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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.

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John Norris: Why he may run for governor and what he would bring to the table

With the exhausting battles of the 2017 legislative session behind us, Iowa Democrats can turn their attention to the most pressing task ahead. Next year’s gubernatorial election will likely determine whether Republicans retain unchecked power to impose their will on Iowans, or whether some balance returns to the statehouse.

A record number of Democrats may run for governor in 2018. Today Bleeding Heartland begins a series of in-depth looks at the possible contenders.

John Norris moved back to Iowa with his wife Jackie Norris and their three sons last year, after nearly six years in Washington and two in Rome, Italy. He has been touching base with potential supporters for several weeks and expects to decide sometime in May whether to become a candidate for governor. His “concern about the direction the state’s going” is not in question. Rather, Norris is gauging the response he gets from activists and community leaders he has known for many years, and whether he can raise the resources “to make this a go.”

In a lengthy interview earlier this month, Norris discussed the changes he sees in Iowa, the issues he’s most passionate about, and why he has “something significantly different to offer” from others in the field, who largely agree on public policy. The native of Red Oak in Montgomery County (which happens to be Senator Joni Ernst’s home town too) also shared his perspective on why Democrats have lost ground among Iowa’s rural and small-town voters, and what they can do to reverse that trend.

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A shameful end to the most destructive Iowa legislative session of my lifetime

The Iowa House and Senate adjourned for the year around 7:15 am on Saturday, after staying up all night while Republican leaders tried to hammer out last-minute deals on medical cannabis and water quality funding.

The medical cannabis compromise passed with bipartisan majorities in both chambers, but I’m not convinced the revised House File 524 will be an improvement on letting the current extremely limited law expire on July 1. The bill senators approved last Monday by 45 votes to five would have provided some relief to thousands of Iowans suffering from nearly 20 medical conditions. House Republican leaders refused to take it up for reasons Speaker Linda Upmeyer and House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow never articulated.

The new bill thrown together during the all-nighter theoretically covers nine conditions, but as Senator Joe Bolkcom explained in a video I’ve enclosed below, the only form of cannabis allowed (cannabidiol) will not be effective to treat eight of those. Although few if any Iowans will be helped, Republicans can now claim to have done something on the issue and will consequently face less pressure to pass a meaningful medical cannabis bill during the 2018 legislative session.

Republicans shut down the 30-year-old Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, which supported research on farming practices that could preserve our soil and water resources. But on Friday night, they gave up on doing anything serious to clean up our waterways, 750 of which are impaired, according to the latest data released by the Department of Natural Resources. CORRECTION: More recent DNR data indicate Iowa “contains 608 waterbodies with a total of 818 impairments.” (Some waterways have more than one impaired segment.) On the opening day of this year’s session, Hagenow promised “significant new resources to water quality efforts.” Why not come back next week and keep working until they find some way forward?

I’ll tell you why: lawmakers’ per diems ran out on April 18. Heaven forbid Republicans should work a few more days with no pay to address our state’s most serious pollution problem. Incidentally, this crowd just passed an education budget that will force thousands of students to go deeper in debt. They voted earlier this year to cut wages for tens of thousands of Iowans living paycheck to paycheck in counties that had raised the minimum wage. These “public servants” also handed more than 150,000 public workers an effective pay cut by taking away their ability to collectively bargain over benefits packages. As if that weren’t enough, they made sure many Iowans who get hurt on the job will be denied access to the workers’ compensation system or will get a small fraction of the benefits they would previously have received for debilitating shoulder injuries.

Lives will be ruined by some of the laws Republicans are touting as historic accomplishments.

Even worse, lives will likely end prematurely because of cuts in the health and human services budget to a wide range of programs, from elder abuse to chronic conditions to smoking cessation to Department of Human Services field operations. I enclose below a Democratic staff analysis of its provisions. During House and Senate floor debates, Republican floor managers offered lame excuses about the tight budget, which doesn’t allow us to allocate as much money as we’d like to this or that line item. Naturally, they found an extra $3 million for a new family planning program that will exclude Planned Parenthood as a provider.

Different Republican lawmakers used the same excuses to justify big cuts to victims assistance grants in the justice systems budget. That choice will leave thousands of Iowans–mostly women–without support next year after going through horrific assaults or ongoing abuse.

Despite some big talk from House Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Grassley, Republicans didn’t even try to rein in business tax credits, which have been the state’s fastest-growing expenses in recent years. The budget crunch is real and may get worse. But no one forced Republicans to inflict 100 percent of the belt-tightening on those who rely on public services.

More analysis of the 2017 legislative session is coming to Bleeding Heartland in the near future. All posts about this year’s work in the Iowa House and Senate are archived here. The Des Moines Register’s William Petroski and Brianne Pfannenstiel summarized some of the important bills that passed this year.

After the jump you’ll find Bolkcom’s commentary on the medical cannabis bill that offers “false hope” to Iowans “who have begged us to help,” along with closing remarks on the session from House Minority Leader Mark Smith and Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg.

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KWWL won't correct error-filled story on Stand Your Ground

Generally accepted journalism guidelines call for acknowledging mistakes in news reports, setting the record straight quickly, and doing so “in a way that encourages people who consumed the faulty information to know the truth.” The Online News Association’s “Build Your Own Ethics Code” project lists “promptly correct errors” among a short list of “fundamentals” that “should apply to all journalists.” The Radio Television Digital News Association’s code of ethics states, “Ethical journalism requires owning errors, correcting them promptly and giving corrections as much prominence as the error itself had.”

KWWL, the NBC affiliate in Waterloo, doesn’t hold its reporters to that standard.

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Branstad nominees held accountable for violating women's constitutional rights

Iowa Senate Democrats held two members of the Iowa Board of Medicine accountable yesterday for hasty action in 2013 to approve an anti-abortion rule that had no scientific basis and was later found unconstitutional by a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court.

Iowa Board of Medicine Chair Diane Clark and fellow board member Dr. Hamed Tewfik became the first (and probably the only) nominees for state boards or commissions to be rejected by the Iowa Senate this year. Republicans are predictably denouncing the vote as “petty partisan politics.” But senators have confirmed without dissent the overwhelming majority of more than 200 people Governor Terry Branstad selected.

Clark and Tewfik have only themselves to blame for losing their prestigious positions.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday returns: Downy yellow violet

Iowa didn’t experience much severe winter weather this year, but the political climate was harsher than at any other time in living memory. After writing up too much bad news these past few months, I’m glad to revive Bleeding Heartland’s weekly wildflower series. Click here for the full archive of posts featuring more than 140 native plants and a few plants of European origin that are now widespread here.

Downy yellow violet (Viola pubescens) is native to all of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. In Iowa, you may see it near homes as well as in wooded areas. Except where noted below, I took most of the enclosed pictures not far from our house in Windsor Heights. However, most violets I see in people’s yards are purple or the white color variation of that flower, the common blue violet. Less often, you may find striped white violet, a separate species.

According to John Pearson of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Viola pubescens are the only yellow violets native to our state. The Minnesota Wildflowers site has botanically accurate descriptions of the foliage, flowers, and seeds. Common yellow violet or smooth yellow violet are alternate names for this plant.

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