desmoinesdem

IA-Gov: John Norris calls on Democrats to limit campaign donations, spending

Iowa is one of only twelve states with no limits on individual contributions to state-level races. John Norris is challenging Democrats who run for governor in 2018 to “lead by example,” adopting federal campaign contribution limits (capped at $2,700 per person) for the primary election.

Speaking to Democratic activists in Panora (Guthrie County) on April 27, Norris also urged gubernatorial candidates to agree to keep their primary election spending below $1.5 million, saying, “We should campaign on the power of our ideas and spend our time talking to Iowans and not chasing money from wealthy special interests.” I enclose below a longer excerpt from his speech.

Norris will decide soon whether to run for governor. Democrats Rich Leopold, Jon Neiderbach, and Dr. Andy McGuire are already running, likely to be joined by State Representative Todd Prichard, State Senator Nate Boulton, Fred Hubbell, Mike Matson, and/or Mike Carberry (though many Democrats expect Carberry to seek re-election as Johnson County supervisor instead).

Among those candidates, McGuire, Boulton, and Hubbell are the only ones well-positioned to collect many campaign donations larger than $2,700. McGuire recently completed a two-year stint as Iowa Democratic Party chair, during which she solicited many four-figure and five-figure gifts. Roxanne Conlin is among McGuire’s most prominent endorsers. Boulton raised a considerable amount for his first campaign in 2016 and is expected to have strong support from labor unions and attorneys if he joins the field. Hubbell is independently wealthy, having donated $30,000 to the state party during the 2016 cycle, as well as four-figure sums to some other Democratic campaigns. He is rumored to have the support of other central Iowa major donors including Bill Knapp, who gave the Iowa Democratic Party more than $60,000 during the last two years alone. (You can search any individual’s Iowa political donation history here.)

Neiderbach has made campaign finance reform a major theme of his early stump speeches and has promised not to accept any contribution exceeding $500. Leopold speaks often of the need to break the grip “expensive consultants, corporate lobbyists and powerful special interests” have on Iowa’s “insider elite political class.” Bleeding Heartland will soon publish an in-depth interview with Leopold that touches on similar themes.

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Young a no, Blum nowhere as House leaders shelve new health care vote

U.S. House Republican leaders called off plans to vote today on a new proposal to replace the 2010 health care reform law. Representative David Young (IA-03) was among at least 21 Republicans who had indicated they don’t support the MacArthur amendment to the American Health Care Act.

At this writing, Young has not released a statement, and his communications staff have not responded to my inquiries. His social media feeds are full of the usual photos of constituents or groups who stopped by his Washington office this week. But on Thursday, other staffers told various constituent callers (including me) that Young’s “position has not changed” since he came out against the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act in March. The Hill included him on their “whip count” of no votes, based on Young’s comments to Independent Journal Review reporter Haley Byrd: “Moderate GOP member David Young says he’s still a no on AHCA and tells me he *somehow* hasn’t read the MacArthur amendment yet. (Hmm. Okay.)”

Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) hasn’t commented publicly on the latest proposal, which was drafted to appease members of the House Freedom Caucus to which he belongs. I haven’t heard back from his communications staff, and numerous constituents who called his offices were told he has no position, either because nothing is on the House floor yet or because the bill is only in “draft” form. Notably, Blum didn’t wait for a floor vote to announce his opposition to the American Health Care Act last month. At that time, he said any health care reform bill needs “to drive down actual costs” and “help people who need the help.”

Groups including the AARP, the March of Dimes, American Hospital Association, and American Medical Association oppose the MacArthur amendment, under which states could decide not to force insurers to cover “essential health benefits.” The policy would also lead to much higher insurance premiums for older people and those with pre-existing conditions. The new Republican proposal envisions a return to state-based high-risk pools, which “failed consumers in the past.” Iowa was among 35 states that established high-risk pools before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Foundation explained the shortcomings well here.

I will update this post as needed if Blum or Young comment further on GOP health care reform alternatives. The third Iowa Republican in the U.S. House, Representative Steve King (IA-04), came around to supporting the American Health Care Act in March.

UPDATE: Iowans living in the first district continue to report being told that Blum’s staff told them he doesn’t have a position on the bill. Blum has taken a stand on countless other policies that never came up for a vote on the House floor. Just this week, he expressed support for President Trump’s “tax plan,” which is nothing like fleshed-out legislation.

I’ve added below a news release from State Representative Abby Finkenauer, who is likely to make her campaign against Blum official soon.

