Dave Loebsack owes Casey’s an apology

I attended 2nd District Congressman Dave Loebsack’s town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids this morning. The meeting was at Ballantyne Auditorium on the campus at Kirkwood Community College. I estimated the crowd at about 300 seated, 200 standing and perhaps a couple hundred outside.

To his credit, I thought Loebsack handled the largely hostile crowd gracefully. As a Republican activist, I would love to get my hands on the mailing list they harvested from the crowd today.

While I am an opponent of a public option or any other form of government healthcare, I am going to focus on one comment the congressman made in this post.

During his answer to a question Loebsack referred to a hypothetical …

… Casey’s employee that could not afford health insurance.

Of course Loebsack was referring to the Casey’s General Stores  headquartered in Ankeny, Iowa. It is bad enough that Democrats demonize companies like Wal-Mart but why did he choose to pick on an Iowa company?

Before he joined the army and deployed to Afghanistan, my son worked at Casey’s. He was a third shift clerk in one of their convenience stores. Not only does Casey’s offer insurance, it was affordable and my son had better coverage than I did working as a computer professional.

So let me say this:

Congressman Loebsack, you owe Casey’s an apology. Do your homework, you should be praising, not attacking great Iowa companies like Casey’s General Stores.

Sarah Henderson for 2nd District SCC

As readers of this blog know, I recently resigned

my position as a member of the GOP State Central Committee from the Second Congressional District. I resigned in order to give my support to Christian Fong’s gubernatorial campaign.

Since that time, I have been asked repeatedly about whom I would support for the position. In the past few weeks I have had several people call me asking for my support and endorsement. It has been difficult because without exception, these calls have come from friends and political allies. Any one of them would be serve our district well on the SCC. But to each one who has called I have said the same thing. I have already decided on whom I would endorse to be my successor.

When I made my announcement. I called our state party chairman, e-mailed all of the county chairs and co-chairs in the district, posted the info on Facebook and Twitter. As soon I had hung up and hit Enter …

My first call was to my good friend Sarah Henderson. I told Sarah that I was resigning from the SCC effective immediately and that I could think of no one better to fill the position.

I first met Sarah Henderson several years ago when we served together on the State Platform Committee. Since then we have served on several platform committees together. Sarah is an authentic conservative and my family and I have had the pleasure of helping in a small way in her campaigns for Cedar Rapids City Council.

Sarah has a wide range of political experience. She has worked in state government, for advocacy groups and on numerous campaigns. She is active in the Linn County Republican Central Committee and was the youngest person ever elected to the Cedar Rapids City Council where she was often the only voice for fiscal responsibility.

With my absence, the second district is ably represented by Lisa Smith of Ottumwa and Jason Hutcheson of Morning Sun. With Sarah on the SCC, our district would have two representatives from smaller towns in rural counties in southern Iowa and Sarah from the largest (and northmost) urban county in the district. In the ten years since re-districting, our district has always maintained a 2 to 1 ratio of SCC members from rural counties to urban. Unlike the 3rd Congressional District where Polk county has dominated the district with multiple SCC members and National Committee people, we in the 2nd District have tried to balance large and small, rural and urban in our representation. As a representative from Linn County, Sarah would continue that tradition.

It is these qualities that I know Sarah will bring to the State Central Committee. Sarah is a rising star in our party and I know she will serve us well on the SCC. And while I know that only the members of the District Executive Committee will actually have a vote — I would like to offer my unqualified endorsement of my good friend Sarah Henderson for 2nd District Representative on the Republican State Central Committee.

Atheists deserve freedom of speech

I saw over at the Des Moines Register that Des Moines Area Rapid Transit (DART) has pulled ads placed by an atheist group off their buses. The ads said:

Don't believe in God? You are not alone.

The ads were sponsored by a group called Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers. According to the Register, DART began receiving complaints as soon as the ads went up. As a Christian, I don't see the ad as offensive. The Bible tells me that there are people who don't believe in God. They are indeed not alone.

My concern is that if DART can reject their ad because of complaints over its religious content, perhaps my ad will be next. For example how about an ad like:

McCain — No on Sotamayor

I heard on Headline News this morning that Senator John McCain is going to vote no on the nomination of Sonia Sotamayor's. McCain said:

During her confirmation she said that as a federal judge I do not make the law. I applaud this statement, but it does not reflect her record as an appellate court judge, I cannot support activist judges that seek to legislate from the bench. I have not supported such nominees in the past and I cannot support such nominees to the highest court in the land.

