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The 2014 Iowa ground game: 12 Canvassing dos and don'ts

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 12:21:02 PM CDT

First in a series of posts on GOTV in Iowa this year

Air time for television advertising has become the most expensive line-item in many election campaigns. Outside groups have spent millions of dollars already on Iowa commercials targeting U.S. Senate candidates Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst, with millions more to be spent over the next 60 days. Nevertheless, I don't know many people who believe attack ads will determine the outcome of close races like Iowa's U.S. Senate battle. Barring some extraordinary campaign event (such as a meltdown in the debates), the winner will be the candidate whose side does a better job of identifying its supporters and turning them out to vote.

The number of Iowans who voted in each of the last two midterm elections was about a third lower than the number who had voted in the most recent presidential election. If that trend holds, approximately 1.1 million Iowans will cast ballots in the 2014 general election. Braley and other Democrats can't afford to have turnout resemble 2010, when only 56.5 percent of registered Iowa Democrats voted, as opposed to 69 percent of registered Republicans.

The Iowa Democratic Party has been crowing about its bigger and better "coordinated campaign," an effort to build on the successful 2012 early voting program here. No question, Democrats got a big jump on the ground game while the Iowa GOP was mired in poor fundraising and a messy leadership transition. Democrats have had canvassers out every weekend for months, and so far have generated many more absentee ballot requests than Republicans. The Iowa GOP has stepped up its door-knocking over the past several weeks, and Governor Terry Branstad will spend part of his war chest to assist the early voting efforts.

Knocking on doors is one of the most valuable ways to volunteer for a campaign. For those willing to spend a few hours on a weeknight or a weekend afternoon, I've enclosed my best advice for canvassing after the jump. Please feel free to share your own experiences with canvassing (on either side of the door) in this thread. Six years ago, a guest diarist posted his top tips here.

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Weekend open thread: Labor Day edition

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 09:15:00 AM CDT

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

Labor Day has been a federal holiday for 120 years, and it's just one of many reasons Americans can be grateful to the organized labor movement.

Labor Day also marks the unofficial end of summer for many people. It's a wet and muddy holiday weekend in central Iowa, as Des Moines just closed out the rainiest August on record. Hummingbirds will start flying south soon, and early September is a good time to see monarch butterflies on their migration through Iowa. The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City has a volunteer monarch tagging event scheduled for this Saturday, September 6. The Des Moines Register's Mike Kilen reported late last week that several conservation groups are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give the monarch "threatened" status under the Endangered Species Act. Conventional farming practices, notably the widespread use of Roundup herbicide, have decimated milkweeds, which monarchs need to breed. Planting milkweeds along roadsides and in private yards can give butterflies good habitat.

In even-numbered years, politicos long considered Labor Day the unofficial beginning of the general election campaign, or at least the time more voters start paying attention. Campaigns are so expensive now, with so much more outside money flowing in, that Iowans have been bombarded with as many political ads during the "slow" summer months as we would have seen ten or twenty years ago in September and October. I wonder whether television commercials are becoming less effective for political campaigns these days. So many people change the channel or avoid commercials altogether by using DVR or Netflix.

Former State Senator Kent Sorenson's guilty plea last week may or may not lead to other prosecutions in connection with Ron Paul's 2012 campaign, but it has already cost one former Paul staffer his job. Jesse Benton had been managing the re-election campaign of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. He resigned on Friday evening, citing "inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors about me and my role in past campaigns that are politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue."  

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Planned Parenthood appeals to Iowa Supreme Court in telemedicine case

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 14:41:00 PM CDT

Yesterday Planned Parenthood of the Heartland asked the Iowa Supreme Court to put on hold a state rule banning the use of "telemedicine" for medical abortions. A Polk County District Court recently upheld that rule, on grounds Bleeding Heartland discussed here. Planned Parenthood argues that it is likely to succeed on the merits when the Iowa Supreme Court considers its appeal of the lower court ruling, that the state ban would "irreparably harm" Planned Parenthood and its patients, and that a temporary injunction on the rule while the appeal is pending "will not harm the interests of the other parties or the public." A stay on the rule would allow women to continue to receive medical abortion access at seven Planned Parenthood clinics across Iowa where the teleconferencing system is available.

