Local parties: Vilsack's time is up

Monday, October 18, 2004

Field begins to emerge

The state's Democratic Party leader is asking Governor Tom Vilsack to change his mind and run for a third term in office, a circumstance that political activists in Buena Vista County on both sides of the aisle feel would be a mistake.

Vilsack long ago pledged to leave office after two terms. "I certainly would encourage him (to run again.) I think he's been an absolutely fantastic governor," state Democrat leader Gorden Fischer said. "It's a shining record of achievement and progress and I would welcome him running for a third term."

Michael Ross, the Buena Vista County Republican Party chairperson, says that he predicted a reversal from Vilsack at least a year ago, while Democrat chair Tom Ellis says two terms is enough for Vilsack.

"It's a good political trick, and this would be the third time. When he was mayor he had said he wouldn't run again, but suddenly there was this groundswell asking him to go for another term," Ross said. "And when he was in the senate, he said he wouldn't run for another term, and he said there was a groundswell. I think he will do the same thing as governor and I'm guessing he already has those petitions ready."

Ross claimed the call for Vilsack to run again must mean that Iowa Democrats are losing confidence in John Kerry's bid for the White House.

"If Kerry would win, Vilsack would be looking for an appointment and would be headed to Washington. If Bush wins, Vilsack will be running again here in Iowa."

Ross also claims that the suggestion for Vilsack to run again means that the Democrats haven't found a new candidate they believe can win the next gubernatorial race.

"If they have no one else, they must not have much of a farm team in the legislature. They didn't have much to put up against the Iowa Congressional incumbents this year either."

Tom Ellis, the chairperson of the Buena Vista County Democratic party, feels the issue should be one of term limits.

"My opinion is that it is time for Vilsack to move aside and to give someone else a chance to get in there," he said. "I'm not saying that Governor Vilsack hasn't done a good job. He's been terrific for what he has had to work with and has done good things for Iowa. But just like the presidential office, I think it would be good to have a limit, and two terms is enough."

Ellis admitted that he isn't yet aware of any other Democrats who appear as likely candidates to win the office. "Even at our Democratic fundraising events, no one has been talking about candidates for governor yet."

Among those most mentioned in political circles are Secretary of State Chet Culver, Lt. Governor Sally Pederson, maverick State Rep. Ed Fallon and the department of economic development's Mike Blouin.

Ross said the GOP is loaded for a run at Vilsack's seat. He said that he expects Bob Vander Plaats to run again, U.S. Rep Jim Nussle has put together a foundation that is expected to lead to a campaign, 2002 nominee Doug Gross is running statewide ads in an effort to soften his appeal, and there are rumblings of a campaign by powerful state senator Jeff Lamberti. Other Republicans mentioned in political circles include State Rep. Danny Carroll and businessman Mike Whalen.

Vilsack spokesman Matt Paul said the governor has not changed his position on limiting himself to two terms.

"He's working very hard as governor," Paul said. "He's not focused on those who are currently laying the groundwork for running for office."

Paul also said it's premature to talk about Vilsack being in line for a job in Washington should Democrat John Kerry win.

Republican Doug Gross, the Des Moines lawyer who lost to Vilsack in 2002, said he would be surprised if Vilsack ran for re-election.

"For him to flip-flop on that would be astounding to me," Gross said.

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