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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

Tea party’s next big test could be Iowa’s 3rd District

By Jason Hancock | 05.12.10 | 7:43 am

As primary election day in Iowa grows closer, many are pointing to the 3rd Congressional District as the next big testing ground of the electoral strength of the tea party movement.

Tea party protesters outside the Des Moines office of U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell (photo by Dave Davidson,

Some believe the tea party has become a political force. Others say its just a new name for the same conservative ideologues. But either way, self-described tea partiers have had success of late, most recently helping topple three-term Republican U.S. Sen. Robert F. Bennett of Utah at that state’s GOP convention over the weekend. They are also helping propel Republican Rand Paul to frontrunner status in the Senate primary in Kentucky.

Now, some observers believe Iowa could be the next opportunity for the movement to flex its political muscle. Sunday, the Des Moines Tea Party has organized a debate for the men running in the GOP 3rd District primary, another sign that it is taking the race very seriously.

The Republican primary for the right to take on incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell has drawn seven candidates, all with varying backgrounds and political beliefs. Most, however, feel the race will likely come down to three men:

- Jim Gibbons, a former wrestling coach at Iowa State University who has managed to build a huge financial advantage over his opponents. He is also considered to have put together a top-notch political staff.

- Brad Zaun, a state senator and former mayor of Urbandale who has high name recognition around the district due to his years in elected office.

- Dave Funk, a former pilot who not only became interested in politics, in part, because of the tea party movement but also hired one of its Iowa leaders to run his campaign.

“This race is really a great microcosm of what is going to happen long term,” said Jeff Angelo, a former Republican state senator from Creston. “I really think this is going to be a test case for the tea party. If Funk wins, that sends a signal that the movement has some real power.”

With seven men in the race, the electorate will be somewhat splintered, Angelo said. And with primary elections drawing a smaller than usual pool of voters, “if the tea party can get organized behind one candidate, with a small sample of voters showing up overall, they can have a huge influence,” he said.

Air vs. Ground

Doug Gross, an attorney and former GOP gubernatorial hopeful, said during a recent taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” that the 3rd District is going to be an interesting race to watch to gauge “the impact that air war versus ground war in the Republican primary.”

“Gibbons has all the money, has the air power. Zaun has the ground game. And Funk has the ideologues,” Gross said. “It will be interesting to see how it turns out.”

Christian radio host Steve Deace said it is way too early to make candidates like Dave Funk a litmus test for the tea party movement, “because the tea party movement hasn’t even defined itself yet.”

“We’re not sure if it really wants to play in primary races, just support Republicans, form another political party, stay away from the political process and demonstrate its frustration through other means, etc.,” Deace said. “I’m not sure they’re even sure, which is proof that contrary to what the Democrats claim, it’s not astroturf. It’s the spontaneous combustion of grassroots people tired of having the fruits of their labors unnecessarily confiscated. If it were astroturf it would be far better organized and defined.”

Angelo agrees that the tea party hasn’t aligned itself formally with one party or another. But they have already shown they will rally behind or against a specific candidate.

“I can’t see them, as passionate as they are, sitting out the primary election, especially with one of their own in contention,” he said. “I truly think the primary will be a test of that movement. There has been a lot of sound and fury, this will see if anything will come of it.”

Graham Gillette, who runs a public affairs/communications firm and occasionally blogs for The Des Moines Register, doesn’t see the 3rd District primary as a test of the tea party’s strength. That’s because the tea party activists are just the same conservative voters that have always dominated the GOP, he said.

“Self-proclaimed tea party activists have not taken over the [Republican] Party,” he said. “Conservatives have come up with a new name for themselves. Conservatives have long held sway in the GOP and would have power even if the tea party had never come in vogue.”

The real test of the strength of the message of the tea party and others on the conservative right, Gillette said, is not who wins the primary, but “how their message withstands the 2010 general and the elections in subsequent cycles.”

It’s also important to note that in other races where the tea party has had a major impact, the campaign narrative has been the insurgent, grassroots candidate against an “establishment” Republican. Deace said even though Gibbons has the support of many “establishment” Republicans, it’s not quite fair to say that he is the establishment candidate in the race.

“When I think establishment I think of sellouts, RINOs, and wolves in sheep’s clothing,” he said. “For example, the difference in moral conviction demonstrated by Gibbons on my radio show recently far exceeds the 16 years Terry Branstad spent as governor. I can attest to the fact that Gibbons is a Catholic with deep Christian moral convictions, and he’s pretty thorough at defining and defending them.  That’s not typically what you see out of what we’ve come to know as the establishment.”

Convention scenario

Iowa electoral law mandates that for a candidate to emerge victorious from the primary, they must garner at least 35 percent of the primary vote. With seven men in the running, the likelihood the race will be decided at convention is high.

“I don’t see how you avoid it,” Angelo said.

If the race goes to convention, “the more conservative candidate has an advantage,” Gillette said. “By and large, the Republican Party apparatus is controlled by conservatives. This is nothing new.”

While conservatives do make up a larger segment of the convention delegates, Angelo said it would be foolish to think any convention vote is a foregone conclusion. He points to the 5th District convention of 2002, where U.S. Rep. Steve King was nominated after a three-way primary ended with no clear winner.

“Everyone went to the convention that day saying King would win overwhelmingly because he was the most conservative,” Angelo said. “It was actually really, really close.”

King defeated Iowa House Speaker Brent Siegrist that year 272 to 253 on the third ballot of a special convention called to pick a congressional nominee. Angelo said Siegrist showed up and wooed the delegates by working hard and giving a “great speech.”

“Delegates pride themselves on making the decision that day,” he said. “So I think who wins at convention will be more about who goes and works the hardest.”

Deace said the “X-factor” in any convention vote is Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Christian Alliance and Republican National Committeeman.

“I don’t know any Republican in Iowa better at the convention process who knows more about the rules than Steve,” Deace said. “I’ve seen him give talks to potential delegates on how to work a convention, and the guy really knows this stuff.  Remember, he just took out a long standing Republican National Committeeman at the last state convention.  In my opinion, if Steve decides to back one of these candidates at the convention that’s who will win.”

Scheffler has not endorsed any candidate in the primary.

Ultimately, the winner of the 3rd District nomination will help answer the question of whether “top-down politics” is still the way things are done, Angelo said.

“I’m not sure if it’s time to get excited about the tea party movement or whether the traditional style of politics will prevail in the primary,” he said. “That’s the big question.”

The primary election will be held June 8.

Follow Jason Hancock on Twitter


  • egc52556

    Boswell is a pretty conservative Democrat. Are the 3rd district voters really ready to jettison this moderate incumbent in favor of a right-wing Tea Party candidate?

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