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New leaders to direct Johnson County political parties into 2014

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | MARCH 27, 2013 5:00 AM

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The new chairman of the Johnson County Democrats said the party is moving past its “major loss” in the Board of Supervisors election and getting back to the basics of campaigning.

On the other side of the political spectrum, the newly appointed chairwoman of the Johnson County Republicans believes the party can build on its recent success.

Johnson County Democrats

Mike Carberry — the newly appointed head of the Johnson County Democrats — said one of his immediate tasks is getting the local party back to the basics of organizing after losing the supervisor election. Carberry believes these skills were lost after the Obama for America campaign essentially took over those tasks during the president’s re-election campaign.

“[For] the last couple of cycles, the Obama campaign comes in and kind of takes over, and a lot of Johnson County Democrats forgot how to work in an election,” he said. “We’re not going to have the Obama campaign here, so it’s about learning what we used to know how to do.”

Carberry said this problem was compounded by voter fatigue and burnout in former Democrat Chairman Terry Dahm’s loss to John Etheredge in a special election to fill the Board of Supervisors vacant seat. He notedd there was also a sense that the sheer strength of the party would carry them to victory.

“We took it for granted; a lot of people thought somebody else is going to make the phone calls, somebody else is going to knock on doors, somebody else will go vote,” he said. “We rested on our laurels … we coasted.”

Carberry’s new role comes after serving as vice chairman for two years along with founding an environmental lobbying organization, Green State Solutions. He will continue to work for his organization, which lobbies at both the state and federal level on a variety of causes, including stopping the expansion of nuclear power and pushing for a greater use of renewable energy sources.

Carberry vowed that one of his goals is to completely dominate Johnson County by “filling every seat even partially in the county with a Democrat.” This would include retaking Etheredge’s spot and working in nearby areas, including replacing Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, and Sen. Sandy Greiner, R-Washington.

Johnson County Republicans

Deborah Thornton, who was nominated just a week before Etheredge’s win, is the new head of the Johnson County Republicans. She believes the reason for Etheredge’s victory was how the party tapped into local discontent for a cross-party appeal — something that she feels can continue in 2014.

“I think we successfully tapped into a strong feeling of discontent with the current Democrat-controlled supervisors of Johnson County, and many people who don’t like arrogant and heavy-handed treatment of Johnson County residents,” she said. “We tapped to a wide variety of people, Democrats, independents, Republicans, who wanted a new younger voice.”

The new chairwoman began her time in Republican politics as a student at Indiana University in the College Republicans. She later worked for U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. before he was elected to the Senate, as well as Dick Lugar and Mitch Daniels. She also worked in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as a George H.W. Bush appointee, and then moved to New Mexico to work for Gov. Gary Johnson.

Currently, Thornton does public policy research and writing for the Mount Pleasant-based Public Interest Institute. Her research includes a variety of topics, including tax policy, health care, and K-12 education.

Thornton said that while the party is focused on the issues of red-light cameras and the amended justice-center proposal in the short term, Republicans will make a “full-court press” in 2014, because Gov. Terry Branstad could run for re-election. There will also be an open U.S. Senate seat, and county offices, including county attorney on the ballot.

2014

An Iowa political expert said he expects Etheredge and other Republicans in Johnson County to face stiff competition in 2014 to both maintain their current positions and obtain additional roles. He said the year is already shaping up to be an interesting one with the sheer number of high spots on the ballot.

“I don’t see that Republicans have much of a shot in other elections, especially in the general election, and given Democrats got stung, [they’ll pay] special attention to these in the future,” said Tim Hagle, an associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa.


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