Friday, December 19, 2014


Civic Skinny

Politics: Sorenson’s resignation. Bisignano’s OWI.

10/9/2013

The resignation of Republican Kent Sorenson and the arrest of Democrat Tony Bisignano last week are screwing things up for both political parties in central Iowa.

First, Sorenson: He resigned under pressure Wednesday after special investigator Mark Weinhardt reported to the Senate Ethics Committee that Sorenson probably broke ethics rules when he took money circuitously from a Michele Bachmann political-action fund and may have committed a crime when he denied that. More woes may lie ahead.

Sorenson is on the far right of his party — the kind of guy Democrats call wacko, Republicans call fervid and Steve Deace calls a leading fighter “for liberty and morality” — and has a past that is checkered with arrests for everything from delivering marijuana to failure to pay child support. For a brief while, he was a darling of the party — but it was Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix who asked for Sorenson’s resignation last week.

(But Deace remains fervidly in Sorenson’s corner. “Maybe Sorenson really is the shady operator the system is claiming he is. If he is he did a bang-up job of hiding it from me and my family….If it turns out Sorenson is guilty of everything alleged — and again he should face consequences if that’s the case — he’s still a choir boy by comparison to most of those throwing stones while living in glass houses.”)

Loopy or not, Sorenson probably could have won re-election next year. His senate district covers Warren and Madison counties, and as of Oct. 1 it had 15,909 registered independents, 15,013 registered Republicans and 13,292 registered Democrats. He won the seat four years ago by beating one-term incumbent Staci Appel, and beating her handily in a particularly nasty and costly campaign. Two years earlier, he barely beat three-term incumbent Mark Davitt for the Iowa House seat representing Warren County.

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For several weeks, Davitt has been talking about taking on Sorenson next year — Appel, now a Congressional candidate, has proved the district could be won by a Democrat — and the resignation could lure him into the fray. Still, it’s unclear whether a less-beady-eyed candidate like, say, Representative Julian Garrett of Warren County would bring more or fewer Republicans to the polls. Gov. Terry Branstad will set a date for the special election.

Next: Tony Bisignano. Bisignano, the head of the department of human resources for the county, has a past as checkered as Sorenson’s — there was that matter of the gun and the mistress in 1995, a bankruptcy and the occasional drunk-driving arrest — but he has been running hard to return to the Legislature in the south-side-and-Sherman Hill Senate seat that Jack Hatch is giving up to run for governor.

It’s a strong Democratic district, and the real election will be the primary, where assistant attorney general Nathan Blake has announced and where golf-course operator and former legislator Ned Chiodo is gearing up to run. South-siders take their politics seriously and personally, and Chiodo and Bisignano are long-time south-siders who are not each other’s favorite person. An election between them could split families and friends — and perhaps allow Blake (he lives in Sherman Hill) to walk away with the election.

So Bisignano’s arrest for drunken driving last week complicates things. Chiodo partisans think Bisignano should drop out — though they have been thinking that since he announced — but Bisignano’s backers want him to stay in, which he seems to be doing. South-siders hope it can all be worked out between the two, perhaps over dinner — but not drinks — at Tumea’s.

Blake, who sits on the Polk County Democratic central committee, has good political credentials. One that might come in handy should he be elected: a master’s degree in ethics from Yale. …

Catching up: The Board of Regents last week answered the letter Coralville Sen. Bob Dvorsky sent asking questions about the pay and duties of Executive Director Bob Donley. Here’s the short form: Despite the statute limiting his pay, the Regents say they have other statutory authority to give bonuses and deferred pay and anything else. He’s underpaid compared to his peers across the country, the letter says. And, it says, the governor was informed of the big pay deal Donley got. But it’s probably not over. CV

COMMENT: What’s in a name?

The Des Moines Register asked Iowans their views on the Affordable Care Act the other day. “The poll reflects highly partisan feelings about Obamacare,” the paper wrote.

Yes it does. Iowans do have “highly partisan feelings” about Obamacare. But, the poll makes clear, they do not have highly partisan feelings about The Affordable Care Act. In fact, the act has widespread bipartisan support in Iowa.

What we have here is an issue of semantics. Iowans like the “care” part of Obamacare. They just don’t like the “Obama” part.

An analogy, using the percentages from the poll:

Let’s say the Register and pollster extraordinaire Ann Selzer decide to do a poll on professional baseball in Des Moines. But let’s say, just for the heck of it, that baseball here is also known as Gartnerball. And let’s say — and this is obviously hypothetical — that this person Gartner himself is somewhat controversial.

And let’s say the first question on the poll asks Iowans to “describe your view of baseball, sometimes known as Gartnerball.” And let’s say this is the answer:  Forty-nine percent of the people say that professional baseball in Des Moines, also known as Gartnerball, is a very bad sport and should be abolished. Thirty-six percent like some parts of the sport. Just 9 percent think it’s a really neat sport. (Those are, in fact, the percentage answers for “your view of the Affordable Care Act, sometimes known as Obamacare.”)

Then let’s say the next series of questions ask people what they think of the most important and basic elements of baseball. It doesn’t call it Gartnerball. And let’s say these are the answers:

85 percent like the fact that baseball is a game with nine innings and with three outs per half-inning. (That’s the percentage that like the idea of insurance exchanges.)

74 percent like the fact that baseball has a rule that a batter is called out on three strikes and gets to walk to first base on four balls. (That’s the percentage who favor coverage of people with pre-existing conditions.)

70 percent like the fact that baseball is a sport without a clock. (That’s the percentage of people who like the idea of keeping children on parents’ coverage to age 26.)

56 percent like the fact that baseball is played in the summer and the fact that there are nine positions on a team. (That’s the percentage who favor removing the lifetime cap on benefits.) The poll wisely does not ask what people think of the “designated hitter.”

52 percent like the fact that when a ball is hit over the fence the batter gets to trot around the bases unimpeded. (That’s the percentage who like requiring nearly everyone to have health insurance.)

51 percent like the fact that in baseball a person can bunt and steal bases and hit sacrifice flies and — unlike, say, in golf — the fans have a choice and can stand and cheer or boo or go out and get a beer. (That’s the percentage who favor the requirement that companies with at least 50 employees have a health plan or pay a penalty.)

But the nation is evenly split on whether you should add more cheap bleacher seats. (That’s the split on expanding the number of low-income people eligible to be covered.)

That’s in effect what last week’s fascinating Iowa Poll said about the Affordable Care Act, which, the poll noted in the first question, is “sometimes known as Obamacare.” Subsequent questions were preceded by an introductory clause referring to the Affordable Care Act. The only possible conclusion: Iowans like the act, but they aren’t crazy about the man. That last part is consistent with an Iowa Poll last week that showed the President had a disapproval rating of 58 percent in Iowa.

The Iowa Poll is not unique. Poll after poll across the country shows the same thing — people like the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act; they simply don’t like “Obamacare.” The “Obamacare” numbers are dragged down by Republicans, many of whom simply can’t stand the man.

All of this suggests a simple solution to the stalemate in Washington, where Republican House members keep insisting — incorrectly, the polls would suggest — that their constituents don’t want anything to do with the Affordable Care Act. Simply start calling the Affordable Care Act by something other than Obamacare.

Romneycare is taken.

So how about, say Boehnercare? CV
— Michael Gartner

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