Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Asters from Phil Specht's northeast Iowa farm

For the sixth straight year, I’m wrapping up my weekly wildflower series with asters, which are often among the last native plants blooming around Iowa. This installment is special, though, because Phil Specht shared photographs of asters growing on his property in Clayton County.

Phil has been “running a grass-based, rotationally grazed dairy” for decades. His farm became a “working ecosystem” supporting a phenomenal number of grassland birds, thanks to the diversity of plants and insects. You can learn more about his pasture management practices by listening to this podcast produced by the Land Stewardship Project or Phil’s interview with Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Asters can be notoriously difficult to distinguish from one another. Phil made educated guesses about some of the plants pictured below but would welcome help with the IDs. He believes “most of northeast Iowa’s native species are represented”; “The farm borders the woods and has a little soil that is of prairie origin, so a wide range of habitat.”

Iowa wildflower Wednesday will return during the spring of 2018. The full archive links to photographs of approximately 170 native plant species. That number will hit 200 sometime next year.

Finally, I want to wish the Bleeding Heartland community a happy Thanksgiving and express my gratitude to all who stop by. I’m especially thankful for the photographers who allowed me to publish their work during 2017: Phil Specht, Eileen Miller, Lora Conrad, Wendie Schneider, Beth Lynch, and Katie Byerly.

Now, enjoy some of Clayton County’s lovely asters.

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IA-Gov: John Norris releases first batch of high-profile endorsers

Gubernatorial candidate John Norris announced a statewide steering committee yesterday with more than 90 “current and former state legislators, public officials, party activists and officers, farmers, educators, students, labor leaders and business owners.”

State Representatives Marti Anderson and Jo Oldson became the first two Iowa House Democrats to back Norris, joined by former State Representatives Brian Quirk, Andrew Wenthe, Mark Kuhn, Deo Koenigs, and Roger Thomas, and former State Senators Daryl Beall, Bill Hutchins, and Lowell Junkins (who was the 1986 Democratic nominee for governor).

Other notable endorsers include Brad Anderson, who managed Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign in Iowa and was the 2014 Democratic nominee for secretary of state, former Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, and Marcia Nichols, the longtime political director for the public employee union AFSCME. Candidates won’t release their fundraising reports until January, but I doubt these three would publicly back Norris unless they were confident that he would have the resources to compete on a statewide level before the primary. Anderson, Sterzenbach, and Nichols were part of State Representative Todd Prichard’s leadership team earlier this year. Prichard left the governor’s race in August and endorsed Fred Hubbell yesterday.

I’ve posted below the full Norris steering committee list, along with a November 20 e-mail blast from Brad Anderson and a Facebook post by Marti Anderson.

Bleeding Heartland readers may recognize the names of other Norris endorsers, such as Jess Vilsack (the former governor’s son), former Vilsack aide Dusky Terry, 2016 Iowa House candidate Heather Matson, and Kevin Techau, who was U.S. attorney for Iowa’s Northern District from 2014 until this March. Dave Swenson and Matt Russell have been occasional guest authors at this site. Emilene Leone is one of the newly-engaged Scott County activists profiled in this post. Bill Sueppel represented Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson during her impeachment hearings and later in her civil lawsuit, resolved last month in her favor.

Any comments about the governor’s race are welcome in this thread. Bleeding Heartland previously posted audio and transcripts of stump speeches by all seven contenders and a comprehensive list of current or former state lawmakers who have endorsed a gubernatorial candidate.

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More questions emerge about Iowa Republican couple's political donations

Kim Schmett and Connie Schmett have filed additional paperwork with the U.S. Department of Justice to report political contributions since their October 2016 registration as foreign agents for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The documents listed the three donations Bleeding Heartland discussed here as well as some previously unknown campaign contributions. While checking those out, I noticed some oddities.

No answer at the Schmetts’ home number, where voice mail is not accepting new messages. Reached on his cell phone on November 20, Kim Schmett told me, “I’m not going to talk about it right now. It speaks for itself.”

Trust me: it doesn’t.

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DCCC backing Abby Finkenauer in IA-01

The main political arm of U.S. House Democrats is officially promoting Abby Finkenauer as its preferred candidate to take on Representative Rod Blum in Iowa’s first district.

Finkenauer was among the initial group named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” program for this election cycle, as first reported by Roll Call’s Simone Pathe on November 15. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Representative Jimmy Panetta were featured guests at a Cedar Rapids fundraiser for Finkenauer’s campaign on November 19.

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Bill Dix: No More Mr. Nice Guy

Tracy Freese: In the private sector, Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix’s handling of a sexual harassment scandal would have gotten him fired and escorted from the building. Freese is Dix’s Democratic challenger in Iowa Senate district 25. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix has been hailed as a nice guy. That façade cracked during Tuesday’s press conference with Iowa media outlets. The exchange began nicely enough; Mr. Dix came off as friendly and humble. He played the lovable fool and reminded me of the neighbor you would expect to sell ten boxes of Girl Scout cookies to.

But by the end of his time in front of the cameras and microphones, his demeanor took a turn for the worse.

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Stop using professed respect for Jews as cover for racism and Islamophobia

Prominent Iowa Republican Jamie Johnson resigned yesterday as leader of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships, after CNN exposed a pattern of racist statements and “inflammatory remarks about Islam” between 2008 and 2016.

Johnson told CNN his past comments “do not represent my views personally or professionally”; “Having witnessed leaders from the entire faith spectrum work to empower their communities I now see things much differently.”

Whatever Johnson believes today, his generalizations about lazy, promiscuous, drug-using African Americans and Muslims who “want to cut our heads off” didn’t attract any special notice, let alone condemnation, in Iowa GOP circles. Republican activists elected the reverend to serve multiple terms on the party’s State Central Committee. Presidential candidates also sought Johnson’s support. He worked for Rick Santorum before the 2012 caucuses and for Rick Perry and Donald Trump at various times during the 2016 election cycle.

As a Jew, I want to express my utmost contempt for how Johnson praised American Jewish culture as a rhetorical device while denigrating other minority groups.

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