Iowa politics will see a first this November — a statewide race between a Libertarian and a Democrat.
With no Republican candidate, the race for Iowa Attorney General this November will be between incumbent Democrat Tom Miller and Libertarian challenger Marco Battaglia.
Battaglia ran in the Libertarian gubernatorial primary this month, falling short with 38 percent in the party’s first official statewide primary since earning major party status in 2016. He was nominated by delegates at the Libertarian Party state convention two weeks ago, after fellow party activists urged him to run.
“I’ve had problems with Tom Miller going back to when I was a young Democrat and it made me concerned when it didn’t appear anyone would challenge him. I thought we could bring the positivity and momentum we had in the governor race and offer some much needed perspective,” Battaglia told me.
Miller was first elected as attorney general in 1978. Robert Ray was governor and Jimmy Carter was president. Last month, Miller reported more than $200,000 cash on hand.
Miller won more than 55 percent of the votes in each of the last two cycles, and he was unopposed in 2006. Edward Noyes ran as a Libertarian for the office in 2002, winning 1.7 percent of the vote in a three-way race, and Natural Law Party candidate Nancy Watkins won 2.2 percent in 1998.
No Republican ran for the attorney general nomination and delegates didn’t nominate anyone at their party convention this past weekend. That was a confusing move for the party which controls four of six state executive offices, five of six federal offices and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
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So the race this year is between a freshly minted candidate and one of the most successful politicians in Iowa history. In a statewide race with only two candidates, Battaglia is almost certain to become the Libertarian Party’s biggest vote-getter in Iowa history this November.
Battaglia said he sees ample opportunity to raise important issues, and he hopes to have televised debates and widespread media coverage. He said the Iowans he met during his gubernatorial campaign this year are hungry for reforms Miller isn’t offering.
“On civil and criminal justice reform, I think we have tripartisan agreement from the grassroots level, but we have an attorney general who has been problematic in dealing with rolling out medical cannabis, or on how we’re going to charge people if they break certain laws,” Battaglia said.
Libertarians, Republicans and even some Democrats have been frustrated at the extent to which Miller involves his office in national legal battles. Miller, the longest-serving attorney general in the country, and other members of the Democratic Attorneys General Association have repeatedly filed lawsuits over federal matters.
“There is a considerable number of attorneys around the state who don’t necessarily agree with Miller’s interpretations. Anything you could regulate, he’s put out an opinion on it. He gets involved in a lot more federal issues than most attorneys general around the country,” Battaglia said.
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