Vilsack Sighting in St Paul

Today while standing in line to get into the Excel Center. I saw someone I thought I recognized. I introduced myself and sure enough, I was right. The person I saw was former Democrat Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack. The same Tom Vilsack who ran for president as a Democrat.

The Governor was standing in line to get into the venue and he had what looked like a guest pass. He was standing in the normal line and waited like everyone else. I asked if he were switching parties. He said, “No you’ll have to do a lot more convincing.”

The Republican Party of Iowa — Time to Declare a Truce

First in the Nation … there is nothing like it. As Iowans, we (Republicans and Democrats alike) love our caucuses. But like many things in life being first is a mixed blessing.

On one hand, FITN gives us the unique opportunity to meet the candidates up close and in person. I have met a number of candidates in small group settings with just a handful of people. I have had the chance to ask difficult questions and look them in the eye as they answer. When Iowans decide, they decide based on an intimate knowledge of the candidates that no other state except perhaps New Hampshire can share.

On the other hand, FITN makes Iowans choose sides and choose them early. The amount of media attention and money showered on the state intensify everything about the process in Iowa. The battle for Iowa is bruising and never ending. In 2008 and 2012, potential candidates were back in the state within weeks of the election losses. Unlike the rest of the country, we fight the caucus battles year round. The recent RPI elections were the final battle in a war that began at the caucuses and continued through our  conventions.

I want to call upon my Republican friends across the state to call a truce. The elections of 2014 are too important to throw away because a particular faction did not prevail in this war

As the speculated, I was one of the SCC members who voted against AJ Spike and an David Fischer. The election didn’t turn out the way that I wanted but I am not going to take my ball and go home. There is too much at stake. 2014 is going to be a critical year with statewide races, the Iowa legislature and congressional seats all up for grabs. We cannot let the 2012 caucuses lead to defeat in 2014.

The RPI Chairman Race

AJ Spiker/Bill Schickel

This Saturday, the State Central Committee will meet in Des Moines to elect a chairman for the Republican Party of Iowa. There are no last minute candidates, at least not yet. The race has come down to two well known, experienced members of the State Central Committee, current RPI chairman AJ Spiker and current co-chairman Bill Schickel. Like the Iowa State bowl game, it is a rematch of the last chairman race when Matt Strawn stepped down. AJ won that contest by a single vote over Schickel.

In a previous post I wrote about the role of the RPI chairman and said;

… the single most important job an SCC member has is to elect a chairman for the Republican Party of Iowa.

The RPI chairman is elected by a majority vote of the State Central Committee. As I prepare to carry out this most important of my duties, I decided to take the opportunity and share some of my thoughts on the issue. I will start by saying that as an SCC member I have gotten to know Bill and AJ and I like them both.

Let me start by stating that as RPI chairman, AJ Spiker is not responsible for the Iowa GOP’s dismal electoral performances in 2012. On the other hand, he and the team he assembled (as well as the SCC) did not exactly lead the party to victory either.

We had the same situation in the recent past with Ray Hoffman when was RPI chair during the electoral train wreck of 2006. When the SCC chose to elect Hoffman to another term, I was so angry that I couldn’t talk to any of my friends on the committee for weeks. The re-election of Hoffman and the secrecy that surrounded it were key factors in my deciding to run for SCC.

Ray Hoffman was not the reason we got swept in 2006 and AJ Spiker is not the reason we got swept again in 2012. But, having lead the party to defeat, it was then and is now, time to search for new leadership.

Therefore, I am publicly supporting Bill Schickel for RPI chairman. My support for Bill is likely a Quixotic effort. I believe that the coalition of evangelicals and libertarians that elected AJ and swept our conventions in 2012 is strong enough to carry the day and re-elect AJ. I guess, it shouldn’t be a surprise, it sounds like the RNC will also re-elect Reince Priebus.

Whatever happened to the captain going down with the ship?

Guns in School — A Perspective

The Newtown shootings have rekindled the national debate on gun control. Some are saying that guns are the problem while others re suggesting that guns (arming teachers) are the solution. Growing up, I personally experienced guns in school but there were never any problems.

