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IOWA PRESS #2827 - Rep. Chuck Larson -- Chairman, Iowa Republican Party
March 4, 2001

Dean Borg: IOWA'S REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS A NEW LEADER. WE'LL DISCUSS PARTY POLITICS WITH THE NEW CHAIRMAN, REPRESENTATIVE CHUCK LARSON OF CEDAR RAPIDS, ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."

Narrator: FUNDING FOR "IOWA PRESS" HAS BEEN PROVIDED BY FRIENDS OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION; AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATION OF BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY... THE VOICE OF IOWA BUSINESS, REPRESENTING THE INTERESTS OF OVER 1,500 IOWA BUSINESSES EMPLOYING 300,000 IOWANS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA... THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE. THIS IS THE SUNDAY, MARCH 4 EDITION OF IOWA PRESS. HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: AMONG CONCERNS FOR BOTH OF IOWA'S MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES, REAPPORTIONMENT IS HIGH ON THE LIST. THE CENSUS OF 2000 HIGHLIGHTS POPULATION SHIFTS, AND THAT MEANS REDRAWING DISTRICT BOUNDARIES FOR REPRESENTATION BY ELECTED OFFICIALS. AND WHEN THEY ARE SET, THE NEW BOUNDARIES REMAIN DURING THE NEXT DECADE FOR BOTH FEDERAL AND STATE ELECTIONS. THE REMAPPING HAS BOTH OBVIOUS AND SOME SUBTLE EFFECTS ON THE POLITICAL PROCESS. IN FACT, THE COMPOSITION OF A DISTRICT DETERMINED BY WHO'S INCLUDED WITHIN THE REDRAWN BOUNDARIES OFTEN DETERMINES WHO RUNS FOR OFFICE. NEW BOUNDARIES DEFINE NEW CONSTITUENCIES, WHICH MAY BE PERCEIVED AS FAVORABLE OR NOT SO FAVORABLE BY AN ASPIRING CANDIDATE. NOW, THE NEW DISTRICTS WON'T BE DETERMINED BY THE IOWA LEGISLATURE UNTIL MAY OR LATER. IN FACT, THE POPULATION STATISTICS, WHICH ARE USED TO DETERMINE THOSE DISTRICTS, HAVEN'T YET BEEN RELEASED. BUT WHEN THE DISTRICTS ARE REDRAWN FOR THE ELECTION OF 2002, ALL 100 SEATS IN THE IOWA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND 25 OF THE 50 SEATS IN THE SENATE WILL BE ON THE BALLOT, AS WILL ALL OF IOWA'S FIVE SEATS IN THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. AND IOWANS WILL ALSO BE ELECTING A GOVERNOR AND A U.S. SENATOR IN 2002. WELL, NEXT WEEK ON IOWA PRESS, WE'LL DISCUSS THE POLITICAL LAY OF THE LAND WITH THE IOWA DEMOCRATIC PARTY'S NEW CHAIRWOMAN, SHEILA MCGUIRE-RIGGS. AND THIS WEEK WE'RE TALKING WITH STATE REPRESENTATIVE CHUCK LARSON OF CEDAR RAPIDS. WELCOME TO IOWA PRESS.

Larson: THANK YOU.

Borg: AND ACROSS THE TABLE, TWO PEOPLE YOU KNOW WELL FROM THE STATEHOUSE, REPORTERS DAVID YEPSEN OF THE DES MOINES REGISTER AND MIKE GLOVER OF THE ASSOCIATED PRESS.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE LARSON, THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO THINK THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN THIS STATE NEEDS A LITTLE WORK. YOU'VE LOST THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE IN THE 1998 ELECTION. THE STATE HAS VOTED DEMOCRATIC IN THE LAST FOUR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. GIVE US A HEALTH REPORT ON THE IOWA REPUBLICAN PARTY. HOW HEALTHY IS IT?

Larson: THE IOWA REPUBLICAN PARTY IS ACTUALLY VERY, VERY STRONG. IN THE PAST, PAST CHAIRMEN HAVE WALKED INTO THIS POSITION WITH A DEBT. WE DO NOT HAVE THAT DEBT. FINANCIALLY WE ARE IN A HEALTHY POSITION. WITHOUT DOUBT, WE DO HAVE A VERY STRONG STATEWIDE ORGANIZATION, AND WE'RE GOING TO WORK ON THE REBUILDING OF THAT ORGANIZATION. IF YOU LOOK AT THE LAST ELECTION, YES, WE DID LOSE THE STATE OF IOWA BY 4,000 VOTES; HOWEVER, THIS WAS THE STRONGEST REPUBLICAN TURNOUT THAT WE'VE EVER SEEN IN OUR PARTY'S HISTORY. AND THIS COMING SPRING WHEN WE HAVE A CHANCE TO CHECK THE FIGURES, I THINK IT WILL TELL THAT.

Glover: WELL, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU NEED TO DO? WHAT IS YOUR TOP PRIORITY?

Larson: OUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY IS CANDIDATE RECRUITMENT. THAT'S BEEN MY PHILOSOPHY WHEN I CHAIRED THE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE FOR THE IOWA HOUSE, THE CORNERSTONE OF A SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN IS A STRONG CANDIDATE WITH A SOUND VISION FOR THE STATE OF IOWA. IF YOU CAN RECRUIT THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST TO LEAD OUR STATE INTO THE FUTURE, FINANCIAL RESOURCES, AND ORGANIZATIONAL RESOURCES WILL FALL RIGHT BEHIND.

Yepsen: FIRST OF ALL, REPRESENTATIVE LARSON, CONGRATULATIONS ON BECOMING THE NEW STATE REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN.

Larson: THANK YOU.

