Iowa Senate district 4 preview: Dennis Guth vs. Susan Bangert

When the filing deadline passed for major-party candidates to run in Iowa’s June 7 primary, seven Republican state senators up for re-election this year had no challengers: Randy Feenstra (Senate district 2), Dennis Guth (Senate district 4), Mark Segebart (Senate district 6), Mark Costello (Senate district 12), Amy Sinclair (Senate district 14), Tim Kapucian (Senate district 38), and Ken Rozenboom (Senate district 40). Recruitment continued, as special district conventions may nominate candidates for seats where no one filed in time to be on the primary ballot.

Based on 2012 election results and incumbent weirdness, the most potentially competitive of the uncontested GOP-held Iowa Senate seats was arguably Guth’s. Democrats announced on April 25 that Susan Bangert will run in Senate district 4. I enclose below a map of this district and details about its recent voting history, along with background on Guth and Bangert.

Also on Monday, Dennis Mathahs confirmed plans to drop out of the Democratic primary in Iowa House district 75 in order to run against Kapucian in Senate district 38. A future post will preview that race.

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"Acela primary" discussion thread

Five states along the east coast held primaries today. Donald Trump had a clean sweep on the Republican side of the so-called Acela primary, named for the Amtrak express train that connects Boston to Washington, DC. As of 8 pm central time, Trump had won more than 50 percent of the votes counted in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Dark days lie ahead for the #NeverTrump crowd. Even if Ted Cruz manages to win the Indiana primary next week and John Kasich wins Oregon and New Mexico, stopping Trump from reaching 1,237 delegates before the Republican National Convention will be a tall order. Dave Wasserman published a good analysis of Trump’s success at FiveThirtyEight.com. I’ve posted excerpts after the jump.

Networks called Maryland for Hillary Clinton immediately after polls closed. At this writing, she has also been projected to win Pennsylvania and Delaware, while Bernie Sanders is set to win Rhode Island, and Connecticut is still too close to call. Clinton’s remarks to her supporters in Philadelphia tonight sounded very much like a general-election stump speech.

Dave Weigel noted Clinton has won eleven states she lost to Barack Obama in 2008: Iowa, Maryland, Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Even more striking, Weigel pointed out, "After tonight, Donald Trump will have won 12 of the 13 original colonies. He’s also favored to win in the 13th, New Jersey."

Any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread. Today the admin for U.S. Senate candidate Tom Fiegen’s social media blocked me on Twitter after I challenged one of Fiegen’s many tweets suggesting the Democratic superdelegates should switch from Clinton to Sanders. So touchy! Fiegen proceeded to block several people who had re-tweeted me or commented negatively about the blocking.

UPDATE: Added below the full text of Clinton’s speech tonight and a statement released by Sanders. Although he did not concede the nomination, he appears to be shifting to a fight about the Democratic Party platform, rather than trying to beat Clinton.

SECOND UPDATE: Clinton ended up winning Connecticut by about 5 points. Trump’s margins of victory were enormous in all five states: 29 points ahead of Kasich in Connecticut, 35 points in Pennsylvania, 31 points in Maryland, 39 points in Rhode Island, and 40 points in Delaware.

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One Iowa House Republican's strange and lonely battle against marriage equality

Seven years have passed since the Iowa Supreme Court struck down our state’s Defense of Marriage Act. The Republican-controlled Iowa House failed to approve a constitutional amendment to overturn that court ruling more than three years ago. Fewer than a quarter of GOP state representatives were willing to co-sponsor the marriage amendment in 2015. Even if Iowa lawmakers tried to turn back the clock on marriage equality, the effort would be futile, since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that all states must recognize marriages between same-sex couples.

Nevertheless, one Iowa House Republican won’t let this fight go. Today he seized on an unusual and futile way to register his discontent with the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien decision.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge highlights support from women in first batch of endorsements

Claiming to have "a broad, statewide network that can work together to defeat Chuck Grassley," former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge today released a list of nearly 60 prominent Iowa Democrats supporting her candidacy for U.S. Senate. I enclose below the full campaign statement, which highlighted endorsements from:

• "every living Democratic woman to hold a statewide office in Iowa," namely former Attorney General Bonnie Campbell, former Secretary of State Elaine Baxter, and former Lieutenant Governors Sally Pederson and Jo Ann Zimmerman. Gender will be a factor for many Iowa Democrats weighing their choices in the four-way IA-Sen primary.

• "activists and community leaders," such as LGBTQ advocates Nate Monson, Cecilia Martinez, and Bobbi Fogle; Jill June, the longtime leader of Iowa’s largest Planned Parenthood chapter; Joe Henry, national vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens; and former Secretary of State nominee Brad Anderson.

• "current and former elected officials," including former U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell, Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, former Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, and former Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran.

• former Iowa Democratic Party chairs Rob Tully and Michael Kiernan (and Bonnie Campbell), along with current and former county party chairs.

