Staying the course. That’s what incumbent democrats are advising voters. We’re questioning two of those incumbents, Attorney General Tom Miller and Secretary of State Michael Mauro, on this edition of Iowa Press.
Borg: This is a year when incumbents up and down the ballot are feeling some uncertainty. Voters seem to be restless, some say frustrated. Well, that encourages candidates who are challenging incumbents right now. You might recall that last weekend on Iowa Press, we questioned two of those hopeful challengers, republicans going after
Mauro: Thank you for having us.
Miller: Thanks for having us.
Borg: Across the table, two people you know well from covering the statehouse, Associated Press Senior Political Writer Mike Glover and Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson.
Glover: Secretary Mauro, let's start with you. As Dean mentioned in the open, it's said to be an anti-incumbent mood. What does an incumbent do about that? It strikes me that's not a rational sort of an argument you can rationally argue against. What do you do about this anti-incumbent thing?
Mauro: I know what I have to do. I have to let people know who I am and what our office has accomplished, because we've had wonderful accomplishments in the last four years or three and a half years, starting with a uniform voting equipment, a voter verified paper trail, and moving there from just recently where the overseas voter foundation recognized us as the most accessible state in the nation for military and overseas voters. Put all those together and I’ve got to let people know that and I think I’ll be fine.
Glover: General Miller, if there is an anti-incumbent mood, you may be the poster child for that anti-incumbent mood. You were elected in 1978, at the age that your incumbents -- or your challenger says she is now. What do you do about that?
Miller: Well, you know, I talk about what I’ve done for Iowans. I view the office of attorney general as just this wonderful opportunity to use the law to serve the interests of ordinary Iowans. That’s my passion. That’s my goal. That’s why we work so hard in consumer protection and have probably the best assistance with a hotline for foreclosures and modifying loans in the country. That’s why we work so hard in the criminal area. We have great lawyers. We produce great results. What I tell the public is I’m on your side and I’m effective and I know how to do it. And also, I do it in a very professional way. Professionalism throughout the tenure of my office has been very important and integrity to do it right, and those are the kinds of things that people want in elected officials.
Glover: Have we got it wrong, this whole anti-incumbent thing? Are we overplaying that?
Miller: Well, it's hard to say. This is just a crazy year, and nobody really knows what's going to happen. There is an anti-incumbent mood, but voters have always been discerning, particularly in the state races. They’ve -- when I first got elected, Bob Ray won 60-40, I won 56-44. Voters in the end tend to be discerning and will be.
Glover: Mr. Mauro, the same question to you. Are we overblowing this anti-incumbent thing?
Mauro: Well, I think there's some frustration out there. I think Dean mentioned that in the opening remarks, but I also think that we're moving forward. And people of
Miller: Well, one of the most important things we do in the attorney general's office is protecting consumers, and that's always been a passion for me because that relates to the ordinary person. It’s very important to them and very important that government serve them. You have to be fair to business, you know. It takes us a long time to make a decision to sue, and we have to make some very important decisions when we file lawsuits because we can't file a whole lot. What we look at is, what is the abuse? What have consumers suffered? What is the law? And what is our chances of winning? And if we win, what do we accomplish for consumers and how do we be fair? We still have to be fair to businesses, and that's been part of -- part of my professionalism, part of how I do things. So with business, I’ve been tough but fair. That’s appropriate for them and that's really good for consumers. If you -- if you give businesses more slack, consumers are going to be abused and abused considerably.
Mauro: Well, we're also interested in promoting business in
Mauro: Right. And that's a good question. The point of the matter is that will be done by the end of this year. We’ve been in that developing stage for over a year with that, and that will allow corporations and certificates of authority and articles of incorporation to be filed online. And it will be in place this year whether Michael Mauro is secretary of state or somebody else. So it will be done and we do good things.
Borg: Mr. Miller, you said a moment ago -- and I’m going back now to the mechanics of campaigning. You said a moment ago you're counting on voters to be discerning. In order to be discerning, they need information. How do you campaign? How do you get the message out that you want voters to hear because, you know, there are higher profile campaigns going on:
Miller: Well, when I first became attorney general, we made a very conscious decision that the best policy is the best politics. To do the right thing and do it effectively for Iowans, that is the best politics. And as a result over time, I think people have gotten -- gotten sort of a feel for me.
Borg: In other words, in twenty-eight years they know you.