This is the same John McCain of the infamous Gang of Fourteen. Who knew?

Platform, Principle or Party

There has been a great deal of discussion lately of whether it is appropriate to take a stand for principles or party. I believe that this discussion is healthy. If my readers will indulge me, I will share a story that illustrates where I stand in this debate.

In his recent Open Letter to Senator Grassley, Representative Kent Sorenson made reference to principles as defined in our party’s platform. Since my return to Iowa nearly twenty years ago, few people have been as involved in the formulation of our state platform as I. After the very first caucus I attended after moving to Cedar Rapids, I was elected to my county, district and state platform committees. In 2008 I served on the National Platform Committee at the Republican National Convention. Over the years, I have chaired my county, district and state platform committees numerous times. I have been involved with the platform precisely because I believe that our principles matter. However, as I often took on the job of committee chairman, I have always felt that my public role at convention was not primarily ideological – rather I felt duty bound to try and run the platform debate fairly. As platform chair, I have often given procedural advice to individuals whose positions I do not support . Anyone who has seen me run a platform debate knows that I try very hard not to editorialize, interpret or otherwise speak ex-cathedra.

Anyone who served with me on the platform committee knew that I was a conservative. A social conservative, a fiscal conservative and a constitutionalist. However because of my self-imposed neutrality in our conventions most in our district did not really know that I was a conservative. That changed one year at the district convention.

The year was 2000. Linn County was part of the old 1st Congressional District and the District Convention was held in Cedar Rapids. I was the chair of the District Platform Committee. Our proposed
platform, in the section on Republican Party and Commendations contained the following plank:

We support a ban on party funds, including soft money, at all levels for candidates who support
abortion. Needless to say, this plank was controversial. An amendment to strike the plank was proposed and received by our committee with the appropriate signatures. I don’t really remember the debate. I am sure that there were the normal 2-3 speakers in favor of dropping the plank and 2-3 opposed. But the vote, I remember like it was yesterday.

When each side had presented their arguments, I asked for the yeas and nays. Of course, the vote was loud and much too close to call. Immediately there were calls for a division from both sides. I asked the county chairs to tally their votes and bring them to the convention secretaries. There was a growing buzz in the hall. I could tell that it would be close so I made sure to ask the secretaries, and other convention staffers who were delegates if they wished to cast a vote and we recorded them. When the secretaries had tabulated the vote, they passed me a sheet of paper. The motion to remove the plank had prevailed by one vote I don’t remember the exact number but let’s say it was 300 yea to 299 nay.

Well, I had been looking for a way to make a statement for my principles within what I considered my ethical duty as chair. I announced the vote as follows:

The vote is three hundred in favor to two hundred ninety-nine opposed. The chair casts a NO vote creating a tie. Therefore, failing to achieve a majority, the amendment fails — the plank shall be retained.

I had taken a stand on my principles and cast the deciding vote. At that point the place erupted. It was about as close to a riot as we Republicans get. (Except of course for Greg Baker in the Iowa House Chambers 😉 There were points of order raised all across the auditorium. Many people said that the chair can only vote to break a tie. However Roberts Rules of Order allows a chair to either make or break a tie. Even though both I and the parliamentarian read chapter and verse from Roberts Rules the commotion went on for what seemed like an eternity.

Afterward an angry candidate (I do not recall who he was) who was not pro-life came up and started arguing with me. He asked how I could support such a plank in our platform that would exclude him. I told him then what I still believe today:

The platform represents the core beliefs of the grassroots activists of our party. And the grassroots activists in this party are pro-life. The platform is however just a statement of principles. I support the plank because I want to make a clear and strong statement that we as a party are a pro-life party. Is there room for Republicans like you? If you win your primaries yes — but I want those candidates who are out of sync with our platform to know it. I want them to feel that they are sort of on the fringes of our party.

Now if I were on the State Central Committee would I vote not to support pro-abortion candidates? No.If they win their primaries, they have passed the litmus test. Whether I like it or not I would, if in leadership, support those candidates.I believe that our party leaders need to support all of our candidates. However, there is a vetting process, there is a litmus test — the primaries. If we at the grassroots cannot nominate candidates whose beliefs are in line with our own — shame on us.