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Bob Vander Plaats

Fewer Iowa lawyers seeking judgeships

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 09:11:00 AM CDT

The applicant pool for Iowa's judicial vacancies has been declining in recent years, Mike Wiser reported for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier on March 30. Iowa courts administrator David Boyd has been analyzing trends across the state and concluded that during the past decade, "The applicant pools [for District Court judgeships] were shrinking not only in terms of quantity but in quality, too."

Applications for court vacancies are down by about half of what they were 10 years ago in four of the eight judicial districts, and down by a third in another two, according to Boyd's figures.

Wiser's article identifies three main reasons for the trend. First, District Court judges earn an annual salary of $138,130, which is well above the state average but below what high-performing attorneys can earn in private practice. Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady asked state legislators to increase judges' pay by 4.5 percent, but State Representative Gary Worthan, who chairs the Iowa House Appropriations subcommittee on the judicial system told Wiser, "we've got other priorities this year."

Second, years of state budget cuts to court support staff have also made the work of a judge less appealing, according to several people Wiser interviewed.

Finally, University of Iowa School of Law professor Patrick Bauer and others cited the successful 2010 campaign against retaining three Iowa Supreme Court justices. That crusade was the first and perhaps the last time a politically unpopular ruling ended judges' careers in Iowa. Nevertheless, it has deterred some attorneys from aspiring to become judges. Bob Vander Plaats and his fellow social conservatives failed to end marriage equality in Iowa, but they have left their mark on the judicial system.

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Iowa marriage equality five-year anniversary thread

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 10:40:00 AM CDT

Five years ago today, the Iowa Supreme Court announced its unanimous decision in Varnum v Brien, striking down our state's Defense Of Marriage Act. Some Democratic politicians welcomed the change, while others were more circumspect or ducked the issue for a few days. The early Iowa Republican reaction to the court ruling will sound more pathetic and cowardly with each passing year.

At this point I can't see any realistic path for conservatives to undo marriage equality. Even if Republicans held their Iowa House majority and gained control of the state Senate (which I consider unlikely), passing a constitutional amendment in both chambers in two separately elected legislatures would be a heavy lift. Last year and this year, an amendment to ban same-sex marriages didn't even make it through committee in the Republican-controlled Iowa House.

Bob Vander Plaats spent most of 2009 and 2010 trying to take rights away from same-sex couples and force justices off the Iowa Supreme Court. Five years ago today, he was the front-runner in the GOP race for governor. Now he's out hawking a book. His standing among Iowa Republicans has fallen so far that he is essentially invisible in the Congressional campaign of Robert Cramer, a guy who donated $30,000 to "Team Vander Plaats" during the 2010 election cycle.

Somehow my hetero union has survived five years of sharing rights with Iowa's LGBT couples. And it's not just my marriage soldiering on: the latest statistics show Iowa's divorce rate at its lowest point since 1968. Several factors account for the trend, including the high cost of divorce and more couples delaying or forgoing marriage. Regardless, it's nice to see the divorce rate falling, because if the trend were going the other way you can be sure self-styled "marriage defenders" would blame the "homosexual agenda," among other things.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Highlights from the latest Des Moines Register poll findings on gay marriage are after the jump.

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IA-03: First look at Robert Cramer's campaign messaging

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 08:27:24 AM CDT

With six candidates seeking the Republican nomination in Iowa's open third Congressional district, I've decided to focus on individual campaigns rather than news roundups on the whole field at once. Robert Cramer's up first, since he is already running his introductory ad on television.

Cramer is defining himself as the business mind in the field, not a bad place to be in a GOP primary. Although he is emphasizing his connection to "conservative principles and enduring values," he is downplaying his social conservative activism. If you need any proof that Bob Vander Plaats' ship has sailed, even in Iowa Republican circles, look no further than Cramer's case to primary voters.

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Danny Carroll to chair Iowa GOP, Gopal Krishna co-chair (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 19:45:00 PM CDT

The Republican Party of Iowa's State Central Committee convened today to choose a successor to A.J. Spiker, who resigned as state party chair to work for U.S. Senator Rand Paul's RandPAC. Danny Carroll, who became party co-chair in February, was the only person nominated for the chairman's job. Carroll is a well-known social conservative and lobbyist for Bob Vander Plaats' FAMiLY Leader organization. He served four terms in the Iowa House before losing his seat to Eric Palmer in 2006, then losing a rematch against Palmer in 2008. In 2010, he was a leading supporter of Vander Plaats' gubernatorial campaign and famously vowed never to vote for Terry Branstad. Earlier this year Carroll told Radio Iowa that he and the governor have a "cordial" working relationship.

