ISU president used university plane for personal trips, didn't pay to fix damage

Iowa State University President Steven Leath has flown one of the university’s planes on at least four personal trips, without the apparent knowledge of the official in charge of ISU’s flight program, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on September 23. Leath reimbursed the university for some costs associated with those trips but not for expenses incurred after he damaged one of the planes through pilot error in July 2015.

Although Leath’s use of the plane appears to have violated both ISU policy and state law, Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter has already released a statement supporting Leath.

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Rest in peace, Joe Seng

Democratic State Senator Joe Seng has died after a two-year battle with brain cancer, Iowa Senate leaders confirmed today. I enclose below comments released by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Senate President Pam Jochum.

With the upper chamber split 26-24 and many important votes falling along party lines, Democratic leaders needed Seng’s presence often during the last two legislative sessions. He had phenomenal dedication and kept showing up for work while fighting a monstrous disease and undergoing regular chemotherapy. The Des Moines Register’s William Petroski posted a video of Seng singing and playing the accordion for his colleagues in April 2015.

Seng served as Davenport’s alderman-at-large and mayor pro-tem before representing parts of Iowa’s third-largest city for two years in the state House and fourteen in the Senate. A veterinarian by training, he chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee in recent years and served on the Commerce, Ethics, Labor and Business Relations, Natural Resources and Environment, and Ways & Means committees.

After Iowa’s new map of political boundaries put Scott County in the second Congressional district, Seng challenged U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack and won about 18 percent of the vote in the 2012 Democratic primary. In his final re-election campaign two years ago, Seng easily defeated a primary challenger and did not face a general election opponent.

Seng’s passing will force a special election later this year in Senate district 45 (map enclosed below). Because the district contains more than twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, the only real competition to replace Seng will be for the Democratic nomination, to be decided at a district convention. Democrats Jim Lykam and Cindy Winckler have represented the two halves of Seng’s Senate district in the Iowa House since 2003.

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Walking, Knocking and Talking the Talk

Howard County Democratic Party chair Laura Hubka shares wisdom gained from knocking thousands of doors as a superstar volunteer in northeast Iowa and former candidate for the state legislature. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I was not always into politics and even though I was a "talker" in elementary school, I really was never into starting conversations, especially about politics, with anyone I did not know. In the last 8 years or so I have changed. Knocking doors and talking about local, state and national candidates are part of my life now on a regular basis. I have actually come to enjoy it. I understand how it can be scary and intimidating at times, but I also know the joy of having a great one on one conversation with my fellow Iowans. Here are some of my tips to those who want to put their boots on the ground and make a real difference.

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Iowa among the target states for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson has begun airing radio commercials in Iowa. I heard some of the spots on stations in the Des Moines market over the weekend and will update this post with full transcripts if I can record them. Daniel Strauss reported for Politico on August 26 that the Libertarian candidate "is spending $806,195 this month on radio ads in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin."

One of the ads features Johnson arguing that “if a Democrat is elected president, if a Republican is elected president, in four years we will still be at war, America will be four years deeper in debt, we will have four more years of rising taxes.”

A second ad is Johnson arguing against a two-party system.

“Google me, 60 percent of you have said you want another choice in 2016 and now you have one in me,” Johnson says in the ad. “We the people have a chance to do something in 2016 that may not come again in our lifetime. We have a legitimate chance to elect one of our own to the highest office in the land.”

Iowa may be an appealing place to advertise because air time is less expensive here than in many other swing states.

Super-PACs supporting the Libertarian ticket have produced some television and radio commercials, but I haven’t seen or heard any of those yet. AUGUST 31 UPDATE: This Purple PAC ad is on the air in the Des Moines market. I’ve added the video below.

The early advertising push is designed to boost Johnson’s support in national polls to at least 15 percent. The Presidential Debate Commission has said candidates must hit that threshold to be included in the three debates featuring presidential nominees and the one vice presidential debate.

No Libertarian presidential candidate has ever won more than 1 percent of the vote in Iowa; I compiled our state’s results for all previous tickets here. In the last three public polls of likely Iowa voters, Johnson had support from 12 percent, 6 percent, and 12 percent of respondents in a four-way race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump, and Jill Stein of the Green Party.

The Libertarian Party of Iowa has a far stronger organization than any other third party in this state. In addition to Johnson and vice presidential nominee Bill Weld, Libertarian candidates are running for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat, for the U.S. House in the third Congressional district, for six Iowa Senate seats, and for twelve Iowa House seats. Some of these candidates already have yard signs and other campaign materials.

In contrast, the Green Party did not nominate any candidates in Iowa other than Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka, even though access to the general election ballot is relatively easy here.

Johnson’s first rally in Iowa this election cycle is scheduled for this Saturday, September 3, at the Grand View University Johnson Wellness Center, 200 Grandview Avenue in Des Moines. Doors open at 1 pm. Stein will headline a Green Party rally at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Sunday, September 11.

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Double payback: Steve King staffer will challenge GOP Senator David Johnson

Zach Whiting, a staffer for U.S. Representative Steve King, will run for the Iowa Senate in 2018 against Republican State Senator David Johnson, Tom Lawrence reported today for nwestiowa.com. Whiting told Lawrence, "David Johnson’s decision to leave the Republican Party has left his constituents without a representative, without an effective representative." Johnson announced on June 7 that he was changing his registration to no-party because of Donald Trump’s "racist remarks and judicial jihad." I assume he will rejoin the GOP soon after the November election, though he has not promised to do so.

Lawrence’s article did not mention another likely motivation for Whiting’s bid: Johnson supported and donated to Iowa Senate colleague Rick Bertrand’s challenge to King in the fourth Congressional district this year. King won just under 65 percent of the Republican primary vote. Johnson later told the Sioux City Journal he would support Bertrand for Congress again, adding, "There is too much blind loyalty to Steve King."

Follow me after the jump for more about the political make-up of Iowa Senate district 1, background on both candidates, and first thoughts on Whiting’s chances.

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Prospects for electing more women to the Iowa legislature

In honor of Women’s Equality Day, let’s revisit the field of women candidates in the 100 Iowa House districts and 25 Iowa Senate districts that are up for grabs this year. Since Bleeding Heartland last surveyed the scene, a few more women candidates have emerged, while others are no longer in the running.

Following the 2014 election, the number of women in the Iowa House rose from 25 to 27 (six Republicans and 21 Democrats). The number of women in the Iowa Senate dropped from ten to seven (one Republican and six Democrats) because men replaced three retiring female Republican senators.

Iowa’s general assembly has fewer women as a percentage of lawmakers than do 29 other state legislatures. Despite efforts by the bipartisan group 50/50 in 2020 to promote political equity in Iowa and to increase the number of women candidates at all levels of government, next year’s legislature may have even fewer female state representatives and senators.

Speaking of Women’s Equality Day, did you know Iowa women came close to gaining the right to vote during the 1870s, and again in 1916? Neither did I before I researched this Throwback Thursday post last year.

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