17 Iowa politics predictions for 2017

Two weeks late and humbled by the results from previous efforts to foretell the future, I offer seventeen Iowa politics predictions for the new year.

I struggled to compile this list, in part because it’s harder to come up with things to predict during a non-election year. I didn’t want to stack the deck with obvious statements, such as “the GOP-controlled Iowa House and Senate will shred collective bargaining rights.” The most consequential new laws coming down the pike under unified Republican control of state government are utterly predictable. I needed time to look up some cases pending before the Iowa Supreme Court. Also, I kept changing my mind about whether to go for number 17. (No guts, no glory.)

I want to mention one prediction that isn’t on this list, because I don’t expect it to happen this year or next. I am convinced that if the GOP holds the governor’s office and both chambers of the Iowa legislature in 2018, they will do away with non-partisan redistricting before the 2020 census. I don’t care what anyone says about our system being a model for the country or too well-established for politicians to discard. Everywhere Republicans have had a trifecta during the last decade, they have gerrymandered. Iowa will be no exception. So if Democrats don’t want to be stuck with permanent minority status in the state legislature, we must win the governor’s race next year. You heard it here first.

Continue Reading...

Branstad's budget puts Kim Reynolds on a collision course with Big Ag

Governor Terry Branstad has rarely found himself at odds with any powerful farm lobby group. In 1995 he signed a law banning agricultural zoning, which fueled explosive growth of confined animal feeding operations across Iowa. Since returning to the governor’s office in 2011, he has named several agribusiness representatives to the the Environmental Protection Commission. He signed the probably unconstitutional “ag gag” bill targeting whistleblowers who might report alleged animal abuse. He moved to protect farmers from state inspections for electrical work. He joined a poorly-conceived and ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to block a California law on egg production standards. He has consistently rejected calls to regulate farm runoff that contributes to water pollution, instead supporting an all-voluntary nutrient reduction strategy heavily influenced by the Iowa Farm Bureau.

Despite all of the above, the governor’s two-year budget blueprint contains an obscure proposal that will draw intense opposition from Big Ag. By this time next year, the fallout could cause political problems for Branstad’s soon-to-be-successor, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds–especially if Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett challenges her for the 2018 GOP nomination.

Continue Reading...

Weekend open thread: Terrible predictions edition

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

In the real world as well as on social media, many Iowa Democratic activists have been talking about Rich Leopold this week. Since announcing his candidacy for governor on Wednesday, Leopold has reached out to county chairs and other local leaders in a bunch of towns. I hope his early, aggressive campaign will drive other Democrats thinking about this race to start pounding the pavement sooner rather than later. I’m all for a spirited, competitive 2018 primary.

Longtime Johnson County elections office worker John Deeth wrote a must-read “deep dig” about the real-world implications of “the proposed voter ID legislation, with the Orwellian name ‘Voter Integrity,’ launched by Secretary of State Paul Pate on Thursday.” Key point: county auditors of both parties are not fans of voter ID, “because they’ve been on the front lines of dealing with the public and they know that it doesn’t solve anything and that it will make it harder for the public.” Bleeding Heartland’s take on Pate’s solution in search of a problem is here.

Des Moines Register statehouse reporter Brianne Pfannenstiel published a heartbreaking account of her mother’s terminal illness during the presidential campaign, a “sudden and devastating” ordeal that still “hurts like hell every day.”

Along with most Iowa politics watchers, I’m gearing up for the 2017 Iowa legislative session, which begins on Monday. First, let’s take care of some unfinished business from 2016. Like many political writers and a fair number of Bleeding Heartland readers, I had a horrendous year for predictions.

Continue Reading...

Rich Leopold becomes first Iowa Democratic candidate for governor

Vowing to be an outsider who can bring a “different kind of government” to Iowa, Rich Leopold just announced in a Facebook live appearance that he will run for governor as a Democrat in 2018. I enclose below his news release and a statement of “four cornerstones” that will guide his candidacy, along with a transcript of his comments on video. Leopold’s campaign website is here and his Facebook page is here.