According to Kevin Hall's liveblog of today's proceedings, seven of the eighteen State Central Committee members abstained from the vote on Carroll. Later, an Iowa GOP press release indicated that there were no dissenting votes on Carroll's nomination, prompting several members to tell the Des Moines Register that they inadvertently voted yes on Carroll, "mistakenly thinking they were casting a vote to close nominations and move to ballots." Hall also argued that it was inappropriate for Iowa RNC Committeewoman Tamara Scott to nominate Carroll, since she and he are both paid lobbyists for the FAMiLY Leader.

Shortly after Carroll's election, State Central Committee member Gopal Krishna was the only candidate nominated for state party co-chair. He has previously served as party treasurer, and he and Carroll both sought the position of party chair in early 2009. At that time the State Central Committee preferred Matt Strawn.

Carroll and Krishna may not remain in their new jobs for long, since a new Iowa GOP State Central Committee will be elected later this spring. UPDATE: Radio Iowa's O.Kay Henderson posted audio and highlights from Carroll's press conference on March 29. He confirmed that he will seek to stay on as party chair after the new State Central Committee takes over.

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IA-Sen: Now or never for Sam Clovis

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 12:53:42 PM CST

Sam Clovis dodged what could have been a fatal blow to his U.S. Senate campaign when Bob Vander Plaats decided not to run. But to have any hope of winning the GOP primary, the Sioux City-based college professor and former radio host needs to raise real money and consolidate social conservative support quickly.  
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Weekend open thread: Time-wasting edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 20:15:48 PM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? I've decided that the best way to deal with NBC's horrible Olympics coverage is to tape and watch later or the following day, fast-forwarding over the endless commercials and filler material. It's amazing how few events and competitors you see during hours of watching NBC. Prime-time is the worst, but even the daytime coverage is very light.

Ever heard the old blogging expression, "Don't feed the trolls"? New psychological research shows that it's good advice, because being an internet troll is correlated with personality traits such as "Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others)." I appreciate commenters who bring substance or a different perspective to the table, but engaging with trolls is pointless.

Speaking of wasting time, how would you like to be one of the people who supposedly helped lay the groundwork for Bob Vander Plaats to run for Iowa's U.S. Senate seat? Whether sincere fans or soulless political consultants, they turned out to be props helping him drum up publicity for his new pet project. Outside a certain conservative subculture, few people would have cared that this has-been wrote a book, if not for the extensive media speculation in recent months that Vander Plaats would join the IA-Sen Republican field.

This is an open thread. All topics welcome.

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IA-Sen: Bob Vander Plaats opts out to promote new book

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 09:36:00 AM CST

Jennifer Jacobs has the exclusive for today's Des Moines Register: three-time Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats has decided not to run for Iowa's open U.S. Senate seat. He had previously appeared to be leaning toward running and had promised to make a decision by February 15. While some observers may be surprised he opted out, given polls showing him leading the GOP field, no one can be surprised by his reason:

Instead, his priority is his new book, "If 7:14." It's based on a Bible passage that says if people pray and turn from their wicked ways, God will hear and heal their land.

Vander Plaats said he has been booked for speaking engagements across the country, including at the Billy Graham Evangelical Association in North Carolina a few weeks ago, the New Canaan Society in Florida, a conference in Texas next week with pastors from large churches, and the National Council of Religious Broadcasters the following week.

"When God seems to be blessing an initiative, and there's a lot of opportunity with that initiative, it's hard to walk away," he said.

That's the BVP Iowans know and love (or at least love to hate): always happy to promote himself.

I think Vander Plaats recognizes that his ship has sailed in Iowa politics. He would have zero chance of beating Bruce Braley in a statewide election and might not even win a Republican primary. All he could accomplish in a Senate campaign is mess things up for Matt Whitaker and Sam Clovis. They are fighting over the "principled conservative" niche against establishment-friendly GOP candidates Joni Ernst and Mark Jacobs. I would call Clovis the big winner from today's news, since he is the most natural fit for social conservative voters who might have been drawn to BVP. Clovis is trying to repeat the grassroots strategy Rick Santorum used in his 2012 Iowa caucus campaign.

UPDATE: Added the press release from the FAMiLY Leader below. Vander Plaats is such a shameless showboater.

