Russian hackers targeted Iowa's election system

Iowa was among 21 states where hackers linked to the Russian government tried to obtain access to the election system during the 2016 campaign, Department of Homeland Security officials informed the Iowa Secretary of State’s office on September 22. The agency had previously declined to specify the targeted states.

Official communications from Secretary of State Paul Pate and Deputy Secretary of State Carol Olson did not mention any foreign connection and emphasized the positive, saying “bad actors” didn’t succeed in compromising the election system, and Iowa’s voter registration database remains secure.

Multiple news reports confirmed that intelligence officials had identified these 21 states in their investigation of scanning by “Russian government-linked cyber actors” last year. “Only Illinois reported that hackers had succeeded in breaching its voter systems,” according to an Associated Press story by Geoff Mulvihill and Jake Pearson. Arizona officials took that state’s registration database offline during the summer of 2016 while evaluating an attempted intrusion, believed to come from Russia. Cyber-attacks may have been connected to election-day malfunctions of e-pollbooks in a heavily Democratic county of North Carolina.

I enclose below written statements from Pate, Olson, and Jim Mowrer, one of two Democrats running for secretary of state. Mowrer asserted Pate “failed to take this threat seriously” and “has misled Iowans by claiming that no attempts were made to access Iowa’s election systems.” The other Democratic candidate, Deidre DeJear, linked to a Rachel Maddow segment about the news on her social media feeds, commenting, “This is not good, folks. There is no good reason why our current Secretary of State should neglect communicating important matters, regarding the security of our vote.”

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Jeff Danielson rules out Congressional campaign in IA-01

State Senator Jeff Danielson has decided not to seek the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s first Congressional district, he told KWWL’s Ron Steele on September 21.

“I’ll remain focused on the Cedar Valley and support the candidates and causes I care about.”

Danielson is a professional firefighter for the City of Cedar Falls. He says that important obligation and commitment, in addition to his obligations as a current Iowa State Senator, make very difficult, if not impossible, to run a successful campaign for U.S. Congress at this time.

Danielson had been considering the race for several months, with a view to pushing Iowa Democrats to ditch “canned messages” and “purity tests” in favor of issues with broad appeal: “keeping people safe,” “being fiscally responsible,” investing in education, providing access to health care, and “focusing on an economy that rewards work.”

Four Democrats are running against two-term Representative Rod Blum: State Representative Abby Finkenauer, Thomas Heckroth, George Ramsey III, and Courtney Rowe. I’m not aware of any others exploring this race. So far Finkenauer and Heckroth have more endorsements than the others in the field.

After the jump I’ve enclosed audio clips from recent stump speeches by Heckroth, Ramsey, Rowe, and a surrogate for Finkenauer. Bleeding Heartland previously posted the audio and transcript of Finkenauer’s remarks to a Democratic audience in Des Moines.

The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 159,852 active registered Democrats, 142,665 Republicans, and 188,949 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Secretary of State’s office. The district will be a top target for Democrats in Iowa and nationally. Last November, Blum ran about 5 points ahead of Donald Trump, who carried IA-01 with 48.7 percent of the vote, compared to 45.2 percent for Hillary Clinton.

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IA-Gov: Highlights from Cathy Glasson's campaign launch

Cathy Glasson became the seventh declared Democratic candidate for governor this week, emphasizing her commitment to a $15 minimum wage, expanded workers’ rights, single-payer health care, and stronger efforts to clean up Iowa waterways. A nurse and president of SEIU Local 199, Glasson hired staff months ago and has kept up a busy schedule while exploring the race, speaking at or attending more than 100 events around the state. Bleeding Heartland covered two versions of her stump speech here and here.

I enclose below news from Glasson’s rollout, including endorsements from Iowa environmental activists and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. You can keep up with Glasson through her campaign’s website, Twitter feed, or Facebook page.

The field of Democratic challengers to Governor Kim Reynolds is likely complete. In alphabetical order, the other candidates are:

Nate Boulton (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Fred Hubbell (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Andy McGuire (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Jon Neiderbach (website, Twitter, Facebook)
John Norris (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Ross Wilburn (website, Twitter, Facebook)

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ACLU challenges Medicaid coverage exclusions for transgender Iowans

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa has filed a second lawsuit charging that state government violates the civil rights of transgender Iowans. Plaintiff EerieAnna Good is a Medicaid recipient who has been denied coverage for transition-related surgical care, because Iowa Department of Human Services administrative rules exclude Medicaid coverage for surgery related to “Sex reassignment.”

Professional associations representing doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers support transition-related care as medically necessary, and more than a dozen states prohibit transgender exclusions in private health insurance or Medicaid.

In a news release enclosed in full below, ACLU of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis noted that “Iowans who are not transgender routinely receive coverage for a medically necessary mastectomy—but a transgender Iowan would be banned from coverage for the same care to treat gender dysphoria regardless of medical need. That’s a violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act and equal protection under the Iowa Constitution.” (Since 2007, the Iowa Civil Rights Act has prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity.)

A second transgender Iowan, Carol Ann Beal, will likely join this lawsuit after the Iowa DHS finishes processing her appeal of Medicaid’s denial of coverage, the ACLU said.

Last month, the ACLU filed suit on behalf of a former Iowa prison nurse, who “was continuously denied the use of restrooms and locker rooms consistent with his gender identity, because he is transgender,” and also denied “the same level of health care benefit coverage” the state plan provided to employees who are not transgender.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Jerusalem artichoke

Although Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) has nothing to do with the historic city in the Middle East, I thought it would be appropriate to feature these late summer wildflowers on the eve of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah.

Why are these plants, native to most of North America, called Jerusalem artichoke? One theory: “The Jerusalem part of the name probably came from a mispronunciation of “girasole,” which is Italian for ‘sunflower.’” During the 17th century, European explorers found what had been “an important food plant for native Americans” for centuries and brought tubers back to the European continent.

The Missouri Botanical Garden’s website notes,

Plants are still grown today for harvest of the tubers which begins about 2 weeks after the flowers fade. Each plant typically produces 2-5 pounds of tubers per year. Raw tubers have a nutty flavor. Tubers may be grated raw into salads, boiled and/or mashed somewhat like potatoes, roasted or added to soups. Unlike potatoes, tubers do not contain starch. They do contain inulin which converts into fructose which is better tolerated by people with type 2 diabetes than sucrose.

Some people find the taste of the tubers (called “sunchokes”) similar to artichokes. If you decide to grow these plants, be aware that they can spread aggressively and “are difficult to remove from the garden. Tiny pieces of tuber left in the soils will sprout.”

Jerusalem artichokes are blooming now near many Iowa trails and roadsides. I took all of the enclosed pictures on trails that run along the banks of North Walnut Creek in Windsor Heights or Walnut Creek in Des Moines.

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How did Kim Reynolds crunch the numbers to avoid a special session?

Governor Kim Reynolds won’t call a special legislative session to balance the budget for the year that ended on June 30, her office announced this morning.

They haven’t explained how a fiscal year 2017 shortfall that non-partisan analysts estimated at $104 million in July and around $75 million a few weeks ago became a $14.6 million shortfall, according to the governor’s staff.

Reynolds didn’t take questions from the press today. She didn’t even attend the briefing where Department of Management Director Dave Roederer handed out a puzzling table.

Whatever the Reynolds administration did to avert a short-term political problem will likely worsen the strain on the state budget in the coming months.

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