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IA-Gov: PPP poll shows cronyism/hush money scandal hurting Branstad

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 21, 2014 at 17:51:00 PM CDT

I've been meaning to catch up on the various Branstad administration scandals involving alleged politically-motivated firings, cronyism affecting state contracting and hiring for certain public positions, "hush money" paid in exchange for non-disclosure agreements with fired state employees, blacklists that prevent former employees from gaining other state jobs, interference in what should be non-political work, and possible misuse of federal funds by the Department of Administrative Services in order to make some of the unauthorized secret settlement payments. Governor Terry Branstad realized nearly two weeks ago that his quickie internal review and executive order on secret settlements were not sufficient. He fired Department of Administrative Services Director Mike Carroll after Carroll gave inaccurate testimony at a legislative hearing. But almost every day, the Des Moines Register or some other media outlet has a new angle on alleged wrongdoing.

Last week's Loras College survey of Iowa Republicans indicated that Branstad has nothing to worry about from his GOP primary challenger, Tom Hoefling. But a Public Policy Polling survey released today shows Branstad's approval as low as I can remember seeing it during his current term, and the incumbent barely ahead of Democratic challenger Jack Hatch.

Full results from the survey are here (pdf). Highlights are after the jump.  

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Mid-week open thread: Who could have imagined?

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 19:45:00 PM CDT

Here's your mid-week open thread, Bleeding Heartland readers: all topics welcome.

I have been thinking about the latest Iowa Supreme Court decision a lot today. A year ago, I would have sworn that as long as Terry Branstad remains governor, there's nothing anyone can do for the thousands of ex-felons permanently disenfranchised in this state. Branstad couldn't wait to sign that executive order as soon as he was back in office. Under the convoluted procedure he created, only a small fraction of 1 percent of those who have completed their prison terms have managed to regain their voting rights.

The day State Senator Jack Hatch declared his candidacy for governor, I could never have imagined the unlikely chain of events that followed. First, arch-rivals Tony Bisignano and Ned Chiodo set their sights on Hatch's Iowa Senate seat. Then, Bisignano was caught driving drunk again. Then, Chiodo not only challenged Bisignano's right to seek office but continued to pursue his case in court after losing before a panel of top state officials. (In contrast, the voter who challenged State Senator Joe Seng's registration as a candidate in IA-02 two years ago dropped his effort after the same panel determined Seng had qualified for the primary ballot.)

Then, Chiodo refused to take the Polk County District Court's no for an answer. Still I had no clue where all this was going--until yesterday, when three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices determined that not all felonies should be considered "infamous crimes," which justify stripping Iowans of their rights as electors. Very soon, one or more non-violent felons are likely to file suit, demanding that their rights be restored. Depending on where Justice Brent Appel comes down on the issue (he recused himself from the Chiodo/Bisignano case), the Iowa Supreme Court may eventually declare unconstitutional the 1994 law defining "infamous crimes" as felonies.

We don't know whether a majority on the court will take this stance. As Ryan Koopmans points out, the Chiodo ruling came out incredibly quickly. One or more of the justices may change his mind after reflecting on the issues for a while. Still, the potential for a major advance in Iowa voting rights is mind-blowing.  

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IA-Sen, IA-Gov, Iowa caucus: Highlights from the new Suffolk poll

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 15:40:00 PM CDT

The Suffolk University Political Research Center asked 800 Iowa "likely voters" about this year's biggest races. The margin of error for the survey, conducted between April 3 and April 8, is plus or minus 3.5 percent. Suffolk's press release summarizing the highlights is here. Full results are here (pdf). Tables are here (pdf).

Representative Bruce Braley leads all Republican rivals for U.S. Senate in the first Iowa poll conducted after Braley's comments about Senator Chuck Grassley gained wide attention. Braley is still better-known than the GOP candidates, and more Iowans have a favorable than unfavorable impression of him. The bad news for Braley is that he is below 40 percent against each of the Republican candidates.

Suffolk's poll indicates that the GOP IA-Sen primary is now a two-tier race, with State Senator Joni Ernst and Mark Jacobs each commanding more than 20 percent support, and the other candidates in the single digits. That makes sense, since Ernst and Jacobs have the most establishment support and are the only Senate candidates who have been able to raise their name recognition through paid advertising. But 40 percent of respondents were undecided.

