Along Our Way
For the 20th year, a group of us continued a Holy Week tradition of meeting at the YMCA Camp northwest of Boone, sharing lunch, then climbing up a towering bluff there to Chapel Point, which overlooks the Des Moines River valley. Up at the top, there are a few reflections, a few stories, we sing ''This Is My Father's World'' and then Stan Moffitt of Boone plays taps on his bugle.
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with the Offenburgers
Chuck Offenburger was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins follicular lymphoma cancer on July 10, 2009, had six months of chemotherapy & started a maintenance program. Carla Offenburger underwent surgery on April 26, 2010, for removal of a jaw tumor which was found to contain adenoid cystic carcinoma cancer. She underwent six weeks of follow-up radiation in June and July, 2010. Since then she has returned to good health, but she continues to have close medical observation. Two days after Carla finished radiation, Chuck noticed a pain in his left hip, and within days, a small mass near his tailbone was diagnosed as more aggressive large-cell lymphoma. In the fall of 2010, he underwent intensive chemotherapy, and had a stem cells transplant in November, with follow-up radiation in January, 2011. Since then he's been doing well, too, but continues to have regular check-ups. We post updates frequently here, including brief insights from Chuck, Carla and at least one of you readers.
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''GARY THOMPSON: All-American'' is the new, 352-page biography of one of the state's genuine sports icons. From 1950-'53 Gary Thompson led the Roland Rockets to high school sports glory in basketball and baseball, giant-killers from one of Iowa's small schools. Then he led the Cyclones at Iowa State from 1953-'57, becoming the college's first two-sport All-American. He's had major success in broadcasting and business, from his home base in Ames. And he and his wife Janet have a family as solid as they come. "I'm the luckiest guy around," Thompson says.
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Along Our Way
Out in Greene County, Iowa
The Iowa Republican Party indeed has a future, and young Matt Randall should lead the way
By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
January 6, 2009
DES MOINES, IOWA
Lord knows that my Republican Party needs a wholesale rebuilding after the electoral pounding we took last fall. The good news here is that last Saturday, I saw the Republican Party of Iowa take a bold, somewhat surprising, very public step in the direction we need to head.
State chair Stewart Iverson had told the State Central Committee he would not seek another term, and eight people threw their names in the ring in recent weeks as candidates for the state party leadership position.
The central committee announced it would host an unprecedented open forum – with everybody welcome, including media – and the candidates could come make their case and answer questions from the public and from committee members. That two-hour event was held Saturday morning before more than 100 people who packed the state GOP headquarters building a couple blocks north of the Iowa Capitol. It was an enthusiastic crowd that came from across Iowa, an especially impressive turnout on a holiday Saturday morning.
The central committee reconvenes this coming Saturday morning. They will likely hear from the candidates again, then make a decision in a closed session. The winner has to have at least nine votes from the committee’s 17 members.
It’s a good field of candidates for the chairperson position, but I think there’s a clear choice here. I believe the person who can best lead the party rebuilding and unification that needs to happen across Iowa; who can lead the way in candidate identification and development; who can be the most effective fundraiser; who can articulate Republican philosophy in a broad compelling way, and the person who can get the Iowa GOP back to winning ways again, is Ames businessman Matt Randall.
|Matt Randall, 33-year-old businessman from Ames, co-founded the organization Young Professionals of Iowa, which has involved more than 8,000 future leaders across the state. He's now one of eight candidates to be state chairperson of the Republican Party of Iowa.|
At 33 years old, Randall is the youngest person in the race.
But I’ve been watching his star rise for five years. And for just about that long, I’ve been telling people Randall will be a key player in the future of not only the Republican Party but also the state of Iowa.
In the spring of 2004, the group Iowans for a Better Future, which I was deeply involved in, asked Van Harden of WHO radio in Des Moines and me to co-host a series of 10 live radio shows across the state, examining different aspects of Iowa’s future. We originated those shows in theaters in Des Moines, Sioux City, Mason City, Dubuque, Davenport, Burlington, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Shenandoah and again in Des Moines, and they were broadcast live on a network of 10 stations that blanket the state.
