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This morning, Bob Vander Plaats announced that he will not be running as an independent for Governor but instead he will be working to unseat the three justices up for a retention vote. Vander Plaats made it very clear at the conference that he would not be endorsing any candidate or political party. The question of endorsement arrived several times because Vander Plaats has yet to endorse the Republican nominee Terry Branstad, a common practice as part of post-primary unity. Today’s press conference marked the first time Vander Plaats has made a public appearance since his challenge of Kim Reynolds for Lt. Governor at the Republican State convention in early July.
This Republican primary in particular had been a controversial one for the three time runner Vander Plaats. The controversy began with his plan to issue an executive order on day one that would place a stay on gay marriages in Iowa. Vander Plaats pledged he would issue the order directly following the court’s decision in April 2009. In January 2010, the Iowa Family PAC announced their endorsement of Vander Plaats because of his strong stance on marriage andpromised they would not support Governor Terry Branstad if he won the nomination. This endorsement began speculation of whether or not Mr. Vander Plaats would run as a third party candidate if Branstad were to win the June 8thprimary. That rumor came to rest during today’s press conference. However, it is still to be seen if Vander Plaats will endorse Terry Branstad. It has become known that the two have been in talks since the state convention, but any form of agreement has yet to be seen.
As a former Vander Plaats employee, I think this was a very wise move for Bob to decide not to run third party, but instead take on the courts. Vander Plaats’ bold stance on marriage throughout the Republican primary in addition to his stance on immigration drew distinct differences between him and now GOP nominee Branstad. Bob’s stance on marriage also garnered him a lot of support from the Christian right with endorsements from Mike Huckabee, Dr. Dobson, Chuck Norris, Iowa Family PAC, and David Barton. The differences between the candidates on marriage may be the reason Vander Plaats was able to get 41% of the vote in a three way primary against a popular former governor. Bob’s decision to continue to champion this issue may be the best way to keep him relevant.
If the campaign is successful in removing the three justices, Vander Plaats will become a popular name in the 2012 Iowa caucuses. Those seeking the Christian right vote will likely court Mr. Vander Plaats to help garner support. Success in removing the judges would not only impact Vander Plaats, it would also greatly impact the tone of discussion across the state and country. Justices may give their opinions a second thought when they think the people may vote to remove them.
Another impact of BVP’s ‘vote no’ campaign will be its assistance to the Republican ticket. The campaign will surely turn out Christian right voters on election day. With many of them before threatening to sit out for Branstad, they will now be encouraged to vote. This will greatly assist down-ticket races including the Republican’s push to take back the state legislatures and in several competitive congressional races. If this energizes the base like I think it will, Governor Culver and the Iowa Democratic party should be very concerned. Their base will not likely be nearly as energized. Overall, a smart move by Vander Plaats.
It will be interesting to see if Vander Plaats makes any mention of Deace’s comments when he is expected to announce his ‘vote no’ campaign for judicial retention later this morning. Justices Baker and Streit as well as Chief Justice Ternus are up for a retention vote on the November 2nd ballot. A sufficient number of ‘no’ votes would remove them from the bench.
Former GOP Candidate Bob Vander Plaats will not be making a bid for Governor in 2010, says a Vander Plaats insider who is familiar with BVP’s plans. Instead, Mr. Vander Plaats will reportedly be launching an initiative to remove from office several Iowa Supreme Court Justices who will appear on the ballot for a retention vote this Fall. The source, who is not authorized to speak on the matter, says that he became familiar with Mr. Vander Plaats’ plans during a private meeting with him “…within the last couple of weeks.”
Vander Plaats excited many bloggers and pundits on Thursday by announcing a press conference for Friday morning on the steps of the Capitol in Des Moines. Rumors have been circulating for weeks about a possible Vander Plaats third-party bid for Governor in the wake of BVP’s bitter loss to former Governor Terry Branstad, followed a month later by an unsuccessful and surprise attempt to gain the GOP’s Lt. Governor nod at state convention in early July. Publicly, Vander Plaats has been unusually silent until today, which further drove speculation of a potential bid for Governor.
Even though Vander Plaats may not be running, it does not necessarily follow that BVP will throw his full weight behind Governor Branstad’s candidacy. “The only one who knows that is Bob,” said the source.
Vander Plaats’ spokesperson, Chris Dorsey, declined to comment on this story.
UPDATE: James Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette is reporting that BVP, “…will neither endorse former Gov. Terry Branstad nor announce a third-party bid for governor when he speaks at a Statehouse news conference [on Friday].” This report confirms the story The Sentiment reported earlier today.