Yepsen: AREN'T YOU FACING A HORRIBLE YEAR? YOU HAVE GOT AN OFF-YEAR BECAUSE YOUR PARTY HOLDS THE WHITE HOUSE. YOU'VE GOT AN INCUMBENT DEMOCRATIC SENATOR. YOU'VE GOT AN INCUMBENT DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR, AND ALL THE INCUMBENCY ADVANTAGE THAT YOU HAVE IN CONGRESS IN THE LEGISLATURE STARTS TO EVAPORATE BECAUSE OF THE REAPPORTIONMENT THAT DEAN WAS TALKING ABOUT. ISN'T THIS REALLY A VERY DIFFICULT ELECTION CYCLE FOR REPUBLICANS?

Larson: WITHOUT A DOUBT IT'S GOING TO BE A VERY CHALLENGING YEAR. HOWEVER, THE BEST WAY TO SWING THE ODDS TO OUR SIDE IS TO BEGIN WORKING EARLY WITH CANDIDATE RECRUITMENT, FUND-RAISING, AND THE COUNTY REBUILDING PROCESS. AND WE'VE STARTED THAT PROCESS NOW. MY FIRST CANDIDATE RECRUITMENT MEETING IS THIS AFTERNOON, AND WE'VE ALREADY BEGUN TO WORK ON OUR STATEWIDE RACES.

Yepsen: SO IT'S ALL CANDIDATES, THEN?

Larson: A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF IT IS CANDIDATES, ABSOLUTELY. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A GOOD CANDIDATE FOR OFFICE, THEN YOUR CHANCES FOR WINNING DECREASE DRAMATICALLY. HOWEVER, IF YOU CAN RECRUIT THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST TO RUN, PEOPLE WHO TRULY BRING SOMETHING TO THE TABLE, THEN YOUR CHANCES GO UP DRAMATICALLY.

Glover: LET'S LOOK AT SOME OF THOSE RACES, PROBABLY THE TOP RACE ON YOUR RADAR SCREEN RIGHT NOW IS THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR. YOU HAVE A DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR, TOM VILSACK --

Larson: CORRECT.

Glover: -- RUNNING FOR REELECTION. HE'S ALREADY RAISED A MILLION DOLLARS. HE HASN'T FORMALLY ANNOUNCED BUT WE'RE ASSUMING HE'S RUNNING. IOWANS HAVE A TENDENCY TO REELECT INCUMBENTS. BOB RAY WAS GOVERNOR FOR FOURTEEN YEARS. TERRY BRANSTAD WAS GOVERNOR FOR 16 YEARS. HOW DO YOU BEAT THIS GUY?

Larson: WELL, I THINK WE'RE BEGINNING TO SEE A PATTERN OF FISCAL MISMANAGEMENT. SINCE THE GOVERNOR HAS TAKEN OFFICE, WE HAD A $900 MILLION SURPLUS. HE HAS SPENT THAT SURPLUS DOWN. HE'S PROPOSED DIPPING INTO THE RAINY-DAY FUND. REPUBLICANS HAVE SAID NO TO THAT. WHEN WE FIRST TOOK OFFICE BACK IN 1992, IOWA HAD A $400 MILLION DEBT. WE HAD TO WORK HARD TO GET OUR STATE OUT OF THAT DEBT, AND WE DON'T WANT TO GO BACK INTO IT. FOR THAT REASON, WE'RE NOT GOING TO ALLOW THE GOVERNOR TO WALK DOWN THIS ROAD. RIGHT NOW, WE'RE FACING A DEFICIT OF $35 MILLION TO $40 MILLION FOR THIS FISCAL YEAR AND POTENTIALLY $250 MILLION FOR NEXT YEAR. EVEN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL NOTED THAT GOVERNOR VILSACK HAS A RECKLESS FISCAL POLICY AND GAVE HIM AN "F" FOR FISCAL POLICY, ONE OF THE THREE WORST GOVERNORS IN THE NATION. THAT IS SOMETHING THAT IOWANS UNDERSTAND. WE HAVE TO BALANCE OUR CHECKBOOKS. THE STATE SHOULD ALSO.

Glover: DO YOU THINK THAT ISSUE WILL BEAT HIM?

Larson: OH, I DEFINITELY DO. NOT ONLY ARE WE SEEING A PATTERN OF FISCAL MISMANAGEMENT, BUT WE'RE ALSO SEEING A PATTERN OF POLITICAL PAYBACK, WHETHER IT BE THE SOLE-SOURCE, $100,000 CONTRACT TO ONE OF HIS MAJOR DONORS OR WHAT WE'RE SEEING ON THE LABOR FRONT WITH TITAN TIRE, FOR EXAMPLE. IT'S THOSE TYPES OF EXAMPLES WHEN YOU STRING THEM TOGETHER -- IT RAISES EYEBROWS AND CONCERN ABOUT WHO IS THE GOVERNOR REPRESENTING. IS HE REPRESENTING THE PEOPLE OF IOWA OR IS HE REPRESENTING LABOR UNIONS AND MAJOR DONORS?

Borg: OKAY, YOU'VE DEFINED WHERE YOU THINK HE MIGHT BE VULNERABLE. YOU'VE SAID ALSO YOU WANT STRONG CANDIDATES WITH A VISION, "THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST" YOU'VE SAID A COUPLE OF TIMES. PUT SOME NAMES AND FACES ON THOSE QUALIFICATIONS.

