The buzz is that the mystery candidate to challenge Chuck Grassley may be Vilsack — Christie not Tom. Since he has been in the Senate, Grassley has not had a credible challenger.Christie Vilsack would be another story.

Vilsack is certainly someone that Democrats would rally around. She would be a credible candidate with access to organization, staff and money.In a year when Grassley has faced some criticism from within Republican circles, this seems like an ideal time for Vilsack to enter the race.

Further, a popular, high-profile Demoratic senate candidate might be just what the Big Lug ordered. With his poll numbers slipping, Vilsack might be able to drive turnout to bolster Culver's re-election chances.

2010 is shaping up to be quite a year.

Special Election in HD33

With the resignation of Rep Dick Taylor in HD33, Cedar Rapids will be having a special election. The Des Moines Register reports that Governor Culver has called for a special election on Tuesday, Nov 24.

Unlike the recent battle in HD90, the HD33 race looks pretty lopsided. In 2008, Taylor won with nearly 70% of the vote. In 2006 he was unopposed. So I am certainly not predicting that this race will be anywhere near close. Yesterday's Gazette suggests that there are at least two high profile Democrats interested in the job:

Kirsten Running-Marquard, is the daughter of former west-side lawmaker Rep. Rich Running, has been active in numerous campaigns and works in 2nd District Rep. Dave Loebsack’s Cedar Rapids office. Norm Sterzenbach is a longtime party activist and union lobbyist. His son, Norm, is the current Iowa Democratic Party executive director.

At this point no Republican has come out publicly as a possible candidate. State law requires the county central committee members from the precincts that make up HD33 to nominate their party's official candidate.

An interesting twist to this particular race is that the special election will take place on the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. This means that turnout will be exceptionally low and plays into the Democrat's strong suit — absentee ballots. Call me a pessimist but it looks like we'll have a new Democrat rep from HD33 when the legislature gavels in.

Boeyink leaves RPI for Branstad Campaign

The Iowa Republican is reporting this morning that RPI Executive Director Jeff Boeyink is resigning to take a position with the Branstad campaign. Jeff is one of the top political operatives in Iowa. I was excited when he took the ED position and as I got to work with him on the SCC, my respect for him grew. With 2010 looking to be a competitive year for the Iowa Legislature — I hate to see him go. He will definitely be an asset to the Branstad campaign.

Of course now the search for a new ED becomes the top priority at RPI.

Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize

It’s not a joke, CNN is reporting that Present Obama has just been awarded the Nobel Peace prize. According to CNN, the committee said:

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future, his diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”

I don’t even know how to respond. Generally, one has to actually accomplish something to win a Nobel prize — right? Maybe I missed it, is there Peace in the Middle East? Are India and Pakistan friends? Did Iran stop their nuclear program? Has he crime rate dropped in Chicago?

There is no question that every American president has a big impact on world events. Some even achieve greatness and much as I hate to admit it Obama might. But to say that on this, the 262nd day of the Obama presidency, that he has is ridiculous.

Update: My friend Tim Palmer, editor of points out that nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize closed on February 1, 2009. The nomination was made based on Obama’s first 10 days in office!!!

The Vauditor strikes again — Culver’s SOS office under investigation

I like David Vaudt he has done a great job for Iowa serving as our state auditor. He is exactly the type of watchdog our state needs — especially at this time with spending gone wild and the governor in denial. He is after all the only CPA running for state auditor.

I have heard the Vauditor speak on several occasions and I have to admit that I have had trouble keeping my eyes open during many of his presentations. Vaudt is a CPA and I am not a numbers guy so I can only stand a few minutes of the details. But when he comes to a conclusion, it is always crystal clear. He is the adult supervision in our state government and as a Republican I am proud to say that he is one of ours.

According to the Des Moines Register, at Vaudt’s prompting, the US Election Assistance Commission:

… has found questionable spending totaling $2.5 million of roughly $30 million that the state’s elections division received from the federal government while Gov. Chet Culver was secretary of state.

Most of the issues involve the 2005 Celebrate Voting promotion. The events commemorated the anniversaries of the Voting Rights Act and the 19th Amendment. The article note questionable expenditures related to the event totaling $1,200,000.00. Remember these funds were part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 that was designed to assist states meet new voting requirements.