The Des Moines Register posted the full text of Planned Parenthood's motion filed yesterday. After the jump I've posted key excerpts, which preview the substance of Planned Parenthood's appeal.

I'm not an attorney, but my hunch is that the Iowa Supreme Court will overturn the lower court ruling--perhaps with two or three dissenters who would defer to the Board of Medicine, along the lines of the dissents in a recent case involving the Iowa Utilities Board.

To my mind, Planned Parenthood's strongest argument is that the Iowa Board of Medicine approved a rule that "singles out abortion, banning telemedicine delivery of this service while encouraging other uses of telemedicine." A Des Moines Register editorial published earlier this week underscored the hypocrisy of that position. I've enclosed excerpts from that piece at the end of this post. Governor Terry Branstad and others in his administration have celebrated the use of telemedicine in many ways that involve doctors or pharmacists dispensing medications without ever being in the same room as their patients.

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IA-02: First Loebsack and Miller-Meeks debate live-blog and discussion thread (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 19:01:27 PM CDT

Four-term Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack and his three-time Republican challenger Mariannette Miller-Meeks are debating in Iowa City tonight, starting at 7 pm. Iowa Public TV is live-streaming the event here. I'll post updates after the jump.

Any comments about the race in Iowa's second Congressional district are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: The archived video is now available at IPTV's site. My comments are below.  

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IA-03: David Young promises to listen

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 14:55:00 PM CDT

Republican candidate David Young has launched the second radio spot promoting his Congressional campaign in Iowa's third district. I've posted the audio and full transcript of "Listen" after the jump. (For whatever reason, Young's campaign never did post the first general election radio spot, featuring Senator Chuck Grassley, on their official YouTube channel.)

The new commercial features Young speaking calmly and deliberately about how Iowans expect their elected officials to listen more than talk. It's the most slow-paced political ad I've heard in a long time. I wonder if it's too slow to keep some listeners' attention. On the other hand, I generally like candidates to speak in their own voice, rather than let professional voice-overs do the talking.

In contrast to his television commercials appealing to Republican primary voters, Young doesn't bash President Barack Obama's health care reform or other policies. He briefly alludes to a balanced budget amendment and helping businesses thrive, but he seems to be promoting a style of work and a way of relating to people, rather than a set of issues. Grassley focused on similar points in the ad he recorded for Young.

Young's Democratic opponent, Staci Appel, is emphasizing her bipartisan work in the television commercial now running throughout IA-03. Although Young doesn't use the words "bipartisan" or "across the aisle," his promise to "be at the table" working on solutions to benefit Iowans draws an unspoken contrast with strident Republicans in the Steve King mold. Pledging to ensure "government is working for Iowa families" separates Young from conservatives who would prefer to shrink government enough to drown it in a bathtub.

Young did vow to "keep our promises to Iowa seniors," pre-empting likely Democratic attacks on his views about Social Security reforms that include private savings accounts.  

Roll Call's Alexis Levinson observed Young's listening ears in action during a recent campaign swing. She recounts the way Young listened patiently to an angry man wanting more details on spending cuts:

As the man berates him, Young calmly answers, "I'm listening to you. ... I appreciate these conversations."

Talk about the anti-Steve King. This campaign strategy will serve Young well and will make it difficult to caricature him as a "way out there" tea party Republican.

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Iowa's medical marijuana law too limited, unworkable

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 12:22:00 PM CDT

On the last day of this year's legislative session, Iowa lawmakers took a baby step toward legalizing the medical use of marijuana in this state. I found it regrettable that the only compromise acceptable to Governor Terry Branstad and key Iowa House Republicans limited access to cannabis oil suitable for treating seizure disorders. Thousands of other Iowans suffer from debilitating chronic and/or life-threatening conditions, which could be alleviated with medical marijuana in other forms.

Turns out, the new law isn't even helping the few hundred people who could theoretically benefit from cannabis oil. Although the law went into effect on July 1, parents who lobbied for it told the Des Moines Register's Tony Leys this week that access to the medicine is "still light years away."

[T]he law included no legal method for growing or selling the product. State administrators are still working out the details of how to issue ID cards allowing residents to possess marijuana extract bought in other states.

