The chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party says his party needs to “support its incumbents.”
Incumbent Chet Culver, a Democrat, is seeking reelection as governor, but a Democrat has emerged to challenge Culver in the June primary. Newspaper publisher and former Des Moines School Board member Jonathan Narcisse declared his candidacy over the weekend. Iowa Democratic Party chairman Michael Kiernan says Narcisse is a “special case” because Narcisse may be running as a Democrat today, but he’s already vowing to run as an independent in the fall.
“I certainly recognize everybody’s right to run and we create a fair process at the party for those that want to challenge other incumbents,” Kiernan says. “However at the same time is it personal or is it about party?”
Kiernan is a former Des Moines City Councilman who is a long-time friend of Governor Culver. And Culver, as the top Democratic elected official in the state, was the person who asked Kiernan to be party chairman. Kiernan isn’t saying the party’s state central committee will “officially” endorse Culver before the June primary, but Kiernan says the party is “going to support our incumbents.”
“Certainly our goal here at the party is to elect Democratic nominees and stand behind those Democratic nominees,” Kiernan says. “And the party will be behind Governor Culver.”
Kiernan says Narcisse is “all over the place” when it comes to party affiliation. “It kind of leaves you in a tough position because from a party standpoint and a party activist standpoint, there’s a lot of people that frown on the fact that he’s already said he’d run as an independent,” Kiernan says.
Narcisse uses the phrase “pretty cool” to describe the prospect of having the Democratic Party’s top brass so intent on actively supporting Culver before the primary. “It’s actually very flattering,” Narcisse says. “…It says that I’m much more viable than people might think.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Culver himself seemed to suggest Narcisse might not meet the March 19 deadline for acquiring enough petition signatures to put his name on the June ballot. “I’ll probably have more to say in terms of who is actually on the ballot and who is not at that time,” Culver said during a news conference in his office.
A reporter asked Culver if he were “insulted” that Narcisse was challenging his reelection bid. “Absolutely not,” Culver replied. “It’s a great process and we’ll have, possibly, healthy primaries on both sides.” Three Republicans are currently competing for the Republican Party’s 2010 gubernatorial nomination.
Another reporter twice asked Culver if he planned to debate Narcisse before the Democratic Primary in June and Culver merely said: “we’ll see.”