How Phil Miller won the Iowa House district 82 special election

Democrat Phil Miller won today’s special election in Iowa House district 82 by 4,021 votes to 3,324 for Republican Travis Harris (53.8 percent to 44.5 percent). It was a larger margin of victory than Miller’s good friend Curt Hanson managed in his 2009 special election, the first state legislative race after the Iowa Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in Varnum v Brien. The results will be a morale boost for Democrats, since Donald Trump won nearly 57.8 percent of the vote in the House district 82 precincts last year, compared to just 36.4 percent for Hillary Clinton.

The 7,476 votes cast in House district 82, according to the unofficial tally, is roughly three times higher than the turnout for the special elections earlier this year in heavily Republican House district 22 and heavily Democratic House district 89. The major parties spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television commercials and direct mail to mobilize supporters of Miller and Harris (more on that spending below). On the other hand, turnout for this race was a bit lower than voter participation in Hanson’s special election win eight years ago.

Miller’s home base of Jefferson County, containing the population centers of Fairfield and Vedic City, carried him to victory.

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Austin Frerick launches Democratic campaign in IA-03

Declaring that “economic concentration is the fundamental issue of our time,” Austin Frerick launched his candidacy for Congress in Iowa’s third Congressional district today.

In a news release, he said, “For too long, agricultural monopolies like Monsanto have been milking Iowa’s farmers with high seed costs. I’m tired of watching career politicians stand aside while huge corporations push around average Iowans.”

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Early votes and tv ads: the latest news from Iowa House district 82

On August 8, Iowans in three counties will elect either Democrat Phil Miller or Republican Travis Harris to succeed the late State Representative Curt Hanson. Both major parties are spending more on the House district 82 race than on any other special state legislative campaign in years.

Voter interest is relatively high. The number of early ballots requested here already exceeds the total number of votes cast in each of the last two races to fill Iowa House vacancies (House district 22 in June and House district 89 in January).

Follow me after the jump for the absentee ballot numbers as of a week before election day, and the latest television commercials for and against Miller and Harris. Spoiler alert: if you guessed that Republicans would run a misleading ad about transgender bathrooms, you were right.

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Weekend thread: Best and worst Iowa reactions to Trump's transgender ban

Keeping track of this administration’s scandals would be a full-time job. President Donald Trump has already spent 58 days of his presidency at Trump properties, including 43 days at golf courses. He’s been venting about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who in his view, should have killed the investigation into possible Russian collusion with Trump campaign officials.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke warned Alaska’s senators that Senator Lisa Murkowski’s vote against GOP health care proposals “had put Alaska’s future with the administration in jeopardy.” Richard Painter, former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, said Zinke should be fired for “threatening to abuse his agency’s statutory mandate to hurt Alaska,” adding that the “Interior Department controls vast parts of our Country and cannot be allowed to use federal lands for an extortion racket.”

Trump’s new communications director Anthony Scaramucci conducted an interview that was beyond parody, trying to lean on New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza to reveal a source. Reince Priebus finally got dumped as Trump’s chief of staff. Alexandra Petri noted in her excellent commentary, “Priebus was one of the last Adults In The Room, not that it mattered because everyone in the room was doing exactly as they pleased regardless. His function was largely decorative. What is the point of adult supervision if all you do is sit back and watch as the children set everything on fire?”

The president politicized a Boy Scouts event, upending eight decades of tradition and prompting the national Boy Scouts leader to apologize. Days later, police chiefs around the country condemned the president’s remarks encouraging officers to be rougher with suspects during arrests.

But of all Trump’s outrages this week, none were more disgraceful than his unprovoked attack on transgender people serving our country in the military. After the jump I’ve compiled some of the best and worst reactions from Iowa political figures.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Weekend open thread: New Iowa Democratic Party leadership edition

Following a less acrimonious campaign than what unfolded in December and January, the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee voted yesterday for Troy Price to lead the party through 2018. Price brings a lot of relevant experience to the job. He worked in the Vilsack and Culver administrations and led the LGBT advocacy organization One Iowa during the 2010 election campaign, when conservatives targeted Iowa Supreme Court justices and other supporters of marriage equality. Later, he served as political director for Organizing for Iowa, was the Iowa Democratic Party’s executive director during the 2014 election cycle, and was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s campaign before the 2016 caucuses.

Sentiment against Price was brewing in some private Facebook groups near the beginning of this short campaign for a new statewide party leader. Some activists distrusted him because he had worked for Clinton’s operation and was running Todd Prichard’s gubernatorial campaign until a couple of weeks ago. Those feelings didn’t gain steam, partly because unlike the last time, there was no “Bernie” candidate for state party chair this go around. Also, Price reached out personally to central committee members, and a few activists with clout vouched for him privately and publicly. Robert Becker, who ran the Sanders campaign in Iowa, posted on Friday that Price would be an “outstanding” chair. Jon Neiderbach, the only gubernatorial candidate who was a public supporter of Sanders for president, didn’t endorse anyone to lead the party but said he was confident Price would be even-handed if elected.

I was disappointed to learn that some prominent labor union leaders and supporters conducted a whispering campaign against Julie Stauch, Price’s main rival in this race. The backstory here is a mystery to me; I’ve known Stauch for more than 20 years and never seen any sign that she isn’t staunchly pro-labor. Unions are a powerful constituency within the Iowa Democratic Party, providing financial support and sometimes endorsements that influence primaries. It would be helpful for labor leaders to stick to the case for their preferred candidate, instead of making up reasons not to support someone else. More than a few state central committee members were turned off by the negative campaigning against Stauch, who handled the situation with class.

CORRECTION: It was more than a whispering campaign. A reader pointed me to this public thread in which Iowa State Education Association President Tammy Wawro said, “Labor is with Troy, we have no time to waste,” and AFSMCE’s longtime President Danny Homan added, “The only hope for the IDP is Troy Price.” Pressed on their reasoning, Wawro and Homan both mentioned Price being at the Capitol during debates over key anti-labor legislation this year–as if Iowa Democrats who were not physically at the statehouse on those days don’t share the same views. That kind of litmus test won’t be helpful as Price tries to build bridges between different party factions.

I enclose below more links on the State Central Committee meeting and Price’s top priorities as state chair.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Readers who want to help select the Democratic nominee for governor should block out Monday, February 5, 2018 on your calendars. The precinct caucuses held that evening will select delegates to county conventions, which on March 24 will select delegates to the district and state conventions. If no gubernatorial candidate receives at least 35 percent of the vote in next year’s primary, the state convention delegates will choose a nominee on June 16. John Deeth has more to say on next year’s caucus-to-convention process.

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