I am glad that somebody in our state government thinks spending over a million dollars, meant to improve voting, on a party was a bad idea. So Mr. Vaudt, keep up the good work, my eyes may still glaze over when you get into the details of revenue projections — but I guarantee that my ears will be wide open.

The 2nd District Congressional Race

I must be living under a rock. I and every other Republican observer in the district have known that we were going to have a three-way primary between 2008 nominee, Dr. Marianette Miller-Meeks, 2008 Senate nominee Christopher Reed and 2008 Senate primary 3rd place finisher, Steve Rathje. I just didn't know that any but Rathje made mad it official.

[Editors note: actually I have become self-employed after two recent layoffs so, I have been living under a rock!]

Today on Twitter I saw Reed tweet his website

, I see that Miller-Meeks is on Facebook (or still on Facebook) under Miller-Meeks for Congress and of course Rathje has had an active campaign web site for some time.

The die is cast — look for a spirited primary campaign in district two. I have recently been talking with my high school age daughter about her American history class. She is studying the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. It is interesting that the issues facing the founders: a Bill of Rights, the role of the Judiciary, the scope and reach of the federal government and many others — are still facing us today. Knowing the individuals involved — I am looking forward to the debate.

Wieneke’s Wheel Tax Revisited – Podzimek’s Folly

I posted Wieneke's Wheel Tax this morning after hearing Wieneke on the radio. Since then I have learned more about it. The Gazette had an article on the front page about it this morning.

First I was vague about whether the scope was Linn County or the city of Cedar Rapids. I know Wieneke is on the City Council but I wanted to be sure. The absurdity of pitting Cedar Rapids against Marion and  Hiwatha seemed implausible to me. Yet, that is exactly what Wieneke is suggesting.

Further, Wieneke is not alone in making this absurd proposal, he is joined by councilman Tom Podzimek. As it turns out, the courageous duo are the only two council members not up for re-election.

It turns out that Podzimek had a further suggestion. According to the Gazette,

Podzimek also asked City Manager Jim Prosser about establishing a system of payment, in lieu of taxes, that would attempt to raise revenue from hospitals, churches, colleges, non-profits and others “not contributing to this system” because they are exempt from paying property taxes.

Payment in lieu of taxes? If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck — then it is a tax. Even more telling is Podzimek's phrase — not contributing to the system. Someone should tell our area churches, St. Lukes and Mercy, Coe, Mt. Mercy and Kirkwood, The United Way, Habitat for Humanity and Serve the City — that they are not contributing, that  they are not carrying their weight.

Perhaps Mr. Podzimek is suggesting that the city would be better off without these freeloading parasites? It's really too bad that Mr. Podzimek is not up for re-election this cycle.

Wieneke’s Wheel Tax

The morning while driving my kids to school, I heard my city councilman, Chuck Wieneke on the radio. Now, Wieneke is a Republican and he has done some good things on the council.

When the city wanted to demolish some flood damaged homes, they decided they were unsafe to enter. Therefore, they could not be inspected for asbestos, Therefore, the city would have to assume they all contained asbestos. Therefore, the city would have to pay for special hazmat demolition. When Wieneke heard this he pointed out how irrational it was and what a waste of taxpayer money it would be. I like that in any politician.

It is Wieneke’s latest proposal that bothers me. Wieneke is proposing a wheel tax for Cedar Rapids. That is, people who work in Cedar Rapids but do not live in Cedar Rapids would have to pay a tax to support the infrastructure here. Wieneke was honest enough to note that if such a tax were enacted, it would not reduce property taxes but rather abate the inevitable increases due to flood recovery.

The radio host asked about the amount of money that out of town workers already spend here to contribute to the economy. Wieneke noted that there are many workers who commute in the corridor from Johnson County. These workers do their shopping in Coralville not Cedar Rapids. While that is true, there area also a large number of Cedar Rapids residents who commute the other direction as well.

The real problem, is that our community is losing businesses due to the economy. This is not the time to create a penalty for new businesses to locate in our community. While I don’t believe that such a tax will drive existing businesses out. It will have a chilling effect on attracting new businesses.

Of course, Iowa law does not currently allow cities or counties to levy such a tax. However, there has been a desire on behalf of local governments to provide alternative revenue sources. When the legislative session starts we’ll be watching.