It was not a good summer for the credibility of Iowa Republicans’ stances on moral values. The lurid details from the Senate Republican sexual harassment trial, along with Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix’s continued refusal to take responsibility for the matter, confirmed what many critics think Republicans actually feel about women in the workplace.
That the Senate Republicans continued to keep on payroll the staffer most responsible for reprehensible comments and a hostile work environment was troubling. To be able to put up with people like that is beyond the reasoning of most decent Iowans. And the $2.2 million verdict awarded to Kirsten Anderson added to the party’s perception problems, as well as the state budget.
For weeks Democrats demanded that Senate Republicans pay for the verdict out of their political funds so as not to punish the people of Iowa for their unchecked sexual harassment. That, of course, is not at all how the law or state government works, but it was a fun narrative for them to spin all the same. Still, the question remained whether Republicans would make any real changes to prove that they actually take this as seriously as they should.
Then last week another disturbing story emerged about John Thompson, a Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee member and candidate for Iowa Treasurer. The Associated Press wrote of how he was accused of threatening his ex-fiancee and her sister, resulting in a temporary restraining order. Again, a Republican man with a position of authority in the party allegedly treating a woman in an inexcusable manner.
Thompson’s episode was particularly noteworthy due to his role with the Republican Party of Iowa. Unlike the ever-expanding Iowa Democrats’ SCC, which now counts around 50 members, there are only 16 people on the Republican board. Those positions provide a much higher profile for the Republican activists who hold them, and many treat it like a part-time job.
It also offers up an opportunity for Iowa Republicans to push back on the emerging narrative about how their leaders personally treat women. Booting Thompson from the SCC would certainly help in that.
However, if there was a plan for that, the subsequent dismissal of the restraining order by the judge in the case probably didn’t help things. It can be difficult to justify removing someone from an elected position for allegations. But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be attempted.
Because with Thompson, how much smoke do people need to see before they realize there’s very clearly a fire with this guy?
He was arrested in 2012 in North Carolina after being accused of plotting with a woman to murder his ex-wife, spending several months in house arrest. The charges were later dropped after not enough evidence could be found. He was arrested again in 2013 for trying to take a handgun and ammunition through security at the Des Moines Airport. He claimed that it was his girlfriend’s suitcase, and that he didn’t realize what was packed in it. Back when Thompson considered running for Treasurer in 2014, fellow Republicans brought up the past charges as a serious question that convention delegates should look at.
Perhaps Thompson’s claims of being lied about might be taken a little more seriously if all of these sort of questionable incidents didn’t keep on piling up for him. This many legal problems and accusations of bizarre behavior rarely accrue through mere coincidence. It’s obvious that something is just plain off with this guy, and that his actions could turn dangerous.
The moral thing to do would be to remove him from the SCC for his alleged behavior toward women. Failing that standard, it would be the sensible thing as well – Thompson is a walking public relations nightmare just waiting to happen. You know this won’t end well.
It wouldn’t be without precedent in Iowa politics in 2017. Earlier this year, Iowa Democrats quietly showed one of their new, more eccentric SCC members the door after he accidentally posted to his Facebook account what very much looked like a solicitation for a prostitute. It’s not publicly clear whether he was voted out or if it was simply made clear that he needed to resign. Regardless, he was off the party’s governing committee shortly after the information came to light.
That’s what responsible political parties do: remove people from internal positions of power if their personal behavior goes against the very values your party is based upon. Because if you don’t, people will start to question just what values – if any – your party stands for.
by Pat Rynard