Now that Governor Terry Branstad is occupying the governor’s office in the State Capitol again and Republicans have a commanding majority in the Iowa House of Representatives, all eyes are on the Iowa Senate in the 2012 elections since Republicans are just two seats away from a majority.
Nothing fires up Republican activists across the state more than talk about regaining control of the Iowa Senate, something they have not had since 2004. In recent years, Republicans have vilified Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal for blocking everything from income tax and property tax reform to reasonable prohibitions on late term abortions. Still, Gronstal remains able to obstruct any major Republican reforms because of his Democrat majority in the Iowa Senate.
For all the talk and excitement about chances of Iowa Republicans retaking the Senate this year, Senate Minotory Leader Jerry Behn and Senate Republican Whip Brad Zaun, the top two Republican leaders in the Iowa Senate, have done little to raise the necessary funds to help Senate Republican candidates tip the balance of power this November.
The latest fundraising disclosures with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board show that Behn and Zaun can’t even combine their resources to total $100,000. Behn’s report shows that he has just over $83,000 in the bank, while Zaun only has slightly more than $10,000. By comparison, Gronstal reported having over $499,000 in the bank in May, and that number will surely increase when he submits his report in the coming days.
With only 111 days until the election, the window to raise money for Republican effort is beginning to close. Behn and Zaun were elected to their leadership spots last December, but have not made much of an effort to raise the necessary dollars to be able to help their colleagues and recruits.
Both Behn and Zaun are standing for reelection in November, which also means that they have their own races to deal with as well as working to win the majority. Zaun is running unopposed in a solidly Republican district, which means he should have the ability to help Senate Republicans with its effort to win the majority. Having run for congress in 2010, Zaun has a current donor file that stretches further than the confines of his Des Moines metro district. What’s puzzling is that it’s quite obvious that he has not sent a fundraising letter to his existing donors or held a fundraising event since being elected to leadership.
On the other hand, Behn’s district is comprised of five counties in central Iowa, and he will face Shelly Stotts, an educator from Boone in the general election. While the district has a Republican registered voter advantage, Behn’s race could be competitive.
Regardless of how competitive Behn’s race this fall is, he will need to raise money for the Republican majority effort as well as his own race. Like Zaun, it doesn’t appear that Behn has done much to tap into his existing donors through mailings or fundraising events. Equally troubling is that it appears that Behn has not used his time as the Republican leader in the Senate to forge new relationships around the state would help him raise money for the Republican caucus.
At the Republican State Convention last month, Behn got my attention when he said that the only role of the Minority Leader is to become the Majority Leader. Unfortunately it seems that the words Behn spoke that day equal the same empty rhetoric we have grown used to hearing from the person who occupies the top spot for Republicans in the Senate.
Iowa Republicans have a tremendous opportunity to seize the majority in the Senate this fall. Not only has redistricting favored Republicans, but they have also recruited some outstanding candidates. Yet, without assistance from leadership and other senators who are not up for election this year, it’s going to be an uphill battle.
There is absolutely no excuse for these pathetic fundraising numbers in a year when the focus for Iowa Republicans is taking control of the senate. Behn and Zaun knew full well what was expected of them when they were elected to their leadership posts back in November.
The day after they were elected to their leadership spots, I wrote the following:
The have now squandered the most precious resource in political campaigns, time. While the election is still over 100 days away, candidates will need to be on the radio, on the TV, or in people’s mail boxes by late August or early September in hotly contested seats. Right now, it seems hard to see how that happens unless people it step it up.
When asked about the fundraising effort by Senate leadership, Senate Republican Leader Jerry Behn said, “Fundraising continues to be a priority for Senate Republicans. We know that winning back the Iowa Senate will require a team effort and our incumbents and candidates are working hard to ensure that we will have the resources necessary to be successful this November.”
I don’t doubt that the incumbents and candidates are working hard to raise money for their campaigns, but fundraising numbers put up by Behn and Zaun are troubling. It’s hard to look at the numbers and come up with any other conclusion.
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