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Archive for January, 2013

The Gazette’s Todd Dorman:

We’ve seen some pretty big turning points in the effort to gain and cement marriage equality. There was the Iowa Supreme Court ruling in 2009, the ouster of three justices in 2010 before voters finally stopped the judge hunt this past fall. Democrats held the state Senate by the skin of their teeth twice, halting the push for a constitutional ban, perhaps permanently.

What happened yesterday in Des Moines may not look as “big.” But I think it’s pretty significant. From Radio Iowa:

About 30 Iowa Republicans met early tonight in Des Moines, the beginning of a more public effort to get the GOP to embrace marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Dave Kochel, Mitt Romney’s 2012 Iowa campaign manager, has been involved in Iowa political campaigns since 1982 and Kochel acknowledged he usually operates behind-the-scenes.

“But I think there comes a time for everybody where, particularly for me on this issue, you need to step to the front of the room,” Kochel said.

Kochel was joined by Ken Mehlman, a former chair of the Republican National Committee who headed George W. Bush’s Iowa campaign in 2000. He’s also one of the nation’s most prominent gay Republicans. And that’s not all:

Tom Synhorst, a former aide to Senator Chuck Grassley and Bob Dole’s 1988 Iowa Caucus campaign manager, was there, as was Eric Woolson, the manager of Mike Huckabee’s 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign. Woolson also served as Republican Govenor Terry Branstad’s press secretary in the mid-1990s.

Also on hand was Kathy Potts, a Cedar Rapids GOP activist and former county party chair. She backed Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. The meeting was sponsored by Republicans for Freedom, the group started by former state GOP Sen. Jeff Angelo in an effort to convince GOP members that marriage equality is a conservative value.

The Iowa Republican also has coverage:

As for those “values voters” that Mehlman organized in 2004 to vote for George W. Bush, he says supporting same-sex marriage is supporting family values.

“You’re seeing it across Iowa,” Mehlman said. “It makes a society stronger. It makes it more caring. It makes it more focused on the long term. It creates stability in the lives of children across this country who are raised by two members of the same gender who are loving moms or loving dads and because of what happened in Iowa, now have stability and an ability to know that their home is more secure.”

Is the Republican Party going to do a 180 on this issue tomorrow? No. But more and more Republicans, including these top-notch strategists, are beginning to say, openly, that the GOP’s stand against equality is out of step with they nation they seek to govern. And that’s a problem.

The bigger step will come when top elected leaders, people who have to face voters, start speaking out. My Linn County Supervisor, Brent Oleson, was among the first to join Angelo’s group. That took guts. We need more Republicans with guts.

Read the article from The Gazette.

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The Huffington Post:

A year and a half after former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney pledged to oppose efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, his leading adviser during the 2012 campaign in Iowa spoke out in support of marriage equality.

At an event at a Des Moines law firm hosted by Iowa Republicans for Freedom, a pro-same-sex marriage group, Romney’s Iowa strategist David Kochel joined former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman (who is openly gay) to make the conservative case for legalizing same-sex marriage.

“Support for the freedom to marry is emerging as a mainstream position in the Republican Party. If we are to be the party of principles and values, isn’t our first obligation to the principle of freedom, and the value of individual liberty?” Kochel said at the event, according to a press release.

Although he has never spoken publicly about the matter before now, Kochel said he has felt this way for a while. Like many politicians and political operatives who have “evolved” on this issue, including President Barack Obama, Kochel cited influential conversations with friends and family.

He shared an anecdote with The Huffington Post about being invited to speak at his son’s high school government class during the campaign. Several students brought up the subject of same-sex marriage. “I answered the questions very honestly,” he recalled. “‘Well, for me personally,’ I said, ‘I think that rights need to be extended to all people regardless of orientation.’ And several of the students started nodding their heads, and began to question why so many in my party don’t have this position.”

After the class, Kochel said, he took his son aside. “He said to me, ‘Dad, you know I have friends whose parents are gay, and I just don’t see anything wrong with it, and nobody I know sees anything wrong with it.'”

