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

by: desmoinesdem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Iowa reaction to Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jun 27, 2015 at 06:42:23 AM CDT

In a 5-4 decision announced Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states and ordered state governments to recognize same-sex marriages performed anywhere in the country. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Obergefell v Hodges, joined by Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer. Each of the dissenting justices wrote a separate opinion; all are available in this pdf file after Kennedy's opinion. Amy Howe explained the majority opinion in "Plain English" while Lyle Denniston posted a brief analysis.

Follow me after the jump for Iowa reaction on both sides of the marriage debate. Two years ago, Bleeding Heartland compiled Iowa politicians' comments on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Windsor, which struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriages but left state bans intact.

As a group, Iowa Democratic politicians are more enthusiastic and less cautious about welcoming marriage equality now than was the case in 2009, when the Iowa Supreme Court struck down our state's Defense of Marriage Act. Many Iowa Republicans called for elected officials to overturn the 2009 Varnum v Brien ruling by passing a constitutional amendment, but reacting to the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling, few in the Iowa GOP sounded hopeful that there was any chance to reinstate state bans on same-sex marriage.

I will update this post as needed.  

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No single issue is worth risking the Iowa Senate majority

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 16, 2015 at 08:22:02 AM CDT

Shortly before the end of this year's legislative session, former State Representative Ed Fallon announced "political action" to stop the proposed Bakken Oil Pipeline. He warned that if the Iowa House and Senate did not approve a bill to block the use of eminent domain for the project, he would organize and fundraise "to help defeat one or two Democratic Senators and one or two Republican Representatives" who oppose the bill.

On June 5, the Iowa House and Senate adjourned for the year without passing an eminent domain bill in either chamber. Last week Fallon confirmed that he is sticking to his goal of defeating one or two majority party members in both the House and Senate, adding that he had already raised $4,500 toward the cause.

All I can say is, count me out of that political crusade.

Come to think of it, I have a few more things to say on the subject.

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Ed Fallon arrested after sit-in at governor's office over Bakken pipeline (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon May 18, 2015 at 22:05:43 PM CDT

Former state lawmaker Ed Fallon is in police custody tonight after he refused to leave Governor Terry Branstad's office at the close of business today. Fallon went to the governor's office this afternoon demanding a meeting to discuss "eminent domain legislation that would help landowners along the path of the Bakken Oil Pipeline." More details are in a press release I've enclosed after the jump. Branstad's legal counsel Michael Bousselot came out to talk with Fallon, who insisted on a meeting or phone conversation with the governor himself. Brianne Pfannenstiel reported for the Des Moines Register,

When the statehouse closed at 5 p.m., Iowa State Patrol troopers approached Fallon and asked if he would be willing to leave, or be arrested for criminal trespassing. Fallon declined to leave, so he was escorted out of the building and arrested outside.

A supporter posted on Facebook this evening that Fallon has a "jail support team attending to all his needs" and "will probably be released sometime tomorrow." When Fallon served in the Iowa House from 1995 through the 2006 session, land use issues were a focal point of his legislative efforts. During and since that time, Fallon has opposed various proposals to use eminent domain to seize farmland for use in for-profit ventures. Earlier this year, he walked from the southeast corner of Iowa to the northeast corner along the proposed pipeline route to raise awareness and mobilize landowners and others who oppose the project. The No Bakken website and Facebook page represent a coalition of some two dozen non-profit groups that oppose the project.

The eminent domain bill Fallon wants Branstad to support is Senate File 506 (previously Senate Study Bill 1276), which passed the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee on May 6 with support from Democratic State Senators Rob Hogg, Brian Schoenjahn, and Kevin Kinney, and Republican Jack Whitver. Branstad warned state lawmakers in January not to "get politics into this" debate over the pipeline. The governor wants to leave the decision to the Iowa Utilities Board, which is considered likely to approve the pipeline. The Sierra Club Iowa chapter plans to fight the project before every state and federal agency that would be involved.

UPDATE: Fallon was released from jail the same evening he was arrested. In a press release I've posted below, he says he's due in court on May 27 and hasn't decided "what legal route to take yet."

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Weekend open thread, with more marriage equality links

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 03, 2015 at 13:07:10 PM CDT

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

Marriage equality has been all over the news, with the sixth anniversary of legal same-sex marriage in Iowa arriving the same week the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments related to state bans on marriage for LGBT couples. The Des Moines Register published charts showing Iowa poll findings on same-sex marriage going back to 1996. In that year, the Iowa House and Senate approved the Defense of Marriage Act, which the state Supreme Court struck down in the 2009 Varnum v Brien decision. Then State Representative Ed Fallon was the only Iowa lawmaker to vote against the DOMA; click here to read his passionate floor speech against the bill. I've posted excerpts after the jump.

