Statehouse candidate denounces brochure
Statehouse candidate denounces brochure
Wiskus switches from Republican to independent following GOP ‘attack’ on Democratic opponent By DAN EHL and JEFF HUTTON Centerville Daily Iowegian and Ottumwa Courier
CENTERVILLE — Kevin Wiskus, a candidate for Iowa House District 94, has switched his party affiliation from Republican to Independent following what he said was a "shocking and tasteless" mass-mailed brochure attacking his opponent.
The move, he said, was in response to a brochure from the Republican Party of Iowa attacking current state Rep. Kurt Swaim, D-Bloomfield.
"I do not support any kind of attack campaign tactics," Wiskus said. "Voters should be able to choose between qualified candidates based on individual merits. At no time should voters have to make a choice based on which candidate can throw the most mud.
"Though I had no prior knowledge of this vicious attack on you, I ask that you please accept my most sincere and humble apology to you and Julie," he wrote in an ad to appear in the Centerville Daily Iowegian.
The mailing accuses Swaim helping child molesters become eligible for early release. It highlights a former case Swaim defended as a public defender.
"He plead guilty and was sentenced to 200 days in jail. He served four. How did he get such a sweet deal? His public defender, Kurt Swaim, was paid $936.30 to get him back on the street," the brochure states.
"Even worse, Kurt Swaim voted to make criminals like [Donald] Burdett eligible for early release."
Swaim said Friday, "I accept and appreciate Kevin’s apology and I hope and trust we can move forward for a positive campaign."
He noted that a public defender has only a few acceptable reasons for not taking a case, and none applied to the one featured in the mailing. As an attorney, Swaim added, it would be unethical not to represent a client as capably as possible.
It came as a surprise that the brochure attacked him on his voting record, Swaim admitted, since the bill referred to was also voted for Republican leaders in both the House and Senate, a total of 48 Republicans in the House. At the time, he added, it was hailed as one of the toughest, if not the toughest, child abuse laws in the nation.
"You deserve an apology from the Republican Party," begins Wiskus’ ad in the Daily Iowegian. "Since he will not get an apology from the Republican Party of Iowa, I would like to apologize to Kurt."
Wiskus stated that he changed his registration from Republican to Independent and notified the Iowa Secretary of State’s office that he no longer considers himself a Republican — and if elected he will declare himself an Independent.
Wiskus also said he sent a certified letter to state party headquarters protesting "this type of vile campaign" and did no longer seek or desire their support — nor would he approve any advertising of any type coming from the Republican Party of Iowa.
"Early in the spring Kurt and I talked and I pledged to run a clean and fair campaign," said Wiskus. "I have continued to speak to people throughout this campaign that I did not get into this race to beat Kurt Swaim, I got in this race because I want to represent District 94 in Des Moines and bring fiscal accountability to state agencies and the Legislature.
"While working with the Republican Party of Iowa, I continued to state my position on no negative campaigning. The last conversation on this subject was coincidentally only a couple of hours before I learned of the attack ad that arrived in mailboxes on Thursday."Swaim said there was at least a name (Iowa Republican Party) on this latest attack, as a series of anonymous and unpleasant phone calls began while he was still in session this year.
He described the Republican leadership as losing its moral compass, but added that he did not want to make this into a Republican bashing incident.
Since the mailing, Swain said, he has received an overwhelming number of calls of support from Republicans in the district, as well as from Democrats and independents.
"Important principles of the Republican Party need to be included in discussion, but with smear campaigns," he said, "the discussion is lost."
House Speaker Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, was unapologetic about the mass mailing.
"Rep. Swaim used that same charge against Republicans two years ago; it’s a taste of their own medicine," he told the Ottumwa Courier Friday.
"Kurt’s record is a little more than that one vote. The guy [Burdett] served four days in jail — that’s all Kurt."
Rants said while it was disappointing that Wiskus has switched party affiliation from Republican to Independent, he still backs Wiskus.
"Kevin is free to do what he wants; he’ll be a good state representative whether voters elect him as an Independent or a Republican," Rants said.
Both Swaim and Wiskus said they plan to continue to run clean campaigns between now and Election Day on Nov. 7.
District 94 represents residents in Appanoose, Davis and Wayne counties.