Growing numbers of polls show young people increasingly support same-sex marriage, even as their older, conservative counterparts continue to oppose it. In arecent ABC/Washington Post survey, more than six in 10 young adults said they were in favor of marriage equality, while two-thirds of senior citizens said they were against it.

Data like this highlights a concern that Kochel and others in the Republican Party have shared since Romney lost in November. “I think that our party generally has to think through how best to appeal to some new groups of voters,” he said. “We’ve got to start to modernize some of our views and positions.”

Kochel’s concerns seem particularly resonant in Iowa, a swing state that Obama has won in both elections. At the Iowa caucuses this year, a key Republican primary, not a single candidate supported same-sex marriage. “The candidates mainly tried to outbid each other in pandering to its socially conservative Republicans,” wrote The New York Times editorial staff. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/04/opinion/the-iowa-caucuses.html

“The Republicans have begun, painfully and grudgingly, to follow public opinion on this issue,” said Andrew Koppelman, a political science professor at Northwestern University.

“Their ultimate capitulation on this, as with immigration, is probably inevitable. And this is good news. The whole point of democracy is that politicians have to tailor their positions to follow the will of the public.  It will be interesting to see how Republicans divide on this issue in the next presidential primaries.  I’d be surprised if they are as united as they were last time.”

Read the article from The Huffington Post.

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On Top Magazine:

David Kochel, Mitt Romney’s Iowa strategist, on Monday publicly endorsed gay marriage.

Speaking at an event hosted by Iowa Republicans for Freedom, a group which supports marriage equality, Kochel argued that marriage equality was a conservative value.

“Support for the freedom to marry is emerging as a mainstream position in the Republican Party,” he said, according to a press release. “If we are to be the party of principles and values, isn’t our first obligation to the principle of freedom, and the value of individual liberty?”

In comments to The Huffington Post, Kochel recalled being asked his position on the issue by a student at his son’s high school graduation during the presidential campaign.

“I answered the question very honestly,” he said. “’Well, for me personally,’ I said, ‘I think that rights need to be extended to all people regardless of orientation.’ And several of the students started nodding their heads, and began to question why so many in my party don’t have this position.”

In a Monday tweet, Kochel said he has supported such unions for “at least 12 years.”

Also joining Kochel at Monday’s Des Moines event was former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman. Mehlman came out gay in 2010, saying he wanted to become an equality advocate.

Read the complete article from On Top Magazine.

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Politico:

With Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady facing intraparty fire over his public support for gay marriage, Rich Miller of Capitol Fax.com lays out the political math for Republicans in a blue state with a Democratic legislative supermajority.

Talk to just about any top Illinois Republican these days off the record and they’ll freely admit that they want the bill legalizing gay marriage to be approved as soon as possible.

It’s not that they’re necessarily in favor of gay marriage, mind you. Many of them are publicly and privately opposed.

Some of them do support it, even though they don’t feel they can vote for it because it might destroy their careers in the next GOP primary.

The reason so many Republicans would like to see the bill passed is because they know that with the huge, new Democratic majorities in both legislative chambers, that it’s eventually going to pass anyway.

They want to get this issue out of the way and behind them as soon as possible. The issue is trending hard against the GOP’s historical opposition, and they want the thing off the table before it starts to hurt them.

Read the article from Politico.

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from The Iowa Republican.

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman speaks out in favor of same-sex marriage during an appearance in Iowa.

 

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Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich:

The conflict between principles and pragmatism in politics is never so stark as when public opinion suddenly makes traditional values a liability at the ballot box.

Republicans, after losing the 2012 presidential election, are under pressure to reconsider some well-established party positions. Two examples made headlines on Monday: immigration reform and gay rights.

Eight U.S. senators unveiled a bipartisan proposal for comprehensive immigration reform that includes legal residency and an eventual path to citizenship for Americans who entered the country illegally.

“For the first time ever, there is more political risk in opposing immigration reform than in supporting it,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said during a news conference on Monday.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., made the political argument for immigration reform on ABC’s “This Week:” “Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that.”

In Iowa, the message to Republicans centered on public opinion as the reason the GOP should stand down from positions denying civil marriage and other forms of legal status to same-sex couples. Former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who is gay, met Monday in Des Moines with Iowa Republicans for Freedom, which promotes marriage equality.