The Washington Post compiled five charts showing "gay marriage's road to popularity." The most fascinating data point to me was that 34 percent of Republican respondents in an April 2015 nationwide Washington Post/ABC News poll now support marriage equality. Another chart shows that "Same-sex marriage attitudes also continue to be divided along religious lines." That data set did not include Jews, however, who overwhelmingly support marriage equality.

Today's Sunday Des Moines Register includes two good features by Mike Kilen following up on the six couples who were plaintiffs in the Varnum case. In a separate piece, Bob Vander Plaats and State Senator Dennis Guth told Kilen why they still believe it was a mistake to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger believes the decline in Republican voter registrations in his state is linked to "divisive battle over Proposition 8," a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. California voters approved Prop 8 by ballot initiative in 2008, but it ceased to be in effect in June 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8 supporters did not have standing to appeal a lower-court ruling striking down the marriage ban.

Final note: Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines approved a request by a group of students to form a non-religious LGBT support club. The school recently made national news by withdrawing a contract offer made to an openly gay teacher. The new gay-straight alliance, "One Human Family," will help provide "support, respect, and guidance" for students who either identify as LGBT or have questions about their sexual orientation.  

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Bakken pipeline links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 02, 2015 at 09:51:19 AM CST

The proposed Bakken pipeline is one of the most urgent issues facing Iowa's environmental community. The Texas-based company Energy Transfer Partners wants to build the pipeline to transport crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois, crossing eighteen Iowa counties in the process. Governor Terry Branstad has made clear he won't support any legislative action to stop the pipeline. That will leave the initial decision up to the Iowa Utilities Board, though approval by other state and federal agencies would be needed later; more details on that are below.

Two dozen non-profit groups have formed a coalition to fight the pipeline. You can keep up with their work on Facebook or at the No Bakken website. I'm active with several of the coalition members and enclosed the full list after the jump. The Sierra Club's Iowa chapter outlined some of the key concerns concisely and explained how members of the public can submit comments.

Former state legislator Ed Fallon, who ran for governor in 2006 and for Congress in 2008, is kicking off a 400-mile walk along the proposed pipeline route today, starting from southeast Iowa and heading northwest over the next several weeks. I've enclosed below an excerpt from his first e-mail update about the walk, in which Fallon recounts a conversation with Lee County farmers whose land lies along the proposed pipeline route. Click here to view upcoming events, including a public meetings for residents of Lee County this evening, for Van Buren County residents in Birmingham on March 5, and for Jefferson County residents in Fairfield on March 6.

The latest Iowa poll conducted by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics found that a majority of Iowans support the Bakken pipeline, but a larger majority oppose using eminent domain to seize land for the pipeline. Excerpts from the Iowa poll findings are at the end of this post.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S. - The company that wants to build the pipeline has claimed "the project would have an Iowa economic impact of $1.1 billion during two years of construction, creating enough work to keep 7,600 workers employed for a year." Economist Dave Swenson explained here why such estimates are misleading.

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IA-Gov: Jonathan Narcisse announces, Ed Fallon endorses Jack Hatch

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 14:50:00 PM CST

At least two Democrats will run for governor this year. Jonathan Narcisse, a former Des Moines School Board member and third-party gubernatorial candidate, announced his candidacy this morning at the African-American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids. I don't have a video from today's event, but after the jump I've posted a speech Narcisse gave last month when he announced the creation of his exploratory committee. Among other things, he proposes to provide free college education for Iowa students who agree to do community service during the summers and to stay in the state for a certain number of years after graduation. Bleeding Heartland posted more background on Narcisse here. He received a little less than 2 percent of the vote in his independent campaign for governor in 2010.

Narcisse will be a big underdog in the Democratic primary, where State Senator Jack Hatch is better known, has more political experience, and will have the resources to run a more extensive statewide campaign. Hatch just reported raising nearly $300,000 for his gubernatorial campaign in 2013, plus $140,000 in loans from himself and his wife. At year-end, his campaign had $236,943.18 cash on hand.

This morning, former State Representative Ed Fallon endorsed Hatch, saying he "has been a strong progressive voice fighting for a better Iowa" for decades. Fallon represented areas of central Des Moines in the Iowa House for twelve years; during part of that time, Hatch served in the state House and Senate. Fallon ran for governor in 2006 and finished third in the Democratic primary for governor with about 26 percent of the vote. I've posted part of his e-mail blast after the jump.

