Primary Picks

Polling Place

I’m picking Democrats in the June 5 primary election.

My main political goal before early voting begins May 7 is to door knock my precinct until I make contact with everyone who might vote. It’s a tricky business this cycle.

Not only is there a six-way contest for the gubernatorial nomination, the secretary of state nomination is contested. Our state senate district has four primary candidates and the board of supervisors has three candidates for two positions. With one exception, former Iowa Democratic Party chair Andy McGuire, I like them all.

From the perspective of knocking a neighbor’s door, no one size fits all, and that changes my role to one of telling/reminding people there is a primary election and encouraging them to use voting as a way to ease the frustrations of living in Iowa in a time of Republican power. I believe it will go well since my canvass targets are mostly registered Democrats.

I’m making my own contact list and crafting my own message, as my picks are unlikely to be everyone’s picks. I won’t be parroting campaign slogans or policy points during my canvass. Outside of a couple of candidates providing their campaign literature, the message will be my own. It can become muddled if I’m not careful. The main interest is to foster good feelings and relationships among Democrats while hopefully nominating some of my candidates in the primary. I don’t know how it’s going to go, but this home-made canvass should be fun.

I support John Norris for governor. He has the breadth and depth of experience needed to guide the state through recovery from the disaster governance of Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds. It’s going to take multiple election cycles to recover and Norris acknowledges this and has a plan to do it. Second, his policies are aligned closely with Democratic values. However, this election is less about policy and more about leadership. Norris is ready to lead.

There is an unspoken criticism that Norris is part of the old guard of Democratic governance. I view that as a positive. He understands Democrats need to win more than Johnson County and other urban areas to win the gubernatorial general election. He has been around long enough to know how it can be done. By any standard, he has been a political insider at the highest level, with his spouse, Jackie Norris, serving as Michelle Obama’s first White House chief of staff, and John serving in the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Obama. Some view political insiders as “establishment” politicians, but that description is 1). untrue, and 2). if it were true, more asset than liability in 2018.

Perhaps adding to his primary campaign’s challenges, Norris is focusing attention on rural Iowans. While primary votes may be in more urban areas, Republican strength includes small towns and rural Iowa. Norris has a plan to make Democrats competitive there again. It’s a plan I believe and hope will work in the primary.

I support Deidre DeJear for secretary of state. While Jim Mowrer ran unsuccessfully for congress in both the third and fourth districts in recent election cycles, there is nothing to indicate anything has changed for him in a statewide race. DeJear would bring a fresh perspective and needed Democratic views regarding inclusion in voting.

I support Zach Wahls for state senate district 37. Wahls is working harder than any of the three other candidates for state senate. He is also doing the right kind of work, which during a primary election is making voter contact. If he works that hard to get elected, he will work for constituents in the legislature. From observing how he’s conducted his campaign, he’s leaving no Democrat behind and that’s what the district needs in their representative in the Iowa Senate.

I support Janelle Rettig and Mike Carberry for county supervisor. This pick was the hardest because many of my friends are picking Pat Heiden, with some bullet voting. I profiled all three candidates here, here and here. I know all three candidates better than many politicians and believe any two of them will serve the interests of voters. We have to choose.

There was never a question I would support Janelle Rettig. Some characterize her as argumentative. She does her own research from a distinct viewpoint and maintains an independent voice on the board. She is not afraid to argue for what she believes is the right course for the county. I respect and value those qualities in her and on the board, even when I disagree with her.

I came around to supporting Mike Carberry again. As I explained to another candidate’s campaign manager, Mike and I have a long relationship, I helped him get elected to his first term, and as a voice for environmental issues he is closely aligned with mine. I explained part of this history here. Why did I hesitate? There were multiple stories from credible sources complaining about Carberry. Most notable of these was at the county Planning and Zoning Commission’s April 9 public meeting during a discussion of the County Comprehensive Plan. While unconventional, and sometimes wrong on positions he has taken, he is not afraid to argue for what he believes it the right course for the county. The board of supervisors has been better with Carberry as a member and that is why I’m voting for him.

How does one parse these picks while door knocking Democrats without getting people mad? There is enough unbelievably bad stuff going on with Republican governance that any freckles on Democrats won’t matter one bit in the general election.

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Earth Day Weekend 2018

Earthrise Dec. 24, 1968

Earth Day is and will always be about this photo taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts on the first manned mission to the moon.

“The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth,” command module pilot Jim Lovell said from lunar orbit.

With a perspective six inches from our noses, we often forget who we are and how we fit into the vast reaches of the universe. We are a speck in a place larger than we can imagine.

When I participated in the first Earth Day as a senior in high school, the idea we should work together for peace, reduce pollution, and care for the environment seemed obvious. Even much reviled President Richard Nixon got it — society had to do something to address clean air, clean water and endangered species.

