Roaming chickens in Senate candidate's neighborhood becomes issue in Iowa
Democrat Bruce Braley calls it a "ridiculous election-year politics things"
Next-door neighbor said she was surprised to find Braley and his wife filed a complaint
Correction: An earlier version of this story characterized Lacina as Rep. Braley's attorney. He is the housing association's attorney.
You shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, but Iowa Republicans are willing to put a few into a neighborhood dispute involving chickens and Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley’s yard.
It should be something that went no further than a community newsletter, but one of the neighbors is Braley, a U.S. congressman who grew up and owns a home in the Holiday Lake neighborhood. The others are Pauline Hampton and her four chickens, which run freely into both backyards, sometimes leaving evidence of their cross-property line roaming.
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It’s that evidence – chicken stuff – that made Braley and his wife cry fowl.
Hampton said she was surprised to learn in May about a complaint the Braleys lodged with the Holiday Lake Neighborhood Association.
“Mrs. Braley was out with her lawnmower, and I thought, because I do this with all my neighbors, I’d give them fresh, organic eggs,” Hampton told CNN. “I had offered them to her and she says, ‘I can’t accept them because I’ve filed a formal complaint against you.’ And that was the first I ever heard of it, so I just went ahead and said, ‘OK,’ you know, I took my eggs back.”
Hampton says the chickens were approved by the homeowners association because she uses them for therapeutic purposes as a court-appointed child advocate.
An attorney for the housing association wrote an email to the board in May, which a Republican media outlet obtained and printed, saying the congressman wants to avoid a “litigious situation,” but that the chickens “should not be permitted.”
CNN reached out to the attorney to confirm the authenticity of the email, but he declined to speak on the matter.
In response to the complaint, Hampton built a pen for the chickens, though “in the evenings, yes, I do let them run in my yard,” she said. While she watches them as they roam, they sometimes cross onto the Braley property.
Republicans have seized on the situation, saying Braley, a trial lawyer, is threatening to sue Hampton, a military veteran, which is not in true “Iowa nice” fashion. Braley has denied the accusation, and no suit has been filed.
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“It’s just one of those ridiculous election-year political things that comes up,” Braley told CNN. “Nobody in Iowa cares about chickens at Holiday Lake in terms of how it’s going to affect their vote in the Senate. What they care about is what you do, and what you can bring to the table to make their lives better because they care about the future.”
Braley may be right. While this issue has been in the news for months, the latest CNN poll from Iowa shows him deadlocked with his opponent, Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst, 49% to 48%, respectively, within the poll’s margin of error. Previously polls have found the same result, or had a slight edge for Ernst.
CNN has found no reliable polling on the chicken dispute.
“What’s so strange about this story is it’s an example of where, when somebody else’s animals are in your yard, you’re the bad neighbor,” Braley said.
As for Hampton, a longtime Democrat who says she’s voted for Braley in all four of his previous congressional races, the chicken dispute hasn’t cost him her vote yet.
“I am weighing my options,” she said. “It gives me some thoughts to ponder. I wouldn’t necessarily say I wouldn’t vote for him because of just this.”
CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report.