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Iowa House Speaker Upmeyer plans to deal with education funding "quickly"

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 05, 2015 at 21:00:00 PM CDT

During this year's legislative session, Iowa House Republicans refused for months to budge from their initial position on education funding, forcing public school districts to approve budgets for the coming year without knowing how much state aid to expect. Then House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Democratic Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal finally rolled out a deal on education spending and other state budget issues more than a month past the Iowa legislature's scheduled adjournment date.

Incoming House Speaker Linda Upmeyer plans to handle things differently, Cristinia Crippes reported for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, after hearing Upmeyer's remarks to a group of Republican women in Cedar Falls.  

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Linda Miller retiring, opening up Iowa House district 94

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 05, 2015 at 15:14:24 PM CDT

Five-term State Representative Linda Miller will not seek re-election in 2016, Ed Tibbetts reported for the Quad-City Times on October 1. Since Republicans regained an Iowa House majority in 2010, Miller has chaired the Human Resources Committee. She told Tibbetts she wants to retire in order to spend more time with her grandchildren.

Miller represents Iowa House district 94, covering part of the Quad Cities area in Scott County. I've enclosed a district map after the jump. The seat leans strongly to the GOP, with 5,520 active registered Democrats, 8,403 Republicans, and 9,608 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office. Mitt Romney won nearly 54 percent of the vote in the district in 2012, and Joni Ernst won nearly 58 percent here in last year's U.S. Senate race. So while Democrats should always contest an open state legislative district, Republicans will be favored to hold Miller's seat.

The GOP primary to replace Miller bears watching. Tibbetts reported that Bettendorf alderman Gary Mohr will run for this seat, but I doubt he will get a free pass. Scott County Republicans don't shy away from competitive primaries. Miller knocked off State Representative Joe Hutter here in the 2006 GOP primary, the same year Dave Hartsuch beat sitting State Senator Maggie Tinsman in the Iowa Senate district that covers this area. Hartsuch served a term but lost the 2010 GOP primary to Roby Smith.

I give Miller credit for announcing her plans so early. One of my pet peeves--too common in Iowa on both sides of the aisle--is when entrenched state legislative incumbents keep their retirement plans secret until a day or two before the March filing deadline. In that scenario, only a hand-picked successor or tipped-off party insider has time to reflect on a possible candidacy. Other politically active, talented people in the district might be able to scramble for 50 signatures in a day to submit the necessary paperwork, but they would lack the ability to talk over such a big decision with friends and family.  

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Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum endorsing Hillary Clinton is a big deal

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 05, 2015 at 09:53:04 AM CDT

Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum endorsed Hillary Clinton for president today in a guest column for the Des Moines Register. This afternoon, she will elaborate on her reasons at a Women for Hillary event in Dubuque.

Jochum joins the list of prominent Iowa supporters of Barack Obama before the 2008 caucuses who are now backing Clinton. An Iowa House Democrat at that time, Jochum headed Obama's leadership team in Dubuque County. Obama easily won a plurality of delegates in Dubuque and carried all of the neighboring counties too.

More important, Jochum is a hero to many on what you might call "the Democratic wing of the Iowa Democratic Party." I'm thinking of the 26 percent who voted for Ed Fallon in the 2006 gubernatorial primary, as well as people who have long advocated for campaign finance reform at the state level. Although I think highly of Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, he's not the progressive champion Jochum is--not by a long shot. She has helped fight some very tough fights, where powerful interest groups were lined up on the other side. I can't think of an Iowa state legislator in my lifetime who has reached such a senior leadership position while being as consistently progressive as Jochum.

My impression is that many on the "Democratic wing" of the party have already committed to caucus for Bernie Sanders. Others feel conflicted as I do, drawn to Sanders for his passion and his uncompromising policy agenda, while recognizing Clinton's strengths as a candidate and what it would mean for this country to elect a woman president. That Jochum is on board with Clinton could carry a lot of weight with undecided Democrats like me.

Before today, eight Democratic state senators and nine state representatives had already endorsed Clinton for the 2016 caucuses. I've enclosed the full list after the jump, along with excerpts from Jochum's Des Moines Register op-ed.