[Sally] Gaer and other parents believe their children's seizures could be significantly dampened with a form of marijuana oil that has low levels of THC, the chemical that makes marijuana users high. But they remain unable to legally obtain the oil, which is said to have worked well in other states. [...] Colorado law only allows sales of the medication to Colorado residents, they said. They've heard that once they have their Iowa-issued cards, they might be allowed to purchase the extract in Oregon. "What are we all going to do, get in a wagon train and go over the mountains?" Gaer said with a wry laugh.

The women said they were disappointed by how long it's taking Iowa officials to implement the law, which technically took effect July 1. [...]

The women said they have found Iowa-licensed neurologists willing to sign a form recommending the marijuana extract for their children, as the Iowa law requires. However, the form has not been created yet by state officials. If the families can find an out-of-state supplier willing to sell the oil to them, they would face a cost of several hundred to more than a thousand dollars per month - plus the cost of travel. They also could risk arrest for carrying the oil through states that don't allow it.

Why are we putting families through this ordeal when more than a dozen states have already led the way toward making medical marijuana available to people who need it? After the jump I've posted a video of Dr. Steven Jenison talking about New Mexico's medical cannabis program, which he helped to implement in 2007.

State Senator Joe Bolkcom has promised he will work to expand the new law during the 2015 legislative session. Here's hoping the Iowa House and Senate will listen.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Yellow wood sorrel

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 18:08:41 PM CDT

Today's featured plant is native to much of North America and is edible in limited quantities. In fact, one experienced forager called this plant and its close relatives "my favorite wild edible." After the jump I've enclosed several pictures of Yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta).

As a bonus, I included two shots of American bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum), one of my all-time favorite Iowa wildflowers. It's a common sight in wooded areas and along many shady bike trails throughout the summer.

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

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Kent Sorenson pleads guilty over hidden payments scheme (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 13:39:46 PM CDT

The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that former State Senator Kent Sorenson has pleaded guilty to two charges related to hidden payments in exchange for supporting Ron Paul for president. When he abandoned his position as Michele Bachmann's Iowa campaign chair to endorse Paul less than a week before the 2012 Iowa caucuses, rumors immediately circulated about alleged payments for his support. Sorenson repeatedly denied those rumors. However, he has now admitted that he received $73,000 in concealed payments after endorsing Paul. As part of his plea agreement, he also admitted lying to journalists and giving false testimony to an independent counsel appointed to investigate various charges. Sorenson resigned his Iowa Senate seat last October, the same day that independent counsel filed a devastating report. Federal authorities have been investigating the case since last year.

After the jump I've enclosed the full Department of Justice press release, with more details about the plea deal. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled. As far as I can tell, these charges are unrelated to any payments Sorenson allegedly received from the Bachmann campaign earlier in 2011. A former Bachmann campaign staffer made those claims in complaints he filed with the Federal Election Commission and with the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee. Another former Bachmann staffer signed an affidavit containing details on Sorenson's compensation for work supporting that campaign.

One mystery I hope someone will solve someday is whether Sorenson's attorney, Ted Sporer, lied on behalf of his client, or whether Sorenson lied to Sporer along with everyone else. Even on the day he resigned from the state legislature, Sorenson maintained he was an innocent victim of a "straight-up political witch hunt." A separate lawsuit that had alleged Sorenson stole a valuable e-mail list from a Bachmann staffer's computer was eventually settled without any admission of wrongdoing by Sorenson.

UPDATE: Russ Choma has more details at Open Secrets, including the full plea agreement. Highly recommend clicking through to read that whole post. I've enclosed excerpts below.

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In Des Moines, a rare left-wing take on 1950s nostalgia and American exceptionalism

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 09:49:25 AM CDT

Sunday night, the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines marked its 100th anniversary at a dinner gathering downtown. The gala was unusual in several respects. For one thing, I don't recall seeing such a large and bipartisan group of Iowa politicians at any non-political local event before. Attendees included Senator Chuck Grassley, Governor Terry Branstad, State Senator Jack Hatch, Lieutenant Governor nominee Monica Vernon, Representative Bruce Braley, State Senator Joni Ernst, Representative Dave Loebsack, IA-03 candidates David Young and Staci Appel, State Senator Matt McCoy, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, State Representatives Helen Miller, Marti Anderson, and Peter Cownie, and several suburban mayors or city council members. (Insert your own "a priest, a rabbi, and an Iowa politician walk into a bar" joke here.)

