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Catching up on the IA-01 race, with ads from Pat Murphy and Rod Blum

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Sep 18, 2014 at 16:47:46 PM CDT

Since the June primary, I haven't written much about the first Congressional district campaign between former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy and longtime business owner Rod Blum. In theory, the race could be competitive. IA-01 leans Democratic with a partisan voting index of D+5, meaning that in the last two presidential elections, voters living here skewed about 5 percent more Democratic than the nationwide electorate. Crucially, this is a midterm, not a presidential year. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office indicate that the 20 counties in IA-01 contain 156,344 active registered Democrats, 134,313 Republicans, and 186,446 no-party voters. Hardly an overwhelming advantage. The right Republican could win this district.

Nevertheless, I doubt Blum has a strong chance in IA-01 for three reasons. First, the hero to the "Liberty" crowd and Steve Forbes is not moderate enough to win a lot of crossover voters. Blum applauded a key vote that led to last year's federal government shutdown. The Republican won't be able to run up the score in his home county either, because both Murphy and Blum are from Dubuque.

Second, Bruce Braley's Senate hopes are dead in the water if he doesn't get a strong Democratic turnout in the Congressional district where he is best known to voters. So his campaign and the Iowa Democratic Party have incentive to focus on GOTV in the key IA-01 counties. Unless the "coordinated campaign" is an epic failure, Murphy should benefit.

Third, as in Iowa's second Congressional district, we haven't seen a lot of activity from outside groups in IA-01. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is committed to defending this seat, but to my knowledge has not spent any money on radio or television commercials here. Likewise, the National Republican Congressional Committee put Blum in its top tier of challengers but hasn't reserved air time or spent significant money against Murphy. I believe they would do so if they smelled a real opportunity here.

We haven't seen much polling on this race. In August, Murphy released partial results from an internal poll indicating that he was ahead by 51 percent to 40 percent. Blum countered with his own internal showing Murphy leading by just 40 percent to 35 percent. Take those with a grain of salt, as with all internals.

Loras College surveyed 300 voters in IA-01 earlier this month and found Murphy barely ahead, by 34.6 percent to 33.0 percent, with 32.3 percent either undecided or refusing to answer. Both candidates have been campaigning around the district, but neither Murphy nor Blum started running general election television commercials until this month, which could explain the high number of undecideds. On the other hand, Loras doesn't have a long track record in polling, and that survey had a relatively small sample and a relatively large margin of error (plus or minus 5.6 percent). The cross-tabs included some unusual findings, such as Murphy barely ahead among women and Blum barely ahead among men. If true, that would be a big red flag for Murphy, who defeated three women candidates in the Democratic primary. While Republican blogger Craig Robinson draws big hope from this aspect of the Loras poll, I am skeptical that the gender gap we've seen in so many elections for decades is magically absent from this race. The margin of error for a subsample of a poll is always larger than the margin of error for the whole survey.

After the jump I've posted the first two general election ads for Murphy and the debut general election ad for Blum, as well as the spot Blum ran before the GOP primary. They all look solid to me. Any comments about the IA-01 race are welcome in this thread.  

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Polling . . House District 71?

by: idiosynchronic

Wed Sep 17, 2014 at 17:38:33 PM CDT

(For the past week or so, telephone polls have been in the field in many Iowa House districts, but this is the first I've heard about someone getting polled for the wrong statehouse race. Anyone else had the same experience? - promoted by desmoinesdem)

 . . but it's debateable how good the polling of House 71 is.

I got a call last evening on my cell which is issued to a number (I thought) in the Story County phone exchange.  It's from 801-685-8913, Murray, Utah, from "National Polling". Basic demographical data is asked, and then they ask me if I know these two names: Mark Smith & Jane Jech. Hell, no, I say. 

Okay, moving on, whom do you support for Governor, Senate . . etc. Operator specifically names *all* the names on ballot for each race, with party affliation. How likely am I to vote; what am I registered as? 