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Weekend open thread: Water problems edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Oct 04, 2015 at 11:37:33 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

I spent most of Friday at the Iowa Environmental Council's annual meeting, where as usual, I learned a lot from the conference speakers. (I've long been an active volunteer for the non-profit.) Chad Pregracke gave an inspiring and entertaining keynote address this year. Raised on the banks of the Mississippi River, Pregracke spent hours a day under its surface diving for mussels shells as a summer job. In his early 20s, he became obsessively committed to getting trash out of the river and cold-called businesses in the Quad Cities until he had enough funding for his first cleanup project. Favorable coverage from the Associated Press helped Pregracke raise more awareness and money. He later created the non-profit Living Lands and Waters, which has pulled a mind-blowing amount of trash out of waterways in twenty states. I am looking forward to reading Pregracke's memoir From the Bottom Up: One Man's Crusade to Clean America's Rivers.

Several speakers at the Iowa Environmental Council conference discussed the Des Moines Water Works' lawsuit against drainage districts in northwest Iowa's Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista Counties. The unprecedented lawsuit has angered many Iowa politicians, including Governor Terry Branstad, who has said the Water Works "ought to just tone it down and start cooperating and working with others [...]." (Priceless response from Todd Dorman: "Tone it down? Tell it to the bloomin' algae.")

The most informative single piece I've seen about this litigation is Sixteen Things to Know About the Des Moines Water Works Proposed Lawsuit, a speech Drake University Law Professor Neil Hamilton gave at the 2015 Iowa Water Conference in Ames this March. The director of Drake's Agricultural Law Center also wrote an excellent guest column for the Des Moines Register in May debunking the "strenuous effort" to convince Iowans that "the lawsuit is unfair and unhelpful."

Last weekend, the Associated Press ran a series of well-researched articles on water infrastructure problems across the U.S. As a country, we were foolish not to invest more in infrastructure during and since the "Great Recession," when interest rates have been at historically low levels. The AP reports underscore the mounting hidden and not-hidden costs of hundreds of municipalities deferring maintenance on water mains and equipment at treatment plants. After the jump I've posted excerpts from several of the stories, but if you want to be educated and appalled, click through to read them in their entirety: Ryan Foley, "Drinking water systems imperiled by failing infrastructure" and "Millions remain unspent in federal water-system loan program"; Justin Pritchard, "Availability of clean water can't be taken for granted anymore"; and John Seewer, "Cities bear rising cost of keeping water safe to drink."

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Grassley finally on board with criminal justice reform: How good is the bill?

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 02, 2015 at 22:00:00 PM CDT

Yesterday Senator Chuck Grassley stood with colleagues from both parties to unveil the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015. President Barack Obama advocated for criminal justice reform in this year's State of the Union address, but six months ago, prospects for any progress toward that goal seemed dim. All paths to passing such a bill led through the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Grassley chairs. As Senator Richard Durbin noted yesterday, Grassley had been "very skeptical" about criminal justice reform and "said so repeatedly." For example, Grassley delivered a harsh Senate floor speech in March, accusing the "leniency industrial complex" of misleading people about "nonviolent" or "low level" drug offenders. Who would have guessed the same man would stand up now to hail this "landmark piece of legislation" as the "biggest criminal justice reform in a generation" and the product of "a very thoughtful bipartisan deliberation by the Congress"?

I enclose below a summary of the Sentencing Reform and Correction Act's key points, along with a press release with links to the full bill text and a section-by-section analysis. I also included several perspectives on the bill's value. Reform advocates have generally embraced the step; the non-profit Sentencing Project called it "momentous legislation," ending the "disastrous era of 'tough on crime' politics." On the other hand, Shane Bauer argued in Mother Jones that the bill "doesn't live up to its own hype."

Scroll to the end of this post to read the full text of Grassley's March 10 floor speech, which underscores how hard his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee had to work to bring the chairman around.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I've never found much to admire about tea party hero Senator Mike Lee of Utah, but all credit to him for making criminal justice reform a priority. At yesterday's press conference, he recalled a story that ignited his passion to work for change. When Lee was an assistant U.S. attorney, a case came to his office involving a father of two in his mid-20s. The man had "made some mistakes," selling marijuana three times over a 72-hour period while carrying a gun. He was slapped with a 55-year mandatory minimum sentence. "I don't mean to condone what he did," Lee said, "but I've never met anyone who thought a 55-year sentence was appropriate in that case. He's going to be in jail until he's 80."

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Bloomfield, Iowa pushing for energy independence by 2030

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 02, 2015 at 13:49:51 PM CDT

The Davis County seat of Bloomfield (population 2,640) is "instituting aggressive strategies to become energy independent by 2030," Karen Uhlenhuth reported for Midwest Energy News on October 1.

