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November 1st, 2011

Iowa GOP Leaders Urge Candidates to Skip DM Register/IPTV Debate

There is a movement among some prominent Iowa Republicans to undermine a scheduled GOP presidential debate sponsored by the Des Moines Register and aired by Iowa Public Television. The debate, scheduled for December 19, would be the third candidate forum in Iowa over a span of nine days. Some county GOP leaders believe that is too many.

ABC and Fox News have presidential debates scheduled for December 10 and December 15, respectively. Both are sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa. State central committee member and Carroll County GOP chair Craig Williams fears the candidates will not want to participate in all three, so he is encouraging them to skip the third one.

Part of Williams’ concerns stem from a perceived liberal bias from the Des Moines Register, as well as the fact that IPTV is taxpayer funded. Williams, along with Clay County GOP chair Kris Thiessen and Hardin County GOP co-chair Andy Cable, sent a letter to GOP county leaders across the state, urging them to join the movement. It reads, in part:

“As Republicans who believe in smaller government, is it wise to attend a debate shown on tax payer funded television and taped in a tax payer funded studio with questions asked by taxpayer funded “journalists”? Should Iowans last look at the Republican candidates be through the eyes of the Des Moines Register, who thought it would be funny to show a picture of someone wearing a tin foil hat and pass him off to be a typical Republican caucus attendee?  Or through the eyes of a newspaper which has called Congressman Steve King, an “embarrassment” for standing up for Republican principles? We think not.”

The letter to county leaders also states that they “do not wish to cut the Des Moines Register or PBS completely out of the debate picture.  They are certainly welcome to purchase a ticket from the Republican Party of Iowa for the December 10th and/or December 15th debates.”

Williams hopes to collect more signatures from GOP central committees over the next few days. Then, he will send a letter to each GOP presidential campaign later this week, detailing the objections to the DM Register/IPTV debate. Williams tells TheIowaRepublican that more than 1/3 of the county central committees have signed the letter. “We’re corner to corner at this point. At least one person from each county party has sent back a note saying they’re on board with it.”

If any other county central committee members would like to attach their name to the letter, send an email to [email protected]

Below is a copy of the letter that will be sent to the GOP presidential campaigns later this week.



October 28, 2011


Dear Republican Presidential Candidate:

As grassroots Republican leaders across Iowa, we collectively write today to urge you to decline the invitation from the Des Moines Register to appear in the newspaper’s December 19 debate in Des Moines.

In declining the Des Moines Register debate you will be standing up for Republicans and conservatives all across Iowa whose values and principles have been under assault from the newspaper for years.

We do not believe any Republican presidential candidate should provide aid and comfort to an institution that has repeatedly attacked our Party’s principles, mocked Republicans who participate in the Iowa Caucuses, and is openly hostile to one of our Party’s strongest leaders.

While none of us would ever shy away from an opportunity to engage our adversaries in defense of our shared conservative principles, the lack of civility and respect shown to Iowa Republican voters by the Des Moines Register should not be rewarded with an audience of our Republican presidential candidates at a debate.

We certainly take issue, as would you, with the Register’s full-throated support on February 16, 2010 for President Obama’s “public option” approach to socialized medicine; but, the heart of the issue in declining to participate in the Register’s debate does not go to their editorial positions on policy matters, but the newspaper’s clear disdain for Republican leaders and Iowans who participate in the Republican presidential Caucuses.

You may not be aware that earlier this year, the Des Moines Register led with a column on the front page of its Sunday, May 15 Opinion section that said Iowa was losing clout because of “people in tin foil hats” who attend the Republican Caucuses. The language attempting to marginalize Caucus-attending Iowa Republicans was bad enough, but the Register went a step further and included an illustration of a tin foil hat wearing person, presumably an Iowa Republican, to underscore their perspective.

The aggressiveness and hostility toward Iowa’s Fifth District Congressman Steve King is yet another reason why Republican presidential candidates should avoid the Des Moines Register debate.  On multiple occasions, the Des Moines Register has called our very own Republican Congressman King “an embarrassment” to the state for simply standing up for our conservative principles.  The Register’s editorials of both September 20, 2004 (“Spare us more embarrassment: Replace King”) and October 9, 2005 (“Embarrassing Iowa – Again) use aggressive and hostile language that does not add to the public discourse and illustrates the newspaper’s disdain for a duly-elected United States Representative who shares our beliefs.

We recognize there are many demands on your schedule to meet as many Iowans as possible before our January 3 Caucuses. We encourage you to attend and participate in the two remaining debates (December 10 in Des Moines and December 15 in Sioux City) cosponsored by our Republican Party of Iowa.  We close by respectfully calling on you to do the right thing and stand up for Republicans all across Iowa by declining to participate in the Des Moines Register debate.

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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