About an hour before airtime at the second show, at the Orpheum Theater in Sioux City, up walked this big strapping young fellow and asked if he could talk to me. Matt Randall, at 6 ft. 3 in. and 275 pounds, gets your attention quickly. So the two of us chatted while sitting on boxes and eating pancakes at a public supper held outside the Orpheum.
Randall had flown himself over to Sioux City from Ames in a small plane. He said he wanted to listen to our shows and then get involved in trying to shape a better future for the state.
He’d heard the figures, that more than 300,000 Baby Boomers in Iowa would be retiring during the decade. He later wrote that when he realized what a void in leadership all those retirements would bring, he knew “it will be imperative that young leaders step forward and become actively involved in the direction of our state and communities.”
He’d already done some work on that. After he’d graduated from Baylor University in Texas in 1997, he returned to his hometown of Ames to go into the family’s property development business, Randall Corporation. And he’d gotten involved with the Ames Chamber of Commerce.
“I kept going into these Chamber meetings, where I’d be the only person in the room who didn’t have gray hair,” Randall told the Republican gathering this past Saturday. Chamber leaders asked if he could help attract more young people to the organization, and so he proposed they help him form a group they named “Young Professionals of Ames,” with “the sole purpose of getting young people involved,” Randall recalled. “We hoped eventually to get 50, but we got 250 in the first year. I knew then we were on to something.”
|The other candidates|
for state GOP chair,
and some relevant
DES MOINES, Iowa
January 6, 2009
Here are the other announced candidates for the position of state chairperson of the Republican Party of Iowa, besides Matt Randall of Ames:
Christopher Reed, 37, Marion, a businessman who was defeated by incumbent U.S. Senator Tom Harkin in last fall’s election. Reed, a political newcomer, didn’t have much of a chance anyway, but he really lost credibility when he said that Harkin, a U.S. Navy veteran, “has an eight-year history of becoming the Tokyo Rose of al Qaida and Middle East terrorism.”
Andy Cable, 58, Eldora businessman, longtime activist who has helped build one of Iowa’s strongest county organizations, in Hardin County.
Matt Strawn, 35, Ankeny, a partner in the ownership of the Iowa Barnstormers, the Des Moines professional football team in one of the arena leagues. He is a native of Van Horne in eastern Iowa, he served as a congressional staffer during 10 years when he was in Washington, D.C., and he also got his law degree while there. When he returned to Iowa, he was initially presidential campaign director here for Senator John McCain, but then left the campaign when McCain dismissed many of his early staffers.
Danny Carroll, 55, of Grinnell, director of community relations for Iowa Telecom, and a former Iowa legislator who was unsuccessful in his two most recent campaigns for the Iowa House.
Paul Pate, 50, Cedar Rapids businessman, formerly a state legislator, then Iowa Secretary of State, then an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1998, then a two-term mayor of Cedar Rapids.
Ted Sporer, the Des Moines suburb of Clive, an attorney, current Polk County Republican Party chairperson. He did not attend the public forum for the candidates on Saturday, January 3.
Gopal Krishna, West Des Moines businessman, current treasurer of the Republican Party of Iowa and a member of the state central committee. He also did not attend the public forum of state chair candidates. Today Krishna told the Iowa Independent news site on the Internet that, in fact, he is not a candidate for chairperson.
Many Republicans now say the party hasn’t been at such a low point since 1963, when GOP incumbent Governor Norman Erbe had been beaten by Democrat Harold Hughes, who served six years as governor and then became a U.S. senator. In 1964, GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was soundly beaten, and that hurt the party even more in Iowa.