SECOND UPDATE: Added more details below from Steve Deace, a big supporter of Vander Plaats's 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

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IA-03: Robert Cramer joins GOP field

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 16:31:56 PM CST

Yesterday Robert Cramer became the fifth declared candidate in the GOP primary to represent Iowa's third Congressional district. His official campaign announcement, which I've posted below, characterizes Cramer as "a full spectrum conservative candidate" who is "deeply involved with conservative causes in his community and in Iowa since 1996." He is president and chief administrative officer of a construction business his father helped create more than 50 years ago. Cramer previously served on the school board in Johnston, a suburb of Des Moines, and has chaired the board of the FAMiLY Leader, a social conservative group led by three-time gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats. Governor Terry Branstad nominated Cramer for a position on the Iowa Board of Regents last year, but the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate did not confirm him.

Incidentally, State Senator Brad Zaun, who will soon join the Republican field in IA-03, voted against sending Cramer and two other Board of Regents nominees to the Iowa Senate floor as a "symbolic gesture to show his displeasure with the fact that wealthy political contributors typically serve on the Board of Regents." However, Zaun ultimately supported Cramer's nomination when it came before the Iowa Senate.

Thanks to his personal wealth and business contacts, Cramer should be able to raise plenty of money for a Congressional campaign. Whether he can distinguish himself from the rest of the field is another question. Zaun, Matt Schultz, David Young, Monte Shaw, and Joe Grandanette will also be campaigning as both fiscal and social conservatives.

If no candidate wins at least 35 percent of the vote in the June primary, a district convention will select the Republican nominee in IA-03.

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New IA-03 Republican candidate discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 16:25:00 PM CST

Still no new word from State Senator Brad Zaun and Secretary of State Matt Schultz, but the Republican field in Iowa's open third Congressional district is expanding. Joe Grandanette and David Young are already running, and Robert Cramer told the Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs today that he is "90 percent there" and "just putting together a plan" for a campaign.

Cramer served on the Johnston school board for nine years and is currently the chairman of the board of the Family Leader, an Iowa organization that pushes for evangelical Christian conservative policies. He's co-president of Cramer & Associates, Inc., a Grimes-based bridge construction company that does work around the Midwest.

Last year Governor Terry Branstad appointed Cramer to serve on the Iowa Board of Regents, but most Iowa Senate Democrats blocked his confirmation.

Meanwhile, State Senator Charles Schneider told the Des Moines Register's Jason Noble yesterday that he will not run for Congress. He was just elected to the Iowa Senate for the first time in 2012.

Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread. Jake Porter, the Libertarian candidate for Iowa Secretary of State, released a statement on Matt Schultz's likely Congressional campaign. I've posted that after the jump. Speaking of secretary of state candidates, the 2006 GOP nominee for that office, Mary Ann Hanusa, expects to decide whether to run in IA-03 before the off-year Iowa caucuses on January 21. Hanusa is a two-term state representative from Council Bluffs. She would be favored to win re-election if she stays put in Iowa House district 16.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention David Oman, a former staffer to Governor Branstad during his first stint as governor. He is wealthy enough to self-fund a Congressional campaign and is thinking about this race. Oman unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for governor in 1998. I think he is perceived as way too moderate to win a primary now.

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New IA-03 Republican candidate speculation thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 11:45:00 AM CST

Representative Tom Latham's surprise retirement announcement last Tuesday was an early Christmas present to some ambitious Republicans (who now have an opportunity to move up) as well as to Democrats (who now have a prayer of winning IA-03).

Here's a new thread on potential GOP contenders for the vacant seat next year. My thoughts on many possible candidates are after the jump. Appearing on Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program, Latham said he does not expect to endorse a candidate in the GOP primary to represent IA-03. He added that he might become a lobbyist or work for a charity after leaving Congress.

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IA-Sen: Another poll shows Braley slightly leading all Republicans

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 10:19:51 AM CST

Lining up with a Republican pollster's survey last month, Quinnipiac's latest Iowa poll shows Democrat Bruce Braley with single-digit leads over all of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, despite record low approval for President Barack Obama. Full results are here. Key findings:

President Barack Obama gets a negative 38 - 59 percent job approval rating among Iowa voters, according to a poll released today, his lowest score in the state and one of his lowest in any state or national survey conducted by Quinnipiac University. [...]

President Obama gets negative scores of 30 - 67 percent among men, 45 - 51 percent among women, 7 - 93 percent among Republicans and 31 - 62 percent among independent voters. Democrats approve 82 - 15 percent. [...]

