2002 Campaign Countdown

Harkin, Vilsack win on big night for incumbents
Iowa voters have preserved the status quo in Iowa politics. Iowans re-elected incumbents up and down the ticket, capped by the re-election of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin and of Governor Tom Vilsack. Their victories were spurred in large part by a comprehensive voter turn-out effort by Democrats that led Harkin’s GOP opponent, Greg Ganske, to urge fellow Republicans to “learn a lesson” from their failure. A bright spot for Republicans, though, was the re-election of three G-O-P Congressmen — Jim Nussle, Jim Leach and Tom Latham. Democrat Congressman Leonard Boswell won re-election, too. It also appears that Iowa’s Democrat Governor will be checked by a Republican-led Legislature, as Republicans won a majority of seats in the House and Senate, which ensures their party controls the Legislature’s debate agenda. The 13 gambling referenda on the ballot yesterday were approved, ensuring the continued operation of state-licensed gambling boats and race track casinos in Iowa. Despite a steady barrage of negative campaign advertising on radio and television stations throughout the state, election officials say voter turn-out may have been as high as 60 percent in Iowa, far stronger than in most other states.

Iowa voters have preserved the status quo in Iowa politics. Iowans re-elected incumbents up and down the ticket, capped by the re-election of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin and of Governor Tom Vilsack. Their victories were spurred in large part by a comprehensive voter turn-out effort by Democrats that led Harkin’s GOP opponent, Greg Ganske, to urge fellow Republicans to “learn a lesson” from their failure.

A bright spot for Republicans, though, was the re-election of three G-O-P Congressmen — Jim Nussle, Jim Leach and Tom Latham. Democrat Congressman Leonard Boswell won re-election, too.

It also appears that Iowa’s Democrat Governor will be checked by a Republican-led Legislature, as Republicans won a majority of seats in the House and Senate, which ensures their party controls the Legislature’s debate agenda. The 13 gambling referenda on the ballot yesterday were approved, ensuring the continued operation of state-licensed gambling boats and race track casinos in Iowa. Despite a steady barrage of negative campaign advertising on radio and television stations throughout the state, election officials say voter turn-out may have been as high as 60 percent in Iowa, far stronger than in most other states.

Harkin easily defeated Republican Congressman Greg Ganske to win a fourth term in the U.S. Senate despite a campaign scandal involving a former Harkin aide who secretly taped a Ganske fundraiser.

“This campaign was not about getting me to tonight, it was about getting America to tomorrow,” Harkin told cheering supporters.

Ganske, during a speech to campaign supporters gathered in Des Moines for an election night party, delivered a bit of a lecture to Republican party leaders.

“The Democrats taught us something tonight,” Ganske said of Democrats’ voter turn-out efforts that yielded thousands of early absentee votes. “I’m telling my fellow Republicans across the country, look at what happened here in Iowa tonight and be prepared, and to my fellow Republicans here in Iowa, next time we are going to do better.”

In Iowa’s other marquee race, Democrat Tom Vilsack won a second term as Governor, defeating Republican Doug Gross, an attorney from Des Moines who had served as chief of staff to former Republican Governor Terry Branstad.

“Tonight, the election ends. Tomorrow, Iowa’s future begins,” Vilsack said as his supporters clapped, cheered and whistled.

Gross told his supporters he won’t give up on his agenda. “I’m convinced that the people of Iowa will be prepared to accept change in the long term,” Gross said. “And I want to tell you this, that I’m not going gently into that good night.”

The man at the head of Iowa’s Republican party, chairman Chuck Larson, Junior, of Cedar Rapids, was forced to defend the party’s election strategy in the face of the Gross and Ganske defeats. Larson told reporters the election wasn’t about party affiliation, but about incumbency.

“Clearly, historically, Iowans have returned the incumbent more often than not,” Larson said. A bright spot for Republicans was the re-election of three Republican Congressmen — Jim Nussle, Jim Leach and Tom Latham. Nussle, who won Iowa’s new First Congressional District which includes Davenport, Dubuque and Waterloo, says last night’s election results on a national level are a “mandate for the President” since Republicans retained control of the House and appear to have wrested control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats.

“It’s time to get back and start governing this country,” Nussle said. Nussle defeated Democrat Ann Hutchinson, the Mayor of Bettendorf, who says she feels positive about the race and just fell a little short.

“I still have a year left on my term as Mayor of Bettendorf, so right now I’m going to focus on that,” Hutchinson said when asked about her political future. “Of course, I sold my business and left my job in order to (run for Congress), so I’m going to have to figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.”

In Iowa’s Second Congressional District which stretches from Cedar Rapids and Iowa City down to Burlington in southeast Iowa, Congressman Jim Leach moved from Davenport to Iowa City to seek re-election and defeated Dr. Julie Thomas, a pediatrician from Cedar Rapids.

“I think the political scientists are going to be looking at the effects of negative advertising and maybe concluding that it’s more successful than one would like,” Leach said of his race.

Leach cautions that Republicans will have a tough road ahead despite holding the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.

“After a very divisive set of campaigns and after such shocks to the economy and to the poltical system from abroad, we’re going to have to work awfully dilligently to bring a sense of healing to the political process.”

In Iowa’s Third District, Congressman Leonard Boswell of Des Moines — a Democrat — won re-election, defeating Republican Stan Thompson, a lawyer from Des Moines who was running for the elected office for the first time. Thompson says he’ll “live to fight another day. Mark my words, that next time we will win…and I’d certainly like to have an opportunity at some point in time.”

