DAVENPORT | Republicans are mounting an attack on Democratic Senate hopeful Bruce Braley over a dispute with one of his neighbors involving some chickens.
On social media and beginning Wednesday in a web video, conservatives have been criticizing the Waterloo lawyer over the incident at his second home at Holiday Lake in Powesheik County.
The dispute arose this spring when Braley's wife, Carolyn, lodged a complaint with their homeowner's association about chickens running free. After that, Rep. Braley called the association's attorney, Tom Lacina, about the matter.
An email from Lacina to the association's board said "the implication from Mr. Braley was that he wants to avoid a 'litigious situation.'"
The emails were first posted Monday by The Iowa Republican, a conservative website. Braley is running against state Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican, for the open U.S. Senate seat in Iowa.
The chickens were being kept by a neighbor, who said she used them as therapy animals for children with mental health and communications issues, according to Lacina's email.
Braley spokesman Jeff Giertz said that Braley never threatened a lawsuit and that he was calling to check on the status of the complaint.
Others in the neighborhood were complaining about the chickens, too, he said.
Republicans, however, have been having a field day, saying the incident is proof Braley lacks Iowa values.
"A true Iowan would have just talked to his neighbors, but not trial lawyer, Bruce Braley," the American Crossroads ad says.
Giertz responded: "The wild claims made in this Karl Rove smear video are simply false." He added the Ernst campaign "and her special interest friends are trying to smear Bruce and his family."
The association's rules don't allow animals or birds that aren't household pets, and eventually its board directed that the chickens be kept penned up.
Some of the association board members also have differing opinions on the matter.
Bill Nagle was critical of Braley, saying he thought a lawsuit was being threatened. And he questioned why the complaint was filed. "That's real neighborly, wasn't it?" he said.
Bill Jensen, the board's vice president, said, however, he never thought a lawsuit was seriously at issue and there were others with concerns about the chickens, too.
He also disputed Republican contentions the incident cost the association $1,692 in legal fees.
"That's not exactly true," he said. The association's lawyer handles a number of chores and has a monthly budget, he said.