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    The Most Important Race You Aren't Paying Attention To

    Posted 10/19/2014 by Christopher

    Most of us are ready to throw our television sets out the window to escape the negative television ads pouring out of the campaigns for US Senate.  The Governors race has become a snoozer with Branstad leading by a country mile in his bid for an unprecedented sixth term.  The King vs Mowrer contest for Congress is intriguing for the “will he” or “won’t he” debate angle. 


    All three of these races generate headlines, blog posts, tweets, and lots and lot of television commercials.   But there is a contest just as important that you probably haven’t thought about yet – the race for Secretary of State.


    Most folks don’t think about the Secretary of State’s office – that is until they stop counting ballots at 2am during a presidential election, or there is a re-count, or there are charges of voter fraud.  In other words, most folks don’t think about who their Secretary of State is, or what they do – until its too late.  


    In our democratic system of governance we put our collective trust in the integrity of ballot box.  The Secretary of State as the state’s chief elections official is entrusted to protect that integrity – from the voter registration process, to access to the polls, to conducting recounts in close or contested elections.  


    Matt Shultz won the office four years ago, but chose to run for congress in central Iowa this year, and as a result the are no incumbents on the ballot this year for Secretary of State.  The two candidates are Paul Pate of Cedar Rapids and Brad Anderson from Des Moines.  The two candidates couldn’t be more different.

    To read my full column that appeared in the Sioux City Journal, please click the link above.

    GOP Needs Plan to Raise More Boats Faster

    Posted 9/7/2014 by Christopher

    The other day my neighbor struck up a conversation as I was pulling my garbage cans to the curb.  He thought he had a sympathetic ear as he bemoaned the Democrats' campaign to raise the minimum wage.  I'm sure most of my neighbors, and readers, think I'm just a notch or two on the dial away from Attila the Hun.  I think he was taken aback when I told him it didn't  bother me if they raised the minimum wage.


    I'm concerned about income disparity in America.   I'm fearful of what it means for our economy and society, and concerned about what happens at the ballot box if we don't address it.


    There has been, and always will be income inequality.  Intrinsically there is nothing wrong with that.  Work harder, work smarter - get ahead.  Build a better mouse trap - get farther ahead.  That's capitalism. It is the best and only economic system for rewarding ingenuity and hard work.  In theory we rise or fail based on our own merits.


    The problem comes when people who work hard can't get by, let alone get ahead.  It  worsens when the difference in wealth between the mousetrap designer, and the guy assembling the mousetraps on the shop floor is so great they live in completely different worlds with no shared experiences.   When the son or daughter of mousetrap assembler, working forty hours a week plus a second job, is stuck in a failing school with no chance to succeed while the designer doesn't want to improve those schools while their kids learn Chinese attending a top notch school; they lose that shared American experience.  It's that growing separation in society where danger lies.

    To read the full column that appeared in the 9-7-14 Sioux City Journal click the link above. 

    Red Fish, Blue Fish

    Posted 8/3/2014 by Christopher

    What do you know about the brightly colored  betta fish? It's typically showcased in a pet store, or on television, swimming by itself in a large brandy snifter.  Always alone.  It only knows what it encounters inside that small glass.  It may see another betta fish in the glass globe next door, but it has no way of knowing what that betta fish is experiencing, and it certainly cannot communicate with it.  But take one fish out of its bowl and add it to the other and immediately a fight to the death will ensue.  The betta is better known around the world as a siamese fighting fish. 

    The Siamese fighting fish was bred to fight.  I have no earthly idea how you would breed a fish to fight, but apparently in the 1800s it was so popular the King of Siam actually taxed and regulated the fights.  (Perhaps you are thinking "He must have been a blue fish kinda guy").

    Perhaps you breed them by controlling their stimuli and inputs.  Maybe red fish are exposed only to Fox News, while blue fish get a daily diet of MSNBC, that's the way many Americans get their news.   Thirty years ago, in the days of Ronald Reagan and Tip ONeil, there was a much more limited choice.  With only three networks and a giant Associated Press filling our newspapers with syndicated stories, we all had essentially the same inputs from which to form our opinions.  Now, with the omnipresent internet and cable television we can self select a diet of news, even if that means we hear and read only that which not only conforms to our own world view, but supports that view to the exclusion of other view points. 

    To read the full column that appeared in the 8-3-14 Sioux City Journal click the link above.

