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Grassley Aide Attempts to Parlay His Boss’s Popularity in House Race

Young, left, and Grassley, right, walk through the Iowa State Fair in August. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Young, left, and Grassley, right, walk through the Iowa State Fair in August. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

FARRAGUT, Iowa — Locked in a highly competitive House contest, Republican David Young is looking to capitalize on some of his former boss’s goodwill  in the final days of the race.  

This week Young, ex-chief of staff to Iowa GOP Sen. Charles E. Grassley kicked off a four-day tour of Iowa’s 3rd District with the popular senator in tow — hitting each of the district’s 16 counties to greet voters and drum up support for his bid. It’s a pared-down version of what Iowans affectionately dub, “The Full Grassley ,” in which the 81-year-old senator traverses every one of the Hawkeye State’s 99 counties annually.  

On Thursday, the tour reached Fremont County, a sparsely populated pocket of farm country in the southwestern corner of the state. About a dozen and a half folks showed up to greet the duo at a dusty and aging Masonic Temple in a town Young joked has “more deer than people.”  

“Even though he worked 1,000 miles away in my office in Washington, D.C., he kept close ties with what was going on in Iowa, because quite frankly when I wasn’t available to solve a problem, he was there,” Grassley told the mostly elderly crowd, which nodded along as he spoke. “I think you know you’ve been well served by a Republican congressman from this district in the past, and I think that David will be able to serve you the same way.”  

Young hopes Grassley’s popularity will help him defeat his Democratic opponent, former state Sen. Staci Appel. The race is currently rated a Tossup by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. The seat is open because GOP Rep. Tom Latham is retiring.  

The 3rd District encompasses the entire southwestern quadrant of the state, including Des Moines. But Farragut, population 485, is a far cry from the state capital, with a main street housing only a few buildings, many of them shuttered. In a close race like this one, every vote will count, especially for Young in a reliably Republican territory like this one.  

“I had really good training to be able to do the groundwork from a guy by the name of Sen. Charles Ernest Grassley, better known in Iowa as just ‘Chuck,'” Young told the crowd. “He’s a man of conviction. You think about a true citizen legislator, and it’s his picture. He comes home to his constituents in Iowa, a 99-county tour each year that’s been dubbed the ‘Full Grassley,’ and he knows how to listen.”  

Democrats are targeting the district as a pick-up opportunity, and Appel has led  Young in recent public polling  of the race. President Barack Obama won the 3rd District by a 4-point margin in 2012.  

So Young will need more than Grassley’s help to keep this seat for Republicans. He will also need cash.  

As of June 30, the last fundraising report deadline in the race, Appel had $726,000 in the bank compared to Young’s $88,000. Third-quarter fundraising reports, due Oct. 15, will better show the Young campaign’s financial position for the final weeks of the race.

But Young’s campaign canceled television airtime in the last six weeks of the contest, stoking concern about his fundraising capabilities. While he is back up on air, Appel’s campaign will have outspent Young by a 2-to-1 margin on the airwaves if both campaigns’ reservations hold, according to a source tracking buys in the district.

With Democrats clobbering Young on the airwaves, the National Republican Congressional Committee picked up the slack. The committee increased its buy in the district, and will now spend more than $2 million to both attack Appel and run positive spots for Young through Election Day. One of the NRCC’s ads has Latham and Grassley endorsing Young to camera.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting Democratic House candidates, are blasting the district with ads attacking Young’s record on women’s issues and the middle class.

But back in the Fremont County, voters were thrilled to see Grassley in this town just south of the East Nishnabotna River. Here, the welcoming crowd said Young’s ties to the senator should help him at the polls.

“Senator Grassley doesn’t get a chance to get out here very often, but it sure is nice when he does get out here,” said Freddie Krewson, the chairman of the Fremont County Republican Party. Young “has basically been mentored by Chuck Grassley, and Iowans don’t have any ill will. I think they have 110 percent confidence that [Young] is going to do exactly what he says he does.”

Young acknowledged that he was in friendly company here. But he told the crowd he needed their help to spread his message in a state where retail politics reigns.

“I know that you’re paying attention,” Young told the crowd. “I’m asking that you reach out to your neighbors and family members, coworkers, talk to them about the implications of what turns out from elections and who we trust to represent us.”

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