Last week started much like it ended the Friday before, with a potentially huge political scandal involving the Culver administration’s mishandling of the Film, Television, and Video Project Promotion Program. With so much attention on this scandal, I’ve decided to grade our GOP gubernatorial candidates on how they performed last week. Just like in our struggling schools, I had to grade on a curve because if I didn’t, everyone would fail.
Before we get started, I’ve decided not to include Paul McKinley in these ratings because he is not a candidate for Governor. He’s made that very clear, and he should do us all a favor and just make the announcement. I hope he is having a good time in Italy. I’m sure Culver wishes he was out of the country.
Incomplete: Jerry Behn, Rod Roberts.
Boys, if you’re not careful you might have to attend summer school. You both say you want to be Governor, but when a massive government scandal is discovered, you two remain invisible all week. Every time I’m about to take Robert’s seriously, like after raising $50k at a fundraiser, he disappoints me. Not only could Behn and Roberts get some press coverage because they are gubernatorial candidates, but because they are also legislators. They continue to fail to use their advantages to help their campaigns.
Seriously, how can you say you are running for Governor and not find a way into a news story or even send out a simple press release blasting Culver?
B minus: Chris Rants
If any Republican candidate was able to use the scandal to get build his name ID, it was Chris Rants. The only problem is that he came off more as a legislator than a gubernatorial candidate. Props to him for getting his name out there, but some of the things he did this week confuse the hell out of me.
Here is the Rants time line…
Friday – Scandal is Discovered
Monday – Challenges fellow GOP candidates to pledge to veto any attempt to raise the sales tax, expand its base, or redirect the school infrastructure tax into the general fund. Who cares about the scandal?
Tuesday – Writes a statement calling for Mike Blouin’s return to IDED. What? This was stupid on so many fronts, but it’s a classic example of Rants thinking like a legislator and not a gubernatorial candidate. Yeah, I want competent leadership, but what if Culver does end up appointing Blouin? Rants will have to say, “Good job.”
Wednesday – Issues a set of ten questions that Iowans need answers to concerning the IDED scandal. The list is full of crap that most Iowans will not understand and is another example of him looking like a legislator not a potential governor. I’m glad he is engaged and working on different angles of the story, but I would have thought he would have done something bigger.
Friday – Blasts Culver for his budget tricks. While it’s not directly linked to the scandal, it does provide more opportunities to blast Culver. I see this morning that he also fired a shot at his potential opponent Terry Branstad. Rants is going to be the candidate who does all the dirty work. I just wonder how long he can stay in. At some point he needs to raise some serious money.
Rants earns his passing grade because of all the media coverage he received, but he didn’t do anything memorable that will help his campaign. I would have thought he would have done something so that he could own this issue, but he failed to do it. Frankly, he out maneuvered his predecessor Kraig Paulsen this week, not his primary opponents. Let’s also not forget that this is the guy who kicked Culver in the groin over the Iowa Power Fund not creating any jobs, but when Culver appoints Fred Hubbell, the same guy that ran the Power Fund, as the interim director of IDED, Rants doesn’t say anything. What the hell?
D plus: Christian Fong
I have the same feeling about Fong as I do Roberts. Just when he starts looking like a candidate, he disappoints me. Fong basically only did one thing this week in regards to the scandal. He dusted off ITR’s transparency website proposal and called it a day.
I’m all for transparency, but this proposal stalled in the state senate because it was going to take two years to build and cost $841,000. Additionally, I think it’s safe to say that even if we had the website, none of this stuff would have been on there. Part of the problem with the Film Office was that they were overwhelmed and didn’t keep accurate records. The website wouldn’t have alerted anyone.
The other problem for Fong is that his response just confirms what many people already suspect, he’s a puppet for Iowans for Tax Relief. I know I’ve been hard on Christian Fong, but I’ll guarantee he has better ideas than dusting off ITR’s failed legislative priority from a year ago. He’s supposed to be a new face with new ideas. His handlers should let him be that guy.
D minus: Bob Vander Plaats
The only press release Vander Plaats sent out this week was the one promoting his four point lead over Chet Culver in the new polls. He also said that he would eliminate most tax credits and instead focus on making a fair competitive tax climate. Those are all OK I guess, but I’m not sure I would be on record being against all tax credits. Let’s not forget that people keeping more of their money is a good thing. Vander Plaats’ statement could be taken to mean he opposes the following tax credits.
Early Childhood Development Tax Credit
Earned Income Tax Credit
School Tuition Organization Tax Credit
Tuition and Textbook Tax Credit
Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit
I think he just gave his opponents a lot of ammunition to use if they so desire. He also just carelessly threw out a big issue against his potential opponent Terry Branstad. You know Vander Plaats will criticize Branstad for increasing the sales tax, but by saying that he wants to repeal most tax credits to lower the overall tax burden is exactly what Branstad did in regards to taxes. Rookie mistake. He should have just opposed Film, Television, and Video Project Promotion credit.
In addition to nuking what may have been his best angle of attack on Branstad, Vander Plaats also saw it fit to endorse an independent candidate for the state legislature, Tom Shaw. I have nothing against Tom Shaw, but if elected governor Bob Vander Plaats will be the de-facto leader of the Republican Party in Iowa. How could a sitting governor endorse a guy who will not vote for Republican leadership in the Iowa House?
Imagine a scenario where there are 50 House Democrats, 49 House Republican, and Tom Shaw, the Independent. What does he do when it’s time for the leadership vote? Shaw’s website states, “I have decided to cut ties with the Republican Party due to the Party’s apparent desire to move to a more liberal agenda in order to ‘win elections.’ I feel that the Republican Party is willing to abandon their conservative positions concerning social issues in order to expand the party. I no longer desire to be associated with a party that openly supports candidates who ignore the party platform. A platform is developed through grassroots efforts starting at the county level, and therefore, is a reflection of the voices of ‘We the People.’ Moderating positions in order to win elections is akin to ignoring the conservative values that Iowans hold dear.
As an Independent, I will not be beholding to any party and as a fellow rural Iowan, will be free to defend the conservative values that I know you cherish.”
I take that to mean he will not be caucusing with the Republicans. It also means that a newly elected Governor Vander Plaats would have to deal with the Speaker of the House Pat Murphy under the above scenario.
This is the question that people have to ponder. What would Shaw do under this scenario? If he votes for Republicans, he just violated the principled stand he took during his campaign. If he sticks to his principles, he just screwed the Governor Vander Plaats, even though Shaw endorsed his candidacy.
Rolling out this endorsement in the midst of a scandal is also a little odd. Again, why do Republicans seem to always want to change the subject?
There you have it. Light up my inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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