BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After another successful annual dinner banquet and auction, the Lee County Republican leadership is looking to help educate voters on issues ranging from voter registration, to health care, state budgets, and more.
At a sit-down Wednesday afternoon, Lee County Republican Chairman Martin Graber said the county’s Republican base is strong and is drawing the attention of state party leaders.
“We didn’t ask for it, but one of the great things that came out of the dinner was Jeff Kaufman (chairman of the Iowa Republican Party) said ‘I don’t worry about you guys down here, you are doing it right’.” Graber said.
Featured state speakers at the dinner included Secretary of State Paul Pate and Iowa State Auditor Mary Mosiman.
Graber said the Lee County Republicans always try to bring in high level, high profile speakers who can provide educational presentations.
He said Pate talked about the things being done to eliminate voter fraud.
“You hear that that’s not a problem in Iowa, but it is and he said there were five cases of Lee County voter fraud under investigation right now. You go across the river and it gets pretty ugly over there. But he said in Iowa we’re going to do it right.”
The group’s former chairman and current finance chairman, Terry Schrepfer said education needs to take place in voter registration.
“I used to be at our headquarters on most days and we would get people who would come in and say, ‘I’m registered as Democrat but want to vote Republican, so how do I change that?'”, he said. “I was honest with them and told them they didn’t have to change and could vote any way they wanted. There are people out there that still don’t understand. They just think it’s easier to vote the way they did last time.”
Graber said Pate referred to more than 300 people who voted absentee and then tried to show up at the polls.
“I can see a scenario where someone who might vote absentee and might forget. I won’t argue the intent but I will say it’s happening in Iowa and I appreciate Paul Pate bringing that to the discussion,” he said.
Mosiman talked about the financial outlook for the state and said revenue projections have been off by the state in past years and corrections are going to need to take place before the state runs out of money.
One of the concerns of the state’s Democratic party leaders, including Iowa Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, has been protecting and preserving the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System.
Several local Democrats, including State. Sen. Rich Taylor, were outside the dinner on Saturday demonstrating with signs in support of the state not changing the IPERS current funding and payout system.
“Obviously it was more a protest kind of thing,” Graber said. I was somewhat surprised, but not shocked, because this is their chance to go against us,” Graber said. “One thing that I do wonder is if my state senator doesn’t have something better to do, but that’s his call.”
He said IPERS is currently funded at about 80% and one of the better public retirement systems in the country, but Iowans would probably rather it be fully funded and it’s a good idea to be having conversations about how to take care of the fund.
“The financial thing comes into play if we don’t correct the course. It’s like individuals, you just can’t spend more than you make. As Mosiman said, ultimately the tax payers are the boss and we’re the employer and we need to make sure we have our input in those discussions.”
Graber said the Lee County Republicans have lots of activities coming up including being at RiverFest in Fort Madison this coming weekend, and additionally at fairs and rodeo, and then will be very active after Labor Day.
He also said the group has helped form a Young Republicans Club in Lee County for young residents between the ages of 14 and 25, that has had two meetings and have another one scheduled for September 2.
For more information you can contact the group at www.leecountyrepublicans.org or 319-372-1896.