Miller: And after four or six years -- four years they knew me. They knew I was on their side. They knew I was concerned about consumer protection and criminal prosecution. They knew I called them as I see them. That’s always been the core of sort of our politics, to do the job right, to do it professionally. And we've done that and I think we have a good reservoir of support. Additionally -- and, you know, you campaign around the state, there are press releases, there might be some TV ads at the end. A combination of those things I hope will give Iowans the view that I’m on their side, I am professional. And also one other thing, I work across party lines, if people are interested in someone who is willing to work across party lines. That’s been my history too. Iowans really over a period of time in four years or even less, they get a good fix of people and they understand people, what drives them, whose side are they on, how capable they are. And that's always my fallback.
Borg: What I hear you saying is that voters after these many years know me and that that's how they're going to make their judgment. Mr. Mauro, same question to you, but I heard you say you're making your case -- those are words you said -- and you want voters to know who I am and what we've accomplished.
Mauro: We've traveling the state. We’re visiting as many communities as possible. We’re letting individuals know that I’m a former county auditor. I’m experienced and I’m qualified. I served for twelve years --
Borg: I’m interested in the mechanics, and the mechanics are you're getting out and shaking hands, is that it?
Mauro: You got that right. We’re crossing the state everywhere we can, Rotary clubs, Kiwanis clubs --
Borg: Are you getting the message out?
Mauro: We're working hard at getting that message out, and that is the real challenge.
Borg: Is it resonating?
Mauro: We're getting there. We’re getting there. It’s going to take time. It takes effort. It takes money. We’re working hard at that.
Borg: What are voters asking you about secretary of state? What are they interested in?
Mauro: Basically they want to know a couple of things, and I bring this to them. Is our election system safe and secure? Is there integrity? Does your vote count? Does your vote work? And I tell them that it does. I tell them that I’m a county auditor that works with 99 county auditors to bring an election process that's safe and that is secure. I tell them that I have a great relationship with democrat and republican legislators. What we've accomplished in this legislature in the secretary of state's office these last three and a half years is more than anybody has since --
Glover: Attorney General Miller, I’d like you to step back a little bit and look at the bigger picture. You’ve been around
Miller: Well, I was hoping you'd help me. I mean this is a very, very hard year to figure out.
Glover: -- what kind of year it is.
Miller: You described some of the factors. I mean there's sort of a push against the incumbent president after two years. The economy has been terrible but it's starting to -- starting to come back and people are starting to feel better. There’s a certain amount of anger and frustration out there, particularly against
Glover: Mr. Mauro, the same kind of question to you, but I’d like you to focus specifically on the energy within the two parties because it strikes me if we look over recent history we had a democratic state convention that barely had a quorum present. We had a republican state convention that was jammed. What’s the tenor of this year, and what's the energy level of the two parties?
Mauro: Well, I think the energy level -- the momentum at least at the convention level might have been with republicans, but you have to understand -- let's understand something here. Republicans had some very interesting contested races. The governor's race is still contested right to this minute here. They had three congressional races heavily contested. The democratic ballot -- I went and voted. There was one race on the ballot. But I’ll tell you what's going to happen. Primaries, they're driven by the candidates. General elections are driven by the parties. The Democratic Party will be well and alive when it comes to November as far as seeing that they get their people to the polls. I’m confident that that's going to happen. We’re going to have to work hard to make our cases. Each person is going to have to run on their other merit. He has twenty-eight years of experience. I’m finishing my first term. But if you look at my term and judge it on what we've done, ask the legislators, ask the county auditors, you're gonna see that we warrant another term in office.
Glover: So you're going to buck history in this midterm election, the first midterm of a new democratic president.
Mauro: We're going to -- hopefully. I’m going to do my best to make sure that my message gets out. I appreciate the people of
Borg: I hear you saying that you did better than the last secretary of state, and that was Chet Culver.
Mauro: I can only speak for the results that I put in office when I was there. You look -- the results oriented -- look at the results. Look at the relationship with the legislature, democrats and republicans. Look -- my opponent only mentioned voter id. He’s never said what county auditors play and what role the county auditor is in. He never mentioned the military voter. He never mentioned the absentee voter. So he has never touched anything to deal with what the secretary of state does. I can tell you for a fact I’m passionate about the job. You see it right here today.
Miller: As you mentioned, I’ve been around for a while, and nobody knows elections like this guy. Nobody has had that experience.
