The Senate Democratic primary in Iowa, to be held June 8, looks to be Roxanne Conlin’s. Assuming she earns her party’s nod, she must challenge long-time incumbent Republican Senator Charles Grassley, he of the “pull the plug on Grandma” town hall meetings.
Conlin, the best-known Democrat of the three primary candidates, was recruited to run against Grassley by Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan, which angered the less-well-known candidates Bob Krause of Fairfield and Tom Fiegen of Clarence and is a Democratic rules infringement when more than one candidate has declared in a primary race. According to her website (www.RoxanneConlin.com) Conlin was named “One of the 50 most influential women lawyers in America” and “One of the top 10 trial lawyers in America” by the National Law Journal.
Krause is a defense contractor who served 6 years in the Iowa House of Representatives (1973-1979) and was regional representative for the U.S. Secretary of Transportation in the Carter administration. He is 60 years old (1/15/1950), married to wife Vicky, and has 6 children.
Fiegen, 51 (Oct. 2, 1958), holds a law degree from Iowa, works as a bankruptcy lawyer, and served as a state senator from 2001 to 2002. He is divorced with 4 adult children.
Conlin, 65 (June 30, 1944), holds both a law degree and a master’s of public administration from Drake (Des Moines, IA). She served as U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Iowa (appointed by Jimmy Carter) and as Assistant Iowa Attorney General. Her husband, James, is a builder and investor in low-income housing. They have 4 grown children and 5 grandchildren.
The candidates held a public debate on WHO-TV at 9 a.m. on May 30th, sponsored by the Des Moines Register (“Conversation with the Candidates”). There was as much drama before the cameras rolled as after the program started. Fiegen, the more contentious of the two candidates competing with Conlin, came to the debate clutching a large accordion folder of notes. For at least the past 6 years, the Des Moines Register has moderated the debate; notes are not allowed and candidates were made aware of this by both snail mail and e-mail reminders, but Fiegen protested loudly that the rule had come from Conlin’s camp.
Kristen Gray, communications and marketing manager for the Des Moines Register explained to Fiegen that he could not bring the notes on camera while Bob Krause of Fairfield stood to the side, rolling his eyes in what appeared to be exasperation. Said Kathie Obradovitch, in a May 24, 2010 Des Moines Register column, “I’ve been part of other debates and forums where candidates have made last-minute requests or complaints, but this is the first time I felt like there was a very real possibility that a candidate might walk away.”
Fiegen attacked Conlin on the issue of tax credits, which her husband has collected as a developer of affordable housing. He also seems to be nearly a one-issue candidate, preaching about the need to reform bankruptcy laws (he works as a bankruptcy lawyer) and promising support for veterans. Fiegen talked of exerting deficit control by eliminating the Bush tax cuts and raising tax rates on those who make more than $250,000. Krause is in favor of ending the war in Afghanistan as a cost-saving measure.
Fiegen lobbed a few more shots at Conlin, the front-running primary candidate, saying that she owned stock in Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo. Conlin replied that she has sold her stock in Goldman Sachs and that she is in the process of suing Wells Fargo.
On education issues, Fiegen favors national educational standards while Krause wants the U.S. government out of the business of controlling education completely, citing the days when Iowa’s schools were Number One, not in the middle of the pack as they are now. Fiegen focuses on reducing unemployment and tightening the regulation of the financial services industry. Conlin’s position essentially was expressed in this quote: “We’re all Democrats, and I think that we mostly have the same views on issues—people before profits, kids first—but I am the best able, I think, to go up against Grassley.” (Quad City Times, May 31, “Three Democrats Fight to Take on Grassley” by Charlotte Eby.)
Krause often seemed less well informed than his opponents and his frequent job changes led to implications of instability. He is credited, however (by Wikipedia), with one of the best quotes to come out of the primary race: “As a good farmer, Senator Grassley must recognize that 51 years or 58 years at the end of his term, is a long time to go without rotating crops.” Krause also pointed out that the incumbent, Senator Grassley, as the ranking member of the House Finance Committee, is one of the incumbent legislators who have helped put the United States in financial peril. The Krause quote, “Please remember that Farmer Grassley was one that opened the barn door and let the cow out at AEG.”
All polls show Conlin doing the best against Grassley in the November election. She certainly has raised far more money than her challengers, with a bankroll of approximately $1 and one-half million dollars in her campaign chest compared to her opponents’ (Fiegen and Krause) $20,000 apiece, according to the May 27th River Cities Reader (“Iowa Politics,” Lynn Campbell).
When the incumbent Republican running unopposed in the Republican primary has a war chest of $3.5 million, the fight will be uphill for the Democrats. Add to that the news that nearly 15,000 Republicans, statewide, had requested ballots to vote as early as Friday (compared to 5,305 Democrats), according to the Secretary of State’s office, and, despite some recent polls that show a lead of as little as 9% points between Grassley and Conlin (should she become the nominee), the financial advantage goes to the incumbent. Conlin has been quoted as saying she has loyal Democratic workers who will give Grassley a run for his (overabundant) money, regardless.
The Executive Director of the Iowa Democratic Party reported that early voting is more popular among Democrats for the November 2nd general election, where those early ballots traditionally garner 25 to 30% of the total Democratic votes cast in the general election. Early voting began April 29th in Iowa for the June 8th primary.
Sources: WHO-TV, 9 A.M., May 30, 2010, Des Moines Register, “Conversation with the Candidates”; www.RoxanneConlin.com; www.wikipedia entry for Roxanne Conlin; Quad City Times, Monday, May 31, 2010, “3 Democrats Fight to Take on Grassley,” Charlotte Eby; Rasmussen Reports, Monday, May 3rd, 2010 poll; RiverCitiesReader.com, “Active Republican Primaries Lead Early Voting to Tilt Toward GOP,” May 27, 2010, Lynn Campbell, IowaPolitics.com; “TV Forum @ WHO,” Kathie Obradovitch, 5/24/2010; www.IowaPoliticsInsider.com.