The man installed as Republican state chairperson in ’63 was Robert D. “Bob” Ray, then a 35-year-old attorney from Des Moines. “I wasn’t cut from the Old Guard Republican material, and I don’t think people knew quite what to expect,” Ray told biographer Jon Bowermaster for the book “Governor,” published in 1987. “They knew that things were going to be different. I wasn’t part of the old clubs. I was kind of a rookie, the kid…”
And here’s Ray again, after Goldwater’s loss: “We got whomped. The party was in disarray. Everything that could go bad, went bad. The Sunday before the election, our lieutenant governor candidate denounced our gubernatorial candidate… We lost control of both houses, lost all the congressmen except H.R. Gross, who won by 300 votes.”
Bowermaster went on to report what Ray and his team did: “The saving grace…was that they couldn’t do any worse in the upcoming elections of 1966; they could only go up from the party’s trouncing in 1964. They expanded the scope of the central committee, brought in more staff, raised more money, and never hesitated to spend it… The party made spending on advertising and promotions a priority. They launched ‘Ideas for a Better Iowa’ to spark public debate, continued the ‘Buck Night’ fundraisers, held schools for candidates. Their slogan was quaint but new: ‘Being a Republican Is Fun!’ ”
Here’s what U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley told Bowermaster about that time in the mid ‘60s: “After that 1964 election there were only 23 Republicans in the legislature, out of 124, and I was one. Bob (Ray) tried to bring a lot of grass-roots people into the party – party workers, business people, farmers, all kinds of people. He brought them together into weekend workshops and then broke us up into some work groups. We tried to chart ideas for the party and what we should be pursuing.”
Ray went on to be elected governor in 1968, and served 14 years. He was followed as governor by Terry Branstad, who served 16 years – for a total of 30 consecutive years of Republican control.
Said Matt Randall, when I told him about that history: “I’m no Bob Ray.”
- Chuck Offenburger
They not only breathed new life into the Ames Chamber, YP Ames also was having a ball with their own social and business events.
As Randall followed the “Imagine Iowa’s Future” radio series around the state in that spring of 2004, he realized there were other groups of young professionals springing up in other cities and towns – under a variety of different names and banners. He and some other young leaders he met decided to form “Young Professionals of Iowa.” In October of that year, they hosted the first YP Iowa conference in Ames, and more than 160 attended from across the state. The organization has now involved more than 8,000 young professionals in Iowa, and it operates with help from the Iowa Association of Business & Industry.
That’s been one of the most exciting developments I’ve seen occur in this state in my long career of Iowa watching. And those people give Matt Randall a natural statewide base.
Let me tell you some more background on him.
Despite his size, he was not an athlete at Ames High, where he graduated in 1993.
“I was actually a male cheerleader, which I don’t always share with people,” he told me. “I knew I wasn’t an athlete, and the cheerleaders saw that I was big and strong enough that I’d probably be able to throw girl cheerleaders up in the air and catch them, so that’s what I did instead of play football. It meant I’ve still got good knees and I got to hang out with cheerleaders all the time.”
He knew he wanted to leave Ames for college.
“Our family business always rented a lot of apartments to Iowa State students,” he said. “So I saw the party scene when I’d go with my dad when he had to go break them up. I just didn’t think that was for me.”
At Baylor, he found a large school which was private, Baptist-affiliated and yet attracted a wide diversity of students. “It wasn’t important to me that it was Baptist, but with that religious affiliation, I knew it’d have a good base, and it also has a fantastic business school,” Randall said. He graduated with a bachelor degree in business administration, with a major in real estate.
He also met his wife Leigh, who is a native of Houston.
“She’s the brains in the family,” Matt said. “She graduated magna cum laude, and I just graduated.”
After they settled in Ames, Leigh taught world history for four years at Ames High School, then became human resources director for Sigler Companies for a couple of years before becoming a stay-at-home-mom. She and Matt have a son Austin, 4, and they are now hoping in coming months to adopt “at least one little girl, maybe two, from Ethiopia,” he said. “We hope to be traveling there soon.”
The Randalls are active in the Evangelical Free Church in Ames.
