UPDATE: Chairman Spiker has now reversed course and decided to call a meeting of the State Central Committee, scheduled for September 23, via the phone. The convention date will be addressed at the meeting. This reversal from Spiker came after other SCC members announced they had at least five members that would go over Spiker’s ruling, and call for a meeting of the SCC, as is their right under the RPI constitution.
Amid a growing chorus of changed minds on the State Central Committee, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker told members on Thursday that he would not seek a re-vote on the controversial decision to move the state party’s convention from June to July.
“I will not ask for another vote by the State Central Committee to move the State Convention date from July 12 to a date prior to the completion of the canvass due to the legal opinion and the importance for our Party to adhere to Iowa Code,” Spiker wrote in an email to SCC members.
Contrary to Chairman Spiker’s statement, there is not one word in Iowa Code that dictates when a party must hold a nominating convention. It is simply not in there and for Spiker to claim otherwise is false.
He has decided to reject calls from within the SCC, and from Republicans statewide, to reconsider the convention delay. This comes after several SCC members told activists that the decision by RPI is not set a stone. Apparently, in A.J. Spiker’s mind, it is. However, he is not the final arbiter of this. More on that in a moment.
REFRESHER ON HOW WE GOT HERE
It was RPI Chairman A.J. Spiker who initiated the idea of moving the convention from June, when it has always been held, to July. He approached the SCC’s organizational committee about it. Although it was not on the agenda, they brought it up at last month’s meeting as part of their usual committee report. Within just three minutes, the entire discussion and vote took place. The convention was moving to July.
RPI’s REASONING FOR MOVING THE CONVENTION
We have a crowded U.S. Senate candidate field that includes five candidates, and could grow. There is a possibility that no candidate will reach the 35 percent threshold of votes required to clinch the nomination. So, there is a chance the nominee will need to be chosen at convention.
The secretary of state’s office is given 27 days following the primary to certify the vote. Spiker states that party cannot holding a nominating convention prior to those 27 days and claims Iowa Code backs him up.
First of all, neither Iowa Code, nor history, is on Spiker’s side in this situation. More on that in a moment.
Secondly, it’s pretty simple why delaying the convention is a bad idea.
“Those of us who are Republicans, should be for choosing a nominee as early as possible after the primary because that gives the best advantage to us winning the general election,” Congressman Steve King told TheIowaRepublican.com on Thursday.
To unite the party behind one candidate, to begin general election fundraising, to channel all your energies toward defeating Bruce Braley, the earlier the nominee is chosen, the better. Period.
The secretary of state, Matt Schultz, is the chief elections official in Iowa. He is also a Republican who is well liked across the GOP spectrum. Neither Spiker, nor anyone else on the Republican SCC, bothered to consult with the state’s chief elections official, or anyone else in the secretary of state’s office, prior to deciding they had to move the convention. If they would have, they would have been told that it is not necessary to move it.
“The code is silent on when that nominating convention can be held,” said Deputy Secretary of State Chad Olsen. “There’s no statutory authority for the secretary of state to reject a party’s nomination based on the date of the convention. It just says, if there’s a vacancy, you have to fill it with the nominating convention. It doesn’t say thou shall not hold a nominating convention before the last day of the canvass.”
Spiker also did not bother to consult with the two most successful Republican politicians in state history, Governor Branstad and Senator Grassley, who have been through more state convention than anyone. In fact, Spiker apparently did not consult with anyone outside of his small circle of confidants.
When news of RPI’s decision broke, it was almost unanimously denounced by GOP officials and activists across the state. The only supporters of the decision seem to be those fiercely loyal to the “liberty” wing of the party.
All five declared U.S. Senate candidates oppose moving the convention. Their pleas to return the convention to June, for the good of the party and the eventual nominee, were all rejected.
Following a deluge of negative feedback from around the state, State Central Committee members began saying they were open to reconsidering moving the convention to July. The sentiment on the SCC took a dramatic shift when RNC National Committeeman Steve Scheffler publicly stated on Monday that he is in favor of moving the convention back to June.
Scheffler, an ally of Spiker’s, has the power to sway other committee members’ votes. Momentum was starting to build on the SCC to overturn the convention decision. So, after Scheffler’s opinion changed, Spiker announced he would not call for another vote and released his attorney’s legal opinion to try to close down further discussion.
SPIKER’S LEGAL ARGUMENT
To bolster his decision to delay the convention, Spiker dispatched RPI attorney Bill Talbot, his appointee, to provide a legal justification for the move.
“A review from RPI Legal Counsel Bill Talbot confirmed that a ballot vacancy does not legally exist until the canvass is completed. Furthermore, if a ballot vacancy does not exist, it cannot be filled,” Spiker wrote. “Others have argued that while the legal opinion is correct, it isn’t politically wise to follow the law.”
Spiker did not explain who these “others” are.
To help their case, Talbot unearthed a 1928 case in which the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Iowa secretary of state’s opposition to a nominee for a seat in Cass County. He was chosen by a special nominating convention that took place prior to official canvassing being complete.
Here is what Talbot and Spiker did not tell the SCC about that 1928 case, and why it is irrelevant to our U.S. Senate race:
- There was no candidate on the ballot.
- The plaintiff picked up 66 write-in votes, out of 67 votes cast.
- He failed to legally qualify for the ballot, because less than 10% of the people who had voted in the previous gubernatorial election voted in this one.
- The then-secretary of state opposed the candidate’s legality due to more than one issue.
Number 4 is the most relevant point. The then-secretary of state in this 1928 case opposed the candidate’s legality based on a different Iowa Code and reasons beyond official canvassing. The Republican Party of Iowa did not bother to consult with the 2013 Iowa secretary of state until after the initial backlash, and chose to ignore their input.