Governor Terry Branstad's still in positive territory, with 48.5 percent of respondents viewing him favorably and about 35.4 percent unfavorably. His lead over Democratic State Senator Jack Hatch is smaller in this poll than in any other Iowa survey I've seen, though: 42.4 percent to 32.1 percent.

Among respondents who said they are likely to participate in the 2016 Democratic caucuses, 63 percent favor Hillary Clinton. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren was far behind with 12 percent, followed by Vice President Joe Biden with 10 percent. It's hard to say who is really in second place, since the margin of error for the Democratic caucus-goer subsample is quite large (plus or minus 8.4 percent). Nevertheless, Clinton clearly maintains a commanding lead.

I wouldn't read much into the Iowa GOP caucus results from this survey. All the potential presidential candidates (Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Sarah Palin, Marco Rubio, and Condoleezza Rice) are clumped close together, between 6 and 11 percent support. That's within the the margin of error of plus or minus 8.7 percent for that subset of the Suffolk poll.

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IA-Gov: Iowa Supreme Court rejects Narcisse bid for spot on primary ballot

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 01, 2014 at 10:46:20 AM CDT

State Senator Jack Hatch will be unopposed on the Democratic primary ballot for governor. The Iowa Supreme Court issued a short opinion on March 31 affirming without comment a District Court's decision rejecting Jonathan Narcisse's claim that he submitted enough signatures to seek the Democratic nomination for governor. The Supreme Court justices agreed to hear the case on an expedited schedule because primary ballots need to be sent to the printer soon. They did not explain the reasoning behind affirming the lower court's decision. Reports last week indicated that three of the seven Iowa Supreme Court justices would hear Narcisse's appeal: David Wiggins, Daryl Hecht, and Edward Mansfield. However, the ruling released yesterday indicates that all justices concurred except for Brent Appel, who recused himself.

Speaking by telephone this morning, Narcisse confirmed that he will run a write-in campaign for the Democratic primary. He said he was "disappointed the Supreme Court affirmed the decision without reviewing the evidence." He acknowledged his campaign's oversight in not making sure the "governor" line was filled in on all the nominating petitions: "Ultimately, this happened because we messed up, but the law was not equitably applied. This was not a disqualifiable offense." He particularly objected to how the District Court considered a 2012 election law ruling from Arizona but rejected as evidence the Iowa panel ruling from the same year allowing State Senator Joe Seng to run for Congress, despite missing information on some of his nominating petitions.

Narcisse said he has "no illusions about a write-in campaign" but is compelled to keep talking about issues that need to be addressed, including the "disparity in justice," the "phony war on drugs which is really a war on the poor," and Iowa's "bipartisan alliance brutalizing poor working people." In his view, Hatch "has not fought the good fight the way he should have." Narcisse said he has not decided yet whether he would mount a second bid for governor as an independent.

After the jump I've posted a more extensive comment from the Narcisse campaign about the lower court's ruling on his ballot access.

UPDATE: Added a comment below from Alfredo Parrish, who represented Narcisse.

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Narcisse loses first court battle to run in IA-Gov Democratic primary

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 07:55:00 AM CDT

For now, State Senator Jack Hatch remains unopposed on the Democratic primary ballot for Iowa governor. Jonathan Narcisse appealed his exclusion in Polk County District Court on Wednesday, citing precedent from a 2012 panel decision allowing State Senator Joe Seng on the primary ballot in IA-02. Yesterday Judge Michael Huppert ruled against Narcisse, saying the missing information on some petitions left those who signed unable to conclude that the candidate was running for governor.

Narcisse's attorney, Alfredo Parrish, has already appealed the decision. I enclosed after the jump a statement explaining Narcisse's case. I think he has a valid argument, based on how officials bent the rules to accommodate Seng.