In the 2014 Senate race, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, the Democrat, gets 43 percent, while U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker, the Republican, gets 40 percent. Braley tops other possible Republican contenders:
44 - 38 percent over State Sen. Joni Ernst;
46 - 37 percent over businessman Mark Jacobs;
44 - 36 percent over former U.S. Senate aide David Young;
45 - 34 percent over radio commentator Sam Clovis;
46 - 40 percent over political activist Bob Vander Plaats. [...]

Iowa voters say 46 - 41 percent that they want the Republican Party to control the U.S. Senate.

The usual caveat applies: this poll of 1,617 registered voters has a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, but a survey of Iowa voters eleven months before the midterm election doesn't necessarily reflect the group of Iowans who will cast ballots next fall.  

Any comments about the U.S. Senate race are welcome in this thread. Braley will be pleased to be leading every Republican, even among respondents who overwhelmingly do not approve of President Obama's job performance and narrowly prefer GOP control of the U.S. Senate. He should be behind in this survey.

Iowa Republicans can take heart that Braley is below 50 percent against every opponent, despite having higher name recognition.

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IA-Sen: News roundup on the Republican field

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 13:28:34 PM CST

Time to catch up on news about the many Republicans running for or thinking about running for Senator Tom Harkin's seat next year. Links about most of the contenders are after the jump.

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

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IA-Gov: Branstad campaign moves to undercut challenge to Kim Reynolds

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 06:50:00 AM CST

Supporters of Ron Paul dominated the delegate slates at the 2012 Iowa Republican county conventions, district conventions, and the state convention.

Now Governor Terry Branstad's re-election campaign is recruiting loyalists to become convention delegates next year, in an apparent effort to prevent any Republican faction from mounting a serious challenge to Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.

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Chris Christie presidential prospects discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 07:10:00 AM CST

Yesterday's election results were ideal for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's presidential ambitions. He won re-election by an enormous 60.5 percent to 38 percent margin.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by over 700,000, Mr. Christie won decisively, making impressive inroads among younger voters, blacks, Hispanics and women - groups that Republicans nationally have struggled to attract.

The governor prevailed despite holding positions contrary to those of many New Jersey voters on several issues, including same-sex marriage, abortion rights and the minimum wage, and despite an economic recovery that has trailed the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, hard-right Republican Ken Cuccinelli lost the Virginia governor's race to a very unappealing Democrat, Terry McAuliffe.  

Mainstream Republicans and pundits will draw the obvious conclusion: to have a shot at winning the presidency in 2016, the GOP needs someone who doesn't put social issues front and center, someone who can win in a blue state. Christie will lead the Republican Governors Association next year, giving him more access to big donors across the country. He's already got a fan club among prominent Iowans on the GOP's business wing.

My hunch is that despite yesterday's elections, the GOP base will still demand someone more conservative than Christie in the 2016 presidential primaries. If he does become the nominee, I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that he could win electoral votes in blue states. His opponent in the governor's race was third-tier. At least two exit polls taken yesterday indicated he would lose his own state to Hillary Clinton in a presidential contest. He didn't have any coat-tails, as New Jersey Democrats held all their state Senate seats.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? UPDATE: Added comments from Bob Vander Plaats below. SECOND UPDATE: Added comments from other social conservatives below.

THURSDAY UPDATE: Added comments from Representative Steve King. He and Christie go way back.  

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Report details spending on 2012 Iowa judicial retention election

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 25, 2013 at 06:55:00 AM CDT

Via Radio Iowa I saw that a report just came out about spending in judicial elections across the country in 2011 and 2012. Researchers from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and the nonpartisan group Justice at Stake collaborated on the report, which you can download here (pdf). Excerpt:

Spending in the Iowa Supreme Court retention election totaled more than $833,000 in 2012, down from the $1.4 million spent in 2010 but still substantial in a state with no recorded spending on high court races during the previous decade. Anti-retention groups spent $466,000 on the 2012 election, including $318,000 by Iowans For Freedom and $148,000 by the National Organization for Marriage. Both groups ran television ads. Pro-retention groups spent $367,000, including $320,000 by Justice Not Politics, $37,000 by the Iowa State Bar and roughly $5,000 each by Progress Iowa and the Human Rights Campaign.

Major donors to Iowans for Freedom (a campaign group fronted by Bob Vander Plaats) included "CitizenLink, Patriot Voices, The Family Leader, the National Organization for Marriage, and CatholicVote." Of the $466,000 spent on the "No Wiggins" campaign, an estimated $163,600 went toward broadcasting two television commercials. Bleeding Heartland posted videos and transcripts of those ads here and here.