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IA-Gov: Ron Corbett continues to lay groundwork for 2018 campaign

Outgoing Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett continues to signal that he is serious about seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2018. Speaking as “president and founder” of the Engage Iowa think tank, Corbett will deliver a major speech on education policy at the Downtown Cedar Rapids Rotary this Monday, May 1.

In a press release enclosed in full below, Corbett said, “This event kick-offs my second round of visits to Iowa rotaries. Last time I was talking about the need for tax modernization and improving Iowa’s water quality – two topics that were at the forefront of discussion this past legislative session and continue to be hot topics. I look forward to re-imagining education and rallying education champions as we work to make improvements to our state’s educational system.” Since late 2015, Corbett has spoken to scores of local business-oriented groups (Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, or Farm Bureau chapters) in 55 counties as of last December.

The landing page of Engage Iowa’s website now advertises a livestream of Corbett’s forthcoming speech. He will promote a new “research-based teacher compensation plan” and discuss “opportunities that the state needs to address” in light of the new collective bargaining law, which could profoundly affect public schools and teachers. The full plan will go up on the think tank’s website after the May 1 Rotary event.

Corbett also has a new book coming out, which sounds like a case to Iowa voters, judging by the blurb on the Barnes and Noble website (emphasis added):

“Beyond Promises” is a memoir of sorts by Ron Corbett, who became the youngest speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives and who now is finishing up his eighth year as mayor of Iowa’s second largest city, Cedar Rapids. In the late 1990s, Corbett was considered a possible Republican candidate for Congress or governor. Then he surprised many and resigned from the Legislature so he wouldn’t have to spend so much time away from home and his growing family. He headed the local Chamber of Commerce for six years, a period in which he led a community campaign to rebuild schools, another to redevelop the Cedar Rapids riverfront and a third that brought professional management to Cedar Rapids city government. Corbett’s tenure as Cedar Rapids mayor coincided with the city’s recovery from a devastating flood in 2008, the costliest natural disaster in Iowa history. Can someone who was a leading Republican voice in much of Iowa reclaim statewide prominence and be elected governor? In 2017, that’s the elephant in the room-the unstated question lingering in the backdrop of “Beyond Promises.” This book is Corbett’s first-person account of where he came from and what shaped him, as well as a chronicle of doing, not simply promising.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds has a big head start on fundraising and will have more establishment support in next year’s Republican primary, as the sitting governor–or acting governor, to be more precise. But Corbett sounds ready to take on this challenge, and the book title Beyond Promises hints at a possible line of attack. The Branstad/Reynolds administration hasn’t accomplished any of the four key goals promised during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign: creating 200,000 new jobs, reducing the cost of government by 15 percent, increasing family incomes by 25 percent, and having the “best schools in the nation.”

This year’s severe budget shortfall could also create an opening for Corbett to argue that Branstad and Reynolds mismanaged the state’s finances, compared to the period when he was Iowa House speaker. If revenues fall well below projections again during the coming fiscal year, as former Iowa revenue estimator Jon Muller considers likely, Reynolds may be forced to enact large, disruptive spending cuts in early 2018, as happened this year.

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Pat Grassley could be biggest winner if Bill Northey moves to USDA

A potential federal job for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey may provide a stepping stone for State Representative Pat Grassley.

Northey discussed ethanol policy at the White House on Tuesday during a round-table meeting with President Donald Trump and newly-confirmed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Reports of the event fueled speculation that Northey may soon move to a position in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Speaking to Iowa reporters yesterday, Northey emphasized that no job offer is on the table but said of Perdue, “I certainly look forward to working with him. I don’t know what role that might be. […] I certainly would love to work with him as Iowa Secretary of Ag. If there’s another job offered, I’d be very willing to consider that as well.”

Trump put Iowa’s own Sam Clovis in charge of handling USDA appointments in January, after Clovis had served as his surrogate in some agricultural policy discussions during the campaign.

Northey has not clarified whether he plans to seek a fourth term as secretary of agriculture in 2018. He had been widely expected to run for governor next year but ruled that out immediately after Governor Terry Branstad agreed to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.

If Northey resigns before the end of his term, Iowa law calls for the governor to appoint a replacement to serve until the next election. The last time that process came into play, Branstad named Mary Mosiman as state auditor in 2013. She was unchallenged for the GOP nomination for that office the following year.

