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What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? Rand Paul was in Cedar Rapids on Friday to headline the Republican Party of Iowa's spring fundraiser. Links and highlights are after the jump. Nothing I read convinced me that Paul has any chance of becoming president someday, but count on him to try.
Speaking of Rand, did you know that he was never board-certified? I learned that recently from an ophthalmologist and eye surgeon. After I mentioned that Iowa Department of Public Health Director Mariannette Miller-Meeks is also an ophthalmologist, she looked up Miller-Meeks in the academy database and commented, "She's well-trained." Miller-Meeks did her residency at the University of Iowa and a fellowship at the University of Michigan. She is board-certified and was re-certified about ten years ago.
This is an open thread: all topics welcome. In previous years I've posted Mother's Day links here, here, and here. Best wishes to those who celebrate today, and healing thoughts to those who grieve on Mother's Day.
Iowa House Assistant Majority Leader Steve Lukan announced yesterday that he will not seek a sixth term in the state legislature. His retirement improves Democrats' prospects of picking up the new Iowa House district 57.
UPDATE: Democrat Nancy Dunkel is running in this House district. Background from her January 6 press release is below.
October 15 was the deadline for Congressional candidates to file reports on their third-quarter fundraising with the Federal Election Commission. Follow me after the jump for highlights from the filings for incumbents and challengers in Iowa's four new Congressional districts.
I'm covering the districts in reverse order today, because based on second-quarter filings, political junkies are most closely watching the money race in IA-04 and IA-03.
Iowa Department of Public Health Director Mariannette Miller-Meeks on Friday reversed plans to eliminate the top administrator's position at the Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control. Her comments came several hours after Democratic State Senator Jack Hatch predicted "legal action" to challenge the way IDPH downsized its smoking prevention programs.
Iowa Department of Public Health Director Mariannette Miller-Meeks insisted on August 1 that state efforts to reduce and prevent smoking will continue deep despite budget cuts, which just cost a senior department staffer her job.
Representative Dave Loebsack has closed on a new house in Iowa City, a move that will enable him to run for re-election next year in Iowa's second Congressional district. The new map of political boundaries put Loebsack's longtime Linn County home in the first district, represented by fellow Democrat Bruce Braley. Loebsack announced plans to move into IA-02 the first day Iowa's map was proposed.
Since winning the 2006 election, Loebsack has represented Iowa's current IA-02, which has a partisan voting index of D+7. In other words, in last two presidential elections, the current IA-02 voted about seven points more Democratic than the national average. Loebsack won re-election in 2008 by more than a 20-point margin against Mariannette Miller-Meeks, but he was sweating it last fall. Both his campaign and the and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put up negative television commercials against repeat GOP nominee Miller-Meeks (see here, here and here). Loebsack ended up winning by a 49.7 percent to 44.7 percent margin.
The new IA-02 has a partisan voting index of about D+4. According to the Iowa Secretary of State's office, the Congressional district contained 503,218 active registered voters as of July 2011: 178,562 registered Democrats, 139,359 Republicans, and 184,692 no-party voters.
Not only does Loebsack's new district lean slightly less Democratic, the incumbent has never represented its most populous county. Scott County includes the Iowa side of the Quad Cities. As of July 2011, it contained 36,303 registered Democrats, 30,305 Republicans and 46,914 no-party voters. Braley lost Scott County in his narrow 2010 win over Republican Ben Lange in IA-01. Lange said in May that he will not move to IA-02 to challenge Loebsack. He has not ruled out a rematch against Braley in the new IA-01.
On July 6, Republican John Archer announced that he has filed paperwork to run for Congress in IA-02. Archer lives in Bettendorf, one of the Quad Cities, and is senior legal counsel for the John Deere company. He also serves on the Pleasant Valley school board. So far Archer's campaign website has only buttons for donors and volunteers and a link to the candidate's Facebook page. After the jump I've posted the full text of his campaign announcement.