Justice David Wiggins didn't create a campaign fund or raise money directly. The largest donor to Justice Not Politics Action was the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, which gave $135,000. That's more than a third of the total funds spent campaigning for retention.

Iowa voters retained Wiggins by a margin of 680,284 votes to 567,024 (about 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent). Whereas just ten counties had voted to retain the three Iowa Supreme Court justices up for retention in 2010, 36 counties voted yes on Wiggins in 2012.

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Ethics board to investigate National Organization for Marriage spending on retention votes

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 16:40:00 PM CDT

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board voted unanimously on August 8 to investigate the National Organization for Marriage's spending in Iowa during the 2010 and 2012 judicial retention elections. Details are after the jump.

UPDATE: Added details below on the National Organization for Marriage demanding that the ethics board's executive director recuse herself from any investigation.

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Weekend open thread: Iowans for Ted Cruz edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 12:50:00 PM CDT

Within the last week or so, unnamed fans of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz have launched an Iowans for Ted Cruz website to support a future presidential bid by the tea party hero. After the jump I've posted some "testimonials" and a "grassroots plan" that appeared on the site. The business wing of the Republican establishment in Iowa would freak out to see Cruz do well in the caucuses. Democrats would probably love to see someone as extreme as Cruz be nominated for president in 2016.

Incidentally, Cruz is eligible to run for president as a natural-born citizen, even though he was born in Calgary, Canada.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.  

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Iowa reaction to Supreme Court striking down DOMA (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 26, 2013 at 10:50:47 AM CDT

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The ruling means that legally married gay and lesbian couples in Iowa and elsewhere will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law. More than 200 Congressional Democrats, including Senator Tom Harkin and Representatives Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack, signed an amicus curiae brief urging justices to strike down the key provision of the DOMA, adopted in 1996 with overwhelming bipartisan support.  

In a separate case, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that backers of California's Proposition 8 did not have standing to appeal a lower-court ruling striking down that ballot initiative. The decision means that LGBT couples will be allowed to marry in California. It does not affect other states' statutory or constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. Braley and Loebsack were among scores of Congressional Democrats who recently posed for the "NoH8" campaign supporting marriage equality and opposing Prop 8.

Excerpts from the DOMA decision and Iowa reaction to today's rulings are after the jump. I will update this post as needed. At this writing, most of the Congressional delegation has not publicly commented on the Supreme Court decisions.

I also enclose below Democratic State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad's reaction to yesterday's disgraceful 5-4 Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act.

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Rod Roberts confirms interest in IA-Sen race

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 17:00:00 PM CDT

I expect at least one former Republican state legislator to run for the open U.S. Senate seat next year. Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals Director Rod Roberts told The Iowa Republican's Kevin Hall that he is seriously considering the race.

"A few months ago I didn't anticipate that running for the U.S. Senate would be a real possibility," Roberts said. "Like most folks, I assumed either Congressman Latham or Congressman King would run. But, as the odds have increased that neither congressman will run, more people have encouraged me to think about it. At this point, I'd say I'm certainly considering the opportunity, and I'm planning to continue talking with family, friends and supporters in the coming weeks."

Roberts represented the Carroll area in the Iowa House for a decade before running for governor in 2010. He was an adequate campaigner, but his principal role in my opinion was as stalking horse for Terry Branstad during the Republican primary. On the other hand, Carroll-based journalist Douglas Burns believes Roberts would be the ideal Senate candidate for the GOP to run against Democrat Bruce Braley.

Any comments about the IA-Sen campaign are welcome in this thread. According to Hall's latest post, State Senator Joni Ernst "has set a timeline of about 30 days to make a decision" about the Senate race. Bob Vander Plaats told the Sioux City Journal he believes Latham may change his mind about not seeking the Senate seat if Steve King decides to stay in IA-04, as expected.

UPDATE: In the unlikely event that Rod Roberts wins the Senate nomination, I think his move to reduce nursing home inspectors would become a general election campaign issue.

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Mid-week open thread: Varnum v Brien anniversary edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 18:35:00 PM CDT

What's on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? Four years ago today, the Iowa Supreme Court announced its unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien, striking down our state's Defense of Marriage Act. After the jump I've posted some links about that case, marriage equality in general, and today's Iowa Governors Conference on LGBTQ Youth.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The return of Iowa wildflower Wednesday is probably still a couple of weeks away. By the first week of April 2012, many spring wildflowers were already in bloom (far earlier than usual), but even the bloodroot isn't out yet where I live.  

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