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Civic Skinny

Cruz crows as caucuses hurt the Dems and Branstad.

2/10/2016

The Iowa Democratic Party and the Iowa governor were the biggest losers in the caucus.

The party lost because the Democratic caucuses were a mess. With a week to go, the party still was searching for chairpersons at some of the 1,681 sites, and it still was moving around locations. And it underestimated the turnout.

“I was a precinct captain for Hillary,” one central Iowa person told Cityview. “Total cluster! Not enough room. No signage. Too many precincts in one building. I’m not sure the voting was accurate. [The media] were packed into our room like sardines and kept getting in the way of the attendees… I’m not sure we got an accurate count on both sides. I heard the same in other precincts.”

So did Cityview.

The process itself is so arcane that not many people really understand it, and when you throw in chaos and a virtual tie the process and the state party become the story. And that’s the last thing the party leaders want. Maybe the results are accurate, maybe not. At this point, it makes no difference.

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Coming on top of the Republican debacle of four years ago, the state party chiefs and their allies are going to have to fight hard to keep Iowa at the head of the line in 2020. And all the controversy doesn’t do a lot to help Democratic Chair Andy McGuire in her own political ambitions.

The evening produced a lot of losers for the Republicans — Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul all joined the exodus started by Wisconsin’s Scott Walker last summer — but Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad was the big loser.

The governor, who usually stays (publicly, at least) above the fray in national primaries, made a whopping error: He didn’t come out for someone, he came out against someone. And that someone — Ted Cruz — won. The governor loves ethanol, which keeps corn prices up for farmers and provides a steady income for the governor’s son. Cruz hates ethanol — or at least the mandate that requires that ethanol be mixed with fuel.

But Cruz won. He gloated about it in the Republican debate in New Hampshire, pointing out that he went against the governor and beat him. …

Nobody really knows the economic impact of the caucuses on Iowa — the ads bought, the cars rented, the meals consumed, the hotel rooms booked — but it’s in the tens of millions of dollars.

But one thing is clear: Iowans themselves didn’t spend much money.

Individual Iowans gave just $1,290,260 last year to the 22 persons hoping to become president. And a bit more than half of that went to just three candidates — Hillary Clinton, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz.

Clinton, who raised the most money in the state, took in just $313,393. Fifty-two people in Des Moines and the western suburbs each gave the maximum allowable of $2,700. It’s the usual list — people named Bookey or Hubbell or Campbell or Knapp or Neugent or Eychaner — with a few surprises. Lawyer Jon Staudt, in the past an infrequent giver to national campaigns — wrote a $2,700 check; perhaps it’s just a coincidence that Staudt now works for Bill Knapp. Jeff Thompson, the Iowa Solicitor General, hadn’t given to any federal candidate since moving to Des Moines several years ago, but he’s also in for $2,700 to Clinton this year. And Lisa Kruidenier, who according to federal records had never before given to a candidate for federal office, also gave $2,700 to Clinton.

Carson was the second biggest money-raiser in Iowa, pulling in $251,900 from 133 Iowans. But just one — auto dealer Gene Gabus — gave the maximum of $2,700. Nobody else gave more than $1,000. Right behind Carson was Cruz, who raised $177,871. He got $2,700 from Barbara Chapman of Urbandale and $2,000 from Gary Kirke.

Democrat Bernie Sanders raised $134,217 from Iowans. He received 366 checks from people in Des Moines and the suburbs, but none was for more than $1,000.

Meantime, Sen. Chuck Grassley continued to raise big dollars last year. In 2015, the fourth-ranking U.S. Senator in terms of seniority raised $3,286,454, and at year-end he had $4,380,608 in the till.

Cedar Rapids legislator Rob Hogg, the most known of the four Democrats who have filed papers in what could be a suicidal race against Grassley, has raised $121,257 so far, including $15,480 in in-kind contributions from himself.  At the end of the year, he had $34,980 cash on hand.

“Grassley shouldn’t have much trouble winning another term,” the analyst Charlie Cook says. Outside the Hogg household, it would be hard to find anyone who really disagrees. …

Catching up on real estate: Jim Carney in December purchased one of those new homes lining the north side of the Wakonda golf course for $1,264,360. The house, at 1812 Park Ave., has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a fireplace and about 4,600 square feet of living space. That’s one of the highest prices ever paid for a home in the city limits of Des Moines. CV

Our Town: David Hurd

David Hurd, the ailing retired chief executive of the Principal Financial Group who died at age 86 Saturday when he jumped or fell from the balcony of his 22nd floor apartment at the Plaza downtown, was very smart, very kind and very generous.

He loved this city, and he worked ceaselessly to make it better — as he rose through the jobs at Principal, during his five years as head of the company and, especially, in the 20-some years since he retired. He fought to preserve our land and clean up our water before most of us realized the land was eroded and the water was polluted. He embraced the projects of young people — giving advice when asked and money even when not asked.

He was wonderfully quirky. At times, he wore his hair in a ponytail. After being widowed, he placed an ad in The Des Moines Register. “Retired executive, widower, trim athlete, culturally and politically active with wide interests, seeking equally trim, active, intelligent soul mate, age 50 to 70.”  About 20 women responded. He worked through the list, meeting for coffee or dinner, often at Java Joe’s. In 2002, he married one of the ad answerers; Barb Hurd died in 2011.

(The ad caused great glee among his friends. At a dinner not long after he told friends about it, the irrepressible — and divorced — Maddie Levitt blurted out: “Oh, David, will you write one for me?”)

David Hurd and his third wife — Trudy Holman, whom he married in 2012 — were active in Democratic politics. Hurd was a regular check-writer to Tom Harkin and Leonard Boswell and the Vilsacks, among others. One regular recipient: The “Stop the Arms Race” political action committee.

Hurd became chief executive of Principal in 1989, and he hurried along the plan to make the company a good local citizen as well as a strong corporation. Until 1975 or so, Principal — then known as Bankers Life — was a successful company that stayed apart, perhaps aloof, from Des Moines. But Bob Houser changed that when he took over, and 10 years later John Taylor kept the idea moving. Hurd says his views were shaped by Houser, telling DSM Magazine a few years ago in effect that coupling strong businesses with strong communities was an unbeatable combination.

“Under Dave’s leadership, the Principal developed into a different company,” Mary O’Keefe, then a senior vice president of Principal, told a DSM reporter a few years ago when the magazine named Hurd one of its “sages over seventy.”

But he was interested in everything and everyone. Talk to him about music, art, books, language — he was an expert at Scrabble — and you walked away more informed than before. For the past couple of years, he has been advising young people on their hopes to turn a piece of Water Works Park into a gathering place. Last year, he quickly wrote a check to help save the Jackson Street Bridge.

Ultimately, his deteriorating health got the best of him. But even as he failed in recent months, he was always there to help. CV

— Michael Gartner

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