When President Obama visited the Hawkeye State this past March, he feverishly mocked those who opposed the then-recently passed health care reform legislation: “‘You turn on the news, you'll see the same folks are still shouting about there’s going to be an end of the world because this bill passed…after I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there [were] any…asteroids falling or…some cracks opening up in the Earth…[i]t turned out it was a nice day.’”
What a difference six months makes! Today, many Iowans are not exactly thrilled with President Obama or his health care law.
When attorneys general in more than a dozen states filed a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the federal health care law, many Iowans urged Democrat Attorney General Tom Miller to join the lawsuit and protect the state’s citizens. In April, Miller, an early Obama backer, asserted that a state’s rights claim to health care lacks merit.
Miller’s inaction immediately drew the ire of Brenna Findley, the GOP nominee for Iowa Attorney General. “Iowa’s liberal Attorney General Tom Miller has refused to take a stand for Iowans against the unabashed power grab of federal government in the recent health care overhaul,” Findley said in a statement. “Nebraska and South Dakota’s Attorneys General took a stand to protect their citizens, but ours refused…[Miller] penned an opinion piece in Politico…to try to justify his lack of action.”
It has been a whirlwind campaign for the upstart Findley who is poised to derail Miller’s quest for an eighth term. Findley has proven to be a strong grassroots campaigner. In the first five months of the campaign, she significantly outraised Miller.
Findley’s “no holds barred” campaign efforts caught the attention of conservative and Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin. On the anniversary of women’s suffrage, Palin endorsed Findley “calling [her] a bold, sharp, selfless woman who will respect the Constitution.” Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and the NRA also back Findley. Popular Virginia Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has pitched in to campaign on behalf of Findley as well.
At the end of August the Miller campaign hit a roadblock when the Associated Press revealed that in 2005 Miller had accepted a $10,000 donation from the son of Austin “Jack” DeCoster. Jack Decoster has been labeled “‘a habitual offender’” by the state of Iowa for repeated environmental violations; he is the only Iowan to have ever received this designation. Miller has since indicated he would return the contribution.
Governing.com rates the Iowa attorney general race a “Tossup.” According to Governing’s Louis Jacobson, “Findley has been a strong fundraiser, has run an aggressive campaign and has an especially strong Republican wind at her back in the Hawkeye State.” Earlier this year, Terry Branstad, Iowa’s GOP gubernatorial nominee, weighed in on the importance of the Hawkeye State’s attorney general race: “‘I’m all for health care reform…just not for a federal takeover,’” he said. “‘It’s the attorney general's responsibility to challenge this [law]…Brenna Findley will do it…[s]he is a bright 34-year [old] woman who will be the next attorney general of Iowa, if I have my choice.’”