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‘Gopher-Bashing’ Didn’t Work, Grandy Wins Congressional Nomination

June 4, 1986

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Fred Grandy’s convincing win in the Republican congressional primary will probably cause Democrats to tone down their ″Gopher-bashing″ campaign, political activists said Wednesday.

Grandy, an actor known for his portrayal of Gopher Smith on television’s ″The Love Boat,″ said his landslide victory proved that voters took him seriously and didn’t mind that he hasn’t lived in Iowa for 25 years.

″We called it ’bridging the Gopher gap,″ he said.

He will face Clayton Hodgson, a former dairy farmer and assistant to incumbent Democratic Rep. Berkley Bedell, in the fall election.

Bedell announced he would not seek a seventh term in the 6th District for health reasons, and Hodgson bested a field of five Democrats.

Grandy, 37, clobbered two unknowns making their first bids for public office, netting 19,434 votes, or 68 percent, to 4,066 or 14 percent for the Rev. Terry Jobst, 31, assistant pastor a Lutheran Church in Paullina, and 5,236 or 18 percent votes for George Moriarty, 49, a farm consultant from Spencer.

Throughout the campaign, Grandy’s opponents and all five Democrats competed in ″Gopher-bashing,″ as it came to be known, blasting away at his long absence from Iowa and suggesting he was a carpetbagger looking to buy a cheap seat in Congress.

″If I had a thin skin, I would have been offended,″ Grandy said, adding that opponents overplayed the issue. ″There came a point when people got tired of all that negativism. That may have been a tactical error.″

David O’Brien, a Sioux City lawyer and one of the Democrats who lost to Hodgson, agreed.

″I think it (Grandy’s residence) is still an issue, but it doesn’t have to be so negative. You can raise the issue without saying the word carpetbagger,″ he said, adding that Grandy’s weakness lies in his support of President Reagan’s policies.

″I don’t know that anybody should be surprised at his (Grandy’s) win,″ said John Ayers of Clear Lake, another Democrat who lost to Hodgson. ″The essentials of politics are name identification and the ability to finance a campaign. Grandy had them both.″

It was estimated Grandy spent at least $300,000 to win the election, much of it coming from celebrities.

During the campaign, Hodgson said he was ″outraged″ that an outsider could claim ability to represent Iowa in Congress. But Wednesday, he sounded a mellower note.

″I don’t want to run a negative campaign,″ he said. ″I plan to let people know that I’ve got deep roots here in Iowa. I understand problems they face.″

With 522 of 522 precincts reporting, Hodgson captured 10,110 votes, or 48 percent, to 4,151 or 20 percent for Jane Shey, another Bedell aide and a Roman Catholic Church activist. O’Brien had 2,883 votes or 14 percent; state Sen. Milo Colton of Sioux City had 2,255 or 11 percent; and Ayers had 1,470 or 7 percent.

In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, with all precincts reporting, former Senate Majority Leader Lowell Junkins, 42, had 70,111 votes or 52 percent to Lt. Gov. Robert Anderson’s 44,716 or 33 percent, state Sen. George Kinley’s 15,735 or 12 percent and Readlyn physician Clinton Berryhill’s 3,873 or 3 percent.

Polls have shown Junkins in a dead heat with Gov. Terry Branstad, who had no primary opposition in seeking a second four-year term. Branstad managed President Reagan’s Iowa campaign in 1984 and has suffered because of Reagan’s unpopular farm policies.

In the Democratic U.S. Senate primary to pick an opponent to face incumbent Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, with all precincts counted, Des Moines lawyer John Roehrick pulled in 87,817 votes, or 83 percent, to 17,577, or 17 percent, for Cedar Rapids labor leader Juan Cortez, a follower of extremist Lyndon LaRouche.

Grandy was born in Sioux City but was sent to an Eastern prep school at age 12. His mother died that year, about a year after his father died. Grandy graduated from Harvard and, in what he calls a lucky break, landed the Gopher role.

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