The keynote speech was even more striking. It's standard practice to invite a Jewish celebrity to headline major Federation events. This year's guest was award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss. But other than a "Borscht belt"-inspired opening riff about learning to nod and say "Yes, dear" to his wife, Dreyfuss left obvious material aside. He didn't dwell on humorous anecdotes from his Hollywood career, or talk about how being Jewish helped his craft. Instead, Dreyfuss reminisced about a cultural place and time that could hardly be more foreign to his Iowa audience, regardless of age or religious background.

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Iowa could do so much better with local food availability

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

Agriculture is and always has been a major part of Iowa's economy, but given our abundance of world-class farmland, we could do much more to make local food available to Iowans. When the non-profit food advocacy group Strolling of the Heifers introduced its "Locavore Index" two years ago, Iowa ranked second only to Vermont in terms of local food availability. At that time, the index measured per-capita presence of Community-Supported Agricultural enterprises and farmers markets.

Last year, Strolling of the Heifers added a third component to the index: the per capita presence of "food hubs," those "facilities that handle the aggregation, distribution and marketing of foods from a group of farms and food producers in a region." Iowa dropped to fifth place on the Locavore Index.

For 2014, Strolling of the Heifers added a fourth component: the percentage of school districts with Farm-to-School programs, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Sadly, only 31 percent of Iowa school districts have a Farm-to-School program, putting us below many states with insignificant agricultural output compared to Iowa. We should be doing better seven years after the state legislature first funded Farm-to-School efforts. While our state is still strong in farmers markets per capita, our national rank on the Locavore Index dropped to tenth.

August and September are arguably the best months to shop at Iowa farmers markets. With peak late-summer produce being harvested around the start of the academic year, it's a shame more Iowa students don't have access to fresh, local food. We should have more flash-freezing facilities to make it easier for larger facilities to buy local as well--not just public school districts but also nursing homes, hospitals, colleges and universities. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach "provides technical assistance to school food service staff" in six northeast Iowa counties. Here's hoping that project will expand statewide.

After the jump I've posted the Strolling of the Heifers chart showing all state-level data on local food availability. I added the group's "10 reasons to consume local foods," covering economic, health, environmental, and taste benefits. Iowa's Healthiest State Initiative doesn't include a strong local food component, although it promotes healthier eating at schools. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship administers a few Farm-to-School programs and has provided grants for a few dozen schools to start vegetable gardens each year.

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Republicans left Iowa House seats uncontested in nearly every battleground Iowa Senate district

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 12:41:54 PM CDT

The filing period for general-election candidates closed on August 15. You can view the full candidate list for federal and state offices on the Iowa Secretary of State's website. John Deeth briefly reviews all 100 House races here. Next month, I'll be posting on the most competitive Iowa House races.

For today, I'm interested in what appears to be a pattern of Republicans letting Iowa House seats go in battleground Iowa Senate districts. I suspect a strategy is in play to depress GOTV in the more Democratic halves of these districts.  

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Weekend open thread: Cost of doing nothing edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 12:31:00 PM CDT

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

Sunday's Des Moines Register includes a good feature by Lauren Mills of IowaWatch.org and the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. She lays out how payday lenders are "burying Iowans" in debt. Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Joe Bolkcom pointed out that the payday lending business model depends on "locking people into this cycle of debt." Previous research has indicated that payday lenders cost Iowa consumers about $36 million per year. Mills reports that this industry spends heavily on campaign contributions and lobbying the Iowa legislature. Lobbyists talk a good game about jobs and helping people who need cash for emergency expenses. But think how many more jobs could be created if Iowans living paycheck to paycheck had $36 million more to spend on goods and services, rather than on outlandish "loan shark rates."

Mills reports that legislation to regulate interest rates charged by payday lenders has been stalled. Bolkcom said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal won't bring up the bill unless it can pass the Republican-controlled Iowa House. House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer called that a "convenient excuse" for the Senate not to act. I haven't noticed her or any other House Republicans acknowledging this problem, though.