Larson: WE HAVE TWO OUTSTANDING CANDIDATES THAT HAVE ENTERED THE FIELD. THE FIRST STEVE SUKUP, WHO IS THE SPEAKER PRO TEM AT THE IOWA HOUSE. STEVE COMES FROM A MANUFACTURING BACKGROUND, STRONG AGRICULTURAL BACKGROUND. AND HIS COMPANY IS THE TYPE OF COMPANY THAT IS RECRUITING AND HIRING ISU GRADS THAT ARE HIGH TECH, SO HE BRINGS THE FUTURE OF IOWA WITH HIM. HE HAS A TREMENDOUS NUMBER OF LEGISLATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENTS UNDER HIS BELT DURING THE SIX YEARS THAT HE'S BEEN IN OFFICE AND IS ALSO A PROVEN FUND-RAISER. ALSO, WE HAVE BOB VANDER PLAATS FROM SIOUX CITY. BOB IS THE CHAIR OF THE SIOUXLAND OPTIONS COMPANY. HE USED TO BE A PRINCIPAL. HE HAS QUITE A STORY TO TELL. HE USED TO BE A HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL. HE SERVED ON "OPTIONS UNLIMITED'S" BOARD. IT WAS A NOT-FOR-PROFIT COMPANY THAT HELPS PEOPLE WITH BRAIN INJURIES. THE COMPANY WAS GOING UNDER. IT WAS GOING BANKRUPT. THEY ASKED BOB TO LEAVE HIS SECURE POSITION AS A HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL TO TAKE THIS COMPANY BACK TO LIFE.

Borg: AND NEITHER OF THOSE, REPRESENTATIVE LARSON, ARE REALLY HOUSEHOLD NAMES.

Larson: WELL, NO THEY'RE NOT. BUT I THINK IT'S ALSO IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT JUST TWO YEARS AGO, THERE WAS A RELATIVELY UNKNOWN STATE SENATOR FROM MT. PLEASANT, IOWA, WHO IS NOW OUR GOVERNOR.

Glover: YOU DIDN'T MENTION JEFF LAMBERTI.

Larson: JEFF LAMBERTI HAS NOT ANNOUNCED. I KNOW HE'S STILL CONSIDERING THE RUN. WE HAVE TWO CANDIDATES IN THE FIELD, AND THERE COULD BE A THIRD EMERGING.

Yepsen: TALK TO ME ABOUT THE LEGISLATURE AND WHAT YOU'RE DOING UP THERE. WE SEE THE LEGISLATURE SENDING BILLS TO GOVERNOR VILSACK THAT YOU KNOW HE'S NOT GOING TO SIGN: RIGHT TO WORK, DOVE BILLS. WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THE STRATEGY OF SOFTENING UP TOM VILSACK IS WORKING?

Larson: THESE ARE ISSUES THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO THE PEOPLE OF IOWA, AND IT DEFINES WHERE THE GOVERNOR STANDS ON THESE ISSUES. IT WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY POINTLESS TO SEND HIM SOMETHING THAT HE WOULD NOT CONSIDER SIGNING. WE DO SEND HIM BILLS FOR HIM TO CONSIDER, AND THEN IT ALLOWS IOWANS TO UNDERSTAND WHERE HE STANDS ON THOSE ISSUES AS WELL.

Yepsen: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO TENDING TO THE PUBLIC'S BUSINESS? WHY ARE WE SPENDING ALL THIS TIME IN THE IOWA LEGISLATURE FOOLING AROUND TRYING TO MAKE TOM VILSACK LOOK BAD?

Larson: THE RIGHT-TO-WORK ISSUE IS A CRITICAL ISSUE. I WAS IN DUBUQUE A FEW WEEKS AGO VISITING WITH THEIR CHAMBER OF COMMERCE MEMBERS, AND THEY SAID THIS IS ONE OF THE TOP ISSUES THAT EMPLOYERS LOOKING TO RELOCATE INTO IOWA ASK ABOUT.

Yepsen: BUT DO YOU HAVE ANY EVIDENCE THAT IT'S WORKING, ANY POLLING EVIDENCE, ANYTHING TO TELL YOU THAT IT'S WORKING, THAT TOM VILSACK IS STARTING TO BECOME VULNERABLE?

Larson: IN JANUARY THE MASON-DIXON POLL THAT CAME OUT HAD HIS REELECT RATE AT 42 PERCENT. SO, YES, HE IS VULNERABLE. ANYTIME AN INCUMBENT'S REELECT RATE IS BELOW 50 PERCENT, THEY ARE VULNERABLE.

Glover: LET'S LOOK AT ANOTHER ELECTION COMING UP ON THE RADAR SCREEN NEXT YEAR, AND THAT'S THE UNITED STATES SENATE. YOU HAVE AN INCUMBENT DEMOCRATIC SENATOR, WHO'S FAIRLY STRONG IN THE POLLS, DOING PRETTY GOOD RAISING MONEY. HOW DO YOU BEAT HIM?

Larson: ACTUALLY, AN INTERESTING THING ABOUT SENATOR TOM HARKIN, THE LAST THREE ELECTIONS WE'VE SEEN HIM GO FROM 56 PERCENT, 54 PERCENT, 52 PERCENT. HE'S BECOMING MORE VULNERABLE. IN THE SAME MASON-DIXON POLL, HIS REELECTION RATE WAS AT 45 PERCENT. THERE ARE TWO CANDIDATES IN THAT FIELD. THE TOP CANDIDATE -- OR SITTING CONGRESSMAN GREG GANSKE, WHO IS ONE OF THE MOST TENACIOUS CAMPAIGNERS I HAVE EVER SEEN. I'LL GO INTO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HEADQUARTERS EARLY IN THE MORNING, AND THERE'S GREG WORKING AWAY. I THINK THE SECRET TO WINNING THIS RACE IS GREG GANSKE. MANY PEOPLE OFTEN ASKED HOW DO YOU BEAT NEAL SMITH, IT WAS GREG GANSKE THAT DID IT, AND I THINK HE'LL DO IT AGAIN.