It started in 1975, I was a freshman in high school and my friend Bryan and I were making a super-8 movie for a class. It was a humorous short called, A Hillbilly Cleans Up. The film followed a hillbilly who comes to town and eventually ends up in a laundromat. The hillbilly then proceeds to remove his overalls and do his laundry wearing only his red long johns. Bryan was the hillbilly and I was the cameraman. Guns play a part in this story because in his role as the hillbilly Bryan needed a couple of props, a corn cob pipe, a straw hat and a shotgun. We got out of school and spent the whole day walking around the College Hill Business District in Cedar Falls with my 14 year old friend Bryan carrying a double barreled 12 gauge shotgun over his shoulder. I don’t remember if we entered any businesses other than the laundromat but no one thought it at all unusual.

During my high school years, I can remember a number of guns brought to school as part of school projects and while I wasn’t in the class, I think one of my classmates did a reloading demonstration in a speech class.

My junior (or sophomore) year our PE class went out to the local range to do some trap shooting. It was my first opportunity to use a shotgun. If you can believe it, students were allowed to bring their own shotguns and ammo for the day. My friend Doug gave me a ride to school and brought his shotgun. Rather than leave it in his car, we carried in to the  school building and stored it in my unlocked locker! No one thought it was unusual for us to be walking through the building with a gun — maybe because it was in a case 🙂

I have to admit that I was not entirely truthful in my opening paragraph when I said:

… I personally experienced guns in school but there were never any problems.

One incident stands out, and yes, it was a problem. I like to refer to it as The Day Andy Shot The Clock. It was opening night of the play, Dark of the Moon. My classmate Jon and I were working stage crew. Jon was stage manager and I was running the fly loft. I was working about 12 feet above the stage with the crew that ran the curtain and raised and lowered the sets from above.

My friend Andy was in charge of the sound crew and about midway through the play there supposed to be a gunshot. To make it as authentic as possible, Andy was in the unoccupied hallway just offstage. My classmate Jeff  had provided a 12 gauge shotgun along with some blank shotgun rounds. Jeff handloaded the blank rounds himself.

So in the hallway, armed with a 12 gauge and blanks, Andy was supposed to aim the shotgun down the long hallway and fire it on cue from the student director. In rehearsals, the gunshot always went off without a hitch, but on opening day, things were different. When the time came, we heard the gunshot and … the sound of broken glass.

I think Andy was getting bored. Instead of aiming down the hallway,  when the cue came, Andy aimed the shotgun at the IBM wall clock hanging a few feet away on the wall. Since the shotgun was firing blanks he wrongly assumed that there would be no damage. The trouble is that the blank round still has a paper or plastic wadding plus the concussive force of the 12 gauge is still able to  do damage. When Jon and I heard the broken glass, I practically slid down the ladder to the loft and we ran out in the hallway to find Andy sheepishly holding the shotgun amidst a pile of broken glass.

It was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … it was the 1970’s. I had a leisure suit and platform shoes. It really was a different world, and I am beginning to believe that I am that old guy who doesn’t understand the modern world. It really was a different time, we had guns but no problems … other than Andy shooting the clock 🙂

I guess if Andy didn’t have a gun, the clock would still be alive today.

Miller-Meeks for House

There is a revolution going on in Iowa’s second congressional district. It centers around Republican candidate, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks or as I prefer — M3 (m-cubed – I did major in math after all).

The picture is of me from about a month ago preparing to walk in a parade with my kids and hand out Miller-Meeks material. When my kids asked me why we were supporting Miller-Meeks, I said, “It’s because she believes in what we believe in.” As a home-schooling family, we are planning a field trip to DC to visit Congresswoman Miller-Meeks sometime next year.

As Krusty points out:

… Miller-Meeks was able to out raise Congressman Loebsack in the last three months of the campaign. Miller-Meeks raised $108,599.26 and gave her campaign $20k putting her total for the quarter at $128,559.26 compared to Congressman Loebsack’s $108,142.10. So even without her personal contribution Miller-Meeks outpaced Loebsack by $417.16. Of his total, Loebsack only collected $36,000 from small donors. Almost all of Miller-Meeks’ total comes from small Iowa donors.