Getting back to Smith and Jech, do you like/dislike either? Whom will you vote for, Mr. Smith, the Democrat, or Ms. Jech, the Republican?

Thank you, end of call. 

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Flat-topped aster (Parasol whitetop)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 17, 2014 at 23:20:00 PM CDT

I've been to Whiterock Conservancy lots of times, but last week was my first visit in the company of naturalist and photographer Eileen Miller. Walking through a seep near the Middle Raccoon River, Eileen showed me quite a few native plants that I'd never recognized before, including this week's featured wildflower. Flat-topped aster (Doellingeria umbellata) is also commonly known as flat-topped white aster or parasol whitetop. I've enclosed several photographs after the jump.

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

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IA-Sen polling discussion thread: Still looks like a tossup to me

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 17, 2014 at 15:59:27 PM CDT

Iowa's U.S. Senate campaign has been stuck in a holding pattern for most of the summer. Seven straight opinion polls showed either a tied race between Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst, or one candidate ahead by 1-2 percentage points, well within the margin of error. For weeks, I've seen negative ads against both candidates almost every day on television, with a positive spot occasionally sprinkled in. I keep hearing the same anti-Braley or anti-Ernst ads again and again on radio too. Since no major external event has occurred to change the dynamic of the race, I was expecting to see more statistically tied polls at least until the first of three debates to which the candidates have agreed.

Instead, last week Loras College released a poll showing Braley ahead by 45.3 percent to 40.5 percent. Braley had better favorability ratings than Ernst.

Today Quinnipiac released a poll showing Ernst ahead by 50 percent to 44 percent. Ernst had better favorability numbers, led among independents, and had a much bigger lead among men than Braley's lead among women.

The Loras poll of 1,200 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.82 percent. The Q-poll of 1,167 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent. At least one of these polls is way off. Neither Loras nor Quinnipiac have polled in Iowa before this election cycle, so we don't have a track record to judge them by. For what it's worth, the available evidence hasn't convinced me that either Braley or Ernst has a significant lead, and here's why.

UPDATE: Fox News is out with their latest Iowa poll: Braley and Ernst are at 41 percent each. Notably, the sample includes 36 percent self-identified Democrats, 34 percent Republicans, and 25 percent independent/other.

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IA-03: Latham and Grassley endorse David Young in NRCC's latest ad

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 17, 2014 at 09:46:27 AM CDT

Here's something you don't see every day: an independent expenditure for a positive commercial. Yesterday the National Republican Congressional Committee started running a tv ad in Iowa's third district featuring retiring Representative Tom Latham and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley endorsing David Young.

I can't remember the last time I saw a commercial from the NRCC or its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, that didn't attempt to tear down the other candidate. Unfortunately for Democrats, this spot is probably way more effective than the NRCC's previous effort to undermine Staci Appel. Latham won the newly configured IA-03 by a comfortable margin in 2012, carrying every county but Polk, and losing Polk by a much smaller margin than Mitt Romney did. Grassley has carried all of the sixteen counties in IA-03 in every U.S. Senate election that I can remember.

After the jump I've posted the video and annotated transcript of the new commercial. Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread.

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Iowa Supreme Court allows "telemed" abortions to continue pending appeal

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 16, 2014 at 21:35:00 PM CDT

The Iowa Supreme Court has put a stay on a state rule prohibiting doctors from prescribing abortifacient drugs to patients through a videoconferencing system, according to an e-mail blast from Planned Parenthood of the Heartland this evening. Excerpt:

Today, the Iowa Supreme Court extended the stay on the Iowa Board of Medicine's telemedicine abortion ban, ensuring that thousands of women in Iowa will continue to have access to safe, constitutionally protected abortion while we fight to permanently reverse the ban.

As our fight for Iowa women continues, we're pleased that the court has upheld this right, and we're proud to continue to provide the same exceptional care that we always have, no matter what.