Any comments about the governor's race are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Added clips on the Narcisse announcement below.

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Fallon planning "Great March for Climate Action"

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 10:09:00 AM CST

Memo to politics-watchers: read carefully before speculating. Last week, Ed Fallon announced that he would roll out a new "campaign" on his 55th birthday, March 1. While some people jumped to the conclusion that the former candidate for governor and Congress was planning another bid for public office, others realized that Fallon might have in mind a campaign to raise awareness or money for some cause.

Last night Fallon revealed his plans: "This is a campaign to mobilize 1000 people to march coast-to-coast, demanding action on climate change - action from both the American people and from our public officials. The Great March for Climate Action will set-out from the west coast one year from today and arrive in Washington, DC the weekend before the mid-term election. It will be the largest coast-to-coast march in our nation's history."

The full announcement is after the jump. Organizing a march on that scale will be a tall order.

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IA-03: Democrats recruiting whom? (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 07:20:00 AM CST

The well-informed Shira Toeplitz reported this week at Roll Call that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee may have a challenger to ten-term Republican Representative Tom Latham in Iowa's third Congressional district.

I figured that before too long, Democrats would float some possible candidates for IA-03 in 2014. I didn't figure that the leading recruit would be someone I'd never heard of.

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Boswell dropping defamation case against Fallon

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 15:26:42 PM CST

Representative Leonard Boswell is dropping his defamation lawsuit against his 2008 Democratic primary challenger Ed Fallon, both sides confirmed today.  
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Long weekend open thread, with inauguration and MLK links

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 10:15:00 AM CST

What's on your mind this long weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread. I posted some links below to get a conversation going.

UPDATE: Scroll down for excerpts from the inaugural speech and some reaction from Iowa political figures.

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Gronstal, Jochum to lead Iowa Senate Democrats

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 07:39:16 AM CST

Iowa Senate Democrats caucused at the state capitol yesterday to choose their leaders for the next legislative session. As expected, Mike Gronstal remains Senate majority leader. The big change will be Pam Jochum of Dubuque as Senate president to replace Jack Kibbie, who retired last year.

After the jump I've enclosed background on Jochum and details on the rest of the Iowa Senate leadership team. Republicans elected leaders of their Senate caucus last week. Both parties will announce committee assignments before the end of the year.

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Department of long-shot lawsuits (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 06:35:00 AM CDT

JANUARY 2013 UPDATE: Boswell dropped this lawsuit.

I don't know whether anyone connected to Representative Leonard Boswell dangled a job in front of Ed Fallon in early 2008. But I'm confident that the defamation lawsuit Boswell filed against Fallon won't end in a courtroom victory for the man who won the contentious 2008 Democratic primary in Iowa's third Congressional district.  

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Guilty verdict in second trial of Iowa Occupy protesters

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 17:31:12 PM CDT

A Polk County District Court jury returned a guilty verdict this afternoon in the trespassing trial of Hugh Espey and David Goodner. According to the Des Moines Register, jurors deliberated for nine hours before reaching a verdict. It was the second prosecution of Occupy protesters arrested last October on the state capitol grounds. Last month a Polk County jury acquitted former State Representative Ed Fallon on the same trespassing charge, accepting his First Amendment defense.

Background on this week's trial is after the jump. UPDATE: Defense attorney Sally Frank is likely to appeal. Scroll down for details.

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Jury acquits Ed Fallon of trespassing during Occupy protest

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 13:41:57 PM CST

A jury of six women and men found former State Representative Ed Fallon not guilty today of trespassing in connection with last October's Occupy protests on the state capitol grounds.
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Weekend open thread: See you in court edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Mar 04, 2012 at 10:51:38 AM CST

Lots of court-related news is on my mind this weekend. I've posted links on upcoming trials and likely future lawsuits after the jump.

All topics are welcome in this open thread. History or photography buffs may enjoy the Retronaut's post featuring pictures of photographers holding their most iconic images.

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Weekend open thread: Farewell to Iowa Independent

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 22:43:50 PM CST

The CEO of The American Independent News Network announced plans this week to cease publication of most of the network's state-based sites. That appears to include the Iowa Independent blog, a fixture on the Iowa political blogosphere since early 2007.
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Iowa Democrats set caucus date for January 3

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 06:49:32 AM CDT

The State Central Committee of the Iowa Democratic Party voted unanimously last night to hold the 2012 caucuses on January 3, beginning at 6:30 pm. I've posted the IDP's press release after the jump. The Republican Party of Iowa set their caucuses for January 3 earlier this week. Traditionally Democrats and Republicans have coordinated their caucus schedule to prevent voters from gaming the system by participating in both parties' events.

