The chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party says a candidate will soon emerge to give Republican Senator Chuck Grassley the “race of his life” in 2010.
Grassley will be seeking a sixth term in 2010. So far two Democrats from eastern Iowa have announced their intentions to run for the U.S. Senate. But Iowa Democratic Party chairman Michael Kiernan suggests a well-known Iowa Democrat will join the competition.
“Doug Gross has gone and pulled out of retirement Terry Branstad to run for governor so it got a lot of Democrats thinking, including myself, ‘Maybe it’s time,’ — and I’ll put this in a football analogy since my counterpart (the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa) owns a football team, that ‘Maybe it’s time to get a first-round draft pick,” Kiernan says. “I’m going to tell you here today that Chuck Grassley is going to be in for the race of his life.”
Des Moines attorney Doug Gross, the former chief of staff to former Governor Branstad who himself ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002, has touted Branstad as the best candidate to run against Democratic Governor Chet Culver in 2010, but Branstad has held off making a decision until October. Kiernan isn’t saying who his “first-round draft pick” is for the U.S. Senate race.
“You’re just going to have to wait to find out,” Kiernan said this morning during taping of this weekend’s “Iowa Press” program. “We want to wait ’til, obviously, after Terry Branstad announced his candidacy for governor.”
Kiernan isn’t revealing the characteristics this phantom candidate may have either. “I’ll just wait for the announcement,” Kiernan said. “You will be impressed.”
Grassley, who turned 76 last week, was first elected to office in 1958 when he won a seat in the Iowa House. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1974. In 1980, Grassley ran for the U.S. Senate, challenging first-term Democrat John Culver, the father of Iowa Governor Chet Culver. In 2004, Grassley was reelected with 70 percent of the vote. Kiernan suggests the outcome in 2010 will be much closer.
“I’m here to tell you today that it will be the toughest race that Chuck Grassley has faced since John Culver,” Kiernan said.
John Culver finished that race with 45.5 percent of the vote compared to Grassley’s 53.5 percent — a margin of eight percent. Grassley’s first congressional victory in 1974 was his closest contest. He beat incumbent Democrat Stephen Rapp by less than two percent of the vote.
“Senator Grassley doesn’t take any election for granted,” said Jill Kozeny, a spokeswoman for Grassley. “He’s on the job for Iowans, safeguarding tax dollars, holding government accountable, protecting take-home pay from tax increases, looking out for consumers and fighting for seniors. He’s in touch, he takes on the big issues, and he works every day for what’s best for Iowa.”
Kiernan, the Iowa Democratic Party chairman, made his comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program which airs tonight on Iowa Public Television. After the taping, Kiernan told reporters the as-yet-to-be-revealed candidate is “100 percent committed” to running against Grassley.
(This story was updated at 1:51 p.m.)