We also are gratified that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) filed an amicus brief supporting PPHeartland's request for a stay. This important group of medical providers understands and agrees that a woman and her doctor - not politicians - should be making personal health care decisions.

Planned Parenthood recently appealed last month's Polk County District Court ruling that allowed the rule adopted by the Iowa Board of Medicine to go into effect. Bleeding Heartland summarized the key points in the case here. Seven of Planned Parenthood's nine Iowa clinics that offer abortion services have been using the telemedicine system. If the state rule had been implemented pending appeal, women would have had to drive to clinics in either Iowa City or Des Moines in order to access medical abortions in the presence of a doctor.

At this writing, the judicial order has not yet been posted on the Iowa Courts website. I will update with a link when available.  

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Iowa City ranked 10th most "livable" city in U.S.

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 16, 2014 at 17:05:00 PM CDT

Iowa City ranks tenth on Livability.com's second annual list of "100 Best Places to Live" among small to mid-sized cities in the U.S. Looking at 2,000 cities with populations between 20,000 and 350,000, researchers calculated each city's "LivScore" using 40 data points falling under eight broad categories, explained in more detail here: amenities, demographics, economy, education, health care, housing, social and civic capital, and transportation. The website said of Iowa City,

Annual cultural events and a strong literary history with writers like John Irving and Flannery O'Connor have helped shape Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa. The college community offers a hardy arts and entertainment environment along with good health care for residents, highlighted by Mercy Hospital and the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

Iowa City has previously been recognized as Iowa's most walkable city.

Farther down the list of "Best Places to Live," Iowa cities mentioned were Ames at number 30, West Des Moines at number 57, Cedar Rapids at number 65, and Des Moines at number 82.

Livability.com explained the methodology underlying the list here. The website tweaked the criteria they used last year to compile the first "Best Places to Live" list:

Specifically, we wanted to add some more variables about health care; look at the role of proximity to institutions like hospitals, colleges and universities; and create a better balance between our survey questions and the topics we were measuring. We created some new variables including a measure of racial and ethnic diversity and a rather unique look at the diversity of housing stock.

Those changes allowed Iowa City to move up from number 47 last year to this year's top ten. Iowa's highest-ranking city on Livability.com's inaugural list was Cedar Rapids at number 30, followed by Ames at number 32. Des Moines was ranked number 70 and West Des Moines number 77 last year.

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IA-03: Appel's fourth tv ad draws contrast with "Washington insider" Young

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 16, 2014 at 12:55:00 PM CDT

Former State Senator Staci Appel released her Congressional campaign's fourth district-wide television commercial today. Whereas Appel's first three spots had an entirely positive message (see here, here, and here), the new ad contrasts her background as a lifelong Iowa resident with Republican candidate David Young's 20-year career as a "Washington insider." In a press release today, Appel's campaign manager Ben Miller commented, "There is a clear choice in this campaign between Staci Appel, who has lived in Iowa her entire life and worked in Iowa to cut government waste and balance budgets, and David Young, who has spent the last 20 years in Washington, D.C and is part of the problem."

For his part, Young is campaigning on a promise to bring "a dose of Iowa reality to Washington." His campaign has also highlighted work he's done for Iowans as U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley's chief of staff, as well as his record of listening to voters' concerns.

I've posted the video and annotated transcript of the new Appel commercial after the jump. Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Young's "good meal" commercial hasn't gone over well with many Republicans, according to The Iowa Republican blogger Craig Robinson. I've enclosed an excerpt from his post below.

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IA-02: First Loebsack tv ad, and how close is this race anyway?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 15, 2014 at 11:59:09 AM CDT

If campaign strategy is anything to go by, four-term U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack is a creature of habit. Loebsack's debut television commercial launched late last week, and I've enclosed the video and transcript after the jump, with my initial thoughts about the message. The biographical information and visuals echo Loebsack's opening commercial from his 2010 re-election campaign. The ad highlights the same public policy he led with in 2012. The same narrator performs the voice-over. The mid-September launch is precisely when he went up on the air in 2010 and 2012. (Loebsack's not the greatest fundraiser in Congress, so he can't afford to advertise district-wide for more than a couple of months.)

