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IA-Gov: Planned Parenthood emerges as key theme for Hubbell

The first television commercial promoting Fred Hubbell for governor begins running today “as part of a statewide six figure TV and digital buy.” I’m not aware of any Iowa candidate advertising so extensively so far in advance of the following year’s primary. (Jack Hatch launched his gubernatorial campaign’s first ad nearly ten months before the 2014 primary, but that spot ran for just four days, and only on Des Moines broadcast networks.)

Opening campaign commercials are often biographical. Notably, Hubbell chose to introduce himself to Iowa television viewers by emphasizing his commitment to Planned Parenthood rather than his extensive business career. It’s the latest sign that his early internal polling showed a strongly positive response when Democrats learned about Hubbell’s support for a leading women’s health care provider.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Prairie sunflower (Stiff sunflower)

Some native plants are unmistakable, but nailing down the ID on today’s wildflowers has been a challenge. When I first photographed a large colony of these plants on Mike Delaney’s restored prairie in Dallas County, I assumed they were sawtooth sunflowers (Helianthus grosseserratus) because of the serrated leaves. However, John Pearson of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources commented in the Iowa Wildflower Report Facebook group, “This may be Prairie Sunflower (Helianthus pauciflorus), note reddish disc flowers. The long, leafless upper stems, however, remind me of Western Sunflower (H. occidentalis).” Leland Searles, another expert on native plants, mentioned that “sunflowers can be confusing.”

I ruled out western sunflower for a couple of reasons. Mike collected the seed that spawned this colony at Tipton Prairie, a never-plowed patch of land in Greene County in the northwestern quadrant of Iowa. But western sunflower (sometimes called fewleaf sunflower) is primarily found in the eastern part of the state. In addition, several sources confirm the central disk florets on western sunflower flowerheads are yellow. Most of the flowerheads on these plants had reddish centers, which is typical for prairie sunflowers.

Mike thought the plants might be giant sunflowers (Helianthus giganteus), but the central disk florets on that plant are darker yellow. Also, there can be more than one flowerhead at the top of the upper stems on giant sunflower plants. These plants had one flowerhead per stem, another characteristic feature of prairie sunflowers. Finally, the upper part of the stems on Mike’s plants had no leaves. Giant sunflower plants have leaves on the upper stems.

So, I’m calling these prairie sunflowers. Sometimes known as stiff sunflowers, Helianthus pauciflorus plants are native to most of the U.S. and Canada. I haven’t seen them anywhere other than on Mike’s land. Next year I hope to visit Tipton Prairie in the late summer or early fall, when they would be blooming. UPDATE: After I published this post, Mike told me he didn’t find any of these at Tipton Prairie this year, but he did find them in the “Rippey strip,” a narrow patch of native prairie several miles long next to the 144 Diagonal road near Rippey in Greene County. He believes he must have collected the original seed from the Rippey area.

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One White House reporter's stunning inside view of access journalism

“I personally love it when he tweets,” said Bloomberg correspondent Jennifer Jacobs of President Donald Trump during a recent appearance in Des Moines, “just because his Twitter is an uncurtained window into his mind, and we always want to know what’s on his mind, unfiltered from his staff.”

Jacobs opened a window onto her own mindset as she told a room full of journalists “what it’s like to get good information out of the Trump White House.”

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13 questions to ask at the public hearing on voter ID rules

This afternoon’s public hearing at the Iowa Secretary of State’s office probably will not lead to any substantial revisions in the administrative rules proposed to implement Iowa’s new election law. While the bill was working its way through the legislature, neither Secretary of State Paul Pate nor Republican lawmakers acknowledged research from other states, indicating voter ID and signature verification requirements would suppress voting by some eligible citizens, especially in certain groups.

Nevertheless, the record from today’s hearing could become important in potential future court rulings on the law.

Gerry Hebert, one of the country’s top experts on voting rights law, told an audience in Des Moines last week that testimony at public hearings has sometimes been useful in litigation on other states’ voting restrictions. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland after that event, Hebert offered more specific suggestions on questions that would be helpful for citizens to ask today.

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IA-01, IA-03: Polls find Blum and Young below 50 percent

Republican Representatives Rod Blum and David Young have approval ratings below 40 percent and re-elect numbers below 50 percent, according to new surveys from Public Policy Polling.

The Patriot Majority Fund, a super-PAC that largely opposes GOP incumbents, commissioned polls in nine House districts around the country, including the two in Iowa that Democrats will target next year.

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