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Civic Skinny

Oct 6 , 2011
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Swati hugs Skinny. GOP helps Gronstal. Dix needs an abacus.

So Skinny ran into his old friend Swati Dandekar at lunch the other day. “Swati,” he said, “every Democrat in the state is pissed at you. Why did you do it?” Why did she give up her seat in the Senate, where Democrats have just a 26-24 edge? Why did she let Terry Branstad — or Doug Gross, or whomever — talk her into taking a seat on the Iowa Utilities Board? Why did she put Democratic control of the Senate at risk?

“It’s a chance to use my degree,” she replied and then gave Skinny a hug.

Dandekar’s degree is in chemistry and biology from Nagpur University in her hometown in India. She is 60 years old. She has been in the United States and Iowa for nearly 40 years. And she’s just now thinking about using her degree in biology and chemistry? And just exactly how important are biology and chemistry to a state utilities commissioner?

The hug was strong. The excuse was weak.

One irritated Democratic leader says Dandekar has always been “a party of one.”

With friends like those, who needs enemies? ...

On the other hand, with enemies like this, who needs friends?

That must be what Iowa Democratic senate leader Mike Gronstal is thinking as he watches the Republicans screw up their chance to win the seat vacated by Dandekar and pull even at 25-25 in the upper chamber.

And he should send some poesies, or maybe a calculator, to Bill Dix.

First things first: Gronstal is the last roadblock keeping Iowa Republicans from passing the first step of a constitutional amendment that would undo the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling that gays can marry in this state. He has stopped the issue from coming to the senate floor, and he has held his caucus together. But the disembarking of Dandekar threatened to let his ship founder.

But Republicans, who were expected to nominate a sure vote against gay marriage, nominated businesswoman Cindy Golding. Where does she stand on gay marriage? She thinks Iowans should vote on the issue, she told Todd Dorman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette last week. The only way Iowans can vote on it, of course, is if the legislature takes the first step in passing a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage.

Would she vote for such an amendment? “I have friends on both sides. I have friends who are gay couples, and I have friends who are 100 percent opposed to gay couples. So I just stand on that. I believe the citizens of Iowa should have their day in the sun, their day to stand up and voice their opinion and put the whole issue to rest, up or down.”

But she won’t say how she’d vote.

Democratic candidate Liz Mathis isn’t saying directly how she’d vote, either, but she said she supports the Iowa Supreme Court decision, and it’s widely assumed she’d stand with Gronstal.

Republicans could have nominated former U.S. Attorney Matt Dummermuth, a reliably rightwing party member (he’s in Matt Whitaker’s law firm) or businesswoman Marty Rathje, said to be the favorite of Gov. Terry Branstad and thus, by definition, an opponent of same-sex marriage. But they didn’t.

Now, the Democrats have a good chance to hang on to the seat in the slightly Republican senate district.

With enemies like these. ...

An aside, before we get to Bill Dix: Rathje gave $2,000 to Branstad’s gubernatorial campaign — and she also gave $250 to Dandekar’s last campaign. Golding gave nothing to Branstad; she gave a $50 check to State Auditor Dave Vaudt but no other state-wide candidate in the last general election. The only other state-wide candidate she has supported in the past eight years is... Ed Fallon. Repeat: Ed Fallon. Dummermuth is not listed as having given any money to any candidate in Iowa in the past eight years.

Back to Bill Dix: He called a meeting of the Republican caucus, ostensibly to talk about the Cedar Rapids election, but really to toss out GOP senate leader Paul McKinley while McKinley was vacationing overseas. He needed 13 votes. But then he called the caucus off, but not before further dividing a caucus that already is split between the far right and the sort-of-far right.

Why did he abort — oops, bad word to use in GOP circles. Make it: Why did he drop his coup attempt? Says one Republican pol:

“He can’t count to 13.”...

The state Monday reported that general-fund receipts for fiscal 2011 were $5.813 billion, up $319.8 million, or 5.8%, from a year before. And this year’s revenue is expected to be up another $309 million. That must make all those laid-off state workers feel good. At least there’s enough extra to pay for Jason Glass’ trips to South America. CV



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