Several Bleeding Heartland readers have asked me about last week's Loras College poll, showing Loebsack ahead of Miller-Meeks by 48.7 percent to 32.1 percent among 300 likely voters in the second Congressional district. I have a hard time believing those results, partly because Loras doesn't have a long track record with polling. In addition, the statewide sample for the Loras poll includes too high a proportion of no-party voters for a mid-term election. Although a plurality of Iowa registered voters are independents, no-party voters comprised only about a quarter of the electorate in the last three Iowa midterm elections (click through for reports on turnout in 2010, 2006, and 2002). Perhaps most important, Loebsack defeated the less-credible challenger John Archer by a little more than 12 percent in 2012, a presidential election year. So I consider it unlikely he's 16 points ahead of Miller-Meeks, who came fairly close to beating him in 2010.

By the same token, I don't believe the Tarrance Group survey that the Miller-Meeks campaign hyped in mid-August, showing her trailing Loebsack by just 45 to 42 percent. Internal polls are always suspect, especially when the campaign releases almost no information about the sample demographics, question wording or question order.

Miller-Meeks and her suporters are optimistic because the district leans less Democratic than the one where Loebsack won his first three elections to Congress. The old IA-02 had a partisan voting index of D+7, whereas the current district is D+4. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office indicate that the 24 counties in IA-02 contain 165,834 active registered Democrats, 139,034 Republicans, and 180,843 no-party voters. In contrast, Democrats had a voter registration advantage of nearly 48,000 in IA-02 going into the 2010 general election, when Loebsack defeated Miller-Meeks by about 11,500 votes. Notably, Loebsack's current district includes the Quad Cities area (Scott County), traditionally more Republican-leaning than the Cedar Rapids area (Linn County), which was part of his old district. Under the previous map, Bruce Braley narrowly lost Scott County to his GOP challenger Ben Lange in 2010.

That analysis overlooks a few salient points, though. Since Iowa lawmakers adopted the current map of political boundaries, Loebsack has had three and a half years to build up his name recognition and support in the Quad Cities. He's attended hundreds of public events there. He's gone to bat for the Rock Island Arsenal, a major local employer. Nor are the new IA-02 counties a natural base of support for Miller-Meeks, who has spent most of her career in the Ottumwa area. In fact, her woefully under-funded opponent Mark Lofgren carried Scott County and neighboring Clinton County, as well as his home base of Muscatine, in this year's Republican primary to represent IA-02.

I suspect we would have seen a greater sense of urgency from Loebsack's campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee if Democratic polling indicated a close race here. The DCCC swooped in to rescue Loebsack in 2010, running a couple of negative spots against Miller-Meeks in the final weeks. I'll believe Miller-Meeks has a real shot if we see more independent expenditures for both candidates than occurred in IA-02 during the Loebsack's race against Archer. While the National Republican Congressional Committee placed Miller-Meeks on the top tier of their program for challengers, I have seen no sign that the NRCC plans to spend significant money on this race.

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Weekend open thread: Final Harkin Steak Fry edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 14, 2014 at 12:35:32 PM CDT

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

The weather is perfect in Indianola this afternoon for the roughly 5,000 people expected to attend Senator Tom Harkin's final "Steak Fry" event. At least 200 journalists will be on hand, mostly to see Hillary Clinton's first appearance in Iowa since the 2008 caucuses. If you see a lot of "Hillary doesn't appear to have much of an Iowa problem" stories tonight and tomorrow, remember that you heard it here first, and repeatedly.

