Pedley’s Ponderings

Campaign shifting into high gear in Iowa


    It’s definitely a hectic time in Iowa politics. The General Assembly convened last week for this year’s session and the state is just starting to warm up for the campaign season ╨ it seems like every position from the state senate to the U.S Congress is up this year here in the Hawkeye State.

    It’s hard for me to keep everything straight in chaotic times like these. One of my email accounts at work is continually flooded by messages from every candidate imaginable. I just can’t remember who’s running for what. I know incumbent Terry Branstad and his biggest competitor Jack Hatch are the two top dogs vying for the governor’s seat, and I’m aware Bruce Braley is pretty much a lock for Tom Harkin’s soon-to-be-empty U.S. Senate spot. As for the races for Iowa’s spots in the U.S. House, well╔uh╔

    I can’t ever recall welcoming election season with open arms. Like everyone else, I get tired and worn out by the constant barrage of emails, phone calls and advertisements. Don’t get me wrong ╨ I love our democratic government and enjoy my right to vote. But boy, I think we overlooked how messy the election process could become when we started all this more than two centuries ago.

    Every time an election rolls around I often catch myself asking, “Didn’t we just have one of these?” The answer is invariably yes ╨ it seems I have a very selective memory when it comes to these things. Be it a local, state or national election, they all just kind of mesh together over time.

    Though they can be an annoyance, I get rather interested in campaigns towards the end of the race. The field of candidates has been winnowed down to the final two by then, and new polls come out each day highlighting the slimmest of changes in voter opinion. There’s always an air of excitement towards the end unless the race is a complete dud.

    I think campaigns for positions like governor and the U.S. Congress are the most interesting to follow.  Competition at the local level can be fleeting for city councils, county board of supervisors and state legislator positions. However, the more prominent positions always yield a degree of top-notch competition to keep things interesting.

    The most recent election cycle for Iowa’s seats in the U.S. House was incredibly fascinating. Redistricting threw a wrench into things and cut our representation down from five to four in Washington D.C. Longtime congressmen Leonard Boswell and Tom Latham squared off against one another in District 3, and former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack tried her luck at knocking Steve King from his seat in District 4. It created a captivating race that was interesting to follow from start to finish.

    The 2010 governor’s election was equally intriguing. Terry Branstad capped his Terrace Hill comeback by unseating incumbent Chet Culver quite handily. Branstad’s subsequent four-year tenure paved the way to last week’s (unsurprising) announcement of his re-election campaign, which, if successful, will culminate in an unprecedented sixth term. Odds are in Branstad’s favor, and it seems he’ll win easily in November ╨ he’s proven himself to be quite a formidable opponent during the past three decades.

    Iowa’s definitely an interesting state. We’re politically diverse, but there’s still enclaves throughout the state that traditionally lean left or right. Overall, however, we’re purple when you mix everything up. Elections can be grating and they can be long, but at least Iowa can hang its hat on keeping things interesting. The months ahead are as uncertain as they are exciting ╨ there’s so many fresh faces out there it’s hard not to grow curious.

    Nick Pedley is the editor of the Hampton Chronicle.