Mauro: I appreciate that.
Miller: No, you don't agree. When the laws need to be enforced, we bring cases. We brought the case on child labor against the Agriprocessors operation up in Postville, which was related to immigration. Whenever there's a law, we're going to do our best to enforce it. But this is a federal problem, and a national law isn't necessary. It really cries out for that. The two gubernatorial candidates, Governor Culver and former Governor Branstad, both are opposed to the
Miller: It would be vastly different. But it's -- it's a matter of really a national problem. It cries out for a national solution. We need something from congress to do that. And that is the way out and the only way out of this enormous problem. People are frustrated about immigration, and justifiably so. People are hurt by certain aspects of it, and we're concerned about that. Congress really needs to act here.
Mauro: Well, I certainly think there's an immigration issue, and I think the federal government needs to do a better job of addressing it. But I want to tell about e-verify. e-verify -- we checked with the Department of Homeland Security. They did their own study and two or three different news agencies mentioned that they're missing one out of two undocumented workers. That’s the program that my opponent wants to put in place. I say if they put a program like this together that does work, that will help, we'll be happy to put it in place. but the facts are this: the e-verify system is not working; one out of two are falling through the cracks; and no other states that I’m aware of -- secretary of state's office are even employing it.
Glover: General Miller, let's step back and look at the top of the ticket because to some extent your fate is tied to the top of the democratic ticket. We have Roxanne Conlin running for united states senate. You have Governor Culver running for a second term. Does that help, hurt, or have no impact on you?
Miller: Well, you know, it remains to be seen. There’s four months left in the race. Both of those races have just an awful lot to have happen. You know, Roxanne Conlin I think is running a very good race. Governor Culver is well funded. He’s working hard. He moved up in the polls recently and then moved back a little bit, but the polls are really pretty uncertain these days. Both of those are going to run as hard as they can, and I think in the end both will be close races.
Glover: And do you think it will help, hurt, or have any impact?
Miller: Well, it just remains to be seen. Both of those races really have to play out.
Glover: Secretary Mauro, same question to you. In a sense you're a down-the-ballot candidate. If there's a big democratic, big republican wave running out there, does it help you or hurt you? How do those top races affect you?
Mauro: Well, I’d love to see winners on both sides. Senate race and the governor's race. I do think at this particular time -- there's a long time between now and November. What margins there are close down and there'll be close races. and at the end the day, if we can get our message out and let people know what we've done in office, understanding the Iowa voter like I think I do, hopefully everybody will be able to --
Glover: Quick question to both of you. Yes or no, is Governor Culver an underdog right now?
Mauro: I would say based on right now, yes, the polls show that he is an underdog, but that doesn't mean Tom Vilsack was an underdog. We can go back to governor after governor who were underdogs going into the race and have survived. So I would say looking at what I see on the polls, I would say that right now Governor Culver has got to move up and I think he will move up.
Glover: General Miller, the same question to you. Is Governor Culver an underdog?
Miller: Yeah, I’d say he's an underdog. He’s behind right now. But in some ways he's a better candidate as an underdog.
Mauro: Well, the first thing I want to do is clarify a couple things. We do require a photo ID for voting. We put in same-day voter registration, which went into effect in 2008. 45,000 people participated in that process. Somehow it never got said to the constituency out there, but they do have to show a photo ID to vote on Election Day at their polling place with a valid address to it. Then in addition to that, we have an identification process that's in place that I fought this year in the legislature. I think democratic leadership wanted to take out the other form of identification we have, and that any poll worker on Election Day -- you know,
Miller: I don't think so. Throughout my career I’ve been a proponent of openness, been an advocate for that in the legislative session. In the sessions I support the new agency that has been proposed by the media. And in terms of enforcement, you know, we're willing and able to enforce any violations right now. We’re working very closely with the ombudsman's office. They sort of filter the complaints and try and resolve them. And if they refer something to us, we're perfectly willing to go ahead and enforce the law. You know, I believe in open government and that's the kind of things we do.
Glover: General Miller, your opponent also said one difference she has with you is that if she's elected attorney general, she will join other states in suing the federal government over the health care overhaul. Where are you on that and what's your position and defense of those issues?
