Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

DSC_0275This week SCC member Mark Doland was sworn in as a Mahaska County Supervisor. Mark won the seat by a razor thin margin in a special election. The election is notable because, newly-elected GOP Senator Ken Rozenboom who held the supervisor seat previously, publicly endorsed Mark’s Democrat opponent in the last days leading up to the election. Doland had initially intended to run against Rozenboom for the Senate seat but withdrew. At the time Doland endorsed Rozenboom and publicly expressed interest in the supervisor seat.

The endorsement came only a few days before the special election. There was some informal discussion on the SCC about how to respond to a GOP senator endorsing a Democrat supervisor candidate against a GOP challenger. Given the timeframe, it was not possible to call a special meeting of the SCC. So the party leadership responded and AJ Spiker made a robo-call into Mahaska County urging Republicans to get out and vote for Doland.

… AJ Spiker chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, and I’m calling to urge you to vote for Mark Doland, the Republican candidate running for Mahaska County Supervisor. The election is tomorrow, Tuesday, January 29th and the Republican in this race, Mark Doland supports the conservative values of less government and lower taxes. So, please come out tomorrow, Tuesday, January 29th and vote for Mark Doland the Republican candidate for Mahaska County Supervisor.

This message was paid for by the Republican Party of Iowa, not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

When ballots came in, Doland had a 16 vote lead. After absentee ballots were resolved Doland won by a 21 vote margin. In a race this close, the robo-call very likely made a difference. If not putting Doland over the edge, at least padding the margin so there was no recount.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is that I have been getting calls and Facebook messages from Republicans demanding to know whether I voted for RPI to spend money in this county race. The people who contacted me are upset because they feel that county races are not in RPI’s purview, and that since Doland is on the SCC it was somehow unethical for RPI to get involved in his race. None of the people who contacted me expressed any concern about Rozenboom endorsing the Democrat in the race. Some expressed concerns that this was just another case of Ron Paul supporters in the SCC funneling money to one of their own. (Doland actually worked on the Bachmann campaign.)

I was at a county central committee meeting this week and a couple of the attendees asked me about factions within our party. I said that the factions were as divided as I can remember.  To my fellow Iowa Republicans, let me make this plea:

The caucuses are over, 2012 is over. In 2014 we will have an open US Senate seat and possibly two open US House seats, we will have a governor’s race along with all the other statewide races. The entire Iowa House will be up for re-election along with half of the Iowa Senate. This is not the time for in-fighting. A robust primary season in 2014 will be healthy for our party — if when it is done, we come together to turn Iowa red. 2014 will be all hands-on-deck, the staked are too high, we must work together to win.

The decision to get RPI involved in this race was made by the RPI leadership, the SCC could not have met the 10-day notice requirement to meet and act between the Rozenboom endorsement and the election. AJ Spiker is entirely responsible for getting RPI involved in the Mahaska County race.

In the end, the Republican Party of Iowa did something that everyone says we never do. RPI provided support to a GOP candidate in a county race. That support may just have helped put our candidate over the top. RPI’s actions were meaningful and relevant and resulted in a GOP victory. Instead of celebrating, some Republicans across the state are complaining.

The grassroots of this party choose the candidates and the leadership works to see them elected. It’s time to take off the tinfoil hats. I have and will be critical of our leadership when they deserve it but I will praise them when they succeed as well. AJ, thank you for your leadership — a job well done!

[The photo in this article was originally displayed without attribution. The copyright is now displayed. The photographer is Ken Allsup of the Oskaloosa News, used with permission.]