Taking Guns and Babies for granted

On Tuesday, the Greene County Republican Party held its annual Spring Fundraiser. Attendees had the chance to listen to an impressive but usual lineup of speakers such as Lt. Gov. Reynolds, State Auditor Mary Mosiman and Congressman Steve King.

But in addition to elected Republicans, Greene County got to see firsthand the effects of Iowa becoming a Red State.  

Iowa Firearms Coalition President Barry Snell and Tim Overlin, the executive director of Personhood Iowa, traveled to Jefferson to speak with Republicans.

Guns and Babies are the two big issues that turn out conservatives in Republican primaries.

They are very tangible and understandable to grassroots voters.

There are not a lot of voters that could be swayed to the polls by licensure or banking regulations. But people do turn out to protect the life of the unborn and gun rights.

However, at the Capitol, the motivators flip.

Banking and licensure stakeholders have well-financed PACs to support candidates. The candidates can then use contributions to buy mail pieces and radio advertisements. And once the legislative session kicks off, the priority tends to involve issues that affect the budget.

As legislators juggle committee meetings and try and get programs financed, while cutting spending in Des Moines, the advocates for life and fundamental rights struggle to get progress on their bills. In addition to that, legislators understand that Guns and Babies motivate volunteers to work for campaigns in election years so they like to make big pushes on those issues closer to voting.

They also get somewhat comfortable with the fact that the two-party system doesn’t allow those stakeholders another home across the aisle.

So after winning a primary with the endorsement of the Guns and Baby folks, they may take them for granted.

They know that PAC money will buy them the mail and ads to keep their seat because sympathetic financiers fear the other party gaining influence. And when we have a two-party system, they are right.

But now that Iowa is redder than Texas, the worry isn’t to the left. It’s to the right.

Republicans control 29/50 State Senate seats. We control 59/100 State House seats.  Many of those districts are so Republican that the winner of the primary is sure to win the general election.

There are about three times as many people in Iowa with a permit to carry a concealed weapon than there are that vote in the Republican primary. Over half of the state is religious. An effort to mobilize those constituencies could endanger lawmakers who take them for granted.

For the first time in 20 years, Iowa has an all-Republican government. There is a lot of backed up legislation that just went through a very busy session.

Iowa Firearms Coalition managed to get a sweeping gun bill to the governor. Personhood Iowa was not yet as successful. But the Gun and Baby organizers are pretty smart and have figured out that if they engage with elected officials out in their districts, instead of at the Capitol, they don’t have to compete with the lobbyist suits for time.

The voters they are meeting are also receptive to their message.

The lawmakers are pretty smart, too — they will figure it out.

Otherwise they will get replaced by folks that do.

John Thompson, of Jefferson, is a member of the Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee and a candidate for state treasurer.

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