A Reluctant Analysis

Flooded Farm Near the Cedar River, Sept. 27, 2016

(Editor’s Note: A feverish writing session over two days resulted in this analysis of my house district. Maybe it’s too far into the weeds. Maybe it’s re-litigating a failed past campaign. Maybe there is something here after the fever has broken).

Progressive activists would like to see Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) removed from the Johnson County delegation to the Iowa legislature post-haste.

Claiming ignorance about Kaufmann’s voting record, Democratic activists recently lamented that part of the liberal bastion is represented by a son of the Republican Party of Iowa chairman.

If people did their homework it would be clear the R after his name stands for Republican.

Those same activists suggested the state party help recruit a candidate against Kaufmann and others who ran unopposed in 2016. The sentiment belies progressive attitudes about IDP involvement in local races. Candidates recruited by the IDP have been viewed negatively, with prejudice.

Local activists worked to recruit a candidate against Kaufmann in every general election since redistricting. Kaufmann beat Dick Schwab in 2012 (9,068 to 7,016); David Johnson in 2014 (8,448 to 4,035), and ran unopposed in 2016 (12,388 of 16,889 votes, including write-ins and under votes). The attitude during the prelude to 2016 was that running someone against the incumbent would have been a waste of time and resources because of his popularity among district voters.

His success in Republican politics begs another question.

Is Kaufmann popular or just entrenched — part of the continuing Kaufmann family dynasty, the undeserving inheritor of the crown, embedded in the tribal loyalty of rural residents?

That’s hard to say. Kaufmann worked for his wins. During the 2012 campaign our team worked hard for the Democrat. Everywhere we went and in every aspect of the campaign, Kaufmann, his father and brothers worked equally hard. While less familiar with the 2014 campaign, little about his work ethic appeared to change.

At the end of the day, Kaufmann is a Republican. Senators Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio have all helped him raise campaign funds. He endorsed Rubio for president in the Cedar Rapids Gazette. He made a joint appearance with Tana Goertz, Apprentice finalist and state chair of Donald Trump’s Iowa campaign.

He is actively involved in the Republican House caucus, voting for SF 166 (Supplemental State Aid to Schools), HF 516 (Voter ID), HF 291 (Collective Bargaining) and HF 517 (Iowa Gun Laws). No progressive legislators voted for these bills.

What does the average Jane make of Rep. Kaufmann?

“Both (Democrats and Republicans) in Wilton vote for the Kaufmanns,” a district resident posted on social media. “Their roots run deep, and they remind voters about that all the time. They are also great at marketing their common folk ideals and charm, so people think how much they truly listen to them, and what independent thinkers they are, which we know is a bunch of $%&!”

On March 1, the Secretary of State reported active voter registrations in the district were again led by no preference registrants. The numbers were 6,360 Democratic; 6,392 Republican; 82 Libertarian; 7,884 No Preference; and 25 other. The appearance is the district could be a level playing field with the right candidate should one arise. It’s more complicated than registrations.

As Johnson County population continues to grow it seems likely Kaufmann will be sanded off in the woodshed of 2021 redistricting.

Until then, progressives should either quit complaining and work with Kaufmann where there is common ground, or join in a campaign to unseat him. I’m certain both money and shoe leather would be welcome in a struggle against the Republican flood that jumped the river banks in November.

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