You can read the 2012 Seng decision here (pdf). Pages 4 through 7 contain the most relevant information. Some petitions allowed were missing Seng's county of residence, which is admittedly a much less serious defect than Narcisse's petitions leaving blank the line for office sought. But the panel also counted Seng petitions that were missing the Congressional district number. "Likewise, we find that, absent any showing of any intent to mislead by the candidate or confusion on the part of the signatories, the Davis County signature pages that lacked only the congressional district number substantially comply with the intent of section 43.14 and should be counted." To this non-lawyer, that sounds very close to not telling voters the office you're seeking. I suppose there is a slight difference if Seng's petitions showed he was running for Congress, while the disputed Narcisse petitions did not list any office. Iowa's rules are designed to prevent any "bait and switch" during the signature collection process.

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"Accountability, openness, and transparency" are in the eye of the beholder (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 24, 2014 at 12:35:00 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad responded today to two political scandals that broke while he was on vacation last week. The big news was the governor signing an executive order "to increase accountability, openness and transparency of employee settlements."

Branstad's behavior reflects an odd understanding of those words. He is not holding anyone accountable for forcing out permanent employees and attempting to keep settlement deals a secret. His administration's alleged "thorough review" of the deals took place behind closed doors over the span of a few days. Branstad rejected any outside investigation of the matter and dismissed accusations against Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert without even basic fact-finding.  

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Bipartisan group pushing Iowa legislative study of medical marijuana

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 09:58:09 AM CDT

What a difference a month makes. Four weeks ago, State Senator Joe Bolkcom declared his bill to legalize the medical use of cannabis dead on the same day he introduced it. Now five Republican senators have joined Bolkcom and four other Iowa Senate Democrats seeking to advance the conversation about medical marijuana before next year's legislative session.

Click here to read the full text of Senate Resolution 112, which requests the creation of an interim study committee "to make recommendations on the feasibility of establishing a medical cannabis program in this state allowing qualifying resident patients to purchase and possess cannabis for medical purposes, and to file a final report including recommendations with the general assembly by December 30, 2014." If the Senate approves the resolution, the Iowa Legislative Council led by House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal will likely approve a study committee to evaluate medical marijuana later this year.

Depending on the study committee's conclusions, a medical marijuana bill might garner more bipartisan support during the 2015 legislative session. Kudos to Democrats Bolkcom, Matt McCoy, Bill Dotzler, Jack Hatch, and Tom Courtney, and Republicans Ken Rozenboom, Mike Breitbach, Brad Zaun, Amy Sinclair, and Charles Schneider for supporting this resolution. It's worth noting that all five Republican co-sponsors were elected to the Iowa Senate in 2012 and therefore will not face re-election again until 2016. Consequently, all five will be serving in the Iowa Senate next year, regardless of which party controls the chamber after the 2014 elections.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Hatch has long been on record supporting medical marijuana in Iowa. Earlier this month, Governor Terry Branstad warned of "unintended consequences" and said much more study of the issue is needed.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that while Zaun isn't up for re-election to the state Senate this year, he is one of six GOP candidates running in Iowa's third Congressional district. I wonder whether any of his rivals in IA-03 will criticize this stance.

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Branstad administration scandal news and reaction thread (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 17:22:50 PM CDT

While Governor Terry Branstad vacations in Arizona this week, his administration is facing new allegations of misconduct. As first reported in the Sunday Des Moines Register, at least six former state employees were offered secret settlement deals after claiming they were forced out of their jobs for political reasons. Today, Democratic State Senator Bill Dotzler announced that he is seeking a federal investigation into the actions of Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert, whom Dotzler accused of interfering with the work of administrative law judges.

After the jump I've posted several links about both scandals as well as some political reaction. Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Jonathan Narcisse to challenge exclusion from IA-Gov primary ballot

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 18:24:03 PM CDT

Gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Narcisse plans to fight for inclusion on the Democratic primary ballot. The Iowa Secretary of State's Office rejected some of his petitions because the line listing the office he was seeking was left blank. After the jump I've posted a statement from Narcisse blasting what he called a "gross act of political disenfranchisement" to use a "technicality" to keep him off the ballot. I also enclosed the letter Director of Elections Sarah Reisetter sent to Narcisse and an example of one of the invalid signature pages, provided by the Iowa Secretary of State's communications director.

No doubt, some of the people circulating Narcisse's petitions did not fill all of them out correctly. Iowa law on ballot access is clear, and our rules are less restrictive than those in many other states.