I would expect Grassley to lobby Branstad–or Kim Reynolds, if she is acting as governor by that time–for the secretary of agriculture position. The job would be a good way to increase his statewide profile with a view to running for his grandfather’s U.S. Senate seat in 2022. The elder Grassley wasn’t subtle about lobbying for Northey to get the top USDA job, presumably to clear a path for his grandson.

First elected to the Iowa House in 2006, the younger Grassley just completed his second year leading the House Appropriations Committee. He had previously chaired the House Agriculture Committee for three years and the Economic Growth/Rebuild Iowa Committee for two years before that.

I enclose below the official bios for Northey and Pat Grassley. Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson posted the audio of Northey’s comments about a possible USDA position.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Dogtooth violet (White trout lily)

Today’s featured plants are among the few wildflowers I could identify before I embarked on the journey that led to the Iowa wildflower Wednesday series. I grew up calling them dogtooth violets. More often, I hear others use the common name white trout lily. Alternative names include thousand leaf or white fawnlily.

Erythronium albidum is native to most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. According to Wildflowers of Iowa Woodlands by Sylvan Runkel and Alvin Bull, dogtooth violets are “found throughout the state in rich moist woodlands, especially in bottomlands with open woods.” The Illinois Wildflowers site notes,

An abundance of this plant indicates that a woodlands has never been subjected to the plow or bulldozed over. White Trout Lily is one of the spring wildflowers that is threatened by the spread of Alliaria petiolata (Garlic Mustard) in wooded areas.

Picking these flowers kills the plant, so leave them alone. Runkel and Bull write that the bulbs underground used to be a common food source for American Indian tribes. I’ve never tried to dig them up.

Dogtooth violets are “one of the first woodland flowers to bloom in the spring,” but they don’t last as long as some other early bloomers. In my corner of Windsor Heights, the dogtooth violet flowers have come and gone, whereas I still see lots of violets, rue anemone, and spring beauty. I took all of the enclosed pictures in mid-April.

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Pete D'Alessandro, Theresa Greenfield a step closer to running in IA-03

Pete D’Alessandro confirmed yesterday that he has created an exploratory committee for a possible campaign Iowa’s third Congressional district. In a statement first provided to The Guardian and enclosed in full below, D’Alessandro said progressives throughout the district have encouraged him to run. “The many offers of support have been humbling. It is clear that a great many people believe it is not possible to change the clutter in Washington DC if we choose our candidates from the same failed pool that we have in the recent past.” He will spend the next few months “traveling to all 16 counties in our district listening to everyday people, talking with activists, and engaging with community leaders to gather their views on the condition and the direction of the district and our country.”

A veteran of many Iowa Democratic campaigns and a consultant for candidates elsewhere, D’Alessandro most recently worked here as political director for Bernie Sanders before the 2016 caucuses. Sanders energized a large number of activists to get involved in Democratic Party politics for the first time, and if that small army becomes engaged in the IA-03 primary, they could be an important volunteer and donor base for D’Alessandro.

In recent weeks, many Des Moines area activists have been talking about Theresa Greenfield as a possible challenger to two-term Representative David Young. Greenfield is president of the family-owned real estate development company Colby Interests in Windsor Heights. She confirmed today,

I am exploring a run for Congress in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District and am having fun doing it! For now, my focus is to introduce myself to community leaders, visit all 16 counties, and invite folks to share what their priorities are and what our communities need. I am exploring a run for Congress because people like us — need people like us to lead, not life long politicians. It’s the only way we’re going to bring about real change.

State Senator Matt McCoy told me last month he was considering running for Congress and will make a final decision this fall. Since McCoy is up for re-election next year in Senate district 21, covering parts of Des Moines and West Des Moines, he would have to abandon his seat in the legislature in order to seek the Democratic nomination in IA-03.

Anna Ryon has been the only declared Democratic candidate in IA-03 since Mike Sherzan recently withdrew from this race. Ryon is an attorney with the Office of Consumer Advocate; her campaign is online here.

The sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 167,092 active registered Democrats, 177,376 Republicans, and 167,828 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Young won re-election in 2016 by 53.4 percent to 39.7 percent, outperforming the top of the GOP ticket by about five points. Although Donald Trump carried IA-03 by 48.5 percent to 45.0 percent, the swing to the Republican presidential nominee here was significantly smaller than in Iowa’s first and second Congressional districts.

IA-03 is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s long list of 2018 targets but not among the 20 top-priority Republican-held districts.

UPDATE: D’Alessandro has launched a website for his exploratory committee.

The Republican Party of Iowa’s first hit on D’Alessandro came in a bizarre press release on April 27, which I’ve added below.

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