Rest in peace, Joy Corning

Joy Corning was independent. As a state senator and lieutenant governor, she didn’t cater to social conservatives who were gaining strength in the Republican Party of Iowa during the 1980s and 1990s. She paid a price for her principles when she ran for governor in 1998 and got no support from Terry Branstad, along whose side she had served for eight years. She would have been a great governor.

Joy was empathetic. Long before she ran for office, she was a young stay-at-home mom when her husband came home from work with awful news: a woman in their community had died of complications from a back-alley abortion, leaving a husband to raise three children alone. Joy couldn’t stop thinking about that mother. The tragedy fueled her dedication to protecting reproductive rights. “Whatever the circumstances of the unintended pregnancy, we cannot experience the hardship and struggle faced by some women who make this decision. We are simply not in their shoes,” Joy wrote in a guest column for the Des Moines Register this year.

Joy was fair-minded. She was among the first prominent members of her party to support marriage equality in Iowa. During the 2010 campaign, she and former Democratic Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson co-chaired the Justice Not Politics coalition, supporting the retention of Iowa Supreme Court justices who were under attack after striking down our state’s Defense of Marriage Act.

Joy was fact-oriented. While watching the Republican presidential debates, she was repelled by Donald Trump’s “know-it-all demeanor when he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” She came out publicly as #NeverTrump last September and shortly before the election co-authored an editorial endorsing Hillary Clinton, in part because of Trump’s “demagoguery,” “racism, nationalism, misogyny and discrimination against people with disabilities.”

Joy was committed. Some politicians leave the state after their ambitions don’t pan out, but Joy stayed in Iowa and volunteered countless hours for many causes over the last eighteen years. In her obituary, she wrote that she was “most passionate about issues related to children and families, women’s health & rights, equality and justice, education and the arts.” For friends who are inspired to make contributions in her memory, she suggested the Planned Parenthood of the Heartland Foundation, Plymouth Church Foundation, UNI Foundation, or the Des Moines Symphony Foundation. Joy was also a founding board member of 50/50 in 2020, a non-profit seeking to elect more women in Iowa, as well as a founding member of an advisory board for the University of Iowa’s center for gifted education, named in part after my mother. (Joy and my mother became friends when both served on school boards during the 1970s–Joy in Cedar Falls, my mother in West Des Moines. I didn’t get to know Joy until many years later, when I served on a fundraising committee she chaired for what was then called Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa.)

Joy was kind. Former Planned Parenthood leader Jill June recalled her motto: “If you can’t say something nice, be vague.” That approach to life wouldn’t produce good blog content, but it did make Joy a wonderful human being.

After the jump I’ve posted many other reflections on Joy Corning’s legacy. Please share your own memories in this thread.

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Ready to Run campaign training for women reflection

Jaime Allen kicks off the series of guest posts by Iowa women who have become more politically engaged since the 2016 election. -promoted by desmoinesdem

As a stay-at-home mother of four children under the age of five, I spend most days wiping fingerprints off of my windows and mirrors. If there is one thing I despise most about the trivial aspects of being a mother, it is the smudges on glass. Since I became a mother I have spent my time in my home with my children. My husband and I shared a vehicle for years, so while he was at work I was home bound. This was never really an issue–really, who wants to take four children to do errands?

My only real escape to the outside world was watching reality TV shows. Even though I knew they were fake and staged it was my secret indulgence when the children went to bed. I dreamt of what it would be like to live their lives, so polished and dressed flawlessly with picture-perfect makeup all the time. This was an unattainable life goal as most days my bank account said “try again later” and my personal appearance would be better suited on the “People of Walmart” Facebook page.

It wasn’t until my newsfeed started to show things about the 2016 election that I started to realize that how I was viewing the world from my couch was both different and similar to how others viewed it as well. It was a shock to the system to see how very different people felt about “others.” I never really had taken the time to view how divided the country was on so many aspects of what I assumed were just accepted by most. The similarities I saw were the unspoken ones, the ones where we viewed politicians as untouchables. They lived a life most could never dream of. I began to question why they weren’t doing more wherever they could, with all that power in their hands.