One recent event bolster's Narcisse's case, however: two years ago, State Senator Joe Seng was able to get on the Democratic primary ballot in Iowa's second Congressional district despite the exact same problem with his petitions in two counties. Three senior state officials (Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Attorney General Tom Miller, and Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins) reviewed the matter after a voter in IA-02 challenged Seng's petitions. That panel unanimously decided "to count a few pages of petition signatures that had previously been tossed out because the top portion - listing Seng's name, where he was from and what office he was seeking - hadn't been completely filled out." Schultz told the media that while "Senator Seng probably should have been more organized," it was a "close call." Miller cited an Iowa tradition of "being somewhat favorable, deferential to someone having access to the ballot."

If Narcisse manages to get on the ballot, he will face State Senator Jack Hatch in the Democratic primary on June 3. Otherwise Hatch will be unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

UPDATE: To clarify, I understand and support the reasoning behind Iowa's ballot access rules. Senior officials never should have bent the rules to accommodate Seng. Now that they have, Narcisse can claim he deserves the same indulgence. John Deeth notes in the comments that it's not clear exactly what information was missing from some of the Seng petitions. Perhaps scanned copies still exist somewhere, which would show whether the problem was a blank space where he should have indicated the office he was seeking.  

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IA-Gov: Terry Branstad has primary challenger, Jack Hatch does not

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 15:36:30 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad's Republican challenger, Tom Hoefling, has qualified for the primary ballot after submitting his nominating petitions on March 14, the final day. I don't see any way Hoefling could win a primary, but it will be interesting to see how large the conservative protest vote is against Branstad. GOP turnout should be larger than usual on June 3, because of competitive primaries for the U.S. Senate seat and the first, second, and third Congressional districts.

Last night the Iowa Secretary of State's office indicated that Jonathan Narcisse filed papers to run for governor as a Democrat. However, his petitions must not have had enough valid signatures, because his name does not appear on the full candidate list (pdf). The other long-shot Democratic hopeful, Paul Dahl, apparently never filed petitions. That leaves State Senator Jack Hatch as the lone Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

In other statewide candidate news, no Republicans stepped up to run against Attorney General Tom Miller or State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald. By this time in 2010, Brenna Findley was already campaigning around the state against Miller, and two Republicans were running for treasurer.

As expected, Sherrie Taha is the Democratic candidate for secretary of agriculture; she will face GOP incumbent Bill Northey. Jon Neiderbach is the Democratic candidate for state auditor; he will face GOP incumbent Mary Mosiman, whom Branstad appointed last year. The secretary of state's race pits Democrat Brad Anderson against Republican Paul Pate. 2010 Libertarian nominee Jake Porter also plans to register for the ballot this summer.

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Medical marijuana links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 13:48:03 PM CDT

I've been meaning to put up a thread on efforts to legalize cannabis for medical use in Iowa. State Senator Joe Bolkcom has been the lead sponsor of a bill that would create "a state regulated system to provide medical cannabis to Iowans under a doctor's care." Senate File 2215 (full text) did not meet the Iowa legislature's first "funnel" deadline because of a lack of support from statehouse Republicans. However, more recently GOP lawmakers including Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, a nurse practitioner, have said they are open to discussions on the issue. Iowa House Republican Clel Baudler, who helped kill a similar bill last year, is dead-set against what he calls an "asinine" idea.

The Iowa Medical Marijuana website includes much more background on efforts to legalize the medical use of cannabis. The front page of that site includes links to recent news coverage and videos from an Iowa Senate hearing on March 5. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta changed his mind on the medical uses of marijuana while working on a documentary last year.

After the jump I've enclosed a statement from Bolkcom explaining the key points of SF 2215, highlights from the Des Moines Register's latest polling on the issue, and comments from Governor Terry Branstad, West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer, and Representative Bruce Braley, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

Any relevant thoughts or predictions are welcome in this thread. I expect advocates will have to work for at least a few more years before Iowa joins the 20 states and Washington, DC where medical marijuana is already legal.  

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IA-Gov: Register poll puts Branstad at 63 percent approval, 44 percent re-elect

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 11:08:00 AM CST

Governor Terry Branstad's approval rating is far higher than the percentage of Iowans who would definitely vote for his re-election, according to the latest Iowa poll conducted by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register. Selzer & Co surveyed 703 Iowa adults between February 23 and 26, producing a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent--though it's worth noting that a random sample of Iowa adults does not necessarily reflect the 2014 midterm electorate.