The best chance for Iowa lawmakers to address payday lending was during the period when Democrats controlled "the trifecta." In 2007, the Iowa House and Senate approved, and Governor Chet Culver signed, a bill capping interest rates on car title loans. (Such legislation had been stalled for years when Republicans controlled the Iowa House, although it attracted bipartisan support in both chambers in 2007.) Three years later, Bolkcom and then Iowa House Democrat Janet Petersen made a major push to pass a similar interest rate cap on payday lenders. However, industry lobbyists warned that such a law would put payday lenders out of business, as had happened with car title lenders. A wide range of organizations supported the payday lending reform, including the Iowa Attorney General's office, the Iowa Catholic Conference, the Child and Family Policy Center, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. But ultimately, the House version of that bill died when conservadem State Representative Mike Reasoner sided with two Republicans to kill it in subcommittee.

Some Iowa local governments, most recently in Waterloo, have passed zoning rules to try to prevent payday lenders from targeting low-income neighborhoods. But state regulations are the only realistic way to stop the cycle of debt perpetuated by lenders who keep borrowers coming back for more high-interest loans and cash advances. Iowans on the edge are paying the price for the legislature's failure to act years ago.

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IA-04: Jim Mowrer's third ad focuses on Social Security

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 12:25:20 PM CDT

Today Democratic candidate Jim Mowrer started running his third television commercial across Iowa's fourth Congressional district. In look and feel, the 30-second spot closely resembles Mowrer's first and second television ads, featuring the candidate's own voice and the same acoustic background music. While the previous ads focused on Mowrer's public service, the new one mentions an earlier part of his biography: the family tragedy that cemented his commitment to preserving Social Security. I've posted the video and transcript after the jump.

Mowrer's new ad does not mention six-term Republican incumbent Steve King by name. Rather, the Democrat says he disagrees with those who "want to weaken Social Security." King has voted for the House Republican Study Committee budget, which would increase the Social Security full retirement age and put Social Security's cost of living adjustments on the "chained Consumer Price Index." (Bleeding Heartland has explained before why chained CPI would be disastrous for lower- and middle-income Social Security recipients.) More than 100 of King's House GOP colleagues rejected the Republican Study Committee budget.

King has also repeatedly voted for House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's budget plans, though in recent years Ryan has backed off from Social Security cuts he once advocated.

To my knowledge, King has not run any radio or television commercials this year. Nor has he given the appearance of being worried about Mowrer's challenge. His lackluster fundraising let Mowrer build up a financial advantage. In addition, King has been relying on his son and daughter-in-law to run the campaign, rather than the professionals he brought in to manage his 2012 re-election bid against Christie Vilsack.

Mowrer talked about his family's experience with Social Security during his appearance on the Des Moines Register's soapbox at the Iowa State Fair. He also noted that King has voted to raise the retirement age.

King focused on health care reform during his soapbox speech, calling Obamacare "a malignant tumor that is metastasizing and feeding upon America's God-given liberty."

Any comments about the IA-04 race are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- Like Mowrer, Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02) grew up in a family that relied on Social Security survivor benefits to keep food on the table.

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71 percent of Iowa residents were born here

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 21, 2014 at 20:43:00 PM CDT

Some 71 percent of Iowa residents were born in this state, a higher percentage than in all but six states, according to an interactive graphic at the New York Times website based on data from 2012 (hat tip to the Des Moines Register's Daniel Finney). The states with an even greater proportion of residents born there, as of 2012, were Louisiana (79 percent), Michigan (77 percent), Ohio (75 percent), Pennsylvania (74 percent), and Wisconsin and Mississippi (72 percent each). The states with the lowest percentage of residents born there were Nevada (25 percent), Florida (36 percent), Arizona (38 percent), and Alaska and New Hampshire (42 percent each).

On this page you can view how migration to and from Iowa has changed over the past century. In 1900, following decades of extensive immigration from Europe, only 59 percent of Iowans were born in this state. That figure gradually rose each decade, peaking at 80 percent of Iowa residents being born here as of 1960 and 1970. By the same token, 14 percent of Iowans were born outside the U.S. as of 1900. That figure dropped steadily to a low point of 2 percent from 1960 through 1990. As of 2012, 5 percent of Iowa residents were foreign-born.