Deputy Secretary of State Chad Olsen, who is also the former executive director of RPI and briefly served under Spiker, says he did discuss the matter with A.J. Spiker a few days after the initial RPI decision to move the convention was made. However, that is the last time they talked. Neither Spiker, nor Talbot, discussed the 1928 case or it’s ramifications with anyone in Matt Schultz’s office.
“His legal counsel who wrote this opinion never contacted the secretary of state’s office or our legal counsel, or our elections department to discuss the code, the rules, or our interpretation, which I personally think is a little strange, because I would assume you might start with the chief elections’ official in the state,” Olsen said.
Spiker repeatedly talks about following the law and Iowa Code, but there appears to be some obfuscation from Spiker regarding what the code actually says. However, the people who run Iowa’s elections are clear on the matter.
“The secretary of state’s office can’t reject the nomination based on the date of the convention,” Olsen said. “Someone else could object to it on that basis and then the objection hearing board, which is made up of the auditor, the secretary of state and the attorney general, hears the case and given their history, it is extremely unlikely that they would prevent someone from being on the ballot.”
The facts are clear, and are being ignored. The Iowa GOP could nominate a candidate in June. He would be the provisional nominee until the canvassing is complete. The Iowa secretary of state’s office would not object to this. There is nothing in Iowa Code that would require them to. That means it’s perfectly legal. Problem solved.
Is it Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker’s contention that Steve King was illegally nominated and illegally elected in 2002? Based on the argument he is presenting, it seems so.
Steve King won the GOP nomination for the Fifth Congressional District seat during a special convention in late June, 2002. The officially canvassing was not completed until July 1, at 11:15 am.
King’s nomination papers were accepted because they were presented after the canvassing board met. So, at that point, an official vacancy did exist. King was the provisional nominee and then was affirmed as the official nominee. The secretary of state as that time was democrat Chet Culver.
Chairman Spiker claims you cannot select a nominee at a convention prior to canvassing being complete. That would not “adhere to Iowa Code”, he claims.
“Technically, the canvassing wasn’t done on the date of the special nominating convention that nominated me. Nor was it a question or an issue,” King said.
It was not an issue, because nowhere in Iowa Code does it state when a nominating convention has to take place.
REACTION FROM SCC MEMBERS
TheIowaRepublican.com attempted to contact several members of the SCC. Only a few responded:
“I’m disappointed that the chairman of the state party has chosen to ignore advice from Iowa’s most seasoned Republican elected leaders, and in so doing, potentially handicapped the eventual nominee for the United States Senate in a critical battleground state that could be the difference between a Republican majority in the US Senate in 2014, and a continues Republican minority,” said Third District representative Wes Enos.
“I am saddened that the leadership of the Republican Party of Iowa has chosen to ignore the expressed desires of every Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, of all four Republican District Executive Committees, of nearly all the 198 Republican county chairs and co-chairs in the state, and of the longest serving U.S. senator and governor in Iowa’s history. This is not how to run a party. This is not leadership,” said Fourth District representative Jamie Johnson.
Chairman Spiker’s word is not the final one on the issue. Article IV of the Republican Party of Iowa’s constitution and bylaws clearly states that the chairman is not the only one can call a meeting of the State Central Committee. The co-chair also has that power, which we know won’t happen in this case.
However, five members of the SCC, together, can also call for a meeting. And any member can request items be put on the agenda for that meeting.
“I have not publicly weighed n on the convention date but I still think it is important to have the discussion,” said First District SCC representative David Chung. “I for one will be soliciting for other SCC members to call a meeting to discuss the convention date.”
- Why didn’t A,J. Spiker consult with the secretary of state’s office prior to make the initial decision?
- Why didn’t RPI attorney Bill Talbot consult with the secretary of state’s office if he was seeking legal guidance for filling the vacant seat?
- Wouldn’t that simply be a part of due diligence?
- Why are they ignoring the input from the secretary of state’s office, Governor Branstad, Senator Grassley, all five U.S. senate candidates and the majority of Iowa Republicans?
- Is Chairman Spiker still considering running for this U.S. Senate seat?
- If he is, shouldn’t he recuse himself from making decisions that could dramatically affect the outcome of that race?
- Wouldn’t it be better for the committee, as a whole, to make those decisions?
- If Spiker believes his case for moving the convention is so strong, why is he opposed to having another discussion about it among the SCC?
- Is moving the convention to July part of a plot to help Spiker, or Co-Chair David Fischer win the nomination by manipulating the delegates?
- Do Fischer and Spiker even care that their actions raise these suspicions?
- Seriously, do A.J. Spiker and Bill Talbot believe their congressman, Steve King, was illegally elected?
Perhaps Spiker’s entire reasoning is purely innocent and he is doing what he feels is right. However, the fact that he refuses to consult with, or listen to, the people in charge of Iowa’s elections is bewildering.
There are many valid reasons why people view the Spiker regime at RPI with suspicious eyes. He and his cohorts created this cloud of suspicion themselves and have done little to make it disappear. Spiker’s adamancy about holding the convention in July, despite enormous opposition from the party he represents, will only cast further doubt on his true motives.
Republicans in Iowa and across this country want to win this U.S. Senate seat. The Republican Party of Iowa’s leadership is making it more difficult to do that. There is no legitimate reason the nominee cannot be chosen at the originally agreed upon state convention date of June 14, or June 21.
“It’s to the advantage of the eventual nominee to have that decision made as quickly as possible,” said Congressman Steve King. “The closer it is to the primary, the less chance there is for the maneuvering and shenanigans to take place.”
Here are the links to RPI attorney Bill Talbot’s legal reasoning for delaying the convention and the 1928 court case he cited:
Photos by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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