Staff Columnist

Independent and third-party candidates battle big money in Iowa governor's race

Outsider campaigns criticize Iowa Public TV's debate qualifications

Big Spring Hatchery manager Gary Siegwarth stands along the Turkey River on Monday next to one of the two main discharges of the spring that gave the hatchery its name. The 50-degree spring water routinely enters the river at a rate between 15,000 and 30,000 gallons per minute, cooling the river water and making it attractive to trout. After a heavy rain, the spring, the state's largest, can discharge as much as 150,000 gallons per minute, he said.
Big Spring Hatchery manager Gary Siegwarth stands along the Turkey River on Monday next to one of the two main discharges of the spring that gave the hatchery its name. The 50-degree spring water routinely enters the river at a rate between 15,000 and 30,000 gallons per minute, cooling the river water and making it attractive to trout. After a heavy rain, the spring, the state's largest, can discharge as much as 150,000 gallons per minute, he said.

This year’s gubernatorial election is expected to be the most expensive in state history.

In the most recent campaign fundraising reports filed earlier this month, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds had $3.6 million on hand, while Democrat Fred Hubbell had $1.9 million. Before the primary last month, the campaigns had brought in about $12 million, including $3 million of Hubbell’s own money.

Candidates running outside the Republican-Democrat duopoly can’t hope to raise nearly as much money as their mainstream competitors. Still, they say they’re finding cheaper ways to reach voters before the November election.

Gary Siegwarth is a northeast Iowa fisheries biologist running an independent campaign for governor. He is focused on natural resources, including the water quality and agricultural issues which have become major concerns for many Iowans. He is undaunted by the cash disparity.

“Kim Reynolds has $4 million, and Fred Hubbell is going to spend until he wins, which he did in the primary. I’m going to use innovative ways to get the money out of politics. If you know what you’re talking about, word-of-mouth can overcome big money,” Siegwarth told me last week.

Siegwarth is running a low-budget campaign, mostly self-funded along with a few small contributions from fellow Iowans. In the last campaign finance filing, he reported spending about $100 in Facebook ads and $60 on printed materials. He spent last week talking to voters while riding RAGBRAI, carrying along banners reading “Gary for Governor” and “Clean Water Party of Iowa.”

While many natural resource advocates have sided with Democrats in recent elections, neither major party has been willing to implement programs and regulations experts say are necessary to keep our waterways clean, spurring interest in no-party politics.

“Both parties have their agendas. They wouldn’t let me put natural resources at the top of the platform and I would have to play their games. I made it to the final four in a creative way,” he said.

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Unfortunately, Siegwarth likely will not be invited to participate in televised debates with Hubbell and Reynolds, even at Iowa Public Television, which is funded in part with taxpayer money.

IPTV will only include candidates who meet four of five criteria: run with a political party recognized by state law, publish position statements on at least three issues, accept at least $50,000 in contributions, receive “more than incidental press coverage,” and receive at least five percent support in an independent poll.

“Why can’t you have 50 great ideas instead of $50,000? Public television is funded partially by taxpayers. If they don’t put me on there, they’re missing out on a lot of ideas,” Siegwarth said.

Another alternative candidate, Libertarian Jake Porter, has repeatedly criticized IPTV’s debate criteria, or lack thereof, in previous election cycles. He said he hopes to be included in multiple televised debates this campaign season.

“We anticipate meeting the criteria for the Iowa Public Television debate. If IPTV does not include me, it will be one of the most boring debates in Iowa history,” Porter told me.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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