Sunday Grab Bag: Pate Gets It, House GOP Don’t, Sanders Unlikely

By Pat Rynard

March 15, 2015

Good morning readers! As always, a lot happened in the political world this week. Enjoy our Sunday Grab Bag of shorter takes on a number of Iowa and national political topics:

Paul Pate Brings Matt Schultz’s Crusade to an End

Give credit where credit’s due. The Secretary of State’s office dropped its appeal of Matt Schultz’s legal battle over its attempt to purge the voter file with lists of supposed noncitizen voters. The ACLU had fought Schultz’s effort hard, arguing that it could knock off many legal voters, mostly from minority communities. Paul Pate, the Republican elected in 2014 to succeed Schultz as Secretary of State, perhaps wisely realized that lawsuit wasn’t going anywhere, and was only needlessly antagonizing opponents on an issue they weren’t going to get any results out of anyway.

Pate says he’ll look at other ways to create a more accurate voting registration list, though so far his tenure has been devoid of the non-stop “voter fraud” talk that dominated Schultz’s reign. For four years Schultz turned the Secretary of State’s office into a vehicle for hyper-partisan legislation and divisive efforts to enact more restrictive voting rules. It would be nice if the office in charge of elections could return its focus to encouraging voting, not finding ways to suppress it. Let’s hope this is a sign that’s where Pate looks to take his role.

House GOP Tries to Shoot Themselves in the Foot

On Wednesday Iowa House Republicans passed a short-sighted bill to change how late-arriving ballots are counted. Approved on a largely party-line vote, it would void votes that arrive to the Auditor’s office after Election Day, whether they are postmarked or not. Republicans said their goal was creating an uniform method of counting votes since many post offices don’t postmark their mail.

But who would likely be most negatively affected by late-arriving absentees getting tossed? Rural voters, whose votes skew Republican. If you put a ballot in the mail anywhere in Des Moines, it’s almost certainly to the County Auditor’s office the next day. That’s not always the case in many smaller, rural communities with infrequent postal service. Many of those same rural voters live in precincts where they may live ten to twenty miles away from their polling place, making voting by mail a smart option. Why do House Republicans want to punish them for their preferred method of voting?

It seems like a counterproductive measure born out of a years-long effort by Iowa Republicans to find ways to make voting less convenient, in an all-too-obvious attempt to depress turnout for Democrats. Yet this maneuver could hurt Republican-leaning voters more. The postmark issue is a problem, but there’s ways to address it without potentially throwing out more votes in each election.

If House Republicans were smart, they would take Governor Branstad’s lead in encouraging the party to improve their absentee ballot program. Democrats may have used absentees better to their advantage in the past, but there’s still plenty of low-turnout Republicans that could be activated with an effective early vote operation. This last election, Republicans nearly pulled even with Democrats in absentee ballots returned, ending up only about 10,000 behind them, boosting their candidates across the state. Republicans ought to be finding ways to use early vote rules to boost their turnout, not coming up with new measures to restrict voting. House Republicans tried to go backwards on that effort this week with this misguided bill, still trying to fight the battles of the past.

Bernie Sanders Sounding Less Likely to Run

Fans of the Vermont Senator will not be too happy after they read this Politico interview with him from Friday. It’s starting to sound like Bernie Sanders is less likely to take on a presidential run the way he’s talking these days. He doesn’t like raising money. He hasn’t put together a campaign team. Sanders hasn’t really had a close election since the early 90’s, and he doesn’t sound too enthused about challenging Clinton.

All of which is completely ridiculous. With barely any other candidates in the race, how hard would it really be to run? There’s a sizable portion of the Democratic progressive base that yearns for a leader to the left of Hillary Clinton. Sanders doesn’t need to build a massive campaign operation, he just needs to show up. Get in a car, drive around Iowa and New Hampshire, soak up the media exposure, and pitch your positions in debates. Obviously he couldn’t win the nomination outright, but he could put forward a progressive message that might not otherwise get fully promoted. That progressive movement will look weak if it can’t even get one person to carry its banner in the 2016 primary.

If Sanders doesn’t run, all the better for Martin O’Malley. The former Maryland Governor’s best chance is if he is literally the only alternative to Clinton, uniting progressives and anti-Hillary voters alike. That’s a large enough base to work from that with a little luck (OK, maybe a lot of luck) O’Malley could put in enough impressive performances to slowly inch his way up to seriously challenging Clinton.

Zach Nunn for President

Starting Line is calling for a Draft Zach Nunn for President movement, based solely on this wedding video of the freshman State Representative from eastern Polk County. Nunn apparently surprised Statehouse watchers when he shaved his head this week, rumored to be in preparation to play Vin Diesel’s role in Fast and Furious 28: Reagan Drift.

 The Week Ahead

Tomorrow I’ll have a post up about Carly Fiorina, who made an Iowa swing on Friday and Saturday. I’ve got another Top 10 list coming up, which I know you all love to share. And Rick Perry and Martin O’Malley visit the state this week as well.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 3/15/15



  • Pat Rynard

    Pat Rynard founded Iowa Starting Line in 2015. He is now Courier Newsroom's National Political Editor, where he oversees political reporters across the country. He still keeps a close eye on Iowa politics, his dog's name is Frank, and football season is his favorite time of year.

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