October 31, 2014

Ex-Branstad staffer challenging long-time Democratic attorney general

Adam Gregg

Adam Gregg

The Republican who’s challenging Iowa’s long-term Democratic attorney general was born four years after incumbent Tom Miller first took office. Thirty-one-year-old Adam Gregg left Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s staff this spring to run for attorney general.

“We need an attorney general who stands up every single day for Iowa agriculture, not just in an election year, not just after a political opponent has made it an issue,” Gregg says.

Gregg says Miller had been silent on the Environmental Protection Agency’s controversial rule about water on farmland until Gregg publicly criticized the EPA for over-reach.

“No attorney general in this country has stood up for his farmers like I have,” Miller says in response. “When I first became attorney general I created the first farm division in any attorney general’s office in the county and since then we’ve been the fighter and protector of farmers.”

Miller, who is 70 years old, was first elected attorney general in 1978. Miller was out of office for four years after an unsuccessful run for governor in 1990, but has held the job of attorney general for 32 years.

Tom Miller

Tom Miller

“I love this job,” Miller says. “I think it’s extremely rewarding. I go to work every day enthused. I come back home every night thinking that I did the right thing.”

Gregg questions Miller’s independence.

“It seems like every opportunity he gets he’s siding with the Obama Administration,” Gregg says. “It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that it seems like he’s become Obama’s lawyer and not Iowa’s lawyer.”

Miller says Obama has his own lawyer, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

“I’m the lawyer for the people of Iowa, for the ordinary Iowan, for state government, for Governor Branstad and the agencies,” Miller says.

Miller questions Gregg’s ability to run the office since Gregg has never practiced criminal law. Gregg says as attorney general, his clients would be the citizens of Iowa and he’d focus on protecting their interests.

“I’ve advocated creating a division within the attorney general’s office focused solely on prosecuting cyber crime because, like many of the things in our lives, crime has moved online,” Gregg says.

Gregg grew up in Hawarden and played football at Central College in Pella. He got his law degree from Drake University. Miller is a Dubuque native who graduated from Loras College. Miller got his law degree from Harvard.

Hatch rejects Branstad’s assertion he’s run an ‘inept’ campaign

Jack Hatch speaking at a campaign stop.

Jack Hatch speaking at a campaign stop.

Democratic challenger Jack Hatch is taking issue with Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s assertion earlier this week that Hatch has run an “inept” campaign.

“We’ve run a very strong campaign all along,” Hatch told reporters Tuesday night.

Branstad’s campaign in June claimed the web address for www.hatchvernon.com before Hatch’s campaign did and set up the website to criticize Hatch and Vernon as big spenders.

“I mean, it shows how inept his campaign is. His camp is so inept they couldn’t even get The Des Moines Register’s endorsement, let’s face it,” Branstad told reporters Monday, laughing.

The Des Moines Register endorsed Branstad in 2010, but this week the newspaper’s editorial board announced neither Branstad nor Hatch would get its backing in 2014. Hatch rejects the idea his campaign should be counted out because he’s raised far less money than Branstad.

“We’ve raised $2 million. He’s raised $10 million. He has another $5 million from outside sources from big money,” Hatch told reporters Tuesday night. “So if you’re judging this on money, if this is the threshold of politics that we’ve come to, then nobody will have a chance in the future, because Republicans are always going to have the big, special interest money.”

And Hatch discounts the polls that show him trailing Branstad by double-digits.

“We believe in the old style,” Hatch said. “People are going to now start making their decisions.”

Hatch is making campaign stops today in Mason City, Algona, Fort Dodge, Webster City, Iowa Falls and Waverly.

Democrat Hatch says his campaign ‘is about doing the impossible’ (AUDIO)

Hatch-busDemocratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch and his running mate Monica Vernon kicked off a 37-city tour of the state with a rally in Des Moines last night. Hatch embraced the underdog role in his race against Republican Governor Terry Branstad.

“This campaign has always been about doing the impossible. I mean who thought anybody would have a chance against a five-term incumbent,” Hatch said. “..The impossible is always something you chase. The impossible is what makes us work harder. The impossible makes us dream. You know, we did this not because we knew it was going to be easy. We did this because we knew it was going to be hard.”

Hatch gave a brief speech, mentioning his top priorities of state-sponsored preschool for all four year olds, raising the mandatory school attendance age to 18 and taking steps to improve water quality and prevent soil erosion.

Hatch-bus2“It’s not about soundbites,” Hatch said. “What’s happened to this country when we trade soundbites and think that they’re a platform for governing our state?”

During last night’s rally a local performer sang his version of a song that he joked was titled: “End the Reign of Terry”.

AUDIO of event, 27:00

Photos courtesy of the Hatch campaign.