Glover: WHO IS THE OTHER CANDIDATE?

Larson: BOB -- EXCUSE ME, THE OTHER CANDIDATE IS BILL SALIER FROM NORTH CENTRAL IOWA, WHO'S BEEN DRIVING ACROSS IOWA AND CHAMPIONING WHY TOM VILSACK SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM OFFICE.

Yepsen: EXCUSE ME. HOW IS THIS ELECTION, THE SENATE RACE, GOING TO BE DIFFERENT THAN OTHER ONES? TOM HARKIN, IN HIS CAREER, HAS KNOCKED OFF THREE REPUBLICANS CONGRESSMEN AND ONE SENATOR. WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT SERVING UP ANOTHER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN IS GOING TO TAKE HIM THIS TIME?

Larson: AGAIN, GREG GANSKE IS ONE OF THE MOST TENACIOUS CAMPAIGNERS I'VE EVER SEEN. IN THE PAST, SENATOR TOM HARKIN HAS HAD A VERY LARGE WAR CHEST, FAR OUTPACING THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE. TODAY HE HAS A WAR CHEST OF APPROXIMATELY $475,000. CONGRESSMAN GREG GANSKE IS AROUND $430,000. SO THEY'RE COMPETITIVE FINANCIALLY AND GREG IS WORKING VERY, VERY HARD. IF YOU ALSO LOOK AT THE AREA THAT GREG CURRENTLY REPRESENTS, THIS CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT HAS OFTEN GONE DEMOCRAT. HE HAS WON IT CONSISTENTLY, AND I BELIEVE THAT WILL BE THE EDGE THAT WILL GIVE HIM VICTORY IN NOVEMBER.

Glover: I'D LIKE TO TURN BACK TO A QUESTION THAT DAVE ASKED EARLIER AND REPHRASE IS IT A LITTLE BIT. WE ARE IN THE FIRST ELECTION, MID-TERM ELECTION OF A SITTING REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT. HISTORY TEACHES US THAT'S A BAD YEAR FOR THE PARTY IN POWER. HOW DO YOU FIGHT THAT?

Larson: AGAIN, I THINK YOU FIGHT BY RECRUITING THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST TO RUN FOR OFFICE AND AGGRESSIVELY REBUILDING OUR COUNTY ORGANIZATION. WE'RE WORKING WITH THE WHITE HOUSE ON HELPING DEVELOP THEIR AGENDA AND PROMOTING IT THROUGH OUR COUNTY ORGANIZATIONS, AND THAT'S AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR BUILDING PROCESS. BUT AGAIN, THE FOUNDATION IS THE CANDIDATE. IF YOU HAVE A SOLID CANDIDATE, YOU CAN WIN.

Borg: BUILDING ON MIKE'S QUESTION HERE, YOU HAVE A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT NOW. HOW CAN YOU LEVERAGE THAT FOR IOWA?

Larson: ABSOLUTELY. I THINK TODAY -- OR JUST THIS WEEK WE HAD PRESIDENT BUSH IN THIS STATE. YOU WILL SEE A NUMBER OF HIS CABINET SECRETARIES VISITING IOWA OVER THE NEXT TWO YEARS PROMOTING HIS AGENDA, PROMOTING THE REPUBLICAN VISION. THAT WILL BE VERY, VERY HELPFUL ALSO.

Yepsen: I WANT TO TALK BACK ON HARKIN FOR A MINUTE. WHAT ISSUES HAVE YOU GOT TO THROW AGAINST HIM? REPUBLICANS ALWAYS HAVE TALKED ABOUT TIGER CAGES AND A PLACE IN THE BAHAMAS AND ALL THESE OLD ISSUES, AND THEY NEVER SEEM TO RESONATE WITH VOTERS. HAVE YOU GOT A NEW ISSUE TO TAKE TO TOM HARKIN? HE'S RANKING MEMBER OF THE SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE, MAYBE CHAIRMAN OF THAT COMMITTEE. WHAT ARGUMENT DO YOU HAVE TO TELL IOWANS THAT WE OUGHT TO FIRE OUR HIRED HELP AND GET A NEW GUY?

Larson: I THINK THE CRITICAL ISSUE IS TO LOOK AT HIS VOTING RECORD. AND JUST RECENTLY THE NATIONAL JOURNAL RATED HIM AS THE THIRD MOST LIBERAL SENATOR IN IOWA. FOUR YEARS OUT OF HIS TERM, HE VOTES AS THE MOST LIBERAL SENATOR. THEN THE LAST TWO YEARS PRIOR TO THE ELECTION, HE BEGINS TO REINVENT HIMSELF AS A CONSERVATIVE POPULIST.

Yepsen: EXCUSE ME, MR. CHAIRMAN, IT IS NOT NEWS TO THE PEOPLE OF IOWA THAT TOM HARKIN IS A LIBERAL. SO WHAT? A LOT OF PEOPLE IN IOWA ARE LIBERALS. HOW IS THAT GOING TO BEAT HIM?

Larson: WHAT'S GOING TO BE CRITICAL IS DEFINING HIS VOTES FOR THE PEOPLE OF IOWA TO HELP THEM UNDERSTAND WHY HE IS NOT IN STEP WITH IOWA, WHY CONGRESSMAN GREG GANSKE IS MORE IN STEP.

