Thursday, November 09, 2006

An election roundup, part 2: Statewide races

Like most of my readers (probably), I voted for Culver, O'Brien and Mauro, and got two of the three desired results.

I think there are some lessons to be learned from the Secretary of State race, but I think they're different from the one David Yepsen claimed today:

So, for example, when a little-known candidate is chosen at the last minute to run for secretary of state based on her religious views and not her electability, well, it just cedes the job to a Democrat.

I don't think Hanusa lost because of her religious views. I think Hanusa lost because she was a non-Iowan nominated at the last minute against a well-qualified Democrat. If Hanusa had started running for the office when Mauro did, I think we would have seen a legitimate race. As for her lack of qualifications or electability, the only things I know about Hanusa is that she used to live in western Iowa, and she also used to work in the White House. I don't know if she was qualified to be SoS or not. Most voters probably didn't.

But for any challenger, it would have been a tough run. Mike Mauro is a well-known, well-liked man who has spent decades running elections in the state's largest county. I can't think of anyone more qualified to oversee our state's elections. He's light years more qualified than his predecessor.

I'm disappointed but not entirely surprised by the results in the race for Secretary of Agriculture. I do think Denise O'Brien was the better candidate, with better ideas for the future of agriculture and the wellbeing of all Iowans, not just the Farm Bureau, in mind. However, I think her campaign made tremendous missteps in their handling of the allegations that came out in the last week and cost themselves the race. Saying that's unfortunate would be putting it mildly. The race did teach me a lot about agriculture, though, so at least I can be grateful for that.

I voted for Chet Culver. I helped Ed Fallon write and produce "Don't Write Me In," which hopefully convinced others to vote for Culver. So I was pleased to see him win, although I was surprised by the margin by which he did so.

Early on election day, in an email to a friend, I said this:

I think the long term positive of this election, as nasty as it's been for as long as it has been, is that it may be the tipping point on negative ads. The 2008 caucuses are less than 15 months away, and we're probably only 9-10 months away from full-blown statewide campaigns starting up again. Voters aren't going to have the opportunity to forget all this crap before it starts again. Maybe this is the cycle where enough momentum builds to start the revolution. Or maybe not. But I can hope, right?

Turns out, the tipping point on negative ads may have come earlier than I thought. When I think back on Jim Nussle's TV ads, all I remember is a sea of negativity. He had a nice positive ad talking into the camera that aired on the last weekend, but it was too little too late. Culver mixed some nice positive ads in with the crap: the "big lug" ad may have been smarmy and overplayed, but it was memorable. The ad with Culver and Judge in their rain gear talking about wasteful spending in Congress was genius. When the negative ads in this race were all running together, Culver's campaign found a way to stand out. Now he gets to be governor. And Patty Judge gets to be one heartbeat away from being governor. The latter point scares the crap out of me.

I think the next few months will be as interesting as any I've experienced during my time in Iowa politics. For the first time in my lifetime, Democrats are in near-total control at the state level. They've got a unique opportunity to make huge strides on a lot of issues, starting with raising the minimum wage, ending predatory lending and raising the cigarette tax. What they do after those three things, though, will determine how long they're in office. As I mentioned before, this is the first time in my lifetime they've had this opportunity. If they screw it up, it'll be the last time.



Nathan Domino said...

I am a pessimist when it comes to politics. I believe the Democrats will screw it up because the system is set to only allow pragmatists to hold office leaving the idealists out in the cold. Just like the Republicans before them I think there will be a lot of grandstanding and that is just about it. Form over substance, politics as usual.

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