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April 19th, 2010

Roberts Shines at ITR’s Gubernatorial Forum

ITR Rod RobertsFive gubernatorial candidates spoke at Iowans for Tax Relief’s 2010 Iowa Taxpayers’ Day in Des Moines on Saturday. Independent candidate Jonathan Narcisse and Libertarian Eric Cooper joined Republican gubernatorial candidates Bob Vander Plaats, Terry Branstad, and Rod Roberts.

The event provided an excellent opportunity for the little known Narcisse and Cooper to introduce their candidacies to a wider swath of the electorate. The event, however, was more important to the three Republican candidates who face off less than two months from now in the Republican primary.

There was little disagreement among the Republican candidates. Both Bob Vander Plaats and Rod Roberts want to totally eliminate corporate income taxes in the state. The only difference is who advocated for it first (which was Roberts). They also both proposed a reduction of the property tax burden by shifting mental health funding from property taxes to the state’s general fund.

Bob Vander Plaats also advocated for cutting the state’s capital gains taxes in half, while Roberts promised to return any surplus generated by the state to the taxpayers of Iowa in the form of income tax reductions.

Former Governor Terry Branstad continued to advocate for the proposals he has pushed recently. Branstad proposed to reduce commercial property taxes in Iowa to less than the Midwest average. He also wants to cut Iowa’s corporate income tax rates in half. Branstad vowed to strictly enforce the state’s 99% spending limitation, and replace the existing yearly budget with a biennial budget.

ITR CrowdAll of the proposals that were advanced by the candidates are worthy of consideration as each would improve the business climate in Iowa. Where the candidates differed on Saturday was in their delivery.

Bob Vander Plaats, the most gifted orator in the gubernatorial primary, was flat. Terry Branstad, who has a knack of underwhelming when delivering a timed speech to a large audience, was surprisingly strong. Rod Roberts, the mild mannered statesman, was hands down the most forceful and the only candidate willing to tell Iowans for Tax Relief where he disagreed with them.

Roberts began his speech my telling the 500 in attendance that he disagreed with two of the six questions on ITR’s candidate questionnaire. Roberts disagreed with ITR’s People’s Right to Vote Amendment. The amendment would require all tax increases to be voted on by the people of Iowa. Roberts argued that the people’s elected representatives are given the responsibility by the state constitution to make those decisions. Roberts said, “Elections have consequences, the people have the right to fire their elected representatives if they ignore the will of the people.” Roberts also disagreed with ITR’s property tax limitation proposal.

Roberts was the only candidate that didn’t come in and simply placate to the positions of Iowans for Tax Relief. Both Vander Plaats and Branstad basically endorsed the entire survey. In doing so, Roberts showed the toughness that many think he lacks. He also delivered the best speech out of the three Republicans. Roberts was obviously comfortable talking about taxes and his proposals.

While Roberts delivered a dynamic speech, Bob Vander Plaats had his head down, reading his prepared remarks throughout his eight-minute speech. Only on a few occasions did he deviate from his prepared remarks. Vander Plaats tried to use the event to make the case that he is both a social and fiscal conservative.

Having to read his remarks instead of delivering a well-rehearsed speech like we have grown accustom to, Vander Plaats may have confirmed what many fear about him – that he doesn’t have a firm grasp on the fiscal issues like his opponents do. While Branstad’s delivery didn’t burn the house down either, he exceeded expectations and has released the most detailed plans to date.

If you want to know which of the three Republicans gubernatorial candidates did themselves the most good on Saturday, the debate begins and ends with one man, Rod Roberts.

The other two candidates also contributed to the event. Jonathan Narcisse pushed forward the most wide sweeping proposals. Independent candidate, Eric Cooper, also provided good content and probably delivered the most memorable speech of the event. Cooper spoke in an accent when describing what caused so many Germans to immigrate to Iowa – the promise that they could keep 96% of what they earned.

The event was a huge success for Iowans for Tax Relief. The structure of the event allowed the forum to move quickly but provided the candidates with enough time to layout their proposals. The turnout of 500 or so was equally impressive.

Photos by Dave Davidson

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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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