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March 9th, 2009

Endangered Species

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Written by: Craig Robinson

pbdemsIn recent election cycles, Democrats nationally and here in Iowa have used the recruitment of moderate candidates to help them obtain majorities in congress and in our state legislature. With the inability of Democrats to pass pro-union legislation in the Iowa House of Representatives, the practice of recruiting moderate candidates may be a thing of the past.

On this past weekend’s Iowa Press, Ken Sagar the president of the Iowa Federation of Labor and Treasurer of the Iowa Democratic Party sent a clear warning to the six house Democrats who voted against prevailing wage legislation late last month. When asked if there will be some primaries next year, Sagar said, “I think we’re clearly going to look closely at those people who have supported us and we’ll look closely at some of the others.”

When Sagar was asked if such a strategy would put these six house Democrats at risk and could allow House Republicans to make large gains in the 2010 elections, he said, “It’s entirely possible.”

Sagar’s comments are to be expected from a president of a labor union. What makes his comments interesting is that he also serves as the Treasurer of the Iowa Democratic Party, a fact that wasn’t brought up by the panel of reporters during Iowa Press.

Last fall, many in the media had a field day over an Iowa Right to Life email sent by Kim Lehman who serves as that group’s President and is also the National Committeewoman for the Republican Party. While Lehman’s email caused a distraction, Sagar’s dual roles could have a major impact on future legislative races.

In 2008, the Iowa Democratic Party spent $41,512.42 on behalf of Rep. McKinley Bailey’s re-election effort. Sources say that the Democratic Party sunk another $100,000.00 into his race the final week before the election. Iowa Democrats also spent $232,781.28 in getting Rep. Larry Marek elected last fall. With Sagar’s comments, along with the fact that his hands are firmly on the purse strings of the Iowa Democratic Party, pro-business Democrats like Bailey and Marek could be left out to dry if they face a tough opponent in 2010.

As for the other four pro-business Democrats, it’s pretty clear that they are on their own and may have to deal with primaries against pro-labor candidates next cycle. Already last year Rep. Gerri Huser faced a primary challenge for a union leader. Huser easily won her primary over Matt Ballard, the President of Teamsters Local 90, but she lost her chairmanship of the House Transportation Committee.

After the prevailing wage bill failed to pass the Iowa House, Rep. Ray Zirkelbach, the Chairman of the Veterans Committee, decided that Bailey would no longer be in charge with leading the bills on the floor of the house. Both Bailey and Zirkelback are Veterans of the Iraq War. Rep. Dolores Mertz had to deal with an ethics complaint from the liberal Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Organization. The complaint has already been dismissed.

We will have to wait and see if Sagar and the labor unions follow through with their threat to primary the six pro-business Democrats next year. However, it is apparent that the Democrat leaders in the Iowa House are not going to wait to punish their collogues for not supporting the agenda of the labor unions.

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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