More people showed up at the Clinton County GOP fundraiser to hear from the Republican candidates running for office than live in the tiny little town of Goose Lake where the event was held. Organizers had reservations for more than 225 people before the event even started, and more than that likely showed up. Goose Lake’s population stands at 232 people.
Two of the three gubernatorial candidates, Bob Vander Plaats and Terry Branstad, were able to make the trip from Sioux City to Goose Lake to attend the event. The gubernatorial candidates participated in their fist primary debate, which was held at 1 p.m. in Sioux City. Rod Roberts was unable to make the event due to weather. His son Brett spoke on his behalf.
While Roberts was the only candidate missing from the gubernatorial field, all four 1st District Congressional candidates spoke, the two major candidates for Secretary of State spoke, as did both candidates for State Treasurer. As county GOP events go, Clinton County had the most complete slate of candidates I’ve seen.
Before the candidates took the stage, the they were told to adhere to Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment of not speaking ill of fellow Republicans. My hopes for seeing the sparks from the debate earlier in the day carry over to this event were dashed.
The Clinton County GOP also set firm time limits for speakers. When their allotted time was up, a woman in the front row rang a bell to signal that their time had expired. She took her job seriously and didn’t waiver all night long. I know I appreciated the time restrictions and her tenacity.
Here is a brief recap of the speeches.
Bob Vander Plaats was the first to speak and, as always, delivered a rousing speech that people have come to expect from him. While Vander Plaats didn’t attack Branstad at the event, he did continue to talk about gambling and hit on a number of themes he used in the debate. Vander Plaats was very much on message and was well received.
Vander Plaats reminded people that he has won 70% of the county party straw polls and has beaten Culver in six consecutive polls. In closing his speech, Vander Plaats told people, “We don’t have to compromise to beat Chet Culver. We can nominate an authentic conservative and win.”
Terry Branstad took the stage and said, “It’s great to be back in Clinton County, and it’s great to be in Craig Robinson’s home town of Goose Lake.” Needless to say I was a little embarrassed, but I did appreciate the plug for the website that followed.
Branstad once again continued to push the themes of his campaign and the various policy proposals he has released. His speech at the Clinton County GOP event also showcased that he is not as polished of a speaker as Vander Plaats is. Once again, Branstad got off to a slow start and struggled at making transitions from issue to issue.
Where Branstad excels is in the cheerleading department. In every speech he brings up the need to elect Brenna Findley as Iowa’s Attorney General and also encourages people to elect Republicans to the legislature. The people at these County GOP events appreciate Branstad’s team-first attitude and it probably makes up for the fact that he isn’t a rousing orator like Vander Plaats.
1st District Congressional Candidates
Jim Budde – It seemed like an eternity between the time Budde was introduced and when he took the stage armed with a framed picture. Budde advocated for term limits and didn’t seem prepared. He ended his speech with, “I think I’m done speaking.” He never referenced the picture he carried with him to the stage.
Ben Lange – Lange, a young attorney from Independence. He looks and talks like they guy in high school that you always thought would run for political office. Lange is by far the most polished candidate in the race and is running the most professional campaign. If Lange can raise a reasonable amount of money, I would expect him to win the primary.
Will Johnson – Johnson was introduced as Will Johnson from Dubuque. When he took the state he said, “Hi, I’m Will Johnson from Dubuque.” Johnson actually went on to exceed my expectations. The 29 year-old is a veteran of the Navy with intelligence experience. As such, he focused his remarks on national security. Johnson is fluent in Chinese and Hebrew.
Johnson was well spoken, but he might have lost a little credibility when he told the audience that he was unemployed for three months before deciding to run for Congress. Still, he held his own at this event.
Mike La Coste – When La Coste’s name was called an older man stood up in the middle of the room and approached the stage. He was wearing jeans, boots, and a windbreaker. When he said he didn’t want to use a microphone, I said to myself, “here we go,” but I found La Coste to be very endearing.
He recently retired from John Deere and told the crowd, “I have degrees from the University of Hard Knocks and a Masters in Common Sense.” He then said that his father was the one who taught the courses. If you are looking for the epitome of a Tea Party candidate, I think its La Coste. Everything from how he was dressed to what he said was very authentic.
Secretary of State:
Voters are going to have a tough decision to make between Matt Schultz and George Eichhorn. Both are solid candidates who do well on the stump. Schultz is a little more exciting to listen to and offers plenty of ideas, but Eichhorn trumps him on experience. This is going to be an interesting race.
This was the first time I’ve seen Jim Heavens and Dave Jamison speak at the same event. I know both candidates, and like the Secretary of State’s race, voters will have a tough decision to make on June 8th.
Heavens is the current Mayor of Dyersville and Jamison has been the Story County Treasurer for years. Jamison is better known in Republican circles and had a good grasp on the issues that the office deals with. Heavens is great guy, is very good on the stump, and could gain traction if he continues to hit more events.
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