Glover: LET'S GO BACK TO ANOTHER ELECTION, AND THAT'S THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. GEORGE BUSH IS GOING TO BE RUNNING AGAIN IN FOUR YEARS. YOU'RE GOING TO BE CHAIRMAN OF THE IOWA REPUBLICAN PARTY FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS. YOU WERE AN EARLY AND ARDENT SUPPORTER OF GEORGE BUSH. YOU WERE ONE OF THOSE LEGISLATORS WHO FLEW DOWN TO AUSTIN TO URGE HIM TO RUN. CAN YOU BE COUNTED ON TO USE THE MACHINERY, THE LEVERAGE OF THE IOWA REPUBLICAN PARTY TO QUELL ANY INTERNAL UPRISING AND MAKE SURE THAT GEORGE BUSH DOESN'T HAVE A PRIMARY?

Larson: WE WILL BE WORKING VERY, VERY CLOSELY WITH THE WHITE HOUSE TO HELP BRING IN, AS I SAID EARLIER, CABINET SECRETARIES AND OTHERS. AND I THINK YOU WILL SEE A STRONG PRESENCE FROM THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION OVER THE NEXT FOUR YEARS IN IOWA.

Glover: DO YOU HAVE SOME SIGNALS THAT THAT'S GOING TO BE THE CASE?

Larson: WE DO, WITH DO. THE DAY AFTER HIS BUDGET ADDRESS, HE WAS BACK IN THE STATE OF IOWA. THE DAY BEFORE THE ELECTION, HE WAS IN THE STATE OF IOWA. HE'S VERY, VERY COMMITTED. HE'S KEPT THOSE TIES VERY STRONG, AND WE'RE VISITING WITH THEM RIGHT NOW ABOUT TAKING A GROUP OF IOWANS OUT TO VISIT THE WHITE HOUSE TO REINFORCE THOSE STRONG TIES. BUT THAT'S -- YOUR ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. THAT'S WHERE HIS FATHER HAD TROUBLE BACK IN 1992 WAS IN IOWA AND NEW HAMPSHIRE. AND I THINK HE'S LEARNED A LESSON THAT IT'S CRITICAL TO KEEP IOWA ON THE RADAR NOW.

 

Glover: SO IF THE 2004 VERSION OF PAT BUCHANAN POPS UP IN IOWA, YOU CAN BE COUNTED ON TO SIT ON HIM.

Larson: ABSOLUTELY.

Yepsen: WELL, IN 1992 YOU DIDN'T EVEN HOLD A COUNT OF THE CAUCUSES; ISN'T THAT RIGHT?

Larson: WELL --

Yepsen: IS THAT ONE WAY YOU PROTECT PRESIDENT BUSH IF HE'S GOT OPPOSITION IN FOUR YEARS?

Larson: I THINK THE WAY WE PROTECT PRESIDENT BUSH IS BY HELPING DEVELOP AND PROMOTE HIS AGENDA IN IOWA.

Yepsen: WILL WE SEE - MORE SERIOUSLY, WILL WE SEE PRESIDENT BUSH BUILD A FIRE WALL HERE IN IOWA TO STOP ANY CHALLENGES FROM THE PARTY'S FAR RIGHT? WE SAW PRESIDENT CLINTON DO THAT ON THE LEFT IN HIS PARTY. WE SAW PRESIDENT CARTER DO THAT WITH TED KENNEDY IN 1980. DO YOU THINK THAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN WITH PRESIDENT BUSH HERE IN IOWA?

Larson: RIGHT NOW THE PARTY IS VERY UNIFIED BEHIND PRESIDENT BUSH. AND HE IS REACHING OUT TO ALL FACTIONS OF OUR PARTY AND KEEPING THEM ONBOARD, AND I THINK HE'LL CONTINUE TO DO THAT. AS HE HAS SAID, HE IS A UNIFIER, NOT A DIVIDER, AND WILL CONTINUE TO WORK AT PROMOTING THE UNITED INTERESTS.

Yepsen: LET'S WORK OUR WAY DOWN THE BALLOT. CONGRESS... WE'LL HAVE FIVE CONGRESSIONAL SEATS ON THE BALLOT IN '02. FOUR ARE HELD BY REPUBLICANS. THIS IS A PRETTY EVENLY DIVIDED STATE. WHAT EVIDENCE DO YOU HAVE THAT IOWA WILL KEEP FOUR REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS?

Larson: A LOT OF THAT IS GOING TO BE DETERMINED BY REDISTRICTING. WE HAVE TWO CANDIDATES THAT ARE LOOKING RIGHT NOW AT CONGRESSMAN GANSKE'S SEAT. STATE AUDITOR RICHARD JOHNSON HAS ANNOUNCED THAT HE WILL BE RUNNING; AND THEN STAN THOMPSON WHO SERVES ON THE STATE REPUBLICAN SENATE COMMITTEE, A LAWYER FROM HERE IN DES MOINES. BOTH ARE ACTIVELY ORGANIZING AND RECRUITING RIGHT NOW. BOTH HAVE VERY INTERESTING ATTRIBUTES THAT THEY BRING TO THE TABLE AND WILL BE STRONG IN THAT CONGRESSIONAL SEAT. WE WILL HAVE TO WAIT AND SEE WHAT REDISTRICTING LAYS OUT FOR US.

Yepsen: BUT BY DEFINITION, MR. CHAIRMAN, DOESN'T REDISTRICTING REMOVE THE REPUBLICAN ADVANTAGE OF INCUMBENCY? YOU MAY HAVE A REPUBLICAN INCUMBENT, BUT HE'S GOT NO ADVANTAGE OF INCUMBENCY BECAUSE HE'S RUNNING IN A TOTALLY NEW DISTRICT. DOESN'T THAT TAKE AWAY SOME OF THE ADVANTAGE YOU HAVE IN HOLDING FOUR SEATS RIGHT NOW?

