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December 23rd, 2013

A Month-by-Month Look Back at 2013’s Biggest Political Stories in Iowa

January – Harkin Hangs It Up

Longtime Iowa Democrat Senator Tom Harkin announces he will not seek reelection in 2014. Harkin’s decision sends political shockwaves throughout the state. Harkin’s was practically unbeatable in general elections, so his retirement gives Republicans hope they can claim the seat Harkin has occupied since 1985.

February – Latham Opts Out

Iowa Third District Congressman Tom Latham announces he will not run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Tom Harkin. Latham was widely considered the strongest Republican candidate in the general election. Also in February, Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley announces he will run for the U.S. Senate. The party clears the primary field for him.

March – Paulistinians Denied

Big Liberty’s efforts to takeover the Iowa GOP on the county level are repeatedly thwarted. During election after election, Big Liberty candidates are handily defeated in races for chair and co-chair of county central committees.

Longtime activists, social conservatives and mainstream Republicans, angered by the way the Ron Paul campaign took over the state party and the 2012 national delegate slate, began offering opposition and the results were overwhelmingly against the Paulistinians. That was especially clear in Clay County, where State Central Committee member Kris Thiessen was ousted in her race for reelection as county chair.

April – State Capitol Stalemate

Iowa’s divided government slows the legislative process to a crawl. Little is accomplished as the Republican-led House and Democrat-led Senate debate education reform, tax relief, Medicaid expansion and many other topics. Democrats’ tempers flare when Governor Branstad’s office releases a video mocking the Dems for their stonewalling efforts.

For several weeks, it appears the 2013 legislative session will accomplish very little. Eventually, compromises are reached and the session turns into one of the most successful in history, according to legislators on both sides of the aisle.

May – King Keeps Out

Congressman Steve King announces he will not run for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2014. King was the overwhelming favorite to win the GOP primary, if he chose to run, and the potential field was frozen as politicos waited to hear if King would enter or not. His decision not to run opened the doors to for several lower-profile candidates to enter the race.

June – Senate Field Solidifies

The GOP field in the U.S. Senate race finally becames to take shape as former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker, former Grassley Chief-of-Staff David Young, and Sioux City radio host Sam Clovis enter the race. Businessman Mark Jacobs forms an exploratory committee. Joni Ernst would enter the race in July. None of the candidates are considered top-tier, as all of the best known Republican officials in Iowa declined to run for the seat.

July – Cruz Cruises to the Top

Texas Senator Ted Cruz immediately became a contender for the 2016 Iowa Caucus during his first visit to the state. Cruz delivered a knockout performance at the Iowa Renewal Project, a gathering of hundreds of faith leaders from around the state.

Cruz easily outshined presumed 2016 candidate Rand Paul at the event. Paul read his speech off a teleprompter and did not take questions from the audience. Cruz spoke without notes and participated in an extensive Q&A session. Subsequent trips to our First-in-the-Nation state solidified Cruz’ status as an early 2016 frontrunner.

August – Sorenson in His Own Words publishes emails and recorded phone conversations that add substantial proof to the ethics charges filed against State Senator Kent Sorenson (R-Milo).

The information, provided by former Sorenson colleague Dennis Fusaro, shows email exchanges between Aaron Dorr and the higher-ups in the Ron Paul campaign negotiating a deal to get Sorenson to leave the Michele Bachmann presidential campaign and join Paul’s.

One day after publishing the emails, provides a recording of a phone conversation between Fusaro and Sorenson during which Sorenson admits a Ron Paul campaign aide gave Sorenson’s wife a large check. Sorenson repeatedly claimed the Paul campaign offered him no money.

The emails and recordings become some of the key evidence in the ethics investigation of Sorenson’s activities.

September – Spiker Slammed

Following a huge backlash, the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee decides to move the 2014 state convention back to its traditional June date. For reasons that remain unclear, RPI Chairman A.J. Spiker pushed to move the convention to July and the SCC approved the decision in less than three minutes.

The decision to move the convention to July was denounced by Governor Branstad, Senator Grassley, all of the GOP U.S. Senate candidates and Republicans around the state. County central committees and a couple of SCC members called for Chairman Spiker to step down, especially when he announced he would not call for another vote on the matter.

The main reason people opposed the move to July is it could give Democrats an extra month to prepare their general election campaign in the U.S. Senate race. Finally, after a stern rebuke was issued by Secretary Matt Schultz, Chairman Spiker relented and the State Central Committee moved the 2014 convention back to June.

October – Sorenson Ousted

A damning report from an independent investigator in the Iowa Senate ethics complaint against Kent Sorenson finds ample evidence that Sorenson violated rules, lied repeatedly about being offered money by the Ron Paul campaign and may have even committed a felony for misconduct by an elected official.

Iowa Republican Senate Leader Bill Dix calls for Sorenson to resign, and the state senator from Milo complies. Once a promising figure in Iowa conservative circles, Sorenson’s image suffers great damage in the scandal.

November – Bruce’s Braleycare Flip-Flop

Following a disastrous rollout of Obamacare, including an error-ridden website and millions of Americans losing their insurance they were told they could keep, Bruce Braley tries to distance himself from the bill. Braley votes in favor of a Republican bill that would allow Americans to keep their healthcare plans.

Unfortunately for Braley, publishes his 2009 vote in which the congressman voted against an almost identical amendment. Congressman Braley could have ensured Iowans would be able to keep their health insurance, but he voted against the measure and it failed. Braley and his surrogates are having a difficult time explaining the rationale behind this flip-flop.

December – Latham Leaves

Citing a desire to spend more time with his family, longtime Republican Congressman Tom Latham announces he will not run for reelection in 2014. The announcement surprises many political observers. Latham was believed to have a relatively easy path to reelection in 2014. Now, the seat goes from solid Republican to slightly leaning Republican. A slew of potential candidates say they are interested in running.

Tom Latham was first elected to the U.S. House in 1994. Latham’s congressional district was dissolved in 2012 due to redistricting and he was placed in the same district as Republican Congressman Steve King. Latham opted to sell his Ames home, move to Clive, and challenge longtime Democrat Congressman Leonard Boswell in 2012. Latham bested Boswell by nine points, despite President Obama carrying the district by four points.

Photos by Dave Davidson,

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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