Among Iowans who have moved here from other states, those born in other Midwestern states outnumber those from the northeast, south, and west combined.

The percentage of native-born Iowans who have stayed here has fluctuated very little over the last century. At any given point measured, between 58 percent and 64 percent of all Americans born in Iowa were living in Iowa. Patterns of out-migration have changed somewhat. For many decades, a significant number of Iowa-born Americans have settled in Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and other Midwestern states. Migration to California peaked in the middle part of the last century. As of 2012, there were more Iowa-born people living in southern states and more in other states in the west than in California. The New York Times comments,

MIGRATION INTO IOWA
Iowa has been the picture of stability. But the share of its population born in the state is at its lowest point since 1920. [...]

DIASPORA OUT OF IOWA
Iowa is unusual in that the overall number of people born in the state is itself declining, leaving fewer people to possibly migrate. The flow out of the state hasn't grown much, though people leaving head south.

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Third-party and independent candidates in Iowa's 2014 elections

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 21, 2014 at 11:25:50 AM CDT

The filing period for general election candidates in Iowa closed last Friday, so it's a good time to review where candidates not representing either the Democratic or Republican Party are running for office. The full candidate list is on the Iowa Secretary of State's website (pdf(. After the jump I discuss all the federal, statewide, and state legislative races including at least one independent or minor-party candidate. Where possible, I've linked to campaign websites, so you can learn more about the candidates and their priorities.

Rarely has any Iowa election been affected by an independent or third-party candidate on the ballot. Arguably, the most recent case may have been the 2010 election in Iowa's first Congressional district. Final results showed that Democratic incumbent Bruce Braley defeated Republican challenger Ben Lange by 4,209 votes, while conservative candidates Rob Petsche and Jason Faulkner drew 4,087 votes and 2,092 votes, respectively.

Any comments about Iowa's 2014 elections are welcome in this thread.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Hoary vervain

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 20:47:02 PM CDT

A native or restored prairie in full late summer glory is gorgeous, but I also have a soft spot for wildflowers that can survive some of the toughest conditions humans have inflicted on the landscape. Today's featured plant flourishes in overgrazed pastures and on roadsides with poor soil, and is native to most of the continental United States. After the jump I've posted several pictures of Hoary vervain (Verbena stricta), which blooms across most of Iowa from late June to September.

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

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IA-03: Second Staci Appel ad stresses independence, bipartisan work

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 17:22:00 PM CDT

Democratic Congressional candidate Staci Appel's campaign started running its second television commercial today.  "Independence" focuses on the candidate's work in the Iowa Senate from 2007 through 2010. I've posted the video and my transcript after the jump. As in her first commercial, the announcer refers to the candidate as "Staci"--ever since Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, this approach seems to be a trend with women candidates.

The script includes key words that resonate with conservatives and moderates ("business," "finance," "balance budgets") as well as with progressives (expanding pre-K, raising the minimum wage, approving pay equity). That makes sense in a swing district like Iowa's third. Appel mentioned the same set of issues in her soapbox appearance at the Iowa State Fair. I've posted excerpts from the news coverage after the jump.

Groups backing Republican candidate David Young are sure to portray Appel as a liberal Nancy Pelosi clone, so it makes sense to pre-empt that message with an ad about bipartisanship. To my knowledge, neither Young nor the National Republican Congressional Committee have run television ads in IA-03 since the primary. The NRCC ran a web ad bashing Appel, while U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley recorded a radio spot supporting Young.

In related news, Appel's press release announcing today's new tv spot took a swipe at Young for backing a "flat tax" at the Iowa State Fair (video here). At the end of this post I've enclosed excerpts from the Des Moines Register's coverage of Young's soapbox speech.

Appel is one of eight great women candidates for U.S. House, according to a feature in the latest edition of Elle magazine. The piece described Appel as a "mother of six and fierce pro-choice advocate," who wants to bring "less bickering" and more "Iowa-mom common sense" to Washington.

IA-03 contained 153,285 registered Democrats, 164,984 Republicans, and 156,626 no-party voters as of August 1.