State adds college certification to Home Base Iowa program for veterans (Audio)

Brigadier General Steve Altman of the Iowa National Guard.

Brigadier General Steve Altman of the Iowa National Guard.

Governor Terry Branstad announced another component of the “Home Base Iowa” program today which allows Iowa colleges and universities become certified to educate veterans in an effort to lure them to the state. Branstad says the schools must follow certain requirements to become a Certified Higher Academic Military Partner or CHAMP.

“It will provide a series of on-campus veterans resources, demonstrate an understanding of the transitions that service members need to go through with practical solutions to help them make the change from military life to academic life, and demonstrate an awareness of the financial challenges that transitioning active service members may be experiencing,” Branstad explains.

Three schools, Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) and Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids have already become certified for the program. The governor says many more schools have expressed interest and are hoping to become certified.

Iowa National Guard Brigadier General Steve Altman says the addition of the certification program for colleges adds to what is already a good program. “I’d like to thank all the institutes of higher education for their efforts in making it really seamless for service members to bring their military transcripts to the state and get the maximum credit for it, allowing them to expedite their transition from schooling and getting degrees, to entering the workplace so much faster,” Altman says.

He says CHAMP will get the attention of military members who are leaving the service. “I believe that the education pillar will be a great boon for all of our service members and it will make Iowa the state of choice as they transition,” Altman says.

Kathy Anderson

Kathy Anderson

Homebase Iowa program manager, Kathy Anderson, talks about the things the CHAMP program provides to former service members.

“Early registration, all types of things, taking a look at their record to make sure their academic credit transfers,” Anderson says. “All of those things can be really important and really critical for that transition for the military member.”

The governor says 495 veterans have been hired since Home Base Iowa was enacted in July. Anderson was asked if those are service members who would have returned to Iowa anyway. Anderson says she doesn’t have the exact breakdown of how many are Iowans, as she says employers don’t keep track of that.

“We are having veterans, transitioning military members, who could have considered going anywhere. And they’re seeing what we have to offer in Iowa now through so many of the facets of the Home Base Iowa Act,” according to Anderson. “But, now with the businesses making a committed effort to hire veterans — with 5,000 pledges to hire veterans. I would argue that we may be capturing Iowan’s back as well, but I would argue that that is a fantastic thing and that is something that we would certainly want.”

For more information on the program, go to www.HomeBaseIowa.org

Audio: Discussion of CHAMP program. 20:12


Governor says state Ebola quarantines not needed, tuition freeze depends on revenue (Audio)

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad says he won’t institute a quarantine at Iowa airports for people who may’ve visited countries impacted by the Ebola outbreak. Some governors have done so, but Branstad says anyone who has visited those countries will first come through a larger airport where they would be subject to quarantine.

“I don’t see a need for us to do it. I want to do everything I can to protect the safety and well being of Iowans,” Branstad says. “What they’re talking about is where they come directly from western African nations where they have this epidemic into their airports. And they want to protect their citizens, so that’s a little different situation. There’s a few airports in this country where you have flights from those countries, but Iowa is not one of them.”

Branstad, a Republican, says he supports the decision of his counterparts in other states like New York and New Jersey who have put the restrictions in place. “The federal government has really mishandled this, as they have mishandled a lot of other things, and I understand the great fear that people have about people who have come back and then have Ebola. We don’t this epidemic to come to the United States and governors are doing what they can to protect the safety of their citizens,” Branstad says.

The governor says he’s kept up to day with the state health director about preparations if there were to be a case of Ebola in Iowa.

“He has shared with me all the work that’s been going on with Iowa hospitals and with the EMS workers in Iowa and with local public health people,” according to Branstad says. “And it’s my understanding that we have not had any cases of Ebola here — although there is grave concern — and we want to do everything that we can to make sure it doesn’t get here.”

Branstad credits the health care professionals from the U.S. who have tried to help stem the epidemic. “I also, having been president of a medical school, am very appreciative of the young men and women who are willing to go overseas and provide medical services to people in places like Africa. We did that at Des Moines University,” Branstad says.

On another topic he was asked if he would support the effort to freeze tuition again at the three state-supported universities. Branstad says he can’t commit to the freeze just yet. “I am appreciative of the fact that they are looking at a third year of freezing tuition, recognizing that during the Vilsack administration we saw tuition increase as much as 17 and 18-percent a year. And that created a great burden for students and their families,” Branstad says.

The governor says he likes the idea, but has to see the total budget before saying he can support the freeze. “I believe that the regents are on the right track. We have to wait until we hit the December revenue estimate to decide what we are going to recommend in the budget, but I am very optimistic at what the regents are looking at and I think they are doing a good job,” Branstad says.

Branstad made his comments at his weekly meeting with reporters.

Audio: Governor answers questions from reporters. 12:30.


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.