Miller: Seventeen attorney generals have sued the federal government over the health care reform legislation. Thirty-three of us have not and I think for good reason. First and foremost, the attorney general's office is a law office and has to be bound by the law, not by policy and politics or ideology. Once you look at the law, the case is very strong that it's constitutional in the legislation. It all revolves around the mandate that each person would have to get health insurance. The question is does congress have the power to do that, and it's all under the commerce power. Commerce power, as interpreted by the courts by all nine justices, is saying if something is interstate commerce or affects interstate commerce, congress has the authority. Well, when people don't get health insurance, some of them get sick, some of them get injured, they end up in the hospital. The estimates are that a number of billion dollars each year is provided in care. Clearly that has an effect on the whole system. Clearly that has an effect on interstate commerce. So, you know, when you're attorney general, you have to follow the law. That’s what I’ve done and that's where the law leads in this case.
Glover: Mr. Mauro, you have talked at some length about your accomplishments as secretary of state. If you're reelected to another term in office, what's the first thing you're going to ask the legislature to do with the state's election laws?
Mauro: One of the things we want to do is put in place what half the counties have in place here that maybe a lot of people around aware of, electronic poll books. We talk about safety and security and integrity. The electronic poll book was implemented and put in place by a county auditor in
Borg: Attorney General Miller, gay marriage is somewhat of an issue in this election. How much of an issue do you think that's going to be? How is it going to affect the election?
Miller: That remains to be seen. Some people feel very strongly about this issue on both sides. On the other hand, the decision has taken place over a year ago. We’ve had gay marriage in our state for over a year. There hasn't -- doesn't seem to be any enormous consequences from that that's detrimental to our state. So it remains to be seen. I think it's an issue for a number of people, but I don't think it's a central issue.
Borg: Mr. Mauro, how do you think? You’ve been around elections a long time. You’ve watched -- how is this issue going to affect this election?
Mauro: Well, obviously it's not an issue that affects the secretary of state's office constitutionally or legislatively, and everybody has opinions one way or other. I think at the end the day, the Supreme Court made a decision. That’s the law. That’s what we have to go with until something changes.
Glover: General Miller, Governor Culver has come under some heat for some money he's taken from gambling interests. Should candidates -- and former Governor Branstad has taken a fair amount of money from gambling interests as well. Should gambling interests be allowed to contribute to political campaigns which regulate them and --
Miller: I think they should be able to contribute, not the corporations but the individuals. Indeed the U.S. Supreme Court would probably have a lot of trouble with citizens united with such a prohibition. But, you know, there's a number of industries that are regulated a lot by the state. They’re able to contribute. They’re individuals. So I guess, you know, I’m not opposed to gambling interests contributing. It’s a question of public officials, you know, how much money do they take, who do they take it from, what the commitments are.
Glover: Secretary Mauro, does that donation trouble you?
Mauro: The gambling donations? I think you have to take a look at how it's put together. You know, for years and years, you've had special interests who have been involved in a lot of different issues. And my feeling, to take it a step further, just to give you my personal opinion, somewhere -- somewhere along this world, somewhere, someplace we need to rein in special interests groups. We need some type of -- and I say this -- a lot of people might not agree with me, even democrats. We need some type of finance reform in place that makes people accountable. And I’ll tell you what, we're gonna break up a lot of these deadlocks and logjams in congress and in the legislature if we get something done. I’m adamant about that.
Borg: Just a few seconds remaining here, Kay.
Mauro: I hope they remember they have someone who is qualified, who is passionate, who has worked hard as a county auditor, who brought that passion to the office and really brings qualifications. I think they want somebody that's qualified, results oriented. You have it with me.
Miller: I hope they realize that with me they've got someone who is on their side, who is passionate about using the law to further the interest of ordinary Iowans in consumer protection, in criminal prosecution, and is successful at that. I have a great team who are productive. We’re effective for Iowans. And they are the ones that we serve and work hard all the time. And also that I’m someone who is willing to work across party lines. That’s been my history as well.
Borg: Gentlemen, thanks for spending time with us today.
Mauro: Thank you for having us.
Miller: Thank you.
Borg: Well, this not only completes our program for this week, it's our final edition for this broadcast season. It’s our 39th season here on Iowa Public Television. We’re going to take a break, two-and-a-half-month summer hiatus, before beginning our 40th consecutive year. That will be on Friday, September 10. We appreciate your loyalty and your comments, and you can always reach our Iowa Press staff directly by using the Internet address. It’s on the lower edge of your screen right now. It’s email@example.com. I’m Dean Borg. Thanks for joining us today and during this past season.
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