Larson: NO, I DON'T BELIEVE SO WHATSOEVER. I THINK IN EASTERN IOWA, WHERE YOU'VE SEEN THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE GROWTH IN THE STATE OF IOWA, YOU'LL SEE JIM NUSSLE'S DISTRICT TIGHTEN UP SOME, SO HE'LL MOST LIKELY KEEP THE VAST MAJORITY OF HIS DISTRICT. JIM LEACH HAS REPRESENTED THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE AREA THAT HE COULD POTENTIALLY REPRESENT AGAIN. AND AGAIN, HE WILL HAVE THOSE SAME STRENGTHS THAT THE INCUMBENT DOES HAVE.

Glover: HELP US OUT WITH JIM LEACH. WE ALL HEAR RUMORS ABOUT HIM AND HIS FUTURE. HE'S NOT A COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN ANYMORE. THERE'S A LOT OF RUMORS HE MAY BE GOING SOMEWHERE ELSE. WHAT DO YOU HEAR?

Larson: JUST VISITED WITH HIM LAST WEEK AND HE SAID, "I'M RUNNING AGAIN, CHUCK. I'M RUNNING AGAIN."

Glover: SO YOU'RE CONFIDENT YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE HIM AROUND FOR TWO MORE YEARS.

Larson: YES.

Yepsen: TALK ABOUT THE FOURTH DISTRICT HERE IN CENTRAL IOWA. POLK COUNTY IS A DEMOCRATIC COUNTY. IT HAS GROWN IN POPULATION. WHATEVER CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT POLK COUNTY IS IN WILL BE SMALLER. WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT A DISTRICT THAT HAS BECOME MORE DEMOCRATIC IS ALL OF A SUDDEN GOING TO BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR REPUBLICANS?

Larson: I THINK IT WILL TIGHTEN UP SOME, BUT I THINK THERE'S SOME VERY STRONG POTENTIAL THAT IT COULD GO SOUTH LIKE A PYRAMID, ESSENTIALLY, INTO THE RURAL AREA THAT TRADITIONALLY TENDS TO BE VERY, VERY REPUBLICAN.

Glover: AND THAT WILL INCLUDE LEONARD BOSWELL.

Larson: IT COULD, YES.

Glover: SO THAT WOULD BE A VERY SOLID DISTRICT FOR LEONARD BOSWELL AND A VERY TOUGH DISTRICT FOR REPUBLICANS.

Larson: I DON'T KNOW. LEONARD RUNS VERY, VERY WELL IN THE RURAL AREAS. HOW WELL HE'LL RUN IN THE URBAN AREAS IS YET TO BE SEEN. THAT'S WHERE A STAN THOMPSON OR A DICK JOHNSON WHO HAS BROAD APPEAL ACROSS-THE-BOARD TO DEMOCRATS, INDEPENDENTS AND REPUBLICANS HAS A VERY GOOD CHANCE OF DEFEATING HIM.

Yepsen: TALK ABOUT YOUR OWN FUTURE FOR A MINUTE HERE. WE'RE TALKING ABOUT CONGRESSIONAL SEATS AND WHAT MAY COME OPEN OR NOT. ISN'T THERE A SCENARIO WHERE LINN COUNTY IS THROWN INTO AN OPEN SEAT? WOULD YOU RUN FOR CONGRESS, GIVE UP THE CHAIRMANSHIP AND RUN FOR CONGRESS?

Larson: WELL, RIGHT NOW I'M FOCUSED ON RUNNING THE PARTY.

Yepsen: YEAH, BUT WILL THAT CHANGE IN MAY WHEN WE GET NEW DISTRICT LINES?

Larson: I THINK IT'S UNLIKELY THAT WE'LL SEE THAT HAPPEN. IF LINN COUNTY WERE SEPARATED, I THINK YOU WOULD SEE A CONGRESSMAN BY THE NAME OF JIM NUSSLE MOVE TO LINN COUNTY, AN AREA THAT HE USED TO REPRESENT, AND WE WOULD WELCOME HIM.

Glover: THERE'S ALL KINDS OF TALK ABOUT AGREEMENTS YOU REACHED WHEN YOU WERE ELECTED AS CHAIR OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY NOT TO RUN THIS TIME. DID YOU MAKE A DEAL NOT TO RUN FOR HIGHER OFFICE IN 2002 AS PART OF BEING ELECTED CHAIR?

Larson: NO, I DID NOT COMMIT TO DOING THAT. I COMMITTED TO LEADING OUR PARTY. I DO NOT FORESEE THAT HAPPENING WHATSOEVER.

Glover: SO YOU HAVE RIGHT NOW NO PLANS OF RUNNING FOR ANYTHING IN 2002?

Larson: CORRECT.

Borg: BUT YOU DO HAVE A UNIQUE INSIGHT -- BECAUSE YOU ARE A STATE REPRESENTATIVE RIGHT NOW, YOU HAVE A UNIQUE INSIGHT INTO HOW TO HOLD THE IOWA LEGISLATURE FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO DO IT? WHAT'S THE STRATEGY? IS IT ISSUES? YOU'VE ALREADY SAID CANDIDATES, BUT WHAT'S THE MIX?

Larson: IT'S -- TO BE VERY, VERY HONEST WITH YOU, AGAIN, CANDIDATES IS WHERE IT ALL STARTS. WHEN I CHAIRED THE HOUSE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE, THAT'S WHERE WE MET OUR SUCCESS. WE STARTED EARLY RECRUITING THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST, PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN SUCCESSFUL AS EITHER BUSINESS LEADERS OR COMMUNITY LEADERS IN THEIR TOWN. THE FORMULA WE USED TO KEEP THE IOWA HOUSE AND THE IOWA SENATE, WE WANT TO TAKE STATEWIDE NOW TO HELP WIN THOSE ELECTIONS. BUT AGAIN, IT COMES DOWN TO GOOD CANDIDATES, SOLID ORGANIZATION, WHICH USUALLY WILL FOLLOW, AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT, WHICH WE WILL HELP RAISE.