I stand by my prediction that Hillary Clinton will face only token Democratic opposition in Iowa and elsewhere if she runs for president again. But in case she doesn't run, 2012 Harkin Steak Fry headliner Martin O'Malley is building up a lot of goodwill among Iowa Democrats. In addition to raising money for key Iowa Senate candidates this summer, the Maryland governor's political action committee is funding staffers for the Iowa Democratic Party's coordinated campaign, gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch, and secretary of state candidate Brad Anderson. I still don't see O'Malley running against Clinton in any scenario.

President Bill Clinton will speak today as well. That's got to be a tough act to follow. No one can get a crowd of Democrats going like he can. I'll update this post later with highlights from the event and news coverage. I hope other Bleeding Heartland readers will share their impressions. C-SPAN will carry the main speeches, starting at 2:00 pm. That will be on channel 95 in the Des Moines area.

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Rest in peace, Paulee Lipsman

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Sep 13, 2014 at 22:17:02 PM CDT

People who choose a career in politics tend to fall into one of two groups: the "hacks" who work on campaigns, and the "wonks" who immerse themselves in public policy. Paulee Lipsman, who passed away on Thursday in Des Moines, was a rare person who excelled in both fields. She worked on many election campaigns and was a dedicated volunteer for the Iowa Democratic Party at all levels, from the Scott County Democrats all the way up to representing Iowa on the Democratic National Committee. Arguably, she had more influence on the state during more than 20 years of work on the Iowa House Democratic research staff (the later years as director). Staff rarely if ever receive public recognition for any legislation that comes out of the Iowa House or Senate, yet lawmakers could not do the job without them.

I didn't know Paulee well, but when I talked with her, I was always impressed by her deep knowledge of state government and policy. She enjoyed spinning scenarios as much as the next political junkie, but her passion didn't end with getting Democrats elected. She was driven to improve public policy, and her views were grounded in facts.

Over the past few days, Iowa Democrats have posted many tributes to Paulee on social media. I enclose some of those words below, along with excerpts from her obituary. Several staffers, lawmakers, or lobbyists expressed gratitude for how Paulee helped them learn the ropes when they were newbies at the State Capitol. She was a role model for women working at the statehouse and a strong supporter of Democratic women running for state office.

Phil Specht's words in one thread rang especially true: "One of the things I loved about her was even though both of you knew she was smarter and knew more (about practically anything) she would never talk down to anyone." Presidential candidates sought out Paulee Lipsman's support--both John Kerry and Joe Biden bragged about her endorsement in press releases. But she wasn't the type to drop names or pull rank on anyone.

Until I read the Des Moines Register's piece on Paulee's passing, I did not know that she had been raped or that she filed an influential lawsuit related to that case during the 1980s. Roxanne Conlin was one of Paulee's closest friends and represented her in that lawsuit. I've enclosed some of her comments about the case below. Paulee retired from the Iowa House Democratic research staff in 2010 to work on Conlin's campaign for U.S. Senate.

UPDATE: During a stop in Des Moines on September 17, Vice President Joe Biden said, "Paulee Lipsman was a remarkable, remarkable woman. She was not only a friend of mine, but she was a tireless advocate for fairness and equality. I know that she will be greatly missed."

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Another baby step toward making medical cannabis available in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Sep 13, 2014 at 10:03:00 AM CDT

The Iowa legislature's Cannabidiol Implementation Study Committee met Thursday to discuss problems related to the implementation of the new law intended to allow Iowans to use cannabis oil to treat seizure disorders. Although the law went into effect on July 1, families who lobbied for measure are not yet able to purchase the oil derived from marijuana plants, because of various legal hurdles. Ten lawmakers (five from each chamber and five from each political party) serve on the study committee: State Senators Joe Bolkcom (D), Bill Dotzler (D), Steve Sodders (D), Charles Schneider (R), and Mike Brietbach (R), and State Representatives Walt Rogers (R), Clel Baudler (R), Linda Miller (R), John Forbes (D), and Bob Kressig (D).

