IA-Gov: Branstad robocalling Democrats

An alert Bleeding Heartland reader got a recorded phone call around dinnertime Monday, featuring former Republican Governor Terry Branstad.

Apparently there were a couple of questions about how Governor Chet Culver is doing and his handling of spending and the budget. Branstad's recorded voice touted his own record on economic policy.

The call also asked if the listener would support a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to between one man and one woman, and if the listener would vote for Branstad in the upcoming Republican primary.

According to my e-mail tipster, the call said it was paid for by the Branstad for Governor comittee, and gave a phone number as well as the address for Branstad's campaign website.

This particular household has two registered Democrats and no registered Republicans, and the homeowner has had the same phone number for more than 15 years. So I figured either the calling firm was using a bad list, or Branstad's campaign is reaching out to find Democrats who aren't happy with Culver.

Since I posted about this robocall at Bleeding Heartland, a bunch of other Iowa Democrats in households with no Republicans have reported receiving the same call, including State Representative Tyler Olson of Cedar Rapids. It seems clear that the target universe for this call was active Democratic voters.

If Branstad's campaign is trying to identify Democrats willing to cross over to vote for him in the Republican primary, it makes me wonder what his internal polling says about the GOP race. I've been assuming that Bob Vander Plaats has virtually no chance of overcoming Branstad's financial and institutional advantages during the primary, but if Marco Rubio can catch up to Charlie Crist in Florida, maybe Vander Plaats can win by running to Branstad's right.

Several polls have shown Branstad leading Culver by a substantial margin, although the latest Iowa poll for the Des Moines Register undercut Branstad's electability argument somewhat by showing Vander Plaats leading Culver as well. Perhaps Republican voters will come to believe they can beat Culver with the man favored by social conservative activists as opposed to Branstad, who was drafted by elite Republican donors.

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It's Illegal To Get Married In Texas

Not just gay marriage, mind you - all marriage. From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, says that a 22-word clause in a 2005 constitutional amendment designed to ban gay marriages erroneously endangers the legal status of all marriages in the state.

The amendment, approved by the Legislature and overwhelmingly ratified by voters, declares that "marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman." But the troublemaking phrase, as Radnofsky sees it, is Subsection B, which declares:

"This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

Architects of the amendment included the clause to ban same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships... "It's a silly argument," said Kelly Shackelford, president of the Liberty Legal Institute in Plano. Any lawsuit based on the wording of Subsection B, he said, would have "about one chance in a trillion" of being successful.

Oooooops.

Talk about your marriage equality! Practically speaking, Shackelford is probably right, but the wording is the wording, and I almost hope that Radnofsky is correct. I'm of the mind that replacing government marriages with civil unions for all, thus leaving the word and "tradition" of marriage solely to religion, might just be the right way to go. It would be absolutely hilarious if Rick Perry and Co. were the ones to accidentally open that door. Irony is a dish best served cold, with finger sandwiches and wedding cake.

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Gay Rights ver. 2009

Yesterday held important votes for gay rights--a true bellwether of social progress in our nation.  While it was a mixed night, a larger view says we are on the path toward greater social justice.  So, the results (with a positive spin):

  1.  nearly half of Maine voters approved gay MARRIAGE
  2.  WA voters appear to have approved strong domestic partnership benefits
  3.  over 60% of voter in Kalamazoo, MI supported an anti-discrimination ordinance

Imagine reading these headlines 10 years ago?  Remember that it took 70 years for women to get the right to vote--from Seneca Falls (1848) to 19th Amendment (1920).  So, albeit not as fully or as quickly as GLBT Americans deserve, progress is happening.

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Iowa NAACP head needs a history lesson

Sioux City businessman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats got a surprising endorsement on Monday from Keith Ratliff, pastor of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines and president of the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP.

Vander Plaats was the front-runner in the Republican field until former Governor Terry Branstad entered the race. Ratliff said Vander Plaats' position on same-sex marriage rights was "an important factor" in his endorsement.

The Des Moines Register also reported,

Ratliff, a registered Democrat, said there were other factors in his decision, such as his dissatisfaction with Gov. Chet Culver's progress fixing discriminatory hiring practices unearthed under his predecessor, Gov. Tom Vilsack. Both Culver and Vilsack are Democrats.

"I believe marriage is between one man and one woman," Ratliff said. "But I also feel there are many other issues that have to be addressed."

Vander Plaats said he sought Ratliff's endorsement. Vander Plaats also said that, until now, he had not spoken during the campaign about the minority hiring practices or offered a plan for addressing them.

If Ratliff were merely upset about Culver's work on state hiring practices, he could have waited until after the Republican primary and endorsed the GOP nominee. Yet he jumped in early for Vander Plaats, who has never spoken out about minority hiring practices.

Let's get real. Vander Plaats sought Ratliff's support because both men were involved in public protests against the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling in Varnum v Brien.

Moreover, Vander Plaats is the only gubernatorial candidate who promises to issue an executive order on day one halting same-sex marriages until Iowans have had a chance to vote on the issue. Other Republican candidates understand that the governor lacks the power to overturn a Supreme Court ruling. Simple facts about the separation of powers are lost on Vander Plaats and his wingnut endorsers like Bill Salier and Kent Sorenson.

Ratcliff's endorsement is valuable for Vander Plaats, who needs to persuade Republicans that he has enough crossover appeal to defeat Culver. Many GOP power-brokers have thrown in their lot with Branstad, believing that "bold-color conservative" Vander Plaats would lose the general.

Although Ratliff was not speaking on behalf of the NAACP yesterday, it astounds me that the head of any NAACP chapter would get behind a candidate like Vander Plaats. I mean, what could go wrong when a governor unlawfully uses executive powers to defy a court ruling protecting minority rights? I get that the reverend is icked out by same-sex marriage, but you would think that anyone representing the NAACP would recognize the danger of encouraging governors to overrule the courts. But no, Ratliff "rejects the notion the gay rights movement is akin to the civil rights movement for blacks."

Vander Plaats has advocated some wacky ideas, but none more dangerous than letting the governor pick and choose which Supreme Court rulings to respect. The NAACP should distance itself from Ratliff's politics.

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"Isn't that what it's all about?"

Great new ad from the No on 1 campaign in Maine:

I feel optimistic about this election.

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