make an impression with voters and Hatch came out swinging, criticizing Branstad’s priority of cutting property taxes and questioning Branstad’s job creation claims.

“We can’t afford four more years of Terry Branstad and his promises kept or broken,” Hatch said.

Branstad dismissed what he referred to as Hatch’s “wild accusations.”

“And the state of Iowa is on the right track,” Branstad said.

Hatch argued it’s time to cut income taxes for middle class Iowans.

“You know we’ve done a lot of corporations,” Hatch said. “We haven’t done very much for the people who work for them and that’s going to be my focus in the next four years.”

Branstad defended the bill he signed which has begun reducing commercial and industrial property taxes.

“And I’ve had people all over Iowa say: ‘Thank you for doing something that was promised for 30 years and you’ve finally delivered,” Bransad said. “The Iowa commercial and industrial property tax is going down.”

Sioux City journalists who moderated the debate also focused attention on an issue important to the host city for the event: completing the expansion of Highway 20 to four lanes. Hatch said Iowans are “expecting to have better roads.”

“There’s no better example from Governor Branstad of his broken promises than the completion of Highway 20,” Hatch said. “I don’t know what he’s going to do now that he hasn’t done the previous 20 years as governor.”

Branstad said it will likely take a combination of things to get this and other highway projects done, including federal funding and perhaps a shift to charging the state sales tax on gasoline purchases to raise more funds at the state level.

“We’ve been working on Highway 20 for a long time,” Branstad said. “We’ve only got 45 miles left. We need to get that done expeditiously and that’s the segment from Moville to Early.”

In the 2010 campaign, Branstad promised that if he was elected he’d create 200,000 new jobs in Iowa within five years. Tonight Branstad was asked how many jobs have been created since he returned to the governor’s office in January of 2011.

“I’m proud to say that we’ve been working on this every day since we came into office and in a little over three and a half years, we’ve created 150,900 jobs,” Branstad said. “…We have created more jobs in less than four years than the previous two governors did in 12 years.”

Hatch said that’s “close to…lying.”

“He’s created less than 80,000 jobs…Even a fifth grader knows you have to subtract those jobs that were lost,” Hatch said. “And what about those 80,000 jobs that were lost? Are they not important? I’m going to be a governor who focuses on those lost jobs as well.”

Halfway through the debate, the candidates were asked to cite something they admired in their opponent and the two offered “respect” to the other for putting their name on the ballot. Branstad then looked past November 4.

“I think working together is important,” Branstad said. “Once the election’s over, we need to recognize we all are public servants. We need to serve the people of Iowa.”

Hatch said he’d put the “people’s business” first if he’s elected.

“I have to say that we both, of course, had mustaches,” Hatch said, as some in the audience laughed. “For 46 years I liked mine, but I (shaved) it off because I was looking for differences and I think in a political campaign we have to show our differences.”

Hatch is a long-time state legislator from Des Moines who told the audience last night he first came to Iowa to attend college at Drake University, then stayed after graduation. Branstad, who is seeking his sixth term as Iowa’s governor, said in his closing statement that he “grew up poor” on a northern Iowa farm, where he learned to work hard at an early age.

A Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” conducted last week found Branstad holding a 15-point lead over Hatch. Tonight’s debate was broadcast live on KTIV TV and KSCJ Radio and co-sponsored by the Sioux City Journal and the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce.

Branstad defends management of Iowa Veterans Home

Governor Terry Branstad says he has no concerns about the work environment at the Iowa Veterans Home after revelations that five workers were fired and 13 others were disciplined for misconduct.

“I want to give credit to Jodi Tymeson, the commandant of the Veterans Home, because there were people doing inappropriate things and she took decisive action and dismissed them,” Branstad says.

Allegations of bullying and sexual harassment against the home’s previous commandant were aired during legislative hearings. One former staffer said he tried to file a complaint, but an aide in Branstad’s personnel department discouraged him from becoming a whistleblower. Branstad accused critics of former Commandant David Worley of engaging in a political witch hunt. Worley resigned last October and was replaced by Tymeson.

“I fully support Jodi Tymeson,” Branstad says. “She’s a retired general from the National Guard. She served in the legislature. She’s very well-respected from the veterans and we don’t want inappropriate things being done by employees of the Veterans Home and I think she’s made it clear that that’s not going to be tolerated.”

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports a male worker was fired this July after a female employee complained he repeatedly showed her pictures of a porn star and adults engaging in sex, despite her request that he stop. Another worker was fired for taunting another employee. The investigation, which apparently involved interviews with 100 of the home’s employees, was not disclosed until fired workers applied for and were denied unemployment benefits by an administrative law judge.