Yepsen: HOW MANY REPUBLICAN INCUMBENTS IN THE LEGISLATURE ARE GOING TO RETIRE? I MEAN, WE'RE HEARING THAT A LOT OF REPUBLICAN INCUMBENTS MAY HANG IT UP. IT WILL BE NEW DISTRICTS AND THEY'RE BURNED OUT. THEY'RE TIRED. THEY'VE DONE THEIR PUBLIC SERVICE. IT'S TIME TO MOVE ON. IF THAT HAPPENS, AREN'T YOU IN TROUBLE FOR TRYING TO HOLD ON TO CONTROL OF THE LEGISLATURE?

Larson: I LEARNED A VERY IMPORTANT LESSON IN THE LAST ELECTION CYCLE, AND THAT IS YOU MUST KEEP EVERY SINGLE INCUMBENT YOU POSSIBLY CAN RUNNING. AND SO WE WORK WITH OUR INCUMBENTS TO FIND WAYS TO KEEP THEM RUNNING AGAIN. LAST TIME IN REDISTRICTING, 40 PERCENT OF THE INCUMBENTS IN THE IOWA HOUSE WERE THROWN TOGETHER. WHEN IT ALL SHOOK OUT, THERE WERE 14 COMPETITIVE RACES. THAT WILL BE AN ISSUE. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF CANDIDATES THAT ARE WAITING TO SEE WHAT THEIR DISTRICT IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE BEFORE THEY MAKE A FINAL DECISION.

Borg: IN IOWA, WITH THE NEW POPULATION STATISTICS COMING OUT, AND WE'VE ALREADY SEEN A LITTLE PREVIEW THROUGH SOME SCHOOL RECORDS. DR. WILLIS GOUDY, THE POPULATION SPECIALIST AT IOWA STATE, SAYS THAT HISPANICS HAVE NOW REPLACED BLACKS AS THE MINORITY -- THE RANKING MINORITY GROUP. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO REACH OUT TO THAT SPECIFIC CONSTITUENCY?

Larson: THERE'S A WOMAN FROM SIOUX CITY, IOWA, BY THE NAME OF MARIA RUNDQUIST, WHO I JUST MET WITH THIS WEEK, WHO IS LATINO AND WAS VERY ACTIVE IN THE BUSH CAMPAIGN. WE ARE ALREADY BUILDING THE PLAN TO BEGIN VISITING MUSCATINE, DAVENPORT, DUBUQUE, CEDAR RAPIDS, MARSHALLTOWN, TO BEGIN REACHING OUT AND WORKING WITH LATINO BUSINESS MEMBERS.

Borg: ARE YOU GOING TO SPECIFICALLY SEEK CANDIDATES WHO ARE MINORITIES?

Larson: ABSOLUTELY. I THINK IT'S ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL. WE NEED TO RECRUIT MORE WOMEN TO RUN FOR OFFICE, AS WELL.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE LARSON, I'D LIKE YOU TO ADDRESS A TENOR ISSUE THAT YOU HEAR A LOT OF UP AT THE STATEHOUSE. THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO SAY THE ATMOSPHERE, THE AIR AT THE STATEHOUSE IS SHARPLY PARTISAN, HEATED, AND WE'RE INTO A GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION CYCLE. ARE THE PEOPLE OF IOWA WELL SERVED BY A TWO-YEAR GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION CYCLE WHERE THE PUBLIC BUSINESS IS PUT ON HOLD?

Larson: I DO NOT CARE FOR THAT TENOR WHATSOEVER. AND I DO THINK WE ARE SEEING A DIFFERENT TENOR COMING OUT OF THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE. I BELIEVE THAT WE CAMPAIGN HARD FOR ELECTION DAY, BUT ONCE THE ELECTION DAY HAS COME, IT'S IMPORTANT TO PUT POLITICS ON THE SHELF AND BEGIN WORKING FOR THE PEOPLE OF IOWA. WE HAVE SOME VERY IMPORTANT ISSUES FROM THE BUDGET THAT IS FACING US RIGHT NOW THAT WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO ADDRESS, AND WE NEED A GOVERNOR THAT IS WILLING TO SIT DOWN AND WORK THROUGH THESE PROBLEMS. OTHERWISE, WE WILL HAVE A FISCAL MESS.

Yepsen: I WANT TO GO BACK TO DEAN'S QUESTION ON LATINOS IN IOWA. HOW DOES IT HELP THE REPUBLICAN PARTY WITH LATINOS TO PASS ENGLISH-ONLY BILLS?

Larson: I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT, AS I SAID EARLIER, WE WILL BE REACHING OUT AND WORKING IN THOSE COMMUNITIES TO HELP ANSWER AND WORK WITH THEM ON THEIR ISSUES. ENGLISH IS AN INTERESTING ISSUE. I REMEMBER BACK WHEN I WAS A YOUNG MAN BACK IN 1974, OUR CHURCH HELPED BRING A FAMILY THAT WAS A REFUGEE FAMILY FROM THE VIETNAM WAR IN. AND CRITICAL TO THEIR SUCCESS IN IOWA, THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL THEY HAD WAS ENGLISH. WE TAUGHT THEM ENGLISH AND WE TAUGHT THEM ABOUT OUR MONETARY SYSTEM. AND IT'S INTERESTING, TWO OF THE THREE SONS HAVE SINCE BECOME MILLIONAIRES IN THIS COUNTRY. THE IMMIGRANTS THAT I HAVE VISITED WITH RECOGNIZE THAT THE KEY TO THEIR SUCCESS IS ENGLISH, AND THAT'S WHY THIS IS AN IMPORTANT ISSUE.