As everyone did I watched the 2016 election play out like a reality TV show. Every day the news evoked shock and awe, villains from all angles, and a plot twist at every episode. Was this how I wanted to live life? A spectator watching helplessly from the sidelines, waiting to see what would happen to my own life and the lives of those I cared about? This election hit hard because I am an immigrant from Canada, a woman, a poor, working-class person. Everything that helps to define me was undermined.

November 9, 2016 was a turning point for me. It was the day I received my citizenship. I stood with 36 other individuals from 24 countries to take an oath to the country I have called home since 2001, at the age of 14.

In that moment I was given two privileges I had not had prior as a green card holder. With citizenship you are allowed to vote and to hold elected office.

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IA-Gov: Andy McGuire has her work cut out for her

I’ve never seen a bigger disconnect between Iowa Democratic Party donors and activists than in their attitude toward Dr. Andy McGuire as a candidate for governor.

I’ve never seen a bigger disconnect between Iowa pundits and activists than in their assessment of McGuire’s chances to become the Democratic nominee.

Since McGuire rolled out her campaign three weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about how she might persuade enough rank-and-file Democrats to support her in a crowded gubernatorial field. I’m stumped.

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Kathy Shelton's voice needs to be heard

Sexual Assault Awareness Month ended today with no sign our political leaders are committed to addressing a problem affecting millions of Americans.

Republicans in the Iowa legislature just approved a 25 percent cut to victims assistance grants that support a wide range of programs, from crisis counseling and court advocates for assault survivors to sexual violence prevention education. The federal government may also reduce funding for victim services during the next fiscal year.

The long-term effects of rape and sexual assault are well-documented but mostly invisible.

Six months ago, Kathy Shelton offered a rare window onto the severe trauma many victims still experience years or decades after an attack. Her cries of pain and anger should be a call to action for everyone.

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John Norris: Why he may run for governor and what he would bring to the table

With the exhausting battles of the 2017 legislative session behind us, Iowa Democrats can turn their attention to the most pressing task ahead. Next year’s gubernatorial election will likely determine whether Republicans retain unchecked power to impose their will on Iowans, or whether some balance returns to the statehouse.

A record number of Democrats may run for governor in 2018. Today Bleeding Heartland begins a series of in-depth looks at the possible contenders.

John Norris moved back to Iowa with his wife Jackie Norris and their three sons last year, after nearly six years in Washington and two in Rome, Italy. He has been touching base with potential supporters for several weeks and expects to decide sometime in May whether to become a candidate for governor. His “concern about the direction the state’s going” is not in question. Rather, Norris is gauging the response he gets from activists and community leaders he has known for many years, and whether he can raise the resources “to make this a go.”

In a lengthy interview earlier this month, Norris discussed the changes he sees in Iowa, the issues he’s most passionate about, and why he has “something significantly different to offer” from others in the field, who largely agree on public policy. The native of Red Oak in Montgomery County (which happens to be Senator Joni Ernst’s home town too) also shared his perspective on why Democrats have lost ground among Iowa’s rural and small-town voters, and what they can do to reverse that trend.

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IA-Gov: Jon Neiderbach's pitch to Democratic voters

“I respectfully ask for the vote of every Iowan who is fed up with politics and government as usual.” So reads the tag line on Jon Neiderbach’s campaign website. Neiderbach was the second Democrat to join a field that may eventually include six or more candidates for governor.

Speaking to a packed room of activists in Des Moines recently, the 2014 nominee for state auditor described himself as a “policy wonk” but also “a community advocate” who has spent most of his political life “on the outside. As an advocate, as an organizer, as somebody who isn’t happy with the status quo.”

The basic principles driving Neiderbach’s candidacy appear on his Facebook page:

In 2018 let’s elect a Governor who believes Iowa needs to Stand Tall for our values and Aim High with our ambitions. A Governor who understands Iowans are FED UP with politics controlled by the wealthy and government that is unresponsive to the needs and concerns of our working families. A Governor who rejects big contributions so as to be beholden only to the voters, and who will fight harder and do more to shake up Iowa politics and government than anyone else you can vote for in 2018. I respectfully ask for your support and for your vote.

Neiderbach elaborated on those themes in an early version of his stump speech, which I enclose below. I also transcribed a short interview, in which Neiderbach shared his approach to finding common ground with some political adversaries, as well as thoughts on lingering divisions within the Iowa Democratic Party between those who favored Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

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