Prospects for electing more women to the Iowa legislature

In honor of Women’s Equality Day, let’s revisit the field of women candidates in the 100 Iowa House districts and 25 Iowa Senate districts that are up for grabs this year. Since Bleeding Heartland last surveyed the scene, a few more women candidates have emerged, while others are no longer in the running.

Following the 2014 election, the number of women in the Iowa House rose from 25 to 27 (six Republicans and 21 Democrats). The number of women in the Iowa Senate dropped from ten to seven (one Republican and six Democrats) because men replaced three retiring female Republican senators.

Iowa’s general assembly has fewer women as a percentage of lawmakers than do 29 other state legislatures. Despite efforts by the bipartisan group 50/50 in 2020 to promote political equity in Iowa and to increase the number of women candidates at all levels of government, next year’s legislature may have even fewer female state representatives and senators.

Speaking of Women’s Equality Day, did you know Iowa women came close to gaining the right to vote during the 1870s, and again in 1916? Neither did I before I researched this Throwback Thursday post last year.

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Title IX and the Rio Olympics

Tom Witosky covered sports, politics and business for many years as an investigative reporter at the Des Moines Register. -promoted by desmoinesdem


Back when newspaper reporters typed their stories onto paper, the notation -30- at the bottom of the final page indicated the end of a story.

When the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team on Sunday defeated Serbia, 96-66, the 30-point drubbing fittingly symbolized the end of one of the best Olympic efforts ever by U.S. male and female athletes. Medal totals told the story: U.S. teams earned 121 medals (45 gold, 37 silver and 38 bronze) outpacing China’s second place finish with 70 medals.

But what’s more interesting is how the dominance of U.S. female athletes, likely the most superior women’s team ever fielded by the United States Olympic Committee, played such a huge role in that success.

In many ways, the U.S. success provides another metaphor for the progress that has been made in this country’s striving for a better union. Like the breaking of the racial barrier in Major League Baseball by Jackie Robinson, and the breaking of the sexual-orientation barrier by a variety of athletes, the success of the U.S. women illustrates vividly that commitment to equality and diversity does pay despite long-term, deep-seated resistance from those who disagree.

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Throwback Thursday: Ed Fallon reflects on endorsing Ralph Nader for president

Before #BernieOrBust or any other hashtag existed to convey some activists’ feelings about the Democratic Party’s establishment candidate, there was Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Iowa’s best-known politician to endorse Nader rather than Al Gore was State Representative Ed Fallon. The Des Moines Democrat had found himself at odds with the rest of his Iowa House colleagues before. Some of his politically inexpedient decisions have aged well, most famously his heartfelt speech before casting the legislature’s only vote against our state’s Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

Supporting Nader caused more intense fallout.

Though Fallon no longer considers himself a Democrat and has devoted most of his energy lately to environmental activism, he still endorses some Democratic candidates, including Bernie Sanders before this year’s Iowa caucuses.

Fallon spoke with Bleeding Heartland recently about his decision to back Nader, how that choice affected his subsequent bids for public office, and his advice for activists drawn to Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein instead of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

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An Iowa mom's perfect care package for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch

Outrage has been building for several days over news that the Mylan corporation jacked up wholesale prices for EpiPens from $56.64 to $317.82 between 2007 and 2015. Mylan is the sole suppler of devices patients can use to inject epinephrine in case of life-threatening allergic reactions. Manufacturing costs for EpiPens have not increased, and the active ingredient is a "generic drug that has been in use for decades." Adding to the scandal, the annual total compensation for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch has increased from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068 since 2007. The company exploited a loophole called "inversion" two years ago to reduce its tax bill.

Yesterday Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called on Mylan to reduce the price of EpiPens. Members of Congress including Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley have asked the company to explain the pricing changes and asked the Food and Drug Administration "to answer questions about its approval process and other steps for alternatives to the EpiPen." Michael Hiltzik reported for the Los Angeles Times that another device used to self-inject epinephrine "was taken off the market last year because of manufacturing defects," and a similar product from a generics company "hasn’t yet won approval from the Food and Drug Administration." Another generic product is available at a lower cost but works differently, "in ways that can lead to critical errors if users aren’t properly trained," and it "can’t be substituted when filling a prescription" for an EpiPen.

Mylan promised today to offer more assistance for people who need to buy EpiPens. But as Andrew Pollack reported for the New York Times, the extra discounts are "not lowering the list price of EpiPen, just making it easier for consumers to pay for it. So insurance companies, federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and school districts that stock the products could still pay the same price." Bresch sounded shameless this morning during a CNBC interview, justifying the price increase because of higher marketing and distribution costs and other improvements to the product. "No one is more frustrated than I am," she claimed.

My friend Colleen Kinney, a Des Moines mother of a child with severe food allergy, is mailing Bresch a care package today. She gave me permission to publish this photo of the cookies she baked and will send along with a note: "Heather Bresch, Please provide explanation for epipen price hike. Enjoy these treats. If my son ate these, he would die without Mylan’s epi-pen."

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Iowa Senate district 28 preview: Mike Breitbach vs. Jan Heikes

Hours after Democrats across the country had begun to celebrate President Barack Obama’s re-election on the night of November 7, 2012, Iowa’s political junkies were still on the edge of our seats, waiting for votes to be reported in the last few state Senate races. Sometime after 1 am, results from Senate district 42 in Iowa’s southeast corner confirmed that Democrats would control at least 26 seats in the upper chamber. For at least two more years, that firewall would stop Republicans from implementing some of the disastrous policies seen in places like Wisconsin, Kansas, or Ohio.

Democrats are still clinging to the ledge with a one-seat Iowa Senate majority. While Republicans have several districts to target in their quest for 26, Democrats have only one obvious pickup opportunity: Senate district 28 in the northeast corner of the state. This race was the "one that got away" four years ago, as former State Representative John Beard fell an agonizing 17 votes short against Republican Mike Breitbach in the battle for an open seat. Now Breitbach has the advantages of incumbency as he seeks re-election against Jan Heikes.

Follow me after the jump for more on this district’s political make-up and voting history, along with background on both candidates and Breitbach’s first television commercial.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Smooth hedge nettle

This week’s featured plant is a species I learned to identify only a few weeks ago. Far from the most impressive flowers you’ll see blooming in moist habitats during the summer, smooth hedge nettle (Stachys tenuifolia) "is easy to overlook," since it "tends to be rather small-sized and non-descript." This member of the mint family is native to most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. I took all of the enclosed pictures along the Windsor Heights or Urbandale bike trails.

The foliage of smooth hedge nettle strongly resembles that of American or Canada germander, which grows in similar wet places and was the focus of a Bleeding Heartland post last month. At first glance, the flowers are hard to tell apart too, but hedge nettle blossoms have an upper lip that is absent on germander flowers.

Some hedge nettle species are also known as woundwort. That name may ring a bell, because General Woundwort is a memorable character from the fantastic adventure story Watership Down. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, make time to read Watership Down sometime. That book has been one of my favorite novels since I read it as a child. My kids enjoyed it too when we read it together a couple of years ago.

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