Perhaps no issue has caused more fireworks in Republican primaries across the state this year than party loyalty. It began last fall when Bob Vander Plaats endorsed an independent candidate for the Iowa House. That candidate is now running as a Republican.
It continued in January when the Linn County GOP passed a resolution that encouraged the candidates for governor to pledge their support for whoever wins the Republican nomination. Only two of the three candidates signed it – Rod Roberts and Terry Branstad.
More recently, two different congressional candidates have had their voting records made public. Last month, a blogger on this site mentioned that 2nd District Congressional candidate Rob Gettemy hasn’t voted in a Republican primary in the last ten years. This week, voters in the 3rd Congressional District have been polled to see if whether or not Jim Gibbons’ residency and his lack of participation in primary elections matter to them.
The issue of party loyalty has also made its way in to candidate forums and debates. In March, the 3rd District candidates were asked if they would support the eventual nominee, and all agreed. The same was asked of the candidates running in the 2nd District at a Five Seasons Republican Women forum last month. Like the 3rd District candidates, all agreed to support the eventual nominee.
When the gubernatorial candidates were asked if they would support whoever wins the Republican nomination it set off a heated back and forth between Terry Branstad and Bob Vander Plaats. Branstad said, “Yes, of course, I’m a team player and I have always supported the Republican Party and the nominee.”
Bob Vander Plaats used the opportunity to bring up Branstad’s support of Ben Nelson, a Democrat senator from Nebraska. Vander Plaats said, “Most of you know in 2006 I laid down my bid for governor to join Jim Nussle as lieutenant governor to bring the party together so that we would have a united front so that we could win. Obviously that didn’t work out. What I will say is that I have never endorsed a Democrat. And so I don’t know about being a team player if it just has state borders because I believe, Governor Branstad, you did endorse Ben Nelson who helped give us socialized medicine when you skipped the river into Nebraska.”
With all of the attention that party loyalty and voting records have received, TheIowaRepublican.com decided to look at the voting history of the three Republican gubernatorial candidates. What we found might surprise you.
Rod Roberts has a stellar voting history. If there is any sort of election, Rod Roberts has voted it in. Not only has Roberts voted in each of the primary and general elections dating back to 1994, but he has voted in school board elections, city elections, and ballot initiatives.
Former Governor Terry Branstad’s voting record isn’t as pristine as Roberts’. Branstad has voted in each of the general elections dating back to 1996. It is safe to assume that he voted in each of the elections while he served as governor. He has also voted in most primaries, except for the 2000 and 2004 primaries. In those years, there were not many contested primary campaigns in the 4th Congressional District.
Bob Vander Plaats voted in primaries from 2002 to 2008. He has voted in every general election since 1996 except one. Official voting records show that Vander Plaats did not vote in the 2006 general election, the year he was on the ballot as Lt. Governor. Eric Woolson, Vander Plaats’ campaign manager told TheIowaRepublican.com that Vander Plaats did vote in the 2006 general election, and that he went to vote with his wife Darla and their eldest son, Hans, who could vote for the first time that year.
Woolson also said that Bridget Breen, the News Director of KTIV TV in Sioux City, read Woolson a news story that said “Vander Plaats voted in Hinton this morning with his wife and son Hans.” Woolson also said that KTIV also has video of Vander Plaats at the polling station, so there is video proof that he was there. It still doesn’t explain why state documents show that Vander Plaats didn’t vote.
When TheIowaRepublican.com called the Plymouth County Auditor’s office, Cheri Nitzschke, the deputy county auditor, noted that the record shows that Vander Plaats didn’t vote in 2006, but then added, “I know that he did, so just ignore that.”
TheIowaRepublican.com called the Secretary of State’s office to ask under what circumstances can someone cast a vote and it not show up in their voter history. An official in the elections department said that it is possible, albeit very rare. This official also said that each County Auditor has a reconciliation process that allows them to address those issues when he or she is made aware of them.
Vander Plaats not voting in the 2006 general election when he himself was on the ballot is simply inexcusable. If his campaign schedule prevented him from voting with his wife, who did vote, then he should have voted using an absentee ballot. It also makes the questions about whether or not he will support the Republican nominee even more important.
In last Saturday’s debate, Vander Plaats said that the eventual nominee will have to “earn the endorsement and support of the peers in the race as well as the peer’s followers in the race.” That’s the case after any contested primary, but the only reason the question was asked in the debate was because the Iowa Family Policy Center, an organization that is closely aligned with Vander Plaats, has said that they will not support Branstad if he is the nominee.
Asking Vander Plaats if he will support the Republican nominee is an appropriate and necessary question. If Vander Plaats couldn’t vote for the Republican ticket in 2006 when he was the Lieutenant Governor nominee, how on earth does anyone expect him to support the Republican nominee unless it’s himself?
Branstad and Roberts have shown time and time again that they will respect the people’s decision on June 8th and help the eventual nominee defeat Governor Chet Culver this fall, but Vander Plaats has yet to say the same. If a candidate seeking the Republican nomination is unwilling or unable to support the person Iowa Republicans nominate, then they should be seeking the Republican nomination.
If either Roberts or Branstad are so bad or out of step with the Republican Party, they should be pretty easy to defeat. Assuming you trust the primary voters to actually want a truly conservative nominee, if a “bad Republican” ends up winning the nomination over a “true Republican,” then the problem isn’t about who the Republican Party nominated, it’s about they type of campaign that his opponents ran.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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