Republican In-Fighting Undermines Effort To Oust Mike Gronstal

Three candidates are running in the Republican primary in Council Bluffs to take on Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal. Among them are Dan Dawson, the preferred candidate of Republican leadership, Al Ringgenberg, the 2012 nominee, and Mark Hansen, a business owner and Republican activist.

Things between the top two candidates – Dawson and Ringgenberg – have gotten a bit… testy.

Dawson’s campaigns have sent out a number of mailers to the district during the primary, some of which take direct aim at Ringgenberg. One forwarded on to Starting Line criticizes his previous failure in his run against Gronstal in 2012.

That year Ringgenberg originally seemed like an interesting recruit for Republicans – a colonel in the Air Force who would run a tough campaign. But it wasn’t to be, with Gronstal easily defeating Ringgenberg, 55% to 45%, despite the Republicans spending heavily in the district.

Not wanting to see Republicans go down that path again, Dawson blasted Ringgenberg with a mocking mailer that cast Ringgenberg in the part of Porky the Pig:

Al Ringgenberg Attack Ad

Another piece reportedly criticized his votes on the city council. Ringgenberg didn’t much appreciate the attacks.

“People have rightly become disgusted with the toxic tone of this political season,” Ringgenberg wrote in a post on his Facebook page last week. “The latest round of negativity from the Dawson campaign is a prime example of the problem. It is sad that the campaign was once positive has now decided to go negative … I expect an apology from the Dawson Campaign. Voters should not have to endure these lowbrow tactics.”

Dawson responded in an interview with the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil that he’s simply stating facts and encouraging Republicans to avoid a repeat loss against Gronstal, their chief nemesis.

Still, such direct, mocking attacks in professional paid mailers are rare to see in a primary for a state legislative race. Dawson’s supporters have pointed out online that Ringgenberg has criticized Dawson for being a supposedly hand-picked candidate from leaders in Des Moines.

A postcard from Ringgenberg's campaign passed on to Starting Line
A postcard from Ringgenberg’s campaign passed on to Starting Line

The Republican county chair hasn’t been too happy with the negativity going on in the race, but is still hopeful for November.

“I feel we have an excellent field of candidates,” Jeff Jorgensen told Starting Line. “There certainly has been some rookie mistakes by the newcomers, but all-in-all, it’s been a very competitive race. This will lead to a better organized grassroots campaign going into the general election.”

Throughout the race, Dawson has easily led in fundraising, taking in $31,218 to Ringgenberg’s $6,750 (which includes a $1,500 loan).

Dawson is likely to succeed, and the 37-year-old Army veteran could still pose a real risk to Gronstal, even if the contentious primary turns off some Republicans. The west end of Council Bluffs, which typically votes Democratic, is also the exact type of white, working class neighborhoods that could be swayed by a Donald Trump candidacy.

“I’ve always felt Senator Gronstal was vulnerable,” Jorgensen says. “The reasons are simple. Gronstal is one of the most arrogant politicians I know, and as a former Democrat turned Republican activist, I’ve know quite a few politicians. Gronstal is also Iowa’s establishment politician par excellence, and this election cycle will not be good for establishment politicians.”

Democrats will be keeping a close eye on results of the Republican primary on Tuesday night. Given Dawson’s attacks in the primary, there’s no telling how nasty and negative his campaign against Gronstal will become.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 6/5/16

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