Tony Leys reported for the Des Moines Register that the committee voted 9-1 to recommend that the state reschedule marijuana from "a Schedule I drug, meaning its use for any reason is illegal," to "a Schedule II drug, which could be used for medical purposes." Rogers was the dissenting vote. The committee voted 6-4 for "a motion to recommend allowing the closely regulated production and distribution of medical marijuana for approved patients. The motion did not specify what type of marijuana, but it did say the state should not tax the products." Baudler, at one time Iowa's most vocal opponent of medical marijuana, joined the five Democrats on the committee to approve that motion. However, Leys noted that Baudler "strenuously opposes expanding the law to let people possess marijuana to treat other conditions, such as cancer or Crohn's disease. The committee rejected a motion to recommend such an expansion."

The committee's recommendations are not binding on the Iowa House and Senate, which will go back into session next January.

Not to take anything away from the suffering of Iowans with seizure disorders, but I don't understand why lawmakers would want to approve medical cannabis for those conditions only and not for a range of other chronic or life-threatening diseases, which affect thousands of people here. Other states have created workable programs limiting access to those with genuine medical needs, and a majority of Iowans support legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Oncologists have been quietly recommending cannabis to cancer patients for at least four decades.

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IA-03: First Staci Appel/David Young debate discussion thread (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Sep 11, 2014 at 19:01:10 PM CDT

Democrat Staci Appel and Republican David Young are holding their first debate in the third Congressional district race. Iowa Public Television will live-stream the Council Bluffs debate on the "Iowa Press" page. You can also watch on C-SPAN 2, which is channel 87 for Mediacom subscribers in Des Moines. I will be live-blogging the debate after the jump.

P.S.-I've also enclosed below the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's latest television commercial against Young. The format seems a little stale, and I wonder how many people even remember Young's magic-themed ads before the Republican primary.

UPDATE: I didn't realize the Appel campaign is also running a new ad. Scroll to the end to see that video and transcript.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Iowa Public Television has the debate video up on the "Iowa Press" page and will broadcast this debate tonight at 7 pm and Sunday morning.

I've added lots more below, including post-debate spin and Young's second television commercial of the general election campaign, which started running on September 12. Young is presenting himself as a reasonable, moderate, experienced problem-solver. The theme of the Democratic communication is that Young spent the debate hiding from more radical positions he took as a Republican primary candidate for U.S. Senate and later for IA-03. That's accurate, but the reality is that Young does not present as a wild-eyed extremist. Voters may conclude that he was just pandering to wingnuts during the primary campaign.

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Iowa reaction to Obama's speech on fighting ISIS

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Sep 11, 2014 at 09:29:14 AM CDT

During prime-time last night, President Barack Obama spoke to the nation about the U.S. response to the terrorist group ISIS. You can read the full text of his remarks here. I don't have a lot of confidence that airstrikes will weaken support for ISIS where they are powerful, nor do I know whether there are enough "forces fighting these terrorists on the ground" for our support to matter. At least the president isn't sending massive numbers of ground troops back to Iraq.

After the jump I've posted comments from several members of Iowa's Congressional delegation as well as candidates for federal office. I will update this post as needed later today. Feel free to share your own thoughts about the appropriate U.S. policy in the region.

UPDATE: Added more comments below. As of Thursday evening, I have not seen any public comment on the president's speech from Senator Tom Harkin, Representative Bruce Braley (IA-01 and the Democratic nominee from U.S. Senate), IA-01 Democratic nominee Pat Murphy, his Republican opponent Rod Blum, IA-02 GOP nominee Mariannette Miller-Meeks, or Representative Steve King (IA-04). I would think anyone who represents or wants to represent Iowans in Congress would want to weigh in about this policy, at least on whether the president should be able to act without Congressional authorization.

I agree with State Senator Matt McCoy, who posted on Facebook, "The President did not make a credible case for sending 475 Americans into IRAQ. The bar should be set very high before a President takes action without Congressional authorization. This crisis needs more dialog and study."