I do not believe that I need to defend my conservative or pro-life bona-fides to readers of this blog. As a member of the GOP State Central Committee, I support all of our candidates. While I support all of our candidates, I naturally spend my personal time and effort working (as a volunteer) for those I really believe in.

We have a great candidate in the 2nd Congressional District. I am excited about the Miller-Meeks campaign. (And my kids are looking forward to that field trip to DC 😉

Government is the only thing we all belong to …

This video was featured at the the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this week. In it the narrator says:

“We are committed to all people. We do believe you can use government in a good way. Government is the only thing that we all belong to. We’re different churches, different clubs, but we’re together as a part of our city, or our county, or our state, and our nation.

I searched for this video after seeing many of my friends Facebook statuses started saying things like “I don’t belong to the government” or “The government belongs to me.”

As I watch this video, I know that the Democrats are not trying to say that government owns us. But what they are saying illustrates a profound difference in philosophy from what I believe. Now, there is no question that I am a Republican partisan. I serve on the Republican State Central Committee here in Iowa and I ran unsuccessfully to represent Iowa on the Republican National Committee. I have chaired my county, district and state platform committee and represented Iowa on the national platform committee in 2008.

Over the years, I have tried to explain politics to my children. In those especially teachable moments I have tried to be fair and to avoid invective. Since I am a Republican, I tell my kids that Democrats are not bad people. For the most part, Democrats and Republicans see the same problems in our country. The profound difference is the approach that they take to solutions.I usually explain it to my kids this way:

Democrats view government as the expression of our better angels, a means of working together as communities and ultimately a nation for the common good.Republicans view government as necessary, but believe that its function should be limited to prevent it from hindering those better angels of our nature acting as individuals and in community.

So when my guys get elected, I want them to rein in spending, and hold the line on taxes but I do not want them to create jobs. I want them (the government) to get out of the way and let the individuals take risks, start businesses, invest, and create jobs the old-fashioned way.

Of course when one of my kids asks, “Daddy, what is a Libertarian?” I tell them that:

… a Libertarian is a Republican who smokes pot 🙂

The pot calling the kettle African-American

I have already weighed in on some of the attempts by the RNC to change the rules mid-stream for the 2012 nominating process. I am equally concerned about some of the future rules changes that have been proposed. I side with the Ron Paul supporters on most of these rule changes, believing them to be unfair in the short run and harmful in the long run. (I have yet to weigh in on binding delegates.) I think that many of the proposals will negatively impact Iowa and other caucus states.

As I have said before, I believe that Ron Paul’s supporters took over the Republican Party of Iowa fair and square. They followed the rules. Even though many of us who were not a part of the revolution felt cheated, but, we could have worked and we could have organized and we would be in the drivers seat today. Good for them. I just wish Paul’s supporters had been gracious winners. At least when the Christian Right was in the driver’s seat, our St. Paul delegation showed some diversity. The voting members of our delegation included supporters of McCain, Romney, Huckabee and yes, even Ron Paul. The Paul strategy was definitely scorched earth, win everything and give no ground.

So it should not be a surprise to anyone that the RNC has decided to come down hard on Paul’s supporters and by association the Iowa GOP. The attempt to change the threshold for nomination was completely legal within the rules. The power grab, giving the campaigns and the RNC more control over the rules and the nomination process, is being carried out within the rules. I hope the convention votes these proposals down, but if they do not, they will have brought about this takeover, within the rules.

Throughout this process, the Paul people have told the rest of us to: do our homework, know the rules, and  organize. After all that’s all they did, if we failed to step up to the plate, it’s not their fault. So, the Romney camp did their homework, they knew the rules and they organized. And now the Paul folks are crying foul.

It may be karma but I didn’t like it in either case.

