The Iowa GOP’s Anti-Gay Pied Piper

Olivia Nuzzi
The Iowa GOP’s Anti-Gay Pied Piper

In 10 days, the Iowa GOP will elect a new party Chairman. And Danny Carroll, the man that they’re likely to choose to supervise the 2016 Republican caucuses is an ardent social conservative who gave up pumpkin farming to devote himself full-time to the fight to save heterosexual marriage in the Hawkeye State.

Carroll, who just recently became co-chair of a state Republican Party long divided between social conservatives, libertarians, and the traditional pro-business GOP establishment, is the only candidate running to succeed A.J. Spiker, the outgoing chair who announced his resignation earlier this month. Spiker is leaving the Republican Party of Iowa to take a position with RANDPAC, the political action committee of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). But while Spiker’s tenure as state chair raised eyebrows because of his close relationship to the libertarian wing of the party, Carroll’s links with the most social conservative elements of the GOP have led him to buck the party less than four years ago.

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In the 2010 election, Carroll refused to back Terry Branstad, Iowa’s current Republican governor, when the state’s former four-term chief executive was mounting a political comeback against an incumbent Democrat. Although Branstad supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Carroll thought that Iowa Republican icon wasn’t doing enough for the cause. In contrast, while Spiker’s tenure was controversial because of his clashes with Branstad, at least he always supported the five-term Republican governor and the rest of the GOP ticket on Election Day.

The irony is that Carroll himself, a former Speaker Pro Tempore of the Iowa House was once talked about as a Republican gubernatorial nominee. Prior to being defeated in 2006 for re-election, Carroll had been marked as a rising star in Iowa politics but ardent social conservative views made his race a nexus for national progressive donors and also didn’t play well in a district where students from Grinnell College, a top ranked liberal-arts college, turned out at a higher rate.

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After leaving office, Carroll became Chairman of the Board of the Iowa Family Policy Center, part of The FAMiLY LEADER, a social conservative political organization that “provides consistent, courageous voice in the charges, in the legislature, in the media, in the courtroom, in the public square…always standing for God’s truth.” In particular, the organization has been very active on gay marriage, which has been legal in Iowa since 2009 after a unanimous decision of the Iowa Supreme Court. The group and Carroll were active in the effort to successfully recall three of the court’s judges in 2010 in retaliation for their pro same-sex marriage decision.

In 2011, Carroll supported Judge Roy Moore during his brief the Republican presidential nomination. Moore is famous for placing a monument of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. That maneuver garnered him fans among many social conservatives. When he announced his bid for the GOP nomination, Moore said that the “problems arising out of same-sex marriages” include “child abuse, adoption, divorce, foster care, alimony, and the list goes on and on…” Carroll himself said that he was “honored to be a part” of Moore’s campaign.

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Were Carroll to be elected Chairman of Iowa’s Republican Party as expected to fill the remainder of Spiker’s term, he is likely to continue through 2016, which would make him a national figure during the run up to the caucuses. Carroll would not only be responsible for overseeing the success of a caucus process plagued with issues in 2012 but he would become a national face for a GOP in the middle of a much vaunted rebranding.

Eric Palmer, a former Democratic state representative who ran against Carroll three times for the state legislature and defeated him in 2006 and 2008, told The Daily Beast that a Carroll-led Iowa GOP would be bad news for our increasingly polarized country. “His views are so far right, especially on religion, that I can’t imagine [electing him] is a healing type of move [for the country]. It’s just going to lead to more extreme folks winning the Iowa caucuses.”

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