“I can’t think of a single national poll this past year, including our own poll, that did not indicate more Americans are in favor of civil marriage than are against,” Mehlman said in an interview.

Mehlman is trying to cast marriage equity in conservative terms, emphasizing personal freedom and a limited role for government. He didn’t say so, but such an argument is also central to the libertarian wing of the GOP.

A prime target for this argument on both immigration and gay marriage are politicians who have adopted safe or carefully nuanced positions in public or have avoided saying much of anything.

Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has said he believes Iowans should get a chance to vote on same-sex marriage. However, he has steadfastly refused to say whether he voted to retain the Iowa Supreme Court justices who were part of the unanimous ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday she has “always” supported the Branstad administration’s position that there should be a public vote on marriage and that she has not offered a personal opinion. However, she made headlines during the 2010 campaign when she said civil unions were something that could be considered. The campaign quickly corrected her.

Shifting with the political winds can be dangerous. The demographic argument will not sway well-funded groups willing to back primary opponents, particularly against those who reject traditional religious values. Fear of the primary, more than concern about the general election, often drives votes on social issues.

I think Iowa voters prefer honesty from candidates, even if they don’t agree with every position.

Potential candidates stampeding toward the seat of retiring Sen. Tom Harkin will have to find new ways to talk about these issues. It’s either that, or adopt the position widely attributed to Groucho Marx: “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”

Read the article from The Des Moines Register.

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Radio Iowa:

About 30 Iowa Republicans met early tonight in Des Moines, the beginning of a more public effort to get the GOP to embrace marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Dave Kochel, Mitt Romney’s 2012 Iowa campaign manager, has been involved in Iowa political campaigns since 1982 and Kochel acknowledged he usually operates behind-the-scenes.

“But I think there comes a time for everybody where, particularly for me on this issue, you need to step to the front of the room,” Kochel said.

Kochel wasn’t the only high-powered campaign operative at last night’s event.

Tom Synhorst, a former aide to Senator Chuck Grassley and Bob Dole’s 1988 Iowa Caucus campaign manager, was there, as was Eric Woolson, the manager of Mike Huckabee’s 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign. On Tuesday, Woolson called Radio Iowa to say he was only at the event to see keynote speaker Ken Mehlman, with whom Woolson worked on a campaign 12 years ago. Woolson would not say whether he supports or opposes same-sex marriage, saying he is not working in politics anymore.

Mehlman lived in Iowa for six months when he worked on George W. Bush’s first campaign. Mehlman, who later served three years as chairman of the Republican National Committee, returned to Iowa for tonight’s event.

“How can smaller and less intrusive government not include the right to choose the person that you would like to marry?” Mehlman said during brief remarks at the gathering. “…How does standing in the way of two adults who love each other not discourage rather than promote family values?”

In 2010, Mehlman became one of the most prominent Republicans in the country to public acknowledge he is gay.

Kochel, the Iowa-based political operative, told the crowd the GOP needs to be a “more modern party” and that includes moving to support same-sex marriage.

“We need to embrace points of view that aren’t always the ‘legacy’ position of the party. We’re going to have people in our party who disagree. Every party does,” Kochel said. “…It’s time to update our message. It’s time to reach out, be more inclusive.”

Kochel asked the people in the room to “find other Republicans” who would join the conversation. A few were long-time party insiders, like Steve Roberts, a former Iowa Republican Party chairman who served on the Republican National Committee for a couple of decades. Kathy Potts, a Cedar Rapids-area organizer for Rick Perry’s 2012 Iowa Caucus campaign was there as well.

The event was sponsored by Iowa Republicans for Freedom. Former State Senator Jeff Angelo, a self-described Evangelical Christian conservative who once sought to amend Iowa’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage, is the group’s founder.

“I began this organization just a couple of years ago in order to give a voice to limited-government, pro-family Republicans who are in favor of the freedom to marry in Iowa,” Angelo said.

MehlmanEvent (mp3 run 29 minutes)

The Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2009 that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa. Mehlman told the crowd it “makes Iowa a better place to live.”

Read the article from Radio Iowa.

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