The city council in Bloomfield decided to pursue the goal of energy independence after a pair of consultants and the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities last fall produced a study that concluded that with a lot of efficiency upgrades and a relatively modest investment in renewable energy, the town could meet all of its electricity needs with locally-produced power.

One advantage Bloomfield has is a municipal utility, which tends to be more open to reducing power sales, said Tom Wind, one of the authors of the study.

Iowa's 136 municipal electric utilities "have a lot of flexibility to do different things because they are governed by the city council or a local board of trustees," Wind wrote in an e-mail. "For example, they can tailor any new power-supply contract with the flexibility they need to accommodate local wind and solar generation. A community served by an investor-owned utility has no say about where their power comes from."

Click through to read Uhlenhuth's whole piece, which describes the mix of energy efficiency, solar, and geothermal projects expected to help Bloomfield reduce energy consumption while increasing production. City staff recently visited the Fayette County seat of West Union to learn about its installation of geothermal heating and permeable pavement. Bleeding Heartland discussed West Union's successful streetscape project here.

The non-profit news site Midwest Energy News (on the web here and on Twitter here) is a must-follow for anyone interested in energy policy, especially renewable energy.

Speaking of which, Midwest Energy News just announced the winners of their new "40 under 40" award to recognize leaders in the field of clean energy. Two Iowans made the list out of hundreds nominated from seven states. Congratulations to Paritosh Kasotia and Dwight Stewart; I've posted their short bios after the jump.

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IA-02: State Senator Mark Chelgren makes campaign against Dave Loebsack official

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 12:46:36 PM CDT

After dropping some unsubtle hints in recent days, Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren confirmed today that he will run for Congress in Iowa's second district, William Petroski reported for the Des Moines Register. He will launch the campaign in Iowa City this afternoon on October 6 before appearing at the Scott County Republican Party Ronald Reagan Dinner in Bettendorf. Scott County has the largest population and Johnson County (containing Iowa City) the second-largest among the 24 counties in IA-02.

Speaking to the Register, Chelgren said he doesn't dislike five-term Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack, but "This is a question of who is better suited to change Washington, D.C. [...] you are not going to do it by following party lines and doing what you are told." In reality, Loebsack has not blindly followed the lead of his fellow House Democrats. The Progressive Punch database of Congressional voting indicates that Loebsack is only the 157th most progressive current member of the House. He has also voted with Republicans rather than with most of his own caucus on more than 30 percent of the "crucial votes" tallied by Progressive Punch since 2007.

A business owner in Ottumwa, Chelgren told the Register he is running to represent the people of southeast Iowa and hopes to bring to Washington his experience creating jobs at the local level. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland in July, Chelgren outlined other key themes of his potential Congressional campaign: changing our trade policy, upgrading our infrastructure, fixing a "massively broken" education system, and bringing more long-range planning to the federal government.

Chelgren's ten-vote victory in a 2010 Iowa Senate race neither party had its eye on still evokes unprintable words from many Democrats. Despite being the most vulnerable GOP Iowa Senate incumbent going into the 2014 election cycle, Chelgren managed to win re-election by 374 votes after calling attention to some unforced errors by the Democratic candidate. So no one should count him out.

That said, IA-02 would be a long-shot prospect for any Republican candidate in 2016. The district leans Democratic with a partisan voter index of D+4. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office, the 24 counties in the district contain 160,325 active registered Democrats, 136,237 Republicans, and 183,235 no-party voters. The last time Loebsack was on the ballot in a presidential election year, he defeated John Archer by a comfortable margin of 55.6 percent to 42.5 percent.

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Twelve resources for Iowans to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 10:20:24 AM CDT

A new Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline started taking calls today, MacKenzie Elmer reported for the Des Moines Register.

Survivors from any corner of the state can call the free and confidential number, 800-770-1650, to reach one of fifteen staff members who are trained to handle everything from crisis situations to counseling. [...]

Before the hotline, survivors called either law enforcement or their local advocacy program. Though most programs have someone ready to answer the local crisis line 24/7, some survivors' calls may have gone unanswered.

Local programs and advocates can now forward those calls to the hotline, where an expert can direct that survivor to the services he or she needs. [...]

The statewide hotline should also provide a greater level of anonymity for survivors, [Iowa Attorney General's Office crime victim assistance division director Janelle] Melohn said, since those living in rural areas may be hesitant to call their local program for fear that the person on the other line will recognize them.