Iowans can change their party registration on caucus night. Former State Representative and Congressional candidate Ed Fallon has encouraged Democrats to become Republicans for a day. I recently ran into one active Democratic volunteer in my precinct who plans to caucus for Representative Ron Paul in January.

I would advise Democrats to stick with their own party's caucus. It's a good way to meet like-minded people in your neighborhood as well as an opportunity to influence the party machinery. Precinct caucus attendees elect county convention delegates and approve platform resolutions.  

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At least 30 Occupy Iowa protesters arrested in Des Moines (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 10, 2011 at 09:24:58 AM CDT

Iowa state troopers arrested at least 30 people outside the state Capitol building late last night in order to break up a protest by people supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement across the country.

UPDATE: Monday evening's protest in Des Moines didn't lead to any arrests. Further details are below.

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IA-03: New Boswell-Vilsack primary speculation thread

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 02, 2011 at 19:15:07 PM CST

It's been a while since the Bleeding Heartland community discussed a possible 2012 primary between Representative Leonard Boswell and Christie Vilsack. Everywhere I go in Polk County, Democrats are talking about this race, so I thought it's time for a new thread on the subject.

Last week Politico's Alex Isenstadt reported that Vilsack "has been meeting with top state labor leaders, party strategists and donors as she gauges support and maps out a potential House campaign." A bunch of Iowa insiders and Vilsack loyalists told Isenstadt about the former first lady's strengths as a candidate. She's good on the stump, has high name recognition and could raise a lot of money quickly. She refused to comment for his article, but Boswell told Isenstadt that he has informed Vilsack "that he had no plans to retire and that he would run again in his Polk County political base."

Most Polk County Democrats I've spoken to expect Vilsack to run against Boswell in the new third Congressional district rather than in the redrawn second district, likely to contain Vilsack's hometown Mount Pleasant. I would be surprised to see her run against Dave Loebsack in IA-02, but it could happen if the new IA-03 has a strong Republican tilt (say, containing lots of counties to the south and west of Polk but not Democratic-leaning Story, Marshall and Jasper counties). In that case, a primary against Loebsack could be more appealing than a general election against Tom Latham. I don't have a good sense of the activist base's commitment to Loebsack in IA-02, so I hope Bleeding Heartland readers who live in the area will weigh in. I believe many activists in IA-03 are ready for a change and would support a new candidate in a primary against Boswell.

Vilsack would be a much tougher opponent for Boswell than Ed Fallon was in 2008. The entire Democratic establishment and most allied groups like organized labor supported Boswell against Fallon. Some Democratic activists thought Fallon was unelectable or refused to consider supporting him because he had endorsed Ralph Nader's presidential campaign in 2000. In addition, Fallon was unable to match the incumbent in fundraising.

Christie Vilsack has none of Fallon's baggage and should have no trouble raising enough money to make the race competitive. She may even raise more than Boswell, who had just $65,276 in his campaign account at the end of 2010. (No word on how much Boswell raised at his big campaign fundraiser last month, featuring Senator Tom Harkin.) Although Boswell has a good record on women's issues, many activists would be excited about making Vilsack the first Iowa woman to go to Congress.

During the 2008 primary, Boswell's campaign kept Fallon on the defensive, questioning his ethics and slamming his record on ethanol and meth. The Nader trump card was played again and again. Boswell is good at "winning ugly," as he showed last year against Brad Zaun. But I don't see how he goes hard negative against Vilsack in a primary. My sense is that would backfire.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Who would have the edge in a Boswell-Vilsack primary? How bad would the IA-03 map have to be to send Vilsack running against Loebsack on more friendly Democratic turf?

UPDATE: On February 3 Boswell announced the hiring of Julie Stauch as his Iowa chief of staff, beginning in March. (Sally Bowzer recently retired from the position.) Stauch is a veteran Iowa political operative and managed Boswell's 2002 re-election campaign. In 2004, she managed Lois Murphy's unsuccessful challenge to a Republican Congressional incumbent in Pennsylvania. In 2006, she managed Mazie Hirono's successful Congressional bid in Hawaii. Most recently, Stauch has been chief public affairs officer for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

FEBRUARY 4 UPDATE: Senator Harkin seems to be trying to discourage Vilsack:

"I don't see that happening," Harkin says. [...]

"Look, I have great respect for Christie Vilsack. I've known [her] a long time," Harkin says.  "Since I'm so heaviy into education, here's someone who has been in education all her life, so I have a lot of respect for her and her abilities. She has a lot of talent and a lot of support in the state of Iowa, but I do not see a primary with her and Congressman Boswell."

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