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March 15th, 2012

Polk GOP Convention: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Ugly: The repeated intrusions of several Ron Paul supporters at last weekend’s Polk County GOP convention has been well chronicled here at Although a few of the issues might have been honest misunderstandings, the fact is that some of these people were repeatedly trying to sneak into the convention, rifling through delegate packets that did not belong to them, and knew they were breaking the rules, but continued to do so anyway. Much of what occurred took place in the hallways and backstage, so many convention goers did not see the problems caused by this group.

The Bad: Many of the 400+ attendees believe chairman Kevin McLaughlin lost control of the convention, especially during the afternoon session, and did a poor job keeping order and moving things along in a timely fashion. There are complaints that McLaughlin did not follow Robert’s Rules of Order very well.

The convention lasted almost 9 ½ hours, running from 9 am to around 6:30 pm. Similar sized GOP conventions, like Linn County’s, finished all of their business by 2:30. Simple tasks like distributing district delegate sheets to each precinct and allowing people to sign up for the delegate lottery were greatly prolonged by last minute decisions to have people come to the front of the convention hall, instead of simply passing the sheets around. There was also a prolonged debate about how to speed things up. The discussion about how to move quicker took more time than the actual process they were trying to speed up.

The backlash against the Polk County GOP chairman has been intense this week and there are calls from within the central committee for him to step down. McLaughlin stated on Simon Conway’s WHO Radio program on Monday that he has no intention of doing so. The Polk GOP executive committee meets Thursday evening.

The Good: Despite all of those problems, there were plenty of bright spots at the convention. One of those was the speech given by nine-term Congressman Tom Latham, who hopes to represent Polk County for the first time after a head-to-head matchup with Democrat incumbent Leonard Boswell. Latham provided several strong contrasts between his conservative record and Boswell’s liberal one, including the Democrat’s votes for the stimulus bill, ObamaCare, and cap & trade.

“We are going to have Polk County represented by a conservative Republican after this election,” Latham said to raucous applause. “We all know how important this election is. We have a federal government and administration that is more concerned about the next election than they are about the next generation. We have people in Washington today who totally disregard the citizens of this country because they believe they know better than you do.”

Boswell’s 2010 challenger, Iowa State Senator Brad Zaun, received a rousing ovation when Kevin McLaughlin introduced him and mentioned Zaun’s recent bill that would abolish the Iowa Department of Education. Zaun is the minority whip in the senate. He announced that Republicans have recruited a candidate for each seat that will be contested this November.

“I can also tell you this. We’ve got great people. I am going to be in the majority,” Zaun said. “If you look around at what’s going on in the state of Iowa, there’s this one problem we have and it’s in the senate and the guy’s name is Mike Gronstal. He will be the minority leader after this election.” That is, if Gronstal survives his challenge from Colonel Al Ringgenberg.

Gronstal was mentioned frequently during the morning speeches. Senator Zaun closed his speech with a very well received pro-Second Amendment, pro-life statement: “Guns don’t kill people. Abortions do.”

One emotional moment came when 7-term Iowa House representative Scott Raecker addressed the crowd. Raecker is stepping down at the end of this session and was visibly choked up as he thanked the crowd for the opportunity to serve them.

“After 14 years in believing strongly in the citizen legislative process, it is that time for my family and myself to focus my passions on my career pursuits and the interests I have to move forward in my public and private life,” Raecker said with his voice quivering. “I want to say from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you these last 14 years and I hope that I have earned your trust and respect with the hard work I provided.”

Raecker received a standing ovation after his speech. Urbandale resident Mike Brown hopes to fill Raecker’s seat for the Republican Party. He is an Air Force veteran and small business owner.

Numerous other candidates and elected officials took the stage, which gave Polk County Republicans the opportunity to hear several primary opponents contrast their biographies and stances with each other. will provide extensive coverage of GOP primary races in the coming weeks.

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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