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Stiff goldenrod

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 21:01:02 PM CDT

If you've been on Iowa country roads or bike trails lately, you've probably seen plenty of goldenrods in bloom. You may also have seen today's featured wildflower, especially in prairies or prairie remnants. After the jump I've posted several photographs of Stiff goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum), a member of the aster family that is native to much of North America east of the Rocky Mountains.

I took most of these pictures during a recent visit to Iowa State University's Reiman Gardens, well worth seeing if you're in the Ames area. The facility is best known for its incredible butterfly enclosure, containing dozens of tropical plants and hundreds of insect species not native to Iowa. For that reason, I was surprised to see a strip of native plants growing near the front entrance.

This post is also a mid-week open thread: all topics welcome. I'll put up a separate thread later tonight or tomorrow morning with Iowa reaction to President Barack Obama's televised address about the U.S. response to ISIS.

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Iowa judge sentences medical marijuana user to probation

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 13:27:00 PM CDT

In a case being watched by medical marijuana advocates across the country, cancer patient Benton Mackenzie received three years of probation rather than a prison term for his conviction in July on drug charges. Mackenzie had grown marijuana plants on his parents' property in order to extract cannabis oil, and his wife and son also faced drug charges. At the trial, District Court Judge Henry Latham did not allow Mackenzie's attorney to tell the jury that the defendant was trying to treat his angiosarcoma. Yesterday, the same judge sentenced both Mackenzie and his wife Loretta Mackenzie to probation, in line with the prosecutor's recommendation in the case. After the jump I've posted excerpts from Brian Wellner's report for the Quad-City Times and Grant Rodgers' report for the Des Moines Register. Libertarian candidate for governor Lee Hieb, a medical doctor, attended yesterday's hearing and afterward called for a change in public policy to give people "the right to choose our own cancer care." Mackenzie expressed hope that he will be the "last person" to be prosecuted under similar circumstances.

The Mackenzie family wants to move to Oregon, where a doctor has approved Benton Mackenzie for participation in that state's medical marijuana program. Probation officers in Iowa would have to sign off on the move before the family could leave the state. Mackenzie also plans to appeal "in an effort to get the Iowa Supreme Court to reconsider its decision in a 2005 case that bars Iowans from using claims of medical necessity as a defense to growing marijuana."

I still think it was a waste of taxpayer money to prosecute a critically ill person for growing marijuana intended for personal use. Iowa lawmakers should make cannabis more accessible to people who can demonstrate a medical need for it.  

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State Senator Joe Seng being treated for brain cancer

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 12:25:00 PM CDT

State Senator Joe Seng underwent surgery yesterday to remove a brain tumor, the Quad-City Times reported. Seng's operation took place in New York, but according to a statement released today, he will return to Davenport for radiation and chemotherapy treatments this fall. He plans to be ready for the beginning of the next legislative session in January 2015. I'm sure everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community wishes him a full and rapid recovery.

First elected to the Iowa Senate in 2002, Seng represents much of Daveport. He chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee and is vice chair of the Ways & Means Committee. Seeking a fourth term this year, he easily defeated a Democratic primary challenger in June and does not have a general election opponent in Iowa Senate district 45. In 2012, Seng challenged incumbent Dave Loebsack in the Democratic primary to represent Iowa's second Congressional district.

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Three reasons it's too soon for Iowa Democrats to celebrate an early voting lead

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 09, 2014 at 16:35:42 PM CDT

Part of a series on GOTV in Iowa this year

Less than two weeks remain before county auditors start mailing absentee ballots to Iowa voters. On September 22, the Iowa Secretary of State's Office will start releasing updates on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and by Congressional district. As in 2012, Bleeding Heartland will post those totals daily.