Dolan, who has operated Dan Dolan Homes in Davenport for 20 years, said his decision to run is motivated by frustration with what he describes as "professional politicians." [...] Dolan is upset with the nation's accumulation of debt and what he sees as an unwillingness by those already in office to do anything about it. [...]
Dolan said the recent congressional redistricting in Iowa helped motivate him to consider running for office. He noted that the new district boundaries comprise a large portion of the areas where his company has a presence with housing developments.
According to dandolanhomes.com, Dolan's company has housing developments in Davenport, Muscatine, Blue Grass, Clinton, LeClaire and Iowa City.
Democratic-leaning Clinton County is the third most-populous in the new IA-02, and Loebsack has not represented that county before either. Braley carried Clinton against Lange in 2010.
On a party-line 26 to 23 vote, the Iowa Senate today approved a bill to restrict the locations of clinics where abortions are performed after 20 weeks gestation. Senators also rejected an attempt to bring up a broader ban on abortions after 20 weeks.
Follow me after the jump for background and details on the Senate debate, including the various amendments Republicans offered.
Governor Terry Branstad announced some important personnel decisions in the past few days, naming former State Representative Libby Jacobs to chair the Iowa Utilities Board and three new members of the Board of Regents, including Bruce Rastetter.
Follow me after the jump for more on those and other Branstad administration appointments.
UPDATE: On March 1 President Barack Obama named Branstad to co-chair the Council of Governors, "established by the National Defense Authorization Act in 2008 to strengthen further partnership between the Federal and State governments as it pertains to national security." Branstad will serve a two-year term as co-chair.
Another name that caught my eye was Eric Goranson, a lobbyist and parochial schools advocate whom Branstad named to the State Board of Education. He has been a leading critic of the Iowa Core Curriculum (see here and here). The Under the Golden Dome Blog argues that Goranson's appointment may violate Iowa code, which states, "A voting member [of the Board of Education] shall not be engaged in professional education for a major portion of the member's time nor shall the member derive a major portion of income from any business or activity connected with education." Several of Goranson's lobbying clients represent religious private schools or Christian home-schooling parents.
THIRD UPDATE: I forgot to mention Branstad's two appointees to the State Judicial Nominating Commission: Helen St. Clair of Melrose and William Gustoff of Des Moines. I have been unable to find any information about Helen St. Clair, but a Maurice St. Clair of Melrose was among Branstad's top 20 individual donors, contributing more than $45,000 to the gubernatorial campaign. I assume he is related to Helen St. Clair and will update this post if I confirm that. William Gustoff is a founding partner of the Whitaker Hagenow law firm, which includes Republican former U.S. attorney Matt Whitaker and State Representative Chris Hagenow. Branstad's legal counsel Brenna Findley also worked at Whitaker Hagenow last year.
Governor-elect Terry Branstad announced today that ophthalmologist Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks will run the Iowa Department of Public Health in his administration. A press release noted that Miller-Meeks "has served as the first woman President of the Iowa Medical Society and was the first [woman] on the faculty in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Iowa and councilor for Iowa to the American Academy of Ophthalmology." Miller-Meeks was the Republican nominee in Iowa's second Congressional district in 2008 and 2010. She worked hard during both campaigns but lost to Dave Loebsack in Iowa's most Democratic-leaning Congressional district.
Also on December 9, Branstad announced that he will tap Chuck Palmer to head the Department of Human Services in his administration. Palmer did that job during Branstad's previous time as governor from 1989 to 1999. Most recently he has been president of Iowans for Social and Economic Development, "an asset development organization with the mission of creating opportunities for low and moderate income Iowans to increase income and achieve financial stability."
Branstad has pledged to reduce the size of state government by 15 percent, and keeping that promise would likely require significant cuts in the departments Miller-Meeks and Palmer will be running. The current budget (fiscal year 2011) allocated $935.5 million from the general fund to health and human services. That's 17.7 percent of the general fund budget alone, or 15.9 percent of total state expenditures, including federal stimulus money and reserve funds as well as general fund spending. More than $200 million in federal stimulus money supported Iowa's Medicaid budget in the current budget year, but similar support won't be forthcoming in future years now that Republicans have a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Branstad administration press releases on Miller-Meeks and Palmer are after the jump.