In the Register's new poll, 63 percent of respondents said they approved of Branstad's job performance, up from 58 percent in December. Just 30 percent disapproved of Branstad's work, and 7 percent were not sure. In a head to head matchup against Democratic State Senator Jack Hatch, Branstad leads by 44 percent to 29 percent. Jason Noble commented, "The 44 percent of respondents who say they'd vote for Branstad is down from 52 percent in December [2013] and 55 percent in June." Sounds like a lot of people like the governor but sense that he's had enough time in the job.

Other Iowa polls conducted during the past year or two have similarly suggested that Branstad enjoys high approval ratings, with somewhat lower numbers of voters ready to re-elect him to a sixth term. Hatch has outlined a strong set of policies for Iowa but clearly needs to raise his name recognition. Making a case against the incumbent may be challenging; if the Register's poll is accurate, 52 percent of Iowans see the state heading "in the right direction," with only 37 percent saying it's "on the wrong track." Most sitting governors would be happy to take those numbers into a re-election campaign.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Republican state delegate intrigue edition (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 09:13:28 AM CST

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

Republicans in Governor Terry Branstad's orbit tried to rig the game to ensure that the March 8 Polk County GOP Convention ratified a long list of at-large delegates to the third Congressional district and state conventions later this year. Shane Vander Hart provides good background at Caffeinated Thoughts. Activist Kim Schmett, who was the GOP challenger to Representative Leonard Boswell in 2008, complained to the Des Moines Register, "Some unknown person is coming up with an ultimate list. Why have a county convention at all if 40 percent of your delegates are hand-picked ahead of time?"

Sounds like Branstad's team was not satisfied with results from their efforts to turn loyalists out to the off-year precinct caucuses in January. The governor needs to prevent any serious challenge at the state convention to Kim Reynolds' nomination for a second term as lieutenant governor. I am convinced that if re-elected, he will step down in the middle of his sixth term to ensure that she becomes governor.

State convention delegates may also end up selecting the GOP nominee for Iowa's open U.S. Senate seat, if no one wins at least 35 percent of the vote in the June primary. Similarly, a third Congressional district convention may select the GOP nominee if none of the six declared IA-03 candidates wins at least 35 percent of the primary votes.

The Iowa Republican blogger Craig Robinson worked with Polk County GOP Chair Will Rogers and two Branstad campaign staffers to resolve concerns over delegate selection. As a result, the at-large slate was reduced from 100 to 50 delegates guaranteed to be at the district and state conventions. Vander Hart commented, "While I'm glad they responded to the backlash it should be the Polk County Republican Executive Committee, not the Branstad Campaign, determining this list." Obviously.

The Polk County GOP addressed the controversy in a Facebook post I've excerpted after the jump. UPDATE: Added some comments below from Dave Chung, an Iowa GOP State Central Committee member. SECOND UPDATE: Added excerpts from Craig Robinson's commentary.

And now for something completely different: music geeks may enjoy Seth Stevenson's analysis of the strange time signature of the theme from the original Terminator movie, which (amazingly) is 30 years old this year.

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IA-Gov: PPP finds Branstad ahead of competition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 15:39:00 PM CST

Public Policy Polling's latest Iowa survey suggests that Governor Terry Branstad will have little trouble dispatching his primary challenger and goes into the general election as a favorite, despite an approval rating below 50 percent. This pdf file contains full results from PPP's poll of 869 Iowa voters, including 283 Republican primary voters, between February 20 and 23. Respondents approved of Branstad's job performance by a 45 margin to 40 percent margin; only 15 percent of respondents were unsure. The leading Democratic candidate for governor, State Senator Jack Hatch, is less well-known, with 16 percent approval, 15 percent disapproval, and 69 percent of respondents not sure. Branstad led Hatch by 48 percent to 36 percent, the same margin PPP found when it last polled Iowa in July 2013.