Data from a few of the larger counties indicate that the Iowa Democratic Party's head start on canvassing this summer has produced a clear advantage on absentee ballots requested. Iowa Republican blogger Craig Robinson is fretting about the GOP "getting out worked when it comes to early voting." Former Iowa Senate GOP staffer Don McDowell is upset with conservatives who refuse to vote before election day. He has seen more than a few statehouse races lost narrowly after Republican candidates were crushed in the early vote.

However, it's way too soon for Democrats to be over-confident about this year's early vote lead, for three reasons.

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When will our culture recognize domestic violence as violent crime?

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 09, 2014 at 08:49:37 AM CDT

Not being a football fan, I had never heard of Ray Rice until the Baltimore Ravens running back received a pathetic two-game suspension for beating up his fiancee Janay Palmer (now his wife) earlier this year. Rice finally lost his job yesterday, after a leaked video showed him punching Palmer in an elevator. But Louis Bien's timeline of key events in the case underscores how many authority figures bent over backwards to help Rice avoid any serious repercussions.

For months, top management for the Ravens made clear they hoped Rice would continue to play football with minimal interruption. The team's official twitter account promoted the idea that Palmer shared some responsibility for getting knocked out. Having given other players one-or two-game suspensions for domestic violence incidents, the National Football League didn't ask the Atlantic City casino for video footage before deciding on an initial consequence for Rice. Unbelievably, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell interviewed Janay Rice about the incident in the presence of her husband. In a meaningless gesture, the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely yesterday--after the Ravens had ended his contract.

Instead of moving forward with aggravated assault charges, New Jersey prosecutors offered Rice a deal involving probation and anger management counseling rather than prison time. The "pretrial intervention" agreement means that Rice can avoid trial and even have the criminal charges expunged, as long as he complies with the program. I'm all for abusers getting counseling, in addition to facing legal consequences for their actions. Rice's deal seems way too lenient, given the evidence prosecutors had on videotape. The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office says Rice "received the same treatment in the court system that any first-time offender in similar circumstances has received," which doesn't inspire confidence in the court system.

Rice is lucky that he'll probably never serve a day in prison for this assault, yet football legend Mike Ditka noted sympathetcally yesterday that Rice is "not a bad guy" who has seen his life "ruined" and his earning power "destroyed." Right-wing media darling Ben Carson loves to talk about "personal responsibility." But when asked about Rice yesterday, Carson said, "Let's not all jump on the bandwagon of demonizing this guy. He obviously has some real problems. And his wife obviously knows that because she subsequently married him. [...] let's see if we can get some help for these people." In what other context would a conservative show such sympathy for a man who had beaten someone unconscious? Yes, Rice has problems. Let him get help while he faces responsibility for his crimes.

By the way, Carson spent a few days in Iowa during the last week of August. The possible 2016 presidential candidate headlined fundraisers for the Polk County Republican Party and GOP Congressional candidates Rod Blum (IA-01) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02). I hope that Blum, Miller-Meeks, and Polk County GOP Chair Will Rogers will repudiate Carson's comments about Rice. Domestic violence is the most prevalent form of violent crime in Iowa, affecting tens of thousands of people every year.

UPDATE: Worth reading Vice President Joe Biden's comments on Rice and our cultural attitudes toward violence. Biden was the lead author of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.

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Department of strange conclusions

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 08, 2014 at 08:45:00 AM CDT

Kathie Obradovich's latest column for the Des Moines Register summarized conclusions from a research project by Chris Larimer, associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa. According to Obradovich, after studying Iowa governors' job approval ratings and interviewing 23 "politicos" from around the state, Larimer concluded that Iowa governors (other than Chet Culver) have been regularly re-elected because most of them met public expectations for a lot of personal contact with the governor. Governor Terry Branstad has visited every county every year. Governor Tom Vilsack did annual walks across Iowa.

I haven't read Larimer's draft, but I think he's missing a few points. While it's clearly a political asset for governors to be visible around the state, I doubt that is the biggest factor in Iowans' tendency to re-elect our incumbents.

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