In the Fourth District, Republican Congressman Tom Latham of Alexander won re-election, vowing to make tax cuts a priority.

“High taxes and the regulatory burden really slow down the economy,” Latham said. Latham defeated John Norris of Ames, a lawyer who’s been a key behind-the-scenes person in Democratic party politics. On election night, Norris was reluctant to talk about his political future.

“I missed opening day of pheasant hunting season for the first time in 30 years, so I hope to fit that in later this week, and it looks like good weather this weekend, so maybe Jackie (his wife) and I can go canoeing… that’s all that’s on my mind right now,” Norris said.

Iowans did elect a new member of Congress, from the sprawling western Iowa district that emcompasses 32 counties. Republicans outnumber Democrats in
the district by 58,000, and Republican Steve King of Kiron, a state Senator, easily cruised to victory over Democrat Paul Shomshor.

This report includes dispatches from Dar Danielson who was stationed at Iowa Democratic Party headquarters and Travis Ford who was stationed at Iowa Republican Party headquarters on Election Night.

The marquee race in Iowa this year is the contest for GovernorAUDIO
…pitting two lawyers of the Baby Boom generation against one another. Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack, who is now 51 years old, grew up in Pennsylvania. After law school, Vilsack settled in his wife’s hometown of Mount Pleasant to work with his father-in-law, who was also a lawyer. Vilsack became the town’s mayor in 1987 and was elected a State Senator in 1992. Vilsack became Iowa’s first Democratic Governor in a generation with his victory in 1998. Vilsack’s most notable accomplishment over the past four years has been his push to give Iowa schools more money to hire teachers for the early elementary grades, which has reduced class sizes. But the state of the economy has dominated decision-making, and Vilsack says he’s balanced the budget while maintaining Iowans’ values. Republican Doug Gross has made the state of the economy central to his campaign, and accused Vilsack of failing to promote economic development opportunities. Gross, who is 47-years-old, grew up in the small western Iowa town of Defiance. He ran Congressman Tom Tauke’s first campaign in 1978, then worked briefly for Tauke in D-C. Gross came back to Iowa and entered state government. Gross served as an administrative assistant to Governor Robert Ray, then as Governor Terry Branstad’s chief of staff. Gross left state government in 1989 to work as a lawyer and a lobbyist for clients with business before state government.

On election day next Tuesday, voters will decide which candidate wins a six-year termAUDIO
…in the United States Senate. Both candidates grew up in Iowa, and both earned professional degrees. One’s a doctor. The other’s a lawyer. Sixty-two-year-old Democrat Tom Harkin has held the Senate seat since 1985, and in 2001 became the chairman of the Senate Ag Committee. Harkin says he wants to go back to the Senate because Iowans have invested a lot in him — giving him the kind of seniority that’ll help get better jobs for Iowa and prescription drug coverage for Iowa’s elderly. Harkin, who’s an attorney, is challenged this time around by 53-year-old Greg Ganske of Des Moines, a plastic surgeon who got elected to Congress in 1994. Ganske calls Harkin’s positions “too extreme” for Iowa. Ganske’s the third Congressman to face-off against Harkin, and Ganske attacks the seniority Harkin touts. Ganske says it’s time to get rid of “tired old partisan politics.” A flap over a former Harkin aide who secretly taped a Ganske campaign fundraiser spiced up the race for a while, but the latest public opinion poll showed Harkin held a 17 percentage point lead over Ganske.

The race for State Auditor pits a political newcomer against a political veteran – AUDIO
The Auditor is required by the Constitution to conduct a comprehensive audit of state spending every year. The Auditor also has the authority to check the books of all local government units in Iowa, including cities, counties, school districts, even libraries. Sixty-year-old Patrick Deluhery of Davenport is the Democrat running for Auditor. Deluhery, an economics professor at St. Ambrose University, has also served in the Iowa Senate for the past 24 years. Forty-eight-year-old David Vaudt is the Republican in the race. Vaudt has been an accountant for 25 years — and is a partner in the K-P-M-G accounting firm in Iowa’s Capitol City. He touts that C-P-A experience as essential for the job of State Auditor. Outgoing State Auditor Richard Johnson earned a reputation as a “watchdog” who’d call politicians from either party on the carpet for financial misdeeds, and both Vaudt and Deluhery say they’d emulate that independent streak.

The race for State Ag Secretary, as you might suspect, features two long-time farmersAUDIO
Democrat Patty Judge of Albia is seeking a second term as state Ag Secretary. She and her husband ran a cow/calf operation until she was elected Ag Secretary in 1998. Judge used to own a real estate business and was a mediator in dispute between farmers and lenders during the Farm Crisis. Judge was a state Senator for six years, first elected in 1992. She’s being challenged by Republican John Askew, a farmer from Thurman in southwest Iowa who raises white corn and organic alfalfa on 2000 acres. He also owns a small trucking firm and is part-owner of Quality Iowa Maize in Hamburg, which ships food-grade white and yellow corn all over the world. Askew says Judge has failed in the job of being Iowa farmers’ top advocate. Askew says it’s time for more “vision” and not just an agency of “gas pumps and deli scales.” Judge says the number of ethanol plants in Iowa has doubled during her term in office, the biodiesel industry is growing and she’s making do with huge cuts in her agency’s budget. Judge says Iowa agriculture is on the right track, but it’s not a fast process of helping farmers earn more. Both candidates opposed the new livestock regulations which were passed by the Iowa Legislature this spring.

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