The helpline's launch coincides with the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which grew out of efforts during the 1980s to "connect advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children." In that spirit, I enclose below twelve links to resources for people who have been or are currently threatened by domestic violence, or care about someone in an abusive relationship.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Black-eyed Susan

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 21:40:29 PM CDT

You don't have to venture to natural habitats to find this week's featured Iowa wildflower. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is popular in gardens and urban landscaping, maybe even more so than the Virginia bluebells that bloom in the spring. During the summer, I see black-eyed Susans in neighbors' front yards every day while walking the dog.

Black-eyed Susan is native to almost all of North America and can thrive in many different habitats. You probably already know what the plants look like; for a botanically accurate description of the foliage and flowerheads, see the Illinois Wildflowers website.

I took most of the pictures enclosed below along the Windsor Heights bike trail, in the area behind the Iowa Department of Natural Resources building on Hickman Road. I am reasonably confident that they are all black-eyed Susans, but some of the taller plants may be Brown-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia triloba.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome.

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How the Iowans voted on the short-term funding that prevented a government shutdown

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 19:00:00 PM CDT

On the last day of the 2015 fiscal year, both houses of Congress passed a "clean" continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 11. Conservative Republicans failed to add language ending all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The White House has said President Barack Obama would veto any continuing resolution that did not include funds for the health care provider.

Senate leaders gave up this fight for the time being after a September 24 cloture motion on a short-term spending bill that excluded Planned Parenthood fell well short of the 60 votes needed. Iowa's Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both supported that bill, but it only gained 47 votes in favor.

Yesterday the U.S. Senate advanced a short-term continuing resolution without special language about Planned Parenthood. This time the cloture motion passed easily by 77 votes to 19 (roll call), with Grassley and Ernst both voting in favor. Today's vote on the continuing resolution itself was 78 to 20; again Grassley and Ernst supported the measure. In a conference call with Iowa reporters today, Grassley indicated that a partial government shutdown, as occurred in October 2013, would be costly: "We shouldn't do anything silly to add to the bad fiscal situation the federal government is in."

Of the senators who are running for president, Bernie Sanders voted for the continuing resolution. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz voted against it; Cruz fought a lonely battle yesterday "to add a one-year ban on federal funding for Planned Parenthood" to the resolution. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham were on the campaign trail and missed these important votes.

Later this afternoon, the House approved the continuing resolution by 277 to 151 (roll call). All the Democrats present voted yes, including Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02). Iowa's House Republicans split with David Young (IA-03) joining 90 other GOP members in support of the resolution. Rod Blum (IA-01) and Steve King (IA-04) were among the 151 no votes. Earlier today, King had submitted four amendments to the continuing resolution in the House Rules Committee. In a statement I've enclosed in full below, King said his amendments would "restore Article I authority" to Congress by defunding Planned Parenthood, the Iran nuclear deal, President Obama's executive orders on deferring deportations for some immigrants brought to this country illegally, and the 2010 health care reform law. However, King did not manage to get his amendments added to the continuing resolution.

I've enclosed political reaction to today's votes after the jump and will update this post as needed with comments from other members of the Iowa delegation. Blum is spinning his vote against the resolution as a stand against "back room deals" and kicking the can down the road, as opposed to a vote for shutting down the government.

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No comment from most Iowans in Congress as EPA expands farm worker pesticide protections

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 15:30:16 PM CDT

On Monday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the final version of "stronger protections for the nation's two million agricultural workers and their families working on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses. These revisions to the 1992 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard will afford farmworkers similar health protections that are already afforded to workers in other industries." Under the old rules, exposure to chemicals incurred "an estimated $10 million to $15 million in annual health costs" among farm workers The new rules do not cover "persons working with livestock" and exempt "farm owners and their immediate family with an expanded definition of family." I've enclosed after the jump a fact sheet summarizing key changes, a short summary of the public health case for the rule, and a graphic that shows the old and new rules side by side. Click here for the EPA's press release on the changes and here for a more detailed five-page chart.