Earth Day is a chance to revisit this iconic photograph. When we consider a broader perspective, as the photograph encourages us to do, little has changed on Earth since it was taken. Our troubles seem petty compared to the overriding fact Earth is our only home. We are all in this together.

As much as societies seek to delineate metes and bounds, there are no borders on the globe. There is only one society of which we are all a part.

This Earth Day I’ll be working at home in my garden. A late spring created pent up demand for outdoors work. For the last four weeks, one excuse after another delayed needed work, yet now I’m ready to release the floodgates.

Not before I consider this photo one more time.

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Letter to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors

Woman Writing Letter

Dear Lisa, Mike, Kurt, Janelle and Rod,

It’s funny how when one gets all the information the picture looks different.

Since I complained about the purchase of Dick Schwab and Katherine Burford’s property using conservation bond money after partial information was leaked via our local newspaper, I wanted to get back to you now that the purchase has been made public.

The fact Burford/Schwab donated the developed portion of the property mitigates my concern about how bond money is being used. In fact, because of that, the plan, as explained in the Press Citizen, complies with what I said in my March 7 email. “I hope and expect you to vote no on the acquisition of this property using conservation bond money.” My concerns are rendered moot because of the donation.

On reflection, this decision was a good one for which the board should be commended. It is also consistent with conversations I have had with Schwab about how he planned to dispose of his property.

While I continue to be dissatisfied by the partial leakage of information, I have no beef with you.

Thanks for your service on the board of supervisors.

Regards, Paul

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Layered with Sadness

Sundog Farm

In our neighborhood a preteen found his father collapsed in the yard and ran for help. Despite best efforts by his partner of 30 years, emergency responders, and staff at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, he died Sunday. The funeral is Friday.

A layer of sadness blankets places I go.

It’s not just the death of a neighbor. Cold weather is delaying farmers from getting into the field. Tension permeates everything. We laugh but avoid the reality that something has to give — perhaps delaying the spring share until plants grow. Perhaps something else. We are ready for the weather to break.

Temperatures today are forecast in the low thirties… again. It’s April 18 for goodness sake! The garden should be a third planted by now. It has been difficult to spend time outside, bundled up to keep warm. It’s not the cold as much as it is a nagging hesitancy to venture out into the cold spring.

When we moved to Big Grove, before we put curtains in the living room, I sat on the couch after a long day and watched airplanes make their approach to the nearby Eastern Iowa Airport. Even though my wife and daughter were nearby I felt alone and on my own from time to time. I picked myself up from the couch and engaged in a diverse life. Every so often the quiet in the house is overwhelming, even today. I feel isolated from what matters most. The feeling passes.

I had a physical examination in town, and my arms ache. In my left shoulder I got a pneumonia vaccine and in my right a shingles vaccine. Both require boosters down the line. I had blood drawn for lab tests by a nurse I’ve known more than a dozen years. Achy doesn’t really describe it. I removed the three bandages and piled them up on the night stand this morning. The shingles vaccine is doing its job making me feel sore and unsettled.

Doctor did a depression screening. I passed, that is, I don’t believe I’m clinically depressed… just a bit saddened by the layers of crap we have to live through. It’s partly politics but it’s more than that. It’s as if everything with which we marked boundaries of our lives is being razed, surveyor pins pushed out of place by construction’s bulldozers. All we can do is put the pins back and start over. That’s what I hope to do.

Eventually the weather will break and my farmer friends will get the crop planted. Visitation for my late neighbor is tomorrow. I’m to pick up a sympathy card and a couple of restaurant gift cards to give the family a chance to get out of the house for a while. We all need a break.

The layer of sadness is palpable. At the same time as long as we pick ourselves up and go on living we’ll be alright. at least that is what we hope.

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Iowa Governor’s Race – Down to Two?

Rural Polling Place

The winner of the June 6 Democratic gubernatorial primary will face Governor Kim Reynolds in the Nov. 6 general election. A popular Democratic view is expressed in the following email received from a neighbor who is usually politically quiet:

I want to encourage everyone to vote since turnout is usually pretty low in primary elections. I also want to encourage you, to encourage your friends and peers to vote.

In regard to the gubernatorial election, there are six candidates on the Democratic side. In my opinion, based on the polls, only two of the candidates have any real chance of getting the 35 percent needed to win the primary. If no candidate gets 35 percent, the selection of the candidate will be made at the Democratic convention. I personally would not like this to happen since one never knows who might come out of the convention (horse trading of support).

In my opinion, it is critical for Iowa to elect a Democratic Governor to balance the Republican Senate and House majorities. (I certainly would also love to see the Democrats take back at least the House or Senate also). You may not agree with my opinion, and that is just fine.