Libertarians at the Gate

Let’s face it, this election cycle, Ron Paul’s supporters have effectively taken over the Republican Party of Iowa. While they may not be a majority on the SCC, they are largest block and managed to elect one of their own, A.J. Spiker to the party chairmanship. In all four congressional districts, they dominated the district conventions and were able to control all of the key committees for the state convention. The state party is largely staffed with former Paul staffers and the Iowa delegation to the Republican National convention consists of 28 delegates, 23 of whom (according to are Paul supporters.

While I did not publicly endorse a candidate in the caucus, it is no secret that I was not a part of the Ron Paul revolution. I nominated Bill Schickel as RPI chair, I ran against the slated Ron Paul candidates for 1st district SCC at the district convention (I won) and ran against the incumbent National Committeeman from the Ron Paul slate at the state convention (I lost). As I have said before on these pages, the Paul supporters played by the rules. When the other campaigns (who had beaten Paul in the caucus straw poll) pulled up stakes and moved on, Paul’s people stayed engaged. They kept staff on the ground throughout the caucus to convention process, They organized and they got their people to show up at conventions and they prevailed. They played by the rules and they won fair and square.

Now I would argue that after the caucus, the Romney and Santorum campaigns moved on because they both were actually trying to win the nomination. They used their resources to run a 50 state campaign, while the Paul team focused on caucus states like Iowa.


Even so, I am bothered by the attempts by the RNC to further control the process from the national level. I was glad to see that they turned back a motion to increase the threshold for nomination at the convention from 5 states to 10. I find it outrageous that they would try to do such a thing in at the last minute. I am pleased to see that our three RNC members, Scheffler, Lehman and Spiker have been consistent in opposing these shenanigans. The proposal to bind delegates and further require them to have the approval of the national campaign is even worse. It remains to be seen what impact it would have but it could cost Iowa our First-in-the-Nation Caucus.

I believe that the grassroots should choose the delegates and the delegates should choose the nominee, not the other way around.


It wasn’t too long ago, that I can recall being a Christian at the Gate. Looking at the Republican establishment from the outside, fighting to add and then strengthen the pro-life position within our platform and among our leaders. We Christian evangelicals reached the height of our influence in 2008 when Steve Scheffler and Kim Lehman were elected to the RNC.

One of the best things about Iowa GOP politics is that the direction of the party is controlled by the grassroots. It is easy to get involved and a group of like-minded people working together can make a difference in the direction of this party. As Iowa Republicans, even if we are not happy with the direction of the current leadership (or previous leadership, or future leadership) we should vigorously fight to keep the system in place that allows the grassroots to drive the process.

GOP Convention Day 1

This is my first GOP National Convention. Today, because of Hurricane Gustav, we met for only about two hours instead of seven. Rather than the usual partisan cheerleading that goes on, the day was filled with the parliamentary business of the convention. We approved reports resolved credentials disputes and approved a platform.

We saw a video of four of the five Gulf state governors (all five are Republican). And there was a surprise visit by Laura Bush and Cindy McCain. Both were received well and focused their talk on Hurricane relief.

For many delegates the first day was a letdown without all the hoopla. There were protesters outside of the arena but inside, not much happened. Among the things that went wrong today was food. Delegate packets included a coupon for a boxed lunch but since the session was shortened, the lunches were apparently canceled.

The Iowa delegation is seated on the floor of the arena far side stage right. Midway through, I switched credentials with my alternate and went up to sit in the stands. The alternate seats were much more comfortable than the delegate seats.

We are waiting to see whether we’ll have a full program tomorrow.


This morning, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson addressed the Iowa Delegation on behalf of his organization fighting chronic disease. He spoke of his own surgeries and told a typically Thompson story about banning smoking in HHS buildings while he was secretary. He also encouraged delegates to walk or exercise.

Ok, ok, I get it. I took my bicycle out for about 10miles this morning. Near the halfway point of the ride, I felt something bouncing off my shins. I figured out that it was some kind of bug and when I looked closely I saw it was grasshoppers. My road bike has hollow aluminum Velocity Deep-V rims and when the grasshoppers bounced off the spkes, they made a resonant pinging sounds.

As I was riding, I saw yet another pest so I took this photo.