Vander Plaats Wants Senate Redo on Cramer Confirmation

By Rod Boshart, Reporter

Former Iowa gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats speaks to a room full of people during the Iowa City stop on his Capturing Momentum tour Wednesdy March 30, 2011. The Iowa City stop was number 90 on Vander Plaats 99 County tour. (Becky Malewitz/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Ellen Kurt

DES MOINES, Iowa – Conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats said Thursday his Family Leader ally Robert Cramer was the victim of an unconstitutional religious “litmus test” in calling for Gov. Terry Branstad and Senate Democrats to “re-vote” on his confirmation to the state Board of Regents.

While noting that such a confirmation reconsideration would be “atypical and highly unusual,” Vander Plaats told a Statehouse news conference that ‘it would be a breath of fresh air” for Senate Majority Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, to join with Branstad to identify a remedy that ensures Cramer’s service as a regent.

Vander Plaats, a former GOP gubernatorial candidate who now serves as president of the Family Leader, called on the Iowa Senate to “right” their “wrong” by confirming Cramer in “a re-vote.”

“To do this would be a great example of leadership for Iowans. It’s never too late to do what’s right,” he said.

The Senate voted 27-23 Monday to reject Cramer’s gubernatorial appointment to a six-year term on the regents’ panel that oversees the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and two special schools.

All 24 minority Republicans voted for confirmation but only three Democrats were supportive, while 23 Senate Democrats opposed Cramer’s nomination. An affirmative vote of 34 senators is needed to meet the two-thirds majority needed for approval.

Gronstal shrugged off Vander Plaats news conference, saying the Sioux City Republican “was pretty much dismissed” after a trio of unsuccessful bids to become Iowa’s governor. Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, said Cramer was given a fair hearing in the Senate’s vetting process and was rejected.

“I think that we should flat out stay with our policy that once somebody is considered and rejected, that is final,” McCoy said. “There is no need to reconsider this nomination for any reason. The outcome would be absolutely the same.”

During a contentious confirmation debate earlier this week, Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said he did not believe Cramer would bring a welcoming view of academic freedom to the Board of Regents.

However, Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, expressed concern that majority Democrats were being intolerant in defeating the nomination of an appointee who “has great qualifications” but has faith beliefs and values that differ from theirs.

During his confirmation process, Cramer came under pointed criticism about his past actions as a member of the Johnston School Board and his association with a group that successfully defeated the 2010 retention of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were part of a landmark court decision that paved the way for same-sex marriages in Iowa.

Cramer, president and CEO of Cramer and Associates, contended that his social conservative activism had been “blown out of proportion” in opposition emails designed to “smear” his reputation. He said he expected to bring an attitude of tolerance and academic freedom to his new post if he was confirmed as a regent.

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