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May 18th, 2010

Funk Gets Aggressive in Tea Party Debate

Four of the seven candidates vying for the Republican nomination in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District participated in a debate sponsored by the Des Moines Tea Party on Sunday night. Brad Zaun, Dave Funk, Pat Betroche and Scott Batcher attended the debate, which was held at the Airport Holiday Inn in Des Moines. Jim Gibbons, Mark Rees and Jason Welch did not attend.

Funk was aggressive out of the gate, bringing up Gibbons’ residency in his opening statement. Funk stated, “One of the candidates who isn’t here tonight doesn’t even live in the district.” Funk added that Gibbons singned into the Tea Party Convention last November using an incorrect address. Funk showed the Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich a copy of the Tea Party form that Gibbons had signed.

By continuing to raise the issue of Gibbons’ residency, Funk is really questioning Gibbons’ integrity. The Constitution only requires a representative to be 25 years old, be a citizen of the United States for seven years, and live in the state he or she represents. Funk also alleged that Gibbons isn’t disclosing all of his donors with the Federal Election Commission.

Funk has been pushing the Gibbons residency issue hard in recent weeks, but he needs to be careful about how aggressive he wants his campaign to be. There is a fine line in politics, and it seems like the Funk campaign is flirting with it. has learned that the Gibbons residence in Perry recently had some unknown men park at the end of the lane, knock on the door, and peer into the windows. At Sunday night’s Tea Party Debate, overhead a group of Funk supporters, which included his campaign manager Ryan Rhodes, discussing an altercation they had with someone recently. Apparently a “neighbor” inquired why they were “photographing the house,” but they said they were just “taking a picture of the sunset.” Those in the group laughed and seemed to get a kick out of their friends’ actions.

If the Funk campaign is involved in this type of activity, they should stop. Gibbons has made no secret that his wife and daughters live in Perry. This kind of behavior has no place in politics. If you want to make residency an issue, there is a way to do it without scaring someone’s wife and kids.

Mark Rees, another one of the three candidates who didn’t attend stated in a press release that the reason he didn’t attend was because he didn’t think the debate would be fairly implemented.

Rees said, “My initial concerns with the debate are of fairness and credibility. Although the Des Moines Tea Party has said it will not officially endorse a candidate in the Primary, one of my opponents is widely known and commonly accepted to be, “the Tea Party candidate.” Furthermore, his campaign has been managed by a key organizer and leader of the Tea Party movement in Iowa. I believe these facts raise a large and legitimate red flag as to whether this debate will indeed provide a fair and level playing field for all of the candidates.”

Rees’ concerns may have been validated by Dave Funk’s ability to obtain Tea Party documents.

Funk also attacked Brad Zaun for his vote in favor of the anti-bullying bill while in the State Senate. The bullying bill specifically protected gays, lesbians, and transgendered people from being bullied in school. Most Republicans didn’t support the bill because it carved out special rights for people based on behavior. The bullying bill that Zaun supported was cited by the Iowa Supreme Court when it issued its ruling in Varnum vs. Brien, which allowed gay marriages to occur in Iowa.

Funk was the aggressor in the debate, but Zaun took exception to Funk’s attacks. While answering Funk’s question about the bullying bill, Zaun asked Funk if he supports kids in school being bullied. Zaun also didn’t take kindly to Funk’s statement than we need a need a representative in Congress who doesn’t just vote “no”.

When it was Zaun’s turn to ask a question, he asked Funk to name three bills on which Funk would have voted differently than Zaun did. Funk said that he wouldn’t have voted differently. Funk’s answer is odd considering that he just brought up the bullying bill. Funk might have been aggressive and landed some shots, but he could have done a better job at making his point. What he was able to do at tonight’s debate will have little impact on the race.

The debate explored areas that have yet to be addressed during the campaign. Candidates were asked if Congress should take back its constitutionally given right to coin money from the Federal Reserve. All of the candidates agreed that the Federal Reserve should be audited, and most agreed that Congress should eliminate it. Scott Batcher said that he would audit the fed, but is scared when government tries to run something.

All of the candidates opposed subsidies for farmers. Zaun recounted a story when a farmer in the northern part of the district asked him what he was going to do help in regards of bio-fuels. Zaun told the farmer, “Nothing, your business has to stand on its own two feet.”

There were other statements throughout the debate that could be used against the candidates should they win the Republican nomination in June.

When asked about how should we deal with radical Islam, Dr. Pat Betroche said, “Never trust a Muslim who wasn’t born and raised here.” Brad Zaun said, “I don’t care about political correctness, if they kill an American citizen, we will kill them.” asked a female attendee what she thought of the Tea Party Debate. The response:

“The ‘debate’ tonight was weird. Zaun looks like he’s ‘over acting,’ Betroche is embarrassing, and Batcher is out of his league. Funk, to me, comes across as the adult. Gibbons and Rees being no-shows was strange, but they didn’t hurt themselves with the Tea Party voter.”

She added, “What ’tea’-ed me off was that the Tea Party had an all male panel to question the all male candidates. Stupid! A bunch of pasty white guys, and I’m a fiscal and social conservative and this really pissed me off.”

Overall, I thought that Dave Funk emerged as the winner of the debate. Funk provided more details than in his past performances. He is also rewarded for his aggressiveness, but he could have done a better job in attacking his opponents. Brad Zaun had a shaky start but settled down and found his comfort zone. Zaun finished the debate strong and offered the strongest closing statement of the candidates who participated in the debate.

Photo by Dave Davidson

Update: Both Dave Funk and his campaign manager, Ryan Rhodes, contacted regarding this story. Funk said that nobody associated with his campaign has ever been to the Gibbon’s house in Perry.

Funk also said that both he and Brad Zaun have been followed in the last month. Funk said that he realized that he was being followed and led the person to Pleasant Hill where some of his friends on the police department were able to learn that the person following him was associated with Congressman Leonard Boswell. Funk said that Jim Gibbons needs to better realize when he is being trailed.

Funk’s campaign manager, Ryan Rhodes, said the he doesn’t know anything about anyone going to the Gibbons residence in Perry. He said that the conversation that I overheard was not about the Gibbons residence, but about a Funk sign that had been vandalized or removed on Fuller Road. He said that one of Funk’s supporters confronted a lady that was taking a picture of the Funk sign, but said that she was taking a picture of the sunset.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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