    June's Winners

    Posted 6/29/2014 by Christopher

    June marks not just the half way mark for the year, but also a key month for Iowa’s politicos.   Now that the primaries and conventions are over, lets take a look at who the big winners were.


    #6 – Sam Clovis.  Despite being massively outspent Sam Clovis finished second in the US Senate primary, and earned a lot of respect along the way.  So much so that at the GOP state convention he was nominated to be the party’s candidate for State Treasurer.  Quick test – who is Iowa’s current state treasurer?  Could you identify him if he was standing in front of you at the check out line of the grocery store?  With a strong top of the ticket, Clovis could find himself being sworn in this January.  (The answer was Michael Fitzgerald and he has been Iowa’s Treasurer for 32 years)


    #5 –  Joni Ernst. Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you make your own luck.  Joni Ernst has gotten both.  Her primary win for the Republican nomination to the US Senate turned into a rout. Ernst caught a wave of momentum with her hog castration ad and became an example of how to earn media without having to spend a lot of money herself.  She caught people’s attention at just the right time and set herself apart.  Topping it off, her general election opponent Congressman Bruce Braley managed to insult farmers while running down Chuck Grassley – like we won’t hear about that during harvest season...  No one enjoys primaries, but it forced Ernst to shake up her operation and fundraising while fine tuning her message.  It was good for her, and she is in better shape for the fall because of it.


    To read the rest of my column that appeared in the June 29th Sioux City Journal click the link above.

    Clovis, Ernst & Jacobs - Your Picks for US Senate

    Posted 5/25/2014 by Christopher

    Republicans have a big decision to make nine days from now. We have our best opportunity to nominate a Republican with a chance to win a US Senate seat in a long time.  This is our chance to pick the candidate that is, in each of our own opinions, the most electable in November and is closest to us in ideology and worthy of our vote.


    Hometown favorite Same Clovis has run a good race, snagging key endorsements like Iowa caucus winner Rick Santorum.  At every forum Clovis impresses his audience with his depth on the issues.  He wins his followers when they have a chance to see him.  Clovis was never going to lead in the fundraising category, and I always believed his path to the nomination came via convention.  If no candidate gets 35% of the vote, delegates at the state GOP convention pick the nominee.  Given that Clovis is the most ideologically pure, I’m surprised he hasn’t challenged Joni Ernst on her perceived weaknesses.  Clovis is not competing with Mark Jacobs for the same strand of Republicans.  It is Clovis and Ernst who are trying to secure the most conservative spectrum of the party.  Yet in the forums I’ve attended, and press I’ve read, Sam stays affable and says all five candidates are more preferable to Democrat Bruce Braley.  True, but that isn’t going to get the job done.  If Clovis is to send the race into convention, he has a week to solidify the conservative base around his candidacy.  In short; it is Clovis/Santorum versus Ernst/Palin.


    Front runner State Senator Joni Ernst leaves me with mixed emotions.  I believe Senator Ernst is a genuinely good person - she told me she teaches Sunday school with one of my childhood friends. However I’m more impressed by the campaign than the candidate.  I like her tv ads – her “make ‘em squeal” hog castration and gun shooting at the camera.  Their edginess appeals to me.  Yet they pose a danger for the general by risking the creation of a caricature, and women I know have been turned off by them. But at the time Ernst lagged in the polls and these gave her a needed jump start.

     To read my full column from the May 25th Sioux City Journal, click the link above.

    Grand Political Theare

    Posted 4/27/2014 by Christopher

    The adjournment of the Iowa legislature has been protracted by some grand political theatre staged by the DesMoines Register and Senate Democrats looking to blacken Governor Branstad's eye before heading off to campaign.  Now I enjoy political theatre, having been a part of a few comedies and tragedies myself.  But there is potential for this to get out of hand with unintended consequences hurting real people.

    Let's go back a month to when Iowa's version of USAToday, the DesMoines Register, "uncovered" a "scandal" of "secret settlements" and "hush money" carried out by the Branstad administration.  In other words, a reporter wrote about a long standing practice of terminating employees and as part of a severance package both sides signed a confidentiality agreement.  It is a long standing practice, much to the chagrin of former Lt.Governor Patty Judge who publicly gave great cries of lamentations about Branstad on the WHO TV's version of Meet the Press, as such agreements were also made by the Culver and Vilsack administrations.

    To read my full column that appeared in the April 27th Sioux City Journal, click the link above.


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