Also worth noting:

• While Judge’s list is heavy on Iowans who backed Hillary Clinton for president, it includes some well-known Bernie Sanders endorsers like Gluba and Henry.

• Judge has not peeled away any of the 61 Democratic state lawmakers (including 25 women) who endorsed State Senator Rob Hogg for IA-Sen earlier this year, before the former lieutenant governor and Iowa secretary of agriculture was known to be considering this race.

Any comments about the Senate campaign are welcome in this thread. With all respect to Judge and the women and men named below, someone who aligned herself with the Iowa Farm Bureau against efforts to clean up waterways will never get my vote in a Democratic primary.

P.S.- I got a kick out of seeing both Joe Henry and Des Moines activist Sean Bagniewski on Judge’s supporter list. Less than two weeks ago, they were key players on opposite sides in the epic drama also known as the Polk County Democratic Convention.

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How did this Iowa state senator escape a primary challenge?

State legislative incumbents typically are unchallenged for their party’s nomination, but every election cycle, some hopefuls take on sitting members of the Iowa House or Senate in a primary election. This year, nine Iowa House members (four Democrats, five Republicans) will face competitive primaries. Sometimes these long-shot candidates just want to serve in the legislature, like State Representative Kevin Koester’s GOP opponent in House district 38. Brett Nelson has run for the Iowa House more than half a dozen times.

Other primary challengers are motivated by ideology, like the Liberty-oriented former Congressional candidate Bryan Jack Holder. Wearing an 18th-century style tri-corner hat, he filed this year against State Representative Greg Forristall in House district 22.

Some challengers have a specific bone to pick with the incumbent. Conservative Dave Hartsuch ousted State Senator Maggie Tinsman, one of the last pro-choice Republicans to serve in the Iowa legislature, in a 2006 GOP primary. Hartsuch proved too extreme for his district and fell to Roby Smith in a primary four years later.

Occasionally, an incumbent who appears destined to fight for his party’s nomination ends up in an uncontested primary. In what I deemed a St. Patrick’s Day miracle two years ago, State Representative Josh Byrnes drew no GOP challenger despite having publicly supported marriage equality, Medicaid expansion, and a gasoline tax increase.

This year’s escape artist serves in the Iowa Senate, where no incumbents have any competition on the primary ballot. How he managed to avoid a battle with the far right is completely beyond me.

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Iowa Senate approves transgender protections in hate crimes law

The Iowa Senate voted today to add protections for transgender people to Iowa’s hate crimes law. Currently, hate crimes are defined as offenses "committed against a person or a person’s property because of the person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age, or disability, or the person’s association with a person of a certain race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, gender identity, gender expression, sex, sexual orientation, age, or disability." Senate File 2284 would add the words "gender identity" and "gender expression" to that list. The full bill text is after the jump.

Democratic State Senator Matt McCoy has championed this bill and addressed his colleagues yesterday about last week’s horrific murder of Kedarie Johnson, a 16-year-old high school student in Burlington who was transitioning from female to male. I enclose the video of that speech below.

During today’s floor debate, Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren, who is also running for Congress in Iowa’s second district, offered an amendment that would have removed all individual classes from the state code on hate crimes. McCoy countered that such an amendment would "destroy the point of a hate crimes statute." Senators rejected Chelgren’s amendment by 30 votes to 18, with Republicans Bill Dix, Mike Breitbach, Charles Schneider, and Jack Whitver joining all 26 Democrats to vote no. Chelgren then withdrew another amendment he had proposed, which would have added "military veteran or military personnel status" to the list of protected classes.

Republican Senator Jake Chapman offered an amendment to add "unborn status" to the hate crimes bill, but as he was speaking in its favor (and graphically describing abortion procedures), Democratic Senator Tony Bisignano questioned whether the remarks were relevant. McCoy then formally objected that the amendment was not germane, and Senate President Pam Jochum ruled the objection "well-taken" and Chapman’s amendment out of order.

Schneider was the only Republican to join all 26 Democrats in approving the bill on final passage. Republicans Rick Bertrand and Brad Zaun were absent, and the 21 other GOP senators voted no. Schneider represents my own district in the western suburbs of Des Moines, and I’m proud to see him continue a tradition of Republicans from this area supporting protections for LGBT Iowans. The same was true when the Iowa House and Senate added sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s Civil Rights Code in 2007, and when lawmakers approved an anti-bullying bill the same year.

I don’t expect Iowa House Republican leaders to bring up Senate File 2284 this year, but I hope to be proven wrong.

UPDATE: The video from today’s debate is up on the Iowa legislature’s website. Chapman went on for several minutes, starting around the 1:38 mark. Jochum repeatedly asked him to confine his remarks to why "unborn status" should be included in the hate crimes statute, but Chapman kept talking about abortion procedures.

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