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September 6th, 2013

Clovis, Whitaker Shine at Crawford County GOP Dinner (VIDEO)

WESTSIDE, IA-Sam Clovis was the winner of the first county Republican straw poll in the U.S. Senate campaign. The college professor and Air Force veteran handily defeated his fellow candidates following a forum in Crawford County on Thursday. Clovis picked up 45 votes. Matt Whitaker finished second with 15 votes. Joni Ernst and David Young tied for third with 10 votes each.

The event was a fundraiser for the Crawford County Republican Party and included a dinner, pie auction and speeches by local candidates and officials. It was held at the Five Mile House in Westside, and attended by around 125 Republican activists. The U.S. Senate candidate forum was moderated by State Central Committee member and Lyon County GOP Chair Cody Hoefert.

Each candidate was allowed four minutes for opening statements. Then, Hoefert asked three rounds of questions, covering a wide variety of issues. Each question was different. The format was interesting, but likely benefitted some candidates over others because of the nature of questions they were asked.

Sam Clovis did very well in his answers, as one would expect. The former radio host is extremely well spoken and steadfast in his conservative beliefs. This format served him well.

Matt Whitaker was the other candidate who seemed to shine during the forum. This was the strongest oratory I have seen from the former U.S. attorney since he entered the race. Whitaker was also given perhaps the three easiest topics to discuss (Obamacare, gun control and winning over independents and Dems), but that does not detract from Whitaker’s strong and forceful answers.

Clovis and Whitaker also made it a point to hammer presumptive Democrat nominee Bruce Braley a couple of different times.

David Young, on the other hand, was given perhaps most difficult questions. In fact, moderator Cody Hoefert apologized to Young afterwards because the other candidates were given more red meat topics. Young was asked about Syria, the federal government’s role in education and quantitative easing.

The former Grassley aide comes off as more mild-mannered than others in the field. Mix that demeanor with questions that required more in-depth policy discussions, and the forum was not conducive to benefiting Mr. Young. However, his introductory speech and answers were still solid and Young provided a strong response to what he thought the federal government’s role should be in education.

I found it interesting that Joni Ernst stated she was “very intrigued” by the Fair Tax. All of the candidates favor a simple tax code, but no one candidate in Iowa has really taken up the mantle of the Fair Tax during a campaign since Mike Huckabee in the 2008 Iowa Caucus. Congressman Steve King is a big proponent of the idea, but he has not made it a centerpiece of his most recent campaigns.

There remains a constituency in Iowa to build from if a candidate gets behind the Fair Tax. However, the size of that constituency has dwindled significantly since national Fair Tax advocates have not invested time and resources in Iowa since 2008. The recent IRS scandals serve as an impetus to reignite that flame.

Many attendees spoke with afterwards mentioned Clovis, Whitaker and Ernst as the ones having the best night, so the Young campaign can take some solace in the fact that they tied with Ernst in the straw poll vote.

“I thought it was a great event,” said Crawford County GOP Chair Gwen Ecklund. “I was excited with the number of people that were here and the participation from some surrounding counties that joined us because they really were anxious to hear the candidates.”

Here is a rundown of each topic the candidates were asked about, as well as the full videos, below:


David Young-Syria

Joni Ernst-The biggest threat facing the U.S.

Matt Whitaker-Obamacare

Sam Clovis-What should we replace Obamacare with?

Scott Schaben-Where do you stand on social issues?


David Young-The federal government’s role in education

Joni Ernst-The tax code

Matt Whitaker-What new gun laws should we enact?

Sam Clovis-Immigration

Scott Schaben-What is the number one economic issue facing the country?


David Young-Quantitative easing

Joni Ernst-Student loan debts

Matt Whitaker-How would you attract support from independents and democrats?

Sam Clovis-If you have a magic wand, what one law would you get rid of?

Scott Schaben-What is the role of federal government?

Here are the full straw poll results:

Sam Clovis-45

Matt Whitaker-15

Joni Ernst-10

David Young-10

Rod Roberts-5 (write-in)

Scott Schaben-2

A.J. Spiker-1 (write-in)

It is worth noting that county straw polls are a poor indicator of how a primary race will turn out. Bob Vander Plaats handily won almost every county straw poll during the 2010 campaign, but lost by nine points to Terry Branstad in the election.

Rod Roberts, who is from nearby Carroll County, and is considering a bid for the U.S. Senate, was not in attendance.

Other notes, thoughts and tidbits

The food: This was easily one of the best meals I’ve ever had at a county GOP fundraiser. Here’s the menu: A delicious, rack of ribs, green bean casserole, cornbread, corn on the cob, mac & cheese, and huge assortment of pies. It was absolutely delicious and all catered by the Denison Hy-Vee. Yes, really. Top notch.

The setting: The Five Mile House is a historic venue with a colorful past. The size of the venue fit perfectly for the event. The lighting for the stage was too dark. Also, to the place was a little difficult to get to if you didn’t know the area. My GPS-guided route included at least three miles of gravel road. However, it’s just off Highway 30 and had I taken that route, instead of the alleged shorter route, it would have been simple.

Notable attendees: State Representative Jason Schultz, who is running for the state senate next year, was on hand. Senator Mark Segebart and Senator Nancy Boettger were also in attendance. Schultz is running for the seat currently held by Boettger (SD 9), who is retiring after the 2014 session. Steve Holt and Dillon Malone are both vying for Schultz’s seat (HD 18). They each spoke briefly to the crowd.

SCC members who made the trip to Westside included Cody Hoefert, Jamie Johnson and RNC National Committeeman Steve Scheffler, who underwent surgery just two days ago. Leaders from other counties included Naomi Leinen, chair of the Third District Executive Committee and co-chair of the Pottawattamie County GOP. Harrison County GOP Chair Kip Murphy was also there.

Overall: This was a very good event. The food was outstanding, the candidate forum was interesting and it came off successfully. Kudos to the Crawford County GOP and everyone involved with organizing the event.

Photo by R. Doc Zortman

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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