In 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.
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