Yepsen: BUT LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN CALIFORNIA WHEN THEY STARTED DOWN THIS PATH OF FORCING IMMIGRANTS, BASHING IMMIGRANTS. YOU'RE A MINORITY PARTY IN CALIFORNIA TODAY. PETE WILSON IS ANATHEMA TO LATINOS THERE. ARE YOU NOT GOING DOWN THE SAME PATH IN THIS STATE, ON A PATH THAT WILL ALIENATE YOU FROM LATINOS' VOTES FOREVER?

Larson: NO, I DON'T THINK SO. IN FACT, MANY OF THE IMMIGRANTS THAT I HAVE VISITED WITH ARE SUPPORTIVE OF THIS TYPE OF AN EFFORT BECAUSE THEY REALIZE THAT WITHOUT A STRONG FIRM UNDERSTANDING OF ENGLISH, SUCCESS IS VERY, VERY DIFFICULT. IN OUR HIGH SCHOOLS TODAY, WE ENCOURAGE OUR CHILDREN TO LEARN A SECOND LANGUAGE BECAUSE IT DOES MAKE THEM MORE COMPETITIVE IN THE WORKFORCE.

Glover: YOU ARE A STATE REPRESENTATIVE. YOU'RE CHAIRMAN OF THE IOWA REPUBLICAN PARTY. PEOPLE HAVE RULED THAT THERE'S NO OFFICIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST THERE AS FAR AS RAISING MONEY AND SO FORTH. BUT IS THERE A PERCEPTION CONFLICT? IS YOUR ACTION IN THE LEGISLATURE PERCEIVED AS SPEAKING FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY?

Larson: WHEN I FIRST CONSIDERED RUNNING FOR THIS POSITION, WE DID VISIT WITH CAMPAIGN FINANCE DISCLOSURE. I WOULD NOT HAVE RUN IF THERE WERE A CONFLICT, AND THEY SAID THERE IS NO CONFLICT WHATSOEVER. WE WORK CLOSELY WITH CAMPAIGN FINANCE DISCLOSURE. STATE REPRESENTATIVES ARE PROHIBITED BY LAW OR CANDIDATES FROM ACCEPTING FUNDS FOR PACS OR REGISTERED LOBBYISTS WHILE WE'RE IN SESSION. THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF IOWA IS NOT. HOWEVER, I BELIEVE THAT THE RULES THAT ARE APPLIED TO STATE REPRESENTATIVES FOR THEIR OWN CAMPAIGNS SHOULD APPLY FOR THE PARTY AS WELL AND, FOR THAT REASON, I DO NOT SOLICIT FUNDS.

Glover: BUT DEAL WITH THE PERCEPTION CONFLICT. ARE YOU, IN FACT YOUR ACTIONS IN THE LEGISLATURE, VIEWED AS SPEAKING FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY?

Larson: THE ISSUE HAS TO BE APPROACHED CAREFULLY. AND TO DATE, I WORK CLOSELY WITH OUR LEADERSHIP, AND OUR LEADERSHIP HAS ALWAYS WORKED CLOSELY WITH THE PARTY LEADERSHIP TO ENSURE THAT WE HAVE AN AGENDA THAT IS EMBRACED BY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. I HAVE NOT SEEN A CONFLICT TO DATE.

Yepsen: WE'VE GOT ABOUT TEN SECONDS LEFT. WILL THE PARTY MESSAGE CHANGE UNDER YOUR LEADERSHIP IN ANY WAY?

Larson: I'M A BIG-TIME REPUBLICAN, AND I BELIEVE IN WELCOMING EVERYONE. I'VE SEEN CAMPAIGNS WHERE THEY'VE SPENT MORE TIME TALKING ABOUT WHO SHOULDN'T BE AT THE TABLE RATHER THAN WHO SHOULD BE AT THE TABLE. I BELIEVE IN BRINGING EVERYONE TO THE TABLE, AND I THINK THAT WILL BE THE KEY TO OUR SUCCESS IN THE FUTURE.

Borg: CHAIRMAN LARSON, REPRESENTATIVE LARSON, THANK YOU.

Larson: THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Borg: ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF IOWA PRESS, REPRESENTATIVE LARSON'S COUNTERPART IN THE IOWA DEMOCRATIC PARTY, SHEILA MCGUIRE-RIGGS OF DES MOINES, WILL BE JOINING US. SHE'S REPLACED ROB TULLY AS THE CHAIR OF THE IOWA DEMOCRATIC PARTY, AND SHE'LL BE DISCUSSING SIMILAR ISSUES WITH US. YOU'LL NOTE THAT NEXT WEEK, IOWA PRESS AIRS ONLY SUNDAY NIGHT AT 6:15. IN CLOSING, AS YOU'VE NO DOUBT NOTED BY NOW, WE'RE WELL UNDER WAY WITH OUR ANNUAL FRIENDS FESTIVAL. AS YOU CONSIDER YOUR PLEDGE OF FINANCIAL SUPPORT, WE'D LIKE TO HAVE YOU CONSIDER IOWA PRESS PROGRAMS THAT YOU'VE SEEN THROUGHOUT THE YEAR. IOWA PRESS, AS YOU KNOW, IS A MAJOR ELEMENT IN IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION'S LOCALLY PRODUCED PROGRAMMING. AND THOSE PROGRAMS, IOWA PRESS INCLUDED, ARE MADE POSSIBLE BY THE SUPPORT OF FRIENDS OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION... FRIENDS LIKE YOU. THANK YOU. THAT'S IT FOR THIS WEEK'S EDITION OF IOWA PRESS. UNTIL NEXT SUNDAY AT 6:15, I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.