Fruit and vegetable farming isn't a huge industry in Iowa like it is in states with longer growing seasons, such as California or Florida. Still, Iowa farms have been producing more of what some call "specialty crops" as more consumers here seek out local food. Moreover, expanding fruit and vegetable production in Iowa has potential to create jobs and increase local incomes, according to this 2010 paper by Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson. So I sought comment from the Iowans in Congress on the new regulations. At this writing, I have not heard back from the offices of House Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), David Young (IA-03), or Steve King (IA-04). I also haven't received a comment from Senator Chuck Grassley. Senator Joni Ernst's communications director sent the following:

Senator Ernst believes that once again the Obama Administration is overstepping its bounds, expanding onerous regulations that fail to consider the full impact on stakeholders, like Iowa's agriculture industry. The EPA is continuing to act as an unchecked federal agency, adding burdensome new rules and costs. In addition, the EPA completely ignores the safety progress that has already been made under existing guidelines for our youth.

Iowa politicians tend to be hostile to any new regulation affecting farms or other agricultural facilities. Most of Iowa's federal representatives opposed the U.S. Department of Labor's efforts in 2011 to update protections for children on working farms. Every Iowan in Congress except for Senator Tom Harkin welcomed the department's decision to withdraw that rule in April 2012.

A spokesperson for Governor Terry Branstad said they don't have a reaction to the new farm worker safety rule yet but will evaluate it "in its entirety." I can't think of a time Branstad supported any regulation of farming practices, so I assume he will not be favorably disposed toward the new EPA rule. But if he's serious about making Iowa the "healthiest state," reducing unnecessary exposure to pesticides would be a worthy goal to embrace.

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District Court upholds Iowa law, Branstad executive order on disenfranchising felons

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 12:55:13 PM CDT

Polk County District Court Chief Judge Arthur Gamble on Monday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged Iowa's restrictions on felon voting and procedure for regaining voting rights after a felony conviction. Kelli Jo Griffin filed the lawsuit last November, having previously been acquitted on perjury charges related to registering to vote and casting a ballot in a local election. Griffin did not realize she was ineligible to vote because of a prior drug conviction. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa is representing her in the case, which claims Iowa law and an executive order Governor Terry Branstad issued in January 2011 unconstitutionally restrict the plaintiff's fundamental right to vote.

A plurality of three Iowa Supreme Court justices indicated last April that they do not believe all felonies rise to the level of "infamous crimes," which under the Iowa Constitution justify revoking citizenship rights. But that opinion did not strike down current Iowa law, which holds that any felony conviction leads to the loss of voting rights. Chief Judge Gamble noted in his ruling that he is bound by precedent on felon voting cases "until a majority of the Iowa Supreme Court" rules otherwise.

The chief judge also determined that Branstad's executive order does not unconstitutionally restrict Griffin's voting rights, because the paperwork and fees required are "not an unreasonable burden for a felon to shoulder." His conclusions don't acknowledge certain realities about the arduous process Branstad established, which "made Iowa one of the most difficult states in the nation for felons who want to vote" and create more hurdles for low-income Iowans than for those with financial resources. I enclose more thoughts on that angle below, after excerpts from Gamble's ruling.

The ACLU will appeal the District Court's decision to the Iowa Supreme Court. Ever since an unlikely chain of events opened the door for the high court to re-examine felon voting rights, it's been obvious some non-violent offender like Griffin would bring a test case resembling this one. The big question now is whether Justice Brent Appel, who recused himself from last year's related case, will align with his three colleagues who appear ready to declare that certain felonies are not "infamous crimes."

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What's the end game for conservation funding in Iowa?

by: mhauge

Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 21:57:33 PM CDT

(Thanks to Matt Hauge for flagging this little-noticed but significant shift by the Iowa Corn Growers.   - promoted by desmoinesdem)

(Author note: Thanks to DesMoines Dem for permitting this cross-post originally published on Medium.) 

At its annual policy conference in August, the Iowa Corn Growers Association joined the Iowa Soybean Association in supporting Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWLL), a sales tax increase that would provide in excess of $150 million annually to environmental protection and natural resources in Iowa.

Official support for IWLL from both the corn and soybean organizations is significant because a bill in this year’s legislative session to enact the tax increase, SSB1272 (succeeded by SF504), drew opposition from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s agribusiness lobbying powerhouse.

While it received very little attention in the media, this action by the Corn Growers — just maybe — is a sign that something is changing in a good way for clean water in Iowa.

Even if not, at least the Corn Growers’ decision presents a good opportunity to look at what’s going on as Iowa struggles for better conservation performance of its globally significant soil and water resources.