The two Democratic candidates who appear to have the only chance of getting 35 percent are Nate Boulton and Fred Hubbell. I could live with either individual. Nate is a state senator and attorney. He is quite a bit younger than Fred Hubbell — so I think he appeals to the more far end of the liberal wing of the party. Fred Hubbell has had a very successful career with Younkers and an insurance company but he has a very strong record as a progressive leader also. In my opinion, this comes down to the candidate who has the best chance of winning the general election. I think Iowa has been trending a bit more Republican on a statewide basis. I thus think that Fred Hubbell might have a better chance of winning the general election. I have spoken with several state legislators who I trust, and they are supporting Fred Hubbell. So, I will be voting for Mr. Hubbell. (There are also many legislators supporting Nate Boulton).

Is this where the Iowa electorate is regarding the Democratic gubernatorial primary? Probably. It’s nothing against the other four candidates, Cathy Glasson, John Norris, Ross Wilburn and Andy McGuire. This view is consistent with the primary electorates that gave us Chet Culver in 2006, and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Iowa caucus.

Some things are worth noting here.

First, encouraging primary turnout is de rigueur this cycle. More and more people like my neighbor recognize it. In the shit storm 2017 and 2018 have been, voters are engaged in politics as they haven’t been since the 2006 reaction to George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election. That’s a hopeful situation for Democrats.

What about Cathy Glasson? Couldn’t she get 35 percent? Based on conversations with dozens of primary voters, the answer is no. There is too much push back on her statewide campaign. Popular opinion is she can’t win against Reynolds because her support is too Johnson County and out of state union-money centered. Voters don’t see her as able to win people in the rural expanses of Iowa and that’s important this cycle. Glasson has framed a set of progressive issues but those issues are less important among primary voters to whom I’ve spoken.

What about my guy, John Norris? I see a possibility but primary voters do not. I continue to believe Norris would perform better as governor than the others if elected. While I volunteered to work on the Norris campaign, I have yet to be contacted for a specific request. I plan to door knock before the primary for Norris and my slate of candidates, but that is all I see going on other than frequent campaign stump stops everywhere in the state.

It would be best for the Democrat to win the primary outright. I was elected as a delegate to the state convention and if the gubernatorial choice went to convention I’d do my best work to help pick a winner. The downside is whoever that would be will be tainted because of the lack of primary votes. Going to the convention to pick a winner has no upside for Iowa Democrats.

Take back the house and senate? Sure, we’d like to and with good Democratic turnout in the primary and general elections winning a majority in the House is possible with 95 of 100 races being contested. The senate? That will be a 2020 objective.

My neighbor’s email was a back door, rational, Iowa nice way of endorsing Fred Hubbell. Our precinct is more like the rest of Iowa in a number of ways, including being less liberal than the urban centers of Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty. I don’t see the appeal of Hubbell based on reading his numerous mailings and listening to his speeches. However, as a compromise candidate, I’d support him and most primary voters to whom I’ve spoken would.

The focus this cycle has to be on defeating Kim Reynolds. Party unity on that idea exists, and will be needed in November.

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Soft Landing

Burning Embers

It’s been 30 days since retirement and I’m up to my old tricks.

Like a hungry dog, I see things and want to be a part of them. “I’ll do this,” I say to myself and others. I run the risk of over-committing and letting people down. Importantly, I divert attention from priorities. New tricks should replace old but I’m not there yet.

Let the engine of life make a soft landing on this rain-soaked spring day. Focus until leaving for the farm in a few hours. In my second go-around at “retirement,” I’ve learned that lesson.

It’s not like I’ve kicked back in an easy chair. I agreed to stay on at the home, farm and auto supply store two days a week and never planned to give up farm work. I’ve written more and would like to write more still.

I’ve been in transition. Without good health life would be harder. I saw the dentist and tomorrow have an appointment with a physician for a physical. I got my car serviced, hair cut, and am planning a trip to purchase clothes. When I do, I’ll turn tattered attire into rags and recycle the denim and cotton. We’ve been living within our budget and the federal and state taxes are filed. The garden is behind this season, but there are seedlings in the greenhouse and garlic poking through the mulch. There will be a garden when the weather breaks. 2018 is a midterm election year and I plan to be more active this cycle than in recent years.

Days take on a rhythm and I’m no longer sure when a week begins and ends. Mostly, it’s been cold, I’ve felt it through to the bone, and there is so much to do before settling into a sustainable pattern. The weather will break and I feel ready to take off.

Slow down, you move too fast. Good advice for someone with my social style.

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Heads in the Sand by Matthew Yglesias

Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats by Matthew Yglesias
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yglesias’ book was a timely read in the context of the Trump administration’s forays into foreign policy, notably the April 13, 2018 bombing of Syrian chemical weapons capacity. Written before the Obama presidency, the lines of thought and policy started during the George W. Bush administration continue to the present. There is little evidence liberals received the author’s message or have done much to support a sustainable, bold foreign policiy. Rather they often co-opt neocon positions.

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