Rene Gadelha’s Attacks On Liz Mathis Blow Up In Her Face

Rene Gadelha’s campaign to unseat popular Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis is not going so well. In the span of just one week Gadelha’s attack ads have gotten two negative fact checks from two of the district’s biggest media outlets.

First came a column from Todd Dorman in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, criticizing the similar mailers he got from Gadelha and a conservative group, Priorities for Iowa. The mailers called out Mathis for voting for so-called wasteful spending, citing votes on bills that included some funds for a baseball stadium parking lot and improvements for the Blank Park Zoo. But Dorman pointed out that none of those projects ever made it all the way through the legislative process.

He also took issue with the knee-jerk reaction toward funds that would go to any city other than their own.

“And so what if they had passed?” he questioned. “Should the state’s largest city be barred from receiving funds for local projects? I’m glad that when Cedar Rapids sought help with flood recovery and protection, or when Marion asked for state help funding its own baseball complex, the answer wasn’t ‘fend for yourselves.'”

Priorities for Iowa also took the extremely bizarre route of blaming Mathis for the closure of the mental health institutes, citing a vote on a bipartisan compromise bill that actually tried to keep them open for a longer amount of time. Branstad vetoed that bill to go ahead with his unilateral mental health closures. Dorman called that a “remarkably dishonest charge” and labeled the entire advertising push against Mathis as “so obviously phony.”

Later in the week came a brutal takedown from KCRG on Gadelha’s television ad. The Gadelha ad accuses Mathis of the same minor spending projects, along with blasting Mathis for a vote on an amendment that would have mandated a tuition freeze at the three regents universities. KCRG – the station Mathis was a news anchor at for decades – ripped Gadelha for making it sound like a golf tournament actually got funded by a Mathis vote, when the tournament’s funding was taken out of the final bill.

You could have technically said that she “supported wasteful spending,” but phrasing it as “wasting millions of tax dollars” implies that the money was actually spent, and was more than the one million dollars it actually was. It’s needlessly taking an attack a step too far and crossing the lines of truth. And many would still disagree that the projects included in the original bill were wasteful, or that Mathis’ vote on the measure was about those projects in particular. KCRG points out that the bill also funded National Guard facilities and programs that serve disabled adults. Does Gadelha think Mathis should have opposed that too?

They also took issue with Gadelha’s claim about opposing tuition freezes because of her vote on an amendment that would have mandated a proposed freeze. At least this part is more factually accurate, but the larger bill in question accomplished the tuition freeze Mathis was seeking without the mandate. It’s not like Mathis opposed freezing tuition, she just disagreed with a Republican amendment in how to go about it – and the end result was the same anyway.

The next round of criticism of Gadelha’s attacks will likely come in response to her and her allies’ accusation that Mathis helped close down the MHIs and was against water quality funding. A new mailer that hit recently accused Mathis of being opposed to water quality efforts because the Senate didn’t bring up a hastily-created House Republican plan that she characterized to Starting Line as “written on the back of a cocktail napkin.” The Republican plan would have taken money already allocated for school infrastructure programs to pay for it. But the idea that Mathis isn’t working on water quality solutions is ridiculous.

It’s one more in the classic technique of a poorly-run campaign: Attack your opponent on something that is just barely technically true so that you can’t get sued, but that is so unbelievably false in spirit that voters won’t believe it and you get blowback from the press.

It all poses the question: is there any real, serious disagreements Republicans have with Mathis’ record? Certainly they differ with her ideologically on some issues. Are they not bringing those up because the majority of voters stand with Mathis on them? Nitpicking small funding projects in a dishonest way makes it seem like Republicans really don’t have a legitimate case against Mathis’ reelection. Indeed, they’re attacking her on issues that she actually fought for, making her case for her.

If Republicans thought they could use Mathis’ reelection race to soften her up with attacks in case she ran for higher office in the future, they’re just proving the opposite of what they intended. There’s not much to attack Mathis on that’s real, and people know and like her enough to not believe it. She’ll likely come out of her reelection race in an even stronger position than ever.

[Update: Gadelha’s attacks got further criticism from another Gazette article, which also gave it a F for their fact check.]


by Pat Rynard
Posted 9/23/16

5 Comments on "Rene Gadelha’s Attacks On Liz Mathis Blow Up In Her Face"

  • Everyone knows that the media, especially Todd Dorman, are actively supporting Democratic Party candidates. You do not get “accurate” fact checking from them.

  • Mathis can’t run on her record. Mathis was asleep at the switch on the mental health issues during the term. She didn’t get involved until after it was too late to propose or make any changes in the program. Her complaints with the changes to Medicaid were designed for one purpose, get free media attention. Nothing she said contributed anything to make improvements.

    • More than almost all of the other 149 members of the legislature, Mathis has led the effort for state funding of mental health issues. Gary, did you author those lies of her GOP opponent?

      • Dave Mathis’s district is right next door. She was invisible in 2015 and prior. I respond to the lies in this blog as that’s all we seem to hear from Democrats these days. I cannot find any serious policy debates so I have to check this out periodically.

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