Anything below 50 percent approval is sometimes considered a "danger zone" for an incumbent. Paradoxically, Branstad may be comforted to know that among the Republican subsample in PPP's survey, his approval was just 72 percent with 16 percent disapproving of his job performance and 12 percent unsure. A chart further down shows that 21 percent of "somewhat conservative" and 11 percent of "very conservative" respondents disapprove of Branstad. These voters may not be happy with the incumbent, but they are also not likely to gravitate toward a Democratic candidate for governor. A more worrying sign for Branstad would be that his approval is underwater with self-identified moderates in the poll (35 percent/43 percent).

Tom Hoefling, a former third-party presidential candidate who is challenging Branstad in the GOP primary, had extremely low name recognition among Republican respondents: 3 percent favorable, 9 percent unfavorable, 88 percent not sure. In a ballot test, 70 percent of Republicans picked Branstad and 11 percent Hoefling. Discontent among conservatives suggests that Hoefling can go higher, but I would be surprised if the protest vote in the June primary exceeded 25 percent.

Any comments about the governor's race are welcome in this thread.  

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IA-Gov: Tom Hoefling to challenge Branstad in GOP primary

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 16:29:23 PM CST

Via Radio Iowa I learned that Tom Hoefling is collecting signatures to run for Iowa governor as a Republican. Looking on his campaign's website, I see he announced his candidacy in early December. I've posted some background on Hoefling after the jump. This guy seems drawn to hopeless causes; he is a former supporter of Alan Keyes for president, but he appears to have become disenchanted with the Republican Party sometime during the last decade. In 2008 Hoefling and "many stalwart Reagan conservatives from across the country" founded the "America's Party." He ran for president in 2012 as the America's Party nominee.

It's anyone's guess whether Hoefling will manage to qualify for the GOP primary ballot. He needs to submit nominating petitions with at least 3,654 valid signatures, spread across at least ten Iowa counties, by the end of business on March 14.

If Hoefling becomes a candidate for governor, we all know he has no chance of beating Terry Branstad. Even he acknowledges that. I will be interested to see how much traction he can gain from bashing what he calls "crony capitalism" and "economic 'happy talk' coming from the governor" that doesn't reflect "the real world for the people that I know."

Hoefling highlights some other issues that are important to many social conservatives, on which the Branstad administration and elected Iowa Republicans are perceived to be lacking. He wants GOP leaders to fight against the "Common Core" curriculum for Iowa schools and take action to reverse "the abortion holocaust" and "the homosexual agenda which is destroying marriage and the natural family."

Republican turnout statewide should be higher than average on June 3 because of the crowded U.S. Senate primary and the competitive races for the GOP nomination in Iowa's first, second and third Congressional districts. How large is the potential protest vote against Branstad? Spin your own scenarios in this thread.

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Next time, think before you endorse in a primary

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 09:35:00 AM CST

Iowa's largest labor union, AFSCME Iowa Coucil 61, endorsed State Senator Jack Hatch for governor yesterday, as did several Teamsters locals in the state. I've posted the press release after the jump. Labor union endorsements of the leading Democratic challenger to Governor Terry Branstad are only to be expected. The event would not be as newsworthy had AFSCME not made a big deal out of endorsing State Representative Tyler Olson in October. Olson dropped out of the governor's race for personal reasons near the end of last year.

I never understood why AFSCME felt compelled to get involved in a primary featuring two state lawmakers with strong records on labor issues. Looking at the financial report AFSCME's political action committee filed last month, I find the strategy even more baffling. During 2013, AFSCME Iowa Council 61 P.E.O.P.L.E. gave $100,000 to Olson's gubernatorial campaign--by far the PAC's largest expenditure. The Iowa Democratic Party and the Senate Majority Fund each received $10,000. Various Democratic state legislators or candidates for the Iowa House and Senate received campaign contributions ranging from $250 to $5,000. The House Truman Fund supporting Democratic candidates for the lower chamber received $1,000. AFSCME also supported a smattering of candidates for local government.

Speaking to Radio Iowa yesterday, AFSCME Council 61 President Danny Homan said, "When we endorsed Tyler I stated that it was a very difficult decision to pick Tyler over Jack. That was a close call." If my dues donations were supporting AFSCME's political activities, I'd be very upset that $100,000 went to support a "close call" for one candidate over an equally pro-labor primary rival. It would have been smarter for AFSCME to give more to pro-labor lawmakers and candidates for the Iowa House and Senate during 2013, and save any six-figure gifts for the Democratic nominee after the gubernatorial primary.

