By Craig Robinson
NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt once said. “Second place is just the first loser.” The legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, held a similar opinion on finishing in second place. Lombardi said, “There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that is first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I never want to finish second again.”
Maybe one of the reasons why Iowa doesn’t have a professional football team or host a top level NASCAR race is because in our state, you don’t want to finish in first or second place. No, in Iowa, it seems that the third place finisher is the real winner. If you don’t believe me, just ask Rick Santorum.
On Wednesday, Republican central committee members in House District 37 will gather to nominate a candidate for State Representative since none of the six candidates who vied for the nomination in the primary met the 35 percent threshold that is required by state law.
A number of people are already talking about the likelihood that the first place finisher, Jim Robidoux, might not be chosen despite the fact that he ran the best campaign, easily defeated the five other Republican candidates in the June 5th primary, and missed meeting the 35 percent threshold by less than one percent, or less than 20 votes.
Robidoux isn’t favored to prevail at the nominating convention because he focused on trying to win the primary instead of stacking the Polk County Central Committee with his friends and allies. How foolish of him. While he was wasting time knocking on 1500 doors across the district, he should have been plotting and scheming. Instead of being involved with the Ankeny School Board, he should have been attending dysfunctional Polk County Central Committee meetings and partaking in the infighting that festers there.
Most people expect Matt DeVries, the second place finisher in the primary, to be the candidate selected on Wednesday night. While DeVries got 91 fewer votes than Robidoux on primary night, his strong ties to the Ron Paul campaign give him an advantage at the nominating convention since the Paul campaign instructed it’s supporters to fill delegate and central committee spots on caucus night.
Even with the direction from the Paul campaign, 10 of the 22 positions on that Polk County Central Committee went unfilled on caucus night. As the primary in House District 37 began to heat up, so too did the effort by some campaigns to get their people in place in case no candidate met the 35 percent threshold.
While DeVries and the supporters of Ron Paul are the usual suspects when it comes to the efforts to stack the central committee to win the nominating convention, he’s not alone. John Landon, who finished 348 votes behind Robidoux in the primary in third place, has probably put forth the greatest effort in putting his friends and allies on the Polk County Central committee.
When you look at the make-up of the 22 central committee members who will select the Republican candidate in House District 37 on Wednesday, it appears that nobody has the 12 votes necessary to win, but both Landon and DeVries have the most solid support of the central committee members, which means it’s entirely possible that the winner of the primary, Jim Robidoux, could be eliminated from contention after the first ballot.
If that occurs, the central committee members will be acting as king makers instead of representatives of their precincts. While almost half of those who will be selecting the Republican candidate on Wednesday night were elected by the Polk County Central Committee, each member represents Republicans in their precincts, not themselves or any particular candidate.
With that in mind, it is important to look at how the candidates faired in each precinct in the primary. Robidoux won eight of the eleven precincts, and finished second in another. DeVries on the other hand won just two precincts, but finished second in eight others. Landon, on the other hand, won just one precinct, and didn’t finish second in any precinct. In fact, Landon failed to finish first or second in his own precinct.
It seems that the effort to win delegate spots for Ron Paul in Iowa’s caucus to convention process has left some county central committee members with a sense of entitlement. Most, if not all, Republicans become incensed when their elected leaders ignore the will of the people they represent and instead vote for legislation that they feel is justified. How ironic is it that these same people who are charged with a responsibility to select a Republican candidate in their local legislative district might suddenly choose to ignore the will of the people that they represent.
If the delegates on Wednesday night choose either DeVries or Landon over Robidoux, it will be the first time in Iowa history that the candidate who garnered the most votes in the primary was not selected at convention. In essence, the will of the people will be ignored.
It’s hard to see how these can ignore the June 5th primary results.
Jim Robidoux won the primary by 4.35 percent of the vote over DeVries, and by 16.65 percent over Landon.
Jim Robidoux won over 72 percent of the precincts.
Eighty-six percent of the contributions Robidoux received were from the district compared to 46 percent for Landon and 21 percent for DeVries.
Robidoux ran a smart and efficient campaign. He spent less money per vote than all of the other candidates in the race, and garnered the most votes.
Beyond what Robidoux accomplished in his campaign, he has been an activate participant in the Ankeny community. From being a school teacher, small business owner, coach, and being active in the Ankeny School Board and other local organizations, Robidoux has already been a leader in the community. Isn’t that exactly the type of candidate we want to represent us in Des Moines?