Jackie Norris is fired up and ready to go for Hillary Clinton

Of all the non-events to get major Iowa caucus coverage, this past weekend’s "Ready for Hillary" meeting in Des Moines must be among the most ridiculous.

One significant piece of news emerged from the pro-Hillary super PAC’s first foray to Iowa, though. Jackie Norris, who managed Barack Obama’s 2008 general election campaign here, is now publicly on the Hillary bandwagon. In other words, one of the most important early Obama supporters in Iowa has just told any other would-be 2016 Democratic presidential contenders, “You’re on your own.”  

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One of the "sustainable dozen" will replace John Norris at USDA

I was pleased to read in the Sunday Des Moines Register that the new chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will be Karen Ross, former head of the California Association of Winegrape Growers. Ross was one of the "sustainable dozen" candidates that Food Democracy Now recommended for under-secretary positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last January Food Democracy Now told its supporters that Ross was getting serious consideration for a USDA post.

It’s encouraging to know that a voice for family farmers and sustainable practices will be running Vilsack’s office. In recommending Ross for an under-secretary position at the USDA, Michael Dimock of Roots of Change wrote more than a year ago,

Karen will represent well the diverse crops of our nation’s largest agricultural state. We know she will be a voice of innovation and adaptation that will support full expression of a sustainable agriculture over time. She did a great job shepherding the State Board’s recent visioning process for agriculture that rendered what we see as a very constructive vision for our future. Karen has also been a defining and constructive voice in the [Roots of Change]-funded California Roundtable for Agriculture and the Environment.

The visioning process Dimock mentions was California Ag Vision, an “effort to develop a broad consensus on how California might arrive at a farming and food system that can be sustained by the year 2030.”

Ross will replace John Norris, who did not come from an agriculture background but had worked closely with Vilsack for years in Iowa. He agreed to be Vilsack’s chief of staff at USDA with the understanding that it would be a temporary position. Norris was pursuing a spot on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to which the Senate confirmed him in December. Having completed his work as Vilsack’s chief of staff, Norris will start work next week at the FERC.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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John Norris confirmed at FERC

Catching up on some news from last week, the Senate confirmed more than 30 of President Obama’s nominees right before Christmas, including Iowa’s own John Norris for a spot on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Norris and his wife Jackie Norris were key early Obama supporters here. After Obama’s inauguration, Norris served as chief of staff for Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, but he always planned to move to the FERC if possible. He is well qualified for the position after spending several years on the Iowa Utilities Board.

Jackie Norris served as chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama for several months before moving to a senior advisor position at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

John Norris’ confirmation was overshadowed by news that the Senate rejected six Obama nominees without even giving them a vote. The most prominent name on that list was Dawn Johnsen, Obama’s choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel. For more on that story, read commentaries by Daniel de Groot at Open Left, bmaz at Firedoglake, and Turkana at the Left Coaster. Senator Ben Nelson helped Senate Republicans stall Johnsen’s nomination in the spring.

UPDATE: Kay Henderson posted Norris’ official bio and some statements reacting to his confirmation at the FERC.

John Norris gets the Washington job he wanted

I saw at Radio Iowa that President Barack Obama has nominated important early Iowa supporter John Norris to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He’s well qualified for the job, as you’ll see from his official bio, which I’ve posted after the jump. Not only was Norris chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board from 2005 to 2009, he also handled different positions with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Organization of Midwest Independent System Operator States.

Norris has been Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s chief of staff since January, but he requested an appointment on the FERC in November, before Obama had named Vilsack to head the USDA. Although Norris has worked closely with Vilsack before as the governor’s chief of staff, the FERC position seems like a better fit for the more recent focus of Norris’s career.

I’m guessing that FERC commissioners also work less insane hours than chiefs of staff do. Norris and his wife Jackie Norris have three sons under the age of six. Jackie Norris recently was replaced as First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff and will serve as senior adviser to the Corporation on National and Community Service.

LATE UPDATE: The Des Moines Register reported on June 21,

Norris said he always planned to move on from the USDA, because his real goal was a seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an appointment he now has in hand. He’s waiting for Senate confirmation for that position.

Norris said Vilsack asked him to take the USDA job, knowing it would be temporary. He “wanted someone who knew him and someone he trusted to get set up at USDA.”

Norris said he tried to set up a staff that would work together across their various areas of responsibility, avoiding turf wars. “This isn’t a speedboat. It’s a tanker and you have to slowly bring it around,” he said.

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