Recent polling results indicate that Iowa Democrats will likely encounter difficulties at the ballot box this year. With Governor Culver trailing Terry Branstad by 19 points and Roxanne Conlin trailing Senator Grassley by 31 points, legislative Democrats could lose their majorities in the Iowa House and Senate thanks to the struggles at the top of the ticket.
Most political pundits believe that the 2010 elections will be similar, if not better, than the 1994 elections. Newt Gingrich, who is often times credited with the Republican Revolution of 1994, has said numerous times that he believes 2010 will be even better.
If that’s the case, Iowa Democrats should be very nervous. We all remember that Republicans won the U.S. House and Senate in 1994, but they also gained 12 gubernatorial seats and 472 seats in state legislatures across the country. Those legislative gains meant that Republicans took control of 20 state legislatures that year.
Wave elections, like the one many are predicting in 2010, can deliver some unexpected results. One district that you may want to keep an eye on is Speaker Pat Murphy’s seat in House District 28. Murphy is being challenged by Paul Kerns, a well-known insurance agent, who is giving Murphy all he can handle and more.
In a normal year, Murphy should have no problems getting re-elected since his district has a two-to-one Democratic voter registration advantage. However, 2010 doesn’t seem to be a normal year, and the Republican candidate running against him is not only well known, but his slogan has for years been, “a name you know and trust.” That slogan should play well with the electorate this fall.
TheIowaRepublican.com was told that, recently, Dubuque Democrats confronted Speaker Murphy about his lackadaisical campaign. The group also told him to take his Republican opponent seriously. A short time later, Murphy was spotted knocking on doors in his district, something he probably hasn’t had to do in quite a while.
In addition to having a credible opponent running against him, Murphy is also vulnerable for a number of other reasons. Speaker Murphy is the one who made the call to remove the people from a public forum at the state capitol in the spring of 2009. That instance, combined with other publicity stunts like keeping voting machines open for an entire weekend in hopes of finding enough votes to pass labor bills, have weakened his credibility as a leader.
People in Dubuque have also soured on Murphy following a dispute his wife had with Finley Hospital, where his wife is a nurse and union representative. In the spring of 2008, Murphy wrote a bill that would increase the state’s Medicaid reimbursement rate to hospitals by one percent. However, Murphy also filed an amendment that would have excluded Finley from qualifying for the increase. Many local people believe that Murphy allowed his wife’s nasty 18-month labor dispute with the hospital interfere with doing what was best for his local hospital. Local leaders have not forgotten Murphy’s immaturity regarding that issue.
Kern has also been able to get under Murphy’s skin a bit in legislative forums. Kern aggravated Murphy when he proposed that state employees should contribute $50 a month fee for their healthcare benefits they receive from the state. Murphy was very defensive about the state benefits that he receives, and he also added that he pays over $3,500 out-of-pocket every year for his family’s healthcare plan. Murphy has opted for a more expensive plan instead of the one that is provided to government workers for free.
In addition to being the best candidate that Republicans have run against Murphy in years, Kern also benefits from a strong campaign team that includes GOP stalwarts who got their start with either Tom Tauke’s or Jim Nussle’s campaigns. These people know how to win campaigns on the ground and have won races that nobody thought they could.
With Republicans having recruited outstanding candidates all across the state, there are bound to be some surprises on election night. Kern has an up-hill battle, but he’s running the right kind of campaign. With enough resources, he might just be able to knock off the sitting Speaker of the Iowa House.
While Murphy might have kicked the people out of the House Chamber in the spring of 2009, those same people can help Paul Kern kick Murphy out of office this fall. Donate to Kern’s campaign by clicking here.
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