At Randall Corp., Matt serves as vice-president behind his father, Scott Randall, who founded the company in 1975 while he was still a college student himself. “Dad’s a real up-by-his-own-bootstraps kind of businessman,” Matt said. “He bought a house on Hunt Street in Ames while he was at Iowa State. He rented out the downstairs rooms, and lived in the attic himself.”
Scott Randall had come to Ames from Mason City, where his father Ray Randall once served on the city council and “was always interested in politics,” Matt said. “I can remember going up there for family Christmas gatherings, and it seems like we talked politics the whole time we were there.”
Matt said he “never had a desire to run for office myself,” but that after moving back to Ames, veteran GOP activist Russ Cross “asked me to get involved in the Story County Republican Party.” Eventually, Cross asked Randall to join him as co-chair of the county party. Randall began “helping organize some events, and helping some local candidates financially and by making phone calls.”
He said he “really enjoyed all the non-partisan work I’d done with YP Iowa and other organizations. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s in the political process where a lot of the big decisions get made, and I’m a decision-making kind of guy. I like being involved in that.”
In 2007, Story County Treasurer Dave Jamison decided he needed to give up his seat on the Republican State Central Committee. Randall was one of several people who filed to succeed Jamison, waging a campaign among all the Republican county chairpersons in the fourth district of Iowa. Randall won that special election race, and he was re-elected to the state central committee in 2008.
Randall is more conservative than I am, but he seems to have the tolerance for differing views that any effective leader is going to need.
When the state chair candidates were asked in Saturday’s forum what “the Republican message will be” under their leadership, Randall said his specific message would be shaped by conversations with the central committee members and other Republican activists across the state. “So I can’t put into words right now what the exact message will be,” he said, “but you can count on it being based on the Republican Party’s positions in three areas – our faith & belief structure, an economic structure that’s best for business and agriculture, and limited government.”
I later asked him, if he would be elected as the new state party chair, how he would handle the considerable debate happening in the GOP over whether the party can maintain its strong stand on abortion and other “social values” issues, and still win elections.
“I think people have to recognize that we are a party of diverse ideals, and that they all can fit within a larger framework that is the Republican Party,” Randall told me. “We have people who believe that pro-life is the most important position the party has. We also have people who believe the economic issues are the most important. There’s no reason we can’t work to make all those things happen. As a political party, we’ve never prioritized and said that any single position is our No. 1 most important one, and we shouldn’t. The party should push for all of our positions.”
Building or rebuilding the GOP as a “big tent” party “really takes leadership,” Randall said. “That’s what drives the bus. When we don’t have the governorship now, we don’t have someone in that position who can be our key leader right here in Iowa. So the central committee and the chairperson should be the group that people look to for that leadership.
“I think we’ve got to go back to the counties, too. The new chair needs to go out there to all the local and county organizations in the party, bring them together and say, ‘O.K., the state chair is here, come tell me what your gripes and concerns are, and what we can do to improve things.’ Let’s have that conversation. We just haven’t been doing that enough.
“You know, everybody thinks differently,” he continued. “Even my wife Leigh and I think differently, but we can always find a way to move forward. When you’re dealing with big groups of people, I think everybody can do that same thing – find a way to unite and move forward.”
Randall said he thinks his not having been allied with any particular candidate or group in the party could be an asset in his efforts to unify Republicans. Or, as he put it rather bluntly, “I haven’t been anybody’s boy, and I don’t come with an any hidden agenda.”
Some might see his young age as a liability. But he says you can also see it as an advantage, too.
“I haven’t had enough bad experiences to convince me that something can’t be done,” he said. “Maybe I’ve got more of a willingness to try something new. You talk to people and they’ll tell you 10 different things that can’t happen. I say, ‘Well, let’s find three or four things that can happen and go to work on them!’
“As a young guy, I do think I’ve got more at risk on down the road. Some who’s ‘been there, done that,’ might not feel he has to make the big moves necessary for progress. I’ve got a young family and a business I want to grow. What really drives me is trying to make sure Iowa is a great place to be 30 years from now. How can our party be involved in making that happen?”
You can write the columnist at chuck@Offenburger.com.