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Iowa Senate district 16 primary preview: Pam Dearden Conner vs. Nate Boulton

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 20:00:00 PM CDT

A generational battle is shaping up in the Democratic primary to replace State Senator Dick Dearden, who has represented parts of Des Moines in the legislature since 1995. Dearden recently disclosed plans to retire in 2016. Like last year's campaign to replace Jack Hatch in Iowa Senate district 17 on the south side of Des Moines, the June primary will determine Dearden's successor.

Senate district 16 covers heavily Democratic neighborhoods on the east side of Des Moines, and also the growing suburb of Pleasant Hill. A detailed map is after the jump. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office indicate that the district contains 14,624 active registered Democrats, 6,978 Republicans, and 10,106 no-party voters. Dearden was unopposed in 2004 and defeated his Republican challengers by wide margins in 2008 and in 2012.

More candidates may enter the race later, but for now the primary will pit the incumbent's daughter Pam Dearden Conner against labor attorney Nate Boulton. Iowa Labor Commissioner and former Secretary of State Michael Mauro endorsed Conner on Facebook this past weekend. She is his administrative assistant and also worked for him in the Polk County Election Office and the Secretary of State's Office. Many other longtime friends and backers of Senator Dearden have expressed their support for Conner's campaign on social media.

Nate Boulton is a partner in a law firm that has represented Iowa's largest pubic employee union (AFSCME) in several high-profile cases against Governor Terry Branstad's administration. Since last Friday, many Democratic activists in their 20s and 30s have promoted his candidacy on social media. Bouton's on Twitter here, and his campaign is on Facebook here.

I enclose below press releases from each candidate, containing short biographies and statements of values. Both Conner and Boulton have strong pro-labor credentials and are pledging to support consensus Democratic priorities like education. Boulton's statement hints at the case he will make in the primary, promising to "be an active and engaged representative of district interests" and to "bring bold progressive ideas and a fresh, energetic style of leadership to the Iowa Senate." Such phrases allude to the fact that Dearden, while a solid vote in the legislature, has never been at the forefront of progressive fights. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to think of a cause he has led on, besides bringing back dove hunting, which isn't a partisan issue. Dearden didn't accomplish that longstanding goal until Governor Terry Branstad was back in office.

Two (or perhaps more) committed candidates working hard to identify and turn out supporters next June can only help Democratic GOTV in the general election. Here's hoping for a competitive race that doesn't turn bitter and negative, as happened in Senate district 17 last spring.

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Charles Holz set to replace Chuck Soderberg in Iowa House district 5

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 09:18:55 AM CDT

Charles Holz won a special nominating convention last night in Iowa House district 5, where former House Appropriations Committee Chair Chuck Soderberg resigned his seat last month. Two Republicans sought the nomination for the November 3 special election. Holz is retired after a long career as a large animal veterinarian in Le Mars; he has also published work in his field. Citing a press release from the Plymouth County GOP, the Sioux City Journal reported earlier this month that Holz "served on the Le Mars school board for 18 years, including two years as board president." UPDATE: Added below a Republican Party of Iowa statement containing more biographical information.

According to The Iowa Statesman blog, Holz "defeated rural Woodbury County small business owner and homeschool parent Brad Hopp on the first ballot" at the nominating convention.

To my knowledge, no Democrat has announced plans to run for House district 5, which covers all of Plymouth County and some rural areas of Woodbury County. Click here to view a district map. Ideally, Democrats would compete for every state legislative district, but House district 5 is one of the safest for Republicans. Mitt Romney carried 65.9 percent of the presidential vote here in 2012, and Joni Ernst won 71.2 percent of the 2014 votes for U.S. Senate. The district contains 3,819 active registered Democrats, 9,015 Republicans, and 6,697 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office.

Five-term State Representative Pat Grassley is set to replace Soderberg as chair of the Iowa House Appropriations Committee for the 2016 legislative session. Although that's a plum committee assignment, working out a deal with Iowa Senate Democrats on the state budget will likely be more difficult than usual next year, because of the fallout from Governor Terry Branstad's latest line-item vetoes. The key Republicans involved in this year's budget deal-making quit their jobs this summer.

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IA-03: Democratic establishment consolidating around Jim Mowrer

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 09:49:39 AM CDT

The candidate filing deadline may be nearly six months away, but it seems increasingly likely that the fight for the Democratic nomination in Iowa's third Congressional district will be a two-way contest between Desmund Adams and Jim Mowrer. Today Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), the only Democrat left in Iowa's Congressional delegation, made his "full support" for Mowrer official. I enclose the statement from Mowrer's campaign after the jump. It includes a list of well-known endorsers, such as former Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson, State Senators Dick Dearden and Bob Dvorsky, State Representatives Charlie McConkey, Todd Prichard, and Abby Finkenauer, former Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky, three IDP State Central Committee members, and Democratic Party chairs in five IA-03 counties.  

