Local political leaders talk primary

Monday, May 22, 2006

Jon Neunaber and Don Kass might disagree on nearly every issue, but they both agree that this year's primary is going to be important.

Neunaber, the chairman of the Plymouth County Democrats, and Kass, who chairs the Plymouth County Republicans, are spending the last days before the June 6 primary getting their party faithful energized to actively participate in the political process.

Turns out, their jobs might be easier then they expected given the local, statewide, and even national political climates. Both men expect the hotly contested races to provide plenty of motivation for voters and party activists to get involved.

"The Gordon Greene versus Jim Kestner supervisor race should bring Republicans out because both men have been campaigning hard," said Kass of the only contested race in the county.

While the Democrats might already know which local candidates will represent them on the ballot come November, Neunaber is counting on the four-way gubernatorial race to light a fire under the county Democratic electorate.

"We have a really good gubernatorial race and so that really helps," says Neunaber.

However, it appears some even broader political factors might become come into play and cause voters to pay greater attention to the candidates and issues. Neunaber believes that Democrats statewide will be excited because they are very close to obtaining control of the Iowa House and Senate.

"There is a lot of talk at meetings that this could be a good year for the Dems because we are only one seat away from taking control of the state senate and two seats away from taking control of the state house. We think we can get both," said Neunaber.

Currently the Iowa House is controlled by a slim Republican majority of 51 to 49, while the Iowa Senate is evenly split with 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans.

Kass has turned his focus to the national stage where he thinks the persistent beating that President Bush is taking from Democrats and the national media will actually be a motivating factor for Republicans to go to the polls.

"The constant pounding on the President makes the base mad and it is really going to help with turnout," says Kass. He also admits that the Jim Nussle and Bob Vander Plaats gubernatorial ticket is one of the strongest he's ever seen and that, coupled with the fear of losing control in the capitol in Des Moines and the halls of Congress, should certainly bring the GOP out to vote too.

Though the politicking season is just starting to heat up, the work of the local political parties is ultimately year-round. Both parties usually have quarterly meetings throughout the year and set up booths at the Plymouth County Fair in July and participate in the Ice Cream Days parade in June.

As the 2008 election draws nearer, presidential aspirants will keep the local political parties busy as the Iowa caucuses kick off the nominating process for both parties.

After the primary is over, the parties will regroup and start turning their undivided attentions toward each other. Both men expect it will be a political war.

"I see a hard fought battle on the horizon," said Neunaber.

Kass echoed his sentiment.

"We're saving our powder for November," he said.

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