Democratic Iowa Senate candidate and current House member Bruce Braley has a vacation house on Holiday Lake, a resort community about 40 miles from Cedar Rapids.
This spring, Pauline Hampton, one of Braley’s Holiday Lake neighbors, stopped by his second home to offer a dozen fresh, organic eggs produced by her prize chickens.
That’s when things went horribly wrong, reports The Washington Post.
Braley’s wife, Carolyn, answered the door. According to Hampton, Carolyn Braley responded to the gracious egg offer by saying, “We aren’t going to accept your eggs — and we have filed a formal complaint against you.”
The threatening comment, it turned out, arose because Hampton’s chickens had previously rambled onto the Braleys’ coveted lake property. The Senate candidate and his wife did not like it. Not one bit.
Had either of the Braleys ever walked over to Hampton’s home to discuss their annoyance with the wandering chickens?
Of course not.
Instead, on May 8, Braley and his wife then publicly voiced their beef with the chickens at the board meeting of the homeowners’ association. For their next move, the Senate candidate contacted the association lawyer, Thomas Lacina, to declare that chickens should be outlawed from the serene, rural, sprawling 755-acre resort community in the farming state.
“Chickens are not pets and should not be permitted at Holiday Lake,” Braley, a rich, liberal trial lawyer, wrote in an email to Lacina. He added that he hoped to “avoid a litigious situation.”
Braley has insisted that he made no threat to sue despite the direct reference to a possible lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Hampton, a registered Democrat and an Air Force veteran, put up a wire fence on her property to keep her chickens cooped.
While the chicken challenge is over for Hampton, it has festered for Braley and added to his growing image problem across the state.
The Democrat has responded by insisting that he handled the property squabble perfectly well.
“At no time did I ever — ever — threaten a lawsuit or threaten litigation. Never,” he told the Post. “And anybody who says that I did is not being truthful.”
He characterized the quarrel as “a personal dispute between my wife and a neighbor because chickens were on our property all the time.”
Braley also suggested that he is a victim of a conspiracy.
“I just reached out to somebody I knew expecting to get a phone call back and instead this thing blows up,” he told the Post. “And I think it’s obvious why, because people who don’t want me to be the next senator from Iowa will stop at nothing to try to drag my family through the mud.”
Some neighbors share Braley’s frustration with chickens roaming in the rural vacation area. Others think he handled the situation in a terrible way.
“Buddy, we’re here in Iowa,” Holiday Lake homeowner William Nagel told the Post. “We talk like men here and we act like men. Usually, a man’s word is like gold. A handshake is a contract. Neighbors are neighbors, and if you’ve got a problem with your neighbor, you talk it out.”
Joni Ernst, Braley’s Republican opponent, has seized on the fowl fracas.
“You threaten to sue somebody because a chicken’s on your property? That’s absolutely ridiculous,” she said, according to the Post. “It’s Iowa. Come on. Get over yourself.”
The month of May was a bad one for Braley for other reasons as well. Video surfaced on the Democrat speaking negatively about farmers at a Texas fundraiser full of trial lawyers. (EXCLUSIVE: Americans For Prosperity To Spend $800K Attacking Iowa Democrat For Farmer Gaffe)
With liquor bottles behind him as he spoke, Braley told his fellow trial lawyers that “if you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice.”
“Or, you might have a farmer from Iowa, who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Braley said in reference to Iowa Republican Charles Grassley.
Conservatives immediately pounced, saying the remark disparaged the work of the large number of Iowan farmers.
Iowans will continue to see that embarrassing video of Braley hobnobbing with trial lawyers. Americans For Prosperity, an outside conservative group spending millions across the country against Democrats in tight Senate races, has rolled out attack ads across the state featuring the comment.