Endorsements at this stage are not aimed at persuading Democratic primary voters. Rather, they serve mainly to deter other candidates from getting into the race. They also signal to donors inside and outside Iowa that Mowrer is the "serious" candidate. He already was likely to raise substantially more money than Adams, by virtue of his strong fundraising effort as the 2014 Democratic candidate against Representative Steve King in IA-04.

On a related note, last month the Cook Political Report changed its rating on IA-03 from "toss up" to lean Republican. One reason: "Each day Mowrer consolidates support, the less likely it is that Democrats' very top choice, U.S. Attorney Nick Klinefeldt, gets in. Former Gov. Chet Culver was rumored to be interested but now looks unlikely to run." I'm intrigued that a handful of unnamed sources (including one "operative") managed to convince beltway experts that Klinefeldt would be the "gold standard" candidate in IA-03. Not meaning to knock Klinefeldt, but I've had scores of conversations with local Democrats about this race. It's hardly a consensus view that the U.S. attorney would be the strongest possible candidate to face first-term Republican David Young.

Speaking of Young, earlier this month James Hohmann and Elise Viebeck reported for the Washington Post that he had signed a contract with the National Republican Congressional Committee as a condition for getting help from the NRCC's incumbent protection program. You can view the fundraising, communication, and political requirements laid out in that contract here.

The sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 150,572 active registered Democrats, 163,096 Republicans, and 163,748 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office. More than half of the district's voters and roughly two-thirds of the Democrats live in Polk County, containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs.

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Dear U of I, backroom dealings are nothing new.

by: ahawby

Sun Sep 27, 2015 at 12:42:57 PM CDT

(Many thanks for this detailed analysis of machinations behind the scenes to orchestrate and sell the public on closing the Malcolm Price Laboratory School at the University of Northern Iowa. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Malcolm Price Laboratory School was a small K-12 school attached to and operated by the University of Northern Iowa.  MPLS was primarily used by the teacher education program to train teachers.  It was a critical part of UNI, "the teacher's college".  Year after year, however, with mounting budget pressures at UNI, talk would take place about closing MPLS.  Tired of this annual worry, supporters of MPLS through the help of their local legislatures, pushed for and obtained legislation creating the Iowa Research & Development School at MPLS.  This group thought the days of threats of closure were over since their existence was now statutory.  In 2012 they found out they were wrong.

In light of the recent events at the University of Iowa regarding the president selection process, I think it appropriate to share a narrative I drafted back in 2012 when UNI closed MPLS and other programs.  It was the fruit of an open records request for email.  The intended audience was the parents and supporters of MPLS.  

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Weekend open thread: Can dish it out but can't take it edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 27, 2015 at 11:44:00 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Several stories related to Twitter-blocking and being thin-skinned caught my attention recently. Excerpts from the articles linked here are after the jump.

A thirteen-year-old conservative commentator and youth outreach coordinator for Senator Ted Cruz made a splash this week by alleging President Barack Obama had blocked him on Twitter. Unfortunately for CJ Pearson, Oliver Darcy researched the story for the conservative website The Blaze and concluded that Pearson's claim "appears to be false." Dave Weigel explored more background on the controversy and the "Pearson phenomenon" in this piece for the Washington Post.

In addition to being dishonest, Pearson made a rookie mistake. He could have gotten even more attention if he'd lied about Hillary Clinton blocking him. As Jon Allen advised in his excellent piece on the media's "5 unspoken rules" for covering the Democratic front-runner, a surefire way to drive traffic is to "Write something nasty about a Clinton, particularly Hillary."

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to discover that conservative talk radio host Steve Deace had blocked me on Twitter. It had been months since I'd last tangled with him. After asking around, I learned that Deace blocked other progressives around the same time, including Christian Ucles, who has worked on several Democratic campaigns and is now Iowa political director for the non-partisan League of United Latin-American Citizens. A Facebook friend shared a screenshot of a Deace tweet asserting, "some Marxist 'media watch dog' must have taken me out of context again. I'm busy blocking their vulgar trolls." Bleeding Heartland has noticed before that Deace has little clue about what "Marxist" means. But I've never used crude or obscene language in commenting on his flawed analysis, and I try to avoid the name-calling that is a Deace hallmark (e.g. "Killary").