UPDATE: Corrected to clarify that separate donations (not union dues) are used for AFSCME's PAC. My original point stands: I would stop giving to any PAC that made this kind of strategic choice. To my mind, it doesn't matter whether they endorsed Olson or Hatch; they should not waste $100,000 meddling in a Democratic primary where both candidates support their issues, especially when control of the Iowa legislature is at stake in the midterms. Remember, this PAC made only $150,985.05 in expenditures during the reporting period. Two-thirds of the money went toward a race that Danny Homan admitted was a "close call." Not a wise use of resources.

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Chet Culver rules out running for IA-03 or for governor

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 13:14:00 PM CST

Multiple Bleeding Heartland readers have told me that former Governor Chet Culver was seeking input on a possible Congressional campaign this year. I was skeptical, given Staci Appel's big lead in fundraising and backing from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Since Representative Tom Latham announced plans to retire, many labor unions and interest groups have confirmed their support for Appel as well.

Today Culver released a statement to the Des Moines Register confirming that he won't run for Congress or for governor this year.

"While my passion for serving Iowa remains as strong as it's ever been, timing is everything, and I will not be a candidate for public office in 2014," he said. "I am excited to support the Iowa Democratic Party's great ticket of candidates up and down the ballot, and I look forward to continuing to work now and in the future to make Iowa an even better place to live, work, and raise a family."

So far, Appel's only competition in the IA-03 Democratic primary is Gabriel De La Cerda, a first-time candidate who hasn't raised much money. State Senator Jack Hatch is the leading Democratic candidate for governor. Jonathan Narcisse and Paul Dahl have also announced plans to run for governor as Democrats this year.

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Branstad defends DHS director and appeals to Iowa Supreme Court

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 12:23:16 PM CST

This morning Governor Terry Branstad stood by Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer and his handling of problems at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo (Tama County). He also spoke confidently about his appeal to Iowa Supreme Court against a Polk County District Court ruling ordering that the Iowa Juvenile Home be reopened.

More background and details are after the jump.  

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Branstad determined to make Kim Reynolds the next Iowa governor (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 03, 2014 at 08:53:15 AM CST

Governor Terry Branstad confirmed on Iowa Public Television this weekend that he wants Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to succeed him in office.

Although he added that it's "his intention" to serve an entire sixth term if re-elected this year, his comments are not likely to persuade skeptics (including me) who believe that he would resign early to give Reynolds a chance to run as an incumbent governor in 2018. I explain why after the jump, following a video clip and partial transcript of Branstad's remarks.  

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Off-year Iowa caucus discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 21:00:00 PM CST

Who attended their Democratic or Republican precinct caucuses tonight? I was at Indian Hills Junior High School, where Democrats and Republicans from Windsor Heights, Clive, and some parts of West Des Moines gathered. Not surprisingly, turnout was low on the Democratic side, with light snow and temperatures in the teens shortly before 7 pm. Approximately 60 people total showed up from the eight or nine precincts at our location. A representative from Staci Appel's campaign addressed Democrats at our caucus, as did a gubernatorial candidate I'd never heard of: Zachary Newbrough of West Des Moines. His key issues include improving education, mental health reform, embracing diversity in Iowa, and smokers' rights (although he didn't mention the last one at the caucus).

I didn't sit in on the Republican caucuses, but I walked by their rooms after they broke into precincts from Windsor Heights and Clive. By my count, each precinct had approximately 15-20 participants. Although the weather was bad today, I expected more Republicans to come out tonight, given that Governor Terry Branstad's campaign and several GOP candidates were said to be mobilizing supporters. Branstad's team wants to make sure the state convention backs Kim Reynolds for lieutenant governor, and the Republican nominations for IA-03 and U.S. Senate may be decided at conventions if no candidate wins at least 35 percent of the vote.

Any comments about the off-year caucuses are welcome in this thread. I'd particularly like to hear from Bleeding Heartland readers on caucus turnout in the first Congressional district, where the Democratic and Republican nominations could conceivably go to conventions.

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