If it looks like a gubernatorial campaign, is as expensive as a gubernatorial campaign, and is staffed like gubernatorial campaign, then it’s probably a gubernatorial campaign.
Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has Iowa politicos chirping after hiring two well-respected campaign organizers. Northey has recently employed Tim Moran and Marcus Branstad to work on his behalf. Hiring two high-profile staffers has people speculating that Northey might be signaling a gubernatorial run.
Both Moran and Branstad were sought after during the Iowa caucuses. Branstad worked briefly for Sen. Bill Frist before joining Mitt Romney’s Iowa staff. After the caucuses, Branstad worked on Congressman Tom Latham’s re-election campaign. Moran cut his teeth on the 2002 Vander Plaats campaign and also worked on Romney’s Iowa campaign. He then went to work for Congressman Steve King’s campaign before joining King’s congressional staff.
The reason why Northey’s staffing decisions are turning heads is because re-election campaigns for state constitutional offices like Secretary of Agriculture have never hired multiple staffers, let alone staffers with the experience that Moran and Branstad bring with them. When Northey first ran for Secretary of Agriculture in 2006, he barley had any staff for his primary and general election campaigns. The same was true when State Auditor Dave Vaudt ran for re-election in 2006.
In Moran, Northey has a political operative who has spent most of his political career working western Iowa. Having worked for both Vander Plaats and King makes Moran a valuable asset to any campaign, but especially to a statewide gubernatorial campaign. It would be difficult to find a better person to organize western Iowa for a campaign.
Branstad, the youngest son of former Governor Terry Branstad, has spent most of his time organizing north central Iowa for Mitt Romney and Congressman Tom Latham. Marcus is a talented organizer with a great last name, and even if his last name was Smith, he would still be one of the best organizers in central Iowa.
There is no doubt that both are valuable assets for Northey, but they also come with a price tag. In Northey’s 2006 campaign, he raised somewhere in the range of $400,000. The majority of the money he raised in that cycle came in the fall leading up to the general election. It would be hard to see how a re-election campaign for Secretary of Agriculture could afford to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000 on salaries between now and Election Day 2010.
To Northey’s credit, he has done a good job at fundraising since being elected. As of this past January, Northey had $124,002.09 in his campaign account. He also has another important piece in place if he is indeed running for governor. Northey’s fundraiser is Capitol Resources, which is operated by Nicole Schlinger. Capitol Resources is the main Republican fundraising entity in the state. Capitol Resources was the primary fundraiser for Jim Nussle’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign and Steve Sukup’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign.
Northey won his 2006 campaign with 50.2% of the vote. His close association with the Farm Bureau and other ag-related groups would be beneficial in a Republican primary or general election. News reports have stated that Northey has indicated that he plans to seek re-election to his current position, but his hiring of two top political organizers tells us that there may be something more in the works.
Either Secretary Northey is about to run the most extensive and expensive Secretary of Agriculture re-election campaign in Iowa’s history, or he is exploring a run for governor.
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