The Republican primary in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District is in full swing. Yesterday, the four candidates vying for the Republican nomination all participated in a forum hosted by the Five Season’s Republican Women. Each candidate was allowed an opening and closing statement, and each answered three questions for the audience of 70 or so who attended the lunch event at the Cedar Rapids Country Club.
The forum provided the first opportunity for TheIowaRepublican.com to see all four candidates speak at the same event. It was also the first time I met Rob Gettemy in person. Gettemy announced his campaign on the first day of March. All four candidates spoke well yesterday, but nothing occurred at the forum that will make or break the campaign for any of the candidates.
Besides their opening and closing statements, the candidates were asked just three questions.
1. How do you propose to reduce the size of government?
2. If you don’t win the nomination will you support the nominee? Will you run as an independent if you lose?
3. What type of tax reform you support?
Of the four candidates, Rathje has spent the most time on the campaign trail, and it shows. Rathje is the most polished speaker and was the only candidate who wore a tie. Rathje looked like you would expect a congressman to look.
Rathje used the forum to talk about his tax plan. He is proposing a 60-day federal tax holiday, which he says would act like $416.7 billion stimulus package. He also advocates for permanent income and corporate tax reductions following the federal tax holiday. A number of the other candidates advocated going to the flat or fair tax, but Rathje doesn’t think the support exists in Congress to make the switch. He believes his proposal would serve as a bridge to either a flat or fair tax.
Rathje said that he would support the nominee as long as they didn’t break any laws or trip an old lady. He then raised his voice and yelled that he was sick and tired of candidates tearing each other down. His rapid change in tone was odd. He did say that he would not run as an independent if unsuccessful in the primary.
Rathje also said that he would limit himself to four terms, and refuse all benefits that members of congress receive. He would not take any pay increases, healthcare benefits, or pension. “I’m going there to do a job and then come home,” Rathje concluded.
Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks
Miller-Meeks finds herself in a much different primary campaign than the one she won in 2008. While the race might have changed, Miller-Meeks continues to be a dogged campaigner who is probably the most knowledgeable candidate in the race.
Miller-Meeks stated that the current level spending in Washington is unsustainable. When discussing ways to reduce the size of government, she advocated for eliminating redundant government agencies or agencies that are ineffective like the Department of Energy, which Miller-Meeks says was initially charged with reducing the nation’s reliance on foreign oil. She also advocated for extending the Bush tax cuts and tax cuts for small businesses.
Miller-Meeks reiterated that the common goal of all the candidates is to permanently retire Congressman Loebsack. She warned that Republicans will not win unless they come together after the primary, and she believes she is the best candidate for the job.
Since all the other candidates have run for office before, Gettemy is probably the most interesting candidate in the race. He made a point to say that Dave Loebsack has always been judged by his “intentions” as a teacher and then as a politician. Gettemy pointed out that as an entrepreneur, he’s been judged on his results.
Gettemy was the only candidate who talked about the current political environment and also discussed the Tea Party movement. He talked about small business leaders he met while collecting the necessary signatures to get his name on the ballot.
Gettemy pointed out that the electorate was going to be different from the people who were seated in the room. “People know something is wrong in their gut. They might not know what it exactly is but they know it. They have a hunger to elect someone who isn’t a career politician,” Gettemy concluded.
Reed warned that the federal government would never voluntarily reduce its size, that’s why it’s important to elect principled conservatives to Congress. He then said that he would eliminate the Department of Education, saying that educational decisions are best made at the local level.
Reed is a strong supporter of the flat tax. He mentioned that the Fair tax makes him nervous since the 16th amendment would have to be repealed before it can be implemented. He said the current tax code penalizes prosperity and punishes success.
The four candidates will participate in a debate hosted by The Coralville Courier, a conservative blog, this Thursday at the Coralville Library. Don Racheter, the President of the Public Interest Institute, will serve as the moderator. The candidates will also all be attending the Iowa Christian Alliance event this Friday.
Only style differentiated the candidates from one another yesterday. While these forums are nice, they don’t ask the candidates tough questions that allow people to see what each candidate is made of. TheIowaRepublican.com has also learned that the questions for Thursday’s debate have already been sent to the candidates.
With four credible candidates in the race, there is a strong possibility that the nomination could be decided at a special district nominating convention. It is also likely that three of the four candidates will have similar resources with which to wage their campaigns. If that is indeed the case, it might be difficult for any candidate to garner more than 35% in the primary.
If this race is decided at convention, it could get interesting. The 2nd CD is notorious for long, drawn out central committee elections. One can only imagine how long it might take them to pick a Congressional candidate. Miller-Meeks enjoyed widespread support from county GOP organizations across the district in 2008. If she has been able to keep those people in her camp, she would be the odds on favorite to emerge from that scenario.
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