Ghost of Michele Bachmann’s Campaign Hovers Over Iowa Senate District 22 Race
Low voter turnout could give the nod to a leader in Iowa’s religious right movement. Waukee and West Des Moines voters will decide one of the state's most closely watched legislative races on Tuesday.
So, you thought you’d heard the last of Republican presidential aspirant Michele Bachmann in January when she folded up her presidential campaign and headed home to Minnesota to concentrate on keeping her seat in Congress.
You thought wrong.
Vestiges of her candidacy to bring Biblical values to public policy are gathering behind the Iowa Senate District 22 campaign of Waukee Point of Grace Pastor Jeff Mullen, who rallied 100 Iowa pastors to support Bachmann’s failed campaign. Mullen’s unabashed about why he’s running:
He thinks Biblical values belong in politics, and said in campaign literature left for worshippers in his church that his decision to seek political office is part of his spiritual calling. A unanimous 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage convinced him it was time “to step up,” and he pledged that he will “look at every piece of legislation through the lens of the Constitution with a goal to create a leaner and smaller government, lower taxes and less government intrusion.”
A campaign waged largely in attack ads, Tuesday’s Senate District 22 Republican primary between Mullen and a veteran politician, Sen. Pat Ward, is one of Iowa’s most contentious and closely watched.
Ward is a seasoned politician who was a lobbyist in Illinois and staff director for the Iowa Senate Republican Caucus before she was elected to Senate District 21 in a special 2004 election. Redistricting changed the political demographics of that district, potentially pitting Ward against a popular Democratic senator, so she moved to a new home in Clive in District 22.
Ward Supporter Fears Low Turnout
If Mullen wins Tuesday, it could mean one of two things, said Mary Kramer, who represented Ward’s district for several years before she was appointed U.S. ambassador to Barbados in 2004: That religious conservatives are a force to be reckoned with in Iowa politics, or that traditionally low voter-turnout primaries are easily manipulated by special interests.
Kramer thinks it’s the latter. The district supported presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the January caucuses, and Kramer thinks that’s a strong indication of how they’ll vote on Tuesday – if enough of them turn out.
“My precinct had 400 people for Romney, and that’s a telling statement because Ron Paul’s daughter came, Rick Santorum came in person to our caucus,” Kramer said. “It wasn’t that other candidates were unrepresented there, and still out of 600 votes, Romney got 400.”
What's your prediction for the Senate District 22 primary? What kind of turnout do you expect? Who will win? And what's it all mean for Democrat Desmund Adams? Tell us below in comments.
Kramer said Romney’s win “is telling” and that citizens of the district want a senator who will work toward mainstream issues surrounding economic recovery, jobs creation, smaller government and keeping Iowa out of debt.
But primaries are volatile, voters are cynical and that’s a concern, Kramer said.
“Usually, such a small group of people vote, and as I am speaking about civility, those people who cynically say ‘none of the above’ deserve what they get because they are not engaged in the process, and then they say, ‘Well, how did happen?' Democracy does not work well unless citizens are engaged.”
Ward is worried, too.
She said she’s confident she can win in November against Democrat Desmund Adams, who faces no primary opposition on Tuesday, and that her “common-sense conservative” values resonate with the majority.
And she doesn't think the recommendation by Bachmann, who endorsed Mullen, carries much weight in the district. "After spending a year here, she only got about 3 percent of the vote," Ward said.
But she’s mindful of what recently happened to Sen. Richard Lugar in Indiana – A Tea Party-backed candidate defeated him in the primary, even though he’d been re-elected by overwhelming majorities in previous elections.
“So, yeah, I think that it is a real concern in primary races,” she said. “I hope that doesn’t happen here.”
Ward told the Des Moines Register that if Mullen wins Tuesday, the seat could go to Democrat Adams.
“I think it’s always a concern,” Ward said. “People in a district like this are very intelligent and very well read. There are a good number of independent voters that could sway an election in either way, and there are a number of Republicans who I think vote for the candidate.”
Kramer: Founders Separated Religion, Politics to Protect Churches
Mullen has received a stack of endorsements from social conservatives. including nods from the Iowa Right to Life Committee; Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, who gained national attention in the 1970s for working to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment; conservative leader Bob VanderPlaats, who led a successful effort to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who supported Iowa’s gay marriage ruling and were up for retention on the 2010 general election ballot; and Bachmann herself.
“I’m not a moderate, I’m a conservative and proud to stand with Phyllis Schlafly, Michele Bachmann, Bob Vander Plaats, Kim Pearson, Kim Lehman, Ralph Watts, Aaron Dorr, Mayor Scott Cirksena and other conservative leaders across Polk and Dallas counties, and outside, who are supporting my campaign,” Mullen said in news release announcing the endorsements.”
Mullen declined to talk to Patch for this story.
Kramer says Mullen has at least blurred the lines between church and state, if not crossed the divide she believes is crucial to keep the church free of the heavy government hand that the settlers fled in England.
“Some of the founders discussed separation of church and state as necessary to protect the church, not the state,” she said. “They believed the church was there to focus on the spiritual growth and well-being of citizens, and government was not intended to play in that.
“They wanted to protect the church from the far more secular and less attractive things in politics,” she said. “One just has to wonder about the wisdom of that at this point. Perhaps they were right.”
Previously in this race, Patch reported:
- From the Pulpit to Politics: Pastor Makes Religion an Issue in Fiery Iowa Senate Primary
- Senate Candidate Mullen Picks Up Endorsements from Phyllis Schlafly, Iowa Right to Life Board
- Senate Candidate Says West Des Moines, Waukee Voters Want Specifics on Economy, Not Attacks
- What Do West Des Moines, Waukee Patch Readers Say About Contentious Senate District 22 Race?
- In Contentious Senate District 22 Primary, Ward Out-Raises and Outspends Opponent
- West Des Moines, Waukee Republicans Will Decide One of State’s Most Closely-Watched Primaries
- More Abortion Allegations as West Des Moines, Waukee Senate Race Waged Over Airwaves
- Latest Mullen Ad Accuses Ward of Taking Guns From Domestic Violence Victims
- In Heated Senate District 22 Race, Mullen Blasts Iowa Bar Association for Wanting Ad Pulled