A first-time candidate for office, Leopold stands apart from the “lobbyists, special interests, and the insider’s club that for far too long has run our government” and “is free from the generations of deal-making and permanent campaigning that has poisoned the capitol,” his “cornerstones” document declares.

Leopold has government experience at the local, state, and federal level. He served as Iowa Department of Natural Resources director during Chet Culver’s administration from 2007 to 2010, when he took a job with the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He later worked for the Dickinson County Conservation Board and since 2013 has been with the Polk County Conservation Board, where he is now director. (Disclosure: I joined the board of directors of the Iowa Environmental Council when Leopold was that non-profit’s executive director, shortly before he left to lead the DNR.)

Leopold also chairs the new Grow Iowa PAC, which raised about $10,000 last year and donated to eighteen Democratic candidates or committees.

No other Democrats have confirmed plans to run for governor, but outgoing Iowa Democratic Party chair Andy McGuire is widely expected to announce her candidacy early this year. If either wins the June 2018 primary, Leopold or McGuire would be the first Iowa nominee for governor since Roxanne Conlin in 1982 not to have held elected office.

Many politics-watchers expect at least one member of the Iowa House or Senate to seek the nomination as well, perhaps State Senator Liz Mathis or State Representative Todd Prichard.

UPDATE: State Senator Chaz Allen is also rumored to be considering the gubernatorial race. He or Prichard would have to give up their seats in the legislature in order to run for governor. Mathis was just re-elected to a four-year term, so could run for governor without leaving the Iowa Senate.

Continue Reading...

IA-Gov: Ron Corbett may challenge Kim Reynolds for the GOP nomination

Despite early efforts to consolidate the Republican establishment around Governor Terry Branstad’s successor, Ron Corbett announced this morning on Simon Conway’s AM 600 Radio show that he will not run for re-election as Cedar Rapids mayor in 2017 and will consider running for governor in 2018. By that time, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will be the incumbent, assuming the U.S. Senate confirms Branstad as ambassador to China, as expected.

Corbett has been laying the groundwork for a gubernatorial bid for some time. Since creating a new conservative think tank late last year, he’s been rolling out policy proposals and speaking at numerous Rotary clubs and other groups around the state.

The Republican Party of Iowa will back Reynolds against any GOP primary challenger in 2018, state party chair Jeff Kaufmann has warned. (CORRECTION: See update below.) But Corbett has presumably found enough support among potential major donors to proceed with considering a gubernatorial bid. I look forward to covering that primary and will update this post following a press conference Corbett has planned for this morning. Corbett would need to raise millions to run an effective statewide campaign, especially since the Republican Governors Association might get involved to protect Reynolds.

Related side note: There’s no love lost between Corbett and Branstad, dating from the time during the 1990s when Corbett served as Iowa House speaker. As soon as Branstad was back in the governor’s office in 2011, he issued an executive order on project labor agreements that caused problems for a big Cedar Rapids project. Branstad didn’t accommodate Corbett’s efforts to negotiate, and Corbett and Cedar Rapids leaders eventually backed down to avoid costly litigation.

UPDATE: Adding to this post after the jump.

Continue Reading...

A Bold Step Forward

Kim Weaver continues the series of guest commentaries by candidates seeking to lead the Iowa Democratic Party. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I’m honored to have an opportunity to outline my vision for the future of the Iowa Democratic Party. Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of talking with many State Central Committee members and will be reaching out to the remaining members before our election in January. Despite our devastating losses in November, I am excited about our future. Just like the Phoenix who rose from the ashes, we have an opportunity to re-build, but we need to take bold steps forward to do so.

As Democrats we basically have a mutually shared goal. I believe that goal is to strengthen the Party so we are able to get Democrats elected who support our visions, values, and beliefs. Where we get caught up is how we think we will reach that goal. Below is my vision of what the Chair, the SCC, and the IDP Staff can do to help us achieve this.

Continue Reading...
View More...