On September 25, Hannah Groch-Begley published a piece at Media Matters highlighting Chris Cillizza's intense focus on the Hillary Clinton e-mail story for the Washington Post blog The Fix. Commenting on the "highly instructive" headlines compiled by Groch-Begley, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen added that Cillizza has blocked him. When I asked what triggered the blocking, Rosen pointed me to a tweet in which Cillizza said he had done so "long ago" because "Rock throwing from the sidelines is the world's easiest profession."

I am stunned that any journalist would dismiss Rosen's huge body of published work on media criticism as "rock throwing from the sidelines." Scroll to the end of this post to read excerpts from Rosen's comments about being blocked by someone who exemplifies the "savvy style" of reporting. Better yet, click through to read that whole post.

For what it's worth, Cillizza stands by his choice to write more than 50 posts on the Clinton e-mail controversy. He has previously said he does not "keep track of how many 'good' or 'bad' things I write about each side" and views his role as reporting and analyzing news without grading whether it's positive or negative for a given candidate. Groch-Begley pointed out that "nearly all" of Cillizza's posts about the e-mails include "dire warnings about the supposedly 'massive political problem.'"

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Iowa reaction to John Boehner stepping down as House speaker (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Sep 26, 2015 at 17:44:02 PM CDT

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner surprised most politics-watchers yesterday by announcing that he will step down as speaker and retire from Congress at the end of October. As Jennifer Steinhauer noted in the New York Times, Boehner's move "lessened the chance of a government shutdown because Republican leaders joined by Democrats will almost certainly go forward with a short-term funding measure to keep the government operating [after September 30], and the speaker will no longer be deterred by those who threatened his job." Boehner was a frequent target of right-wing talk radio hosts and occasionally at war with the most conservative House Republicans, who now insist on ending all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Remarkably, a nationwide NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday indicated that 72 percent of Republican primary voters are dissatisfied with the work of Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 44 percent are "very" dissatisfied, and 36 percent want Boehner and McConnell replaced immediately.

I sought comment from all four Iowans in the House on Boehner stepping down and asked the three Republicans whether they would be inclined to support House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as the next speaker. McCarthy has been the front-runner for the job ever since Boehner's heir apparent, Eric Cantor, lost his GOP primary last year. Other credible candidates for House speaker include Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Jeb Hensarling; Josh Israel profiled them and McCarthy for Think Progress.

I enclose below statements provided by Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04), and well as reaction from Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02). None of the Republicans directly answered the question about supporting McCarthy. Neither King nor Blum mentioned that they were among the 25 House Republicans who did not vote to re-elect Boehner as speaker in January.

I also included former Representative Tom Latham's reaction to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio's comments about Boehner stepping down. Rubio drew cheers from the audience at the Values Voters Summit in Washington when he told them the news, adding, "The time has come to turn the page. The time has come to turn the page and allow a new generation of leadership in this country." Latham and Boehner were smoking buddies and close friends during Latham's 20-year career in the House.

UPDATE: Added below excerpts from King's guest column, "What We Need in Our Next Speaker of the House," published in the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal on September 28. This sentence is ironic: "And legislation should pass or fail on the floor of Congress on its merits instead of being blocked in backroom deals because of personal politics." Surely King knows that the Senate's bipartisan immigration reform bill would have passed the House easily (mostly with Democratic votes), had it ever been brought to the floor. King and his allies successfully pressured Boehner not to put that bill to a vote of the full House.

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Policy contrasts with Republicans are focus of new Hillary Clinton tv ad

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Sep 26, 2015 at 11:26:08 AM CDT

Hillary Clinton's first three television commercials in Iowa focused on positive messages about her family background and values, her work before and during her political career, and her commitment to supporting the middle class.

The latest spot to hit Iowa tv screens contrasts Clinton's priorities with those of Republicans on issues that affect women, families, college students, and the middle class as a whole. Her campaign rolled out the new ad yesterday. I assume more new commercials will come soon, since Clinton plans to stay on the air in Iowa and New Hampshire through October.

After the jump I've enclosed a video and annotated transcript of the new Clinton ad. Going negative on Republicans is a smart move, which will resonate with many committed Iowa Democrats. A commercial criticizing Bernie Sanders, Clinton's main rival for the Democratic nomination, would likely backfire with the caucus-going crowd.

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