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District Court upholds Iowa rule banning "telemedicine" abortions

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 22:46:10 PM CDT

A Polk County District Court today upheld a rule adopted by the Iowa Board of Medicine last year, which would prohibit Planned Parenthood of the Heartland from providing medical abortions using "telemedicine" (where a doctor meets with the patient via videoconferencing). You can read the full text of Judge Jeffrey Farrell's ruling here. After the jump I've summarized Judge Farrell's key findings, including background on the case and excerpts from his decision. I've also enclosed reaction from both sides in the telemedicine abortion debate, as well as from Governor Terry Branstad and Democratic challenger Jack Hatch.

Judge Farrell's ruling goes into effect in 30 days, but Planned Parenthood has already said it will appeal, so the Iowa Supreme Court may put another stay on the rule pending its hearing of the case.

I'm surprised by this ruling. In a November 2013 decision granting Planned Parenthood's request for a stay of the rule, Polk County District Court Judge Karen Romano sounded skeptical that rule would be upheld when courts considered the merits. She noted the lack of evidence of any adverse outcomes in more than 5,000 abortions using Planned Parenthood's telemedicine system, the "peculiar" fact that the Board of Medicine required an in-person meeting between a patient and doctor for abortion services, but not for other telemedicine practices, and the likelihood that denying rural women access to medical abortion would increase demand for "surgical abortion, which is much more invasive and risky." UPDATE: In the comments, Bleeding Heartland reader ahawby notes several factors that could have influenced Judge Farrell's perspective on this case.

Today's decision is a victory for opponents of abortion rights, because Iowa women in small towns and rural areas will face more hurdles to obtain abortions early in pregnancy. It's also a personal triumph for Branstad's legal counsel, Brenna Findley. As Judge Farrell's ruling acknowledges, Findley was a vocal advocate of the rulemaking, urging the Board of Medicine to act quickly on the petition from pro-life activists, against the advice of the board's own legal counsel as well as the Iowa Attorney General's office.

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Three reasons Rick Perry's indictment will help him with Iowa Republicans

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 10:54:25 AM CDT

Being charged with a crime is rarely good news for any public figure, but it looks like Texas Governor Rick Perry will be the exception that proves the rule.

Not only will his presidential aspirations survive the criminal case launched against him last last week, the governor's prosecution will improve his standing among Iowa Republicans, for three reasons.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 752 words in story)

Rest in peace, Jim Jeffords

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 20:50:00 PM CDT

Former U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont passed away today at the age of 80. When he was first elected to Congress in 1974, New England Republicans were well represented in Washington, DC, and were more progressive than many southern Democrats in the Capitol. By the time he retired in 2006, only a few Congressional Republicans hailed from states to the north and east of New York.

Jeffords will be most remembered for becoming an independent in May 2001, shifting control of the Senate to Democrats just a few months into George W. Bush's presidency. Emily Langer notes in her Washington Post obituary that Jeffords had been out of step with his party on many occasions before then.

In 1981, while serving in the House, he was the only Republican to oppose President Ronald Reagan's tax cuts. Later, as a member of the Senate, Mr. Jeffords opposed President George H.W. Bush's nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court and publicly agonized before supporting the president on the invasion of Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

During the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton, Mr. Jeffords broke with his party by backing the president's health-care plan and voting against the articles of impeachment brought against him in connection with the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Even so, leaving the GOP caucus was a difficult choice for Jeffords. You can watch his May 24, 2001 speech here or read the transcript at the Burlington Free Press website. Iowa's senior Senator Chuck Grassley was among the GOP colleagues most hurt by Jeffords' defection. Speaking to reporters on that day in 2001, Jeffords said his meeting with Republican senators had been

the most emotional time that I have ever had in my life, with my closest friends urging me not to do what I was going to do, because it affected their lives, and very substantially. I know, for instance, the chairman of the finance committee has dreamed all his life of being chairman. He is chairman about a couple of weeks, and now he will be no longer the chairman. All the way down the line, I could see the anguish and the disappointment as I talked.

So many elected officials have remained loyal to parties that no longer represent their views. It's hard to redefine one's political identity and jeopardize longtime relationships. Jeffords stands out because he took a painful step for principles he believed in.

Incidentally, Grassley focused on the policy implications of Jeffords' switch, not his personal loss of power. As it happens, he didn't have to wait long for another chance to chair the Senate Finance Committee, from January 2003 through December 2006.

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