County auditors have been certifying election results this week, and the Iowa House is almost certain to be split 60-40 in favor of Republicans. Three seats were determined by extremely narrow margins. Democrat Donovan Olson does not plan to seek a recount in House district 48, where he trails Chip Baltimore by fewer than 30 votes. Republican Roger Arthur does not plan to seek a recount in House district 18, where he finished 36 votes behind Andrew Wenthe. Republican Lannie Miller has not decided whether to ask for a recount in House district 7, but John Wittneben's margin of 32 votes is unlikely to be overturned in a recount.
The Iowa Senate is headed for a 26-24 Democratic majority. Certified election results put Democrat Keith Kreiman 12 votes behind Mark Chelgren in Senate district 47, while Democrat Tod Bowman is 71 votes ahead of Andrew Naeve in Senate district 13. If I were Kreiman, I would ask for a recount to be sure, but even a tiny margin of 12 votes (0.06 percent of the votes cast in that Senate race) probably wouldn't be reversed.
Election results show that voters angry about the Iowa Supreme Court's gay-marriage ruling played a role in defeating Kreiman.
In 2006, Kreiman won 71 percent of the votes in his home county, Davis County. This year, 774 more Davis County residents voted on judicial retention than in 2006.
Davis County was one of seven counties where the anti-retention vote was above 70 percent.
I suspect Mariannette Miller-Meeks' strong Congressional campaign played at least an equally important role in Chelgren's win. Senate district 47 includes Miller-Meeks' home base, the Ottumwa area, and she worked extremely hard all year.
Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley tried to psych out Democrats this week by saying he has "thought about" trying to convince state senators to switch to the GOP: "I think there are individuals that we know that clearly were put in tough situations over the past two or three years and might be more prone to that, but we thought about it. We'll analyze where we are and proceed accordingly."
Two Democrats flipping together could give Republicans a majority in the upper chamber, but I very much doubt that will happen. The moderate Democrats in the Senate caucus have more pull with Senate Majority leader Mike Gronstal than they would as junior members of a Republican majority. Also, it's not as if McKinley could promise party-switchers a smooth ride to re-election. U.S. Representative Parker Griffith of Alabama got crushed in a GOP primary this year after deserting the Democratic Party. An incumbent in a vulnerable Iowa Senate seat would not survive a Republican primary after voting for I-JOBS and all four of Chet Culver's budgets.
For your "no one could have predicted" file: going into today's election, Mariannette Miller-Meeks is the Iowa Republican U.S. House challenger considered to have the best chance of winning. When she announced plans to run in the second Congressional district again last year, I thought she was way too conservative to have a shot against two-term incumbent Dave Loebsack. IA-02 has a partisan lean of D+7, and Miller-Meeks received less than 40 percent of the vote in 2008. For months the district was considered safely Democratic, while Iowa's third Congressional district was rated a tossup.
Terry Branstad leads Governor Chet Culver 50 percent to 38 percent. That's down from a 19-point lead in the Register's September poll, but still a comfortable advantage. Culver's campaign released an internal poll last week showing a much tighter race, with Branstad ahead 46-40. I had assumed Republican internal polling also showed Culver gaining, because the Cook Political Report just shifted its rating on the Iowa's governor's race from safe Republican to leaning Republican. I don't think they would make that rating change if private polling showed Branstad at 50 percent with a double-digit lead.
Kathie Obradovich blogged tonight that Culver leads by 9 percent among respondents who had already voted, even though he trails by 12 percent among the whole sample. The Register's other piece on the new poll refers to "the electorate's conservative profile" but gives no details about the partisan breakdown of the sample. I will update this post if more details emerge about the poll's demographics.
Selzer and Co found Senator Chuck Grassley leading Roxanne Conlin 61 percent to 30 percent, virtually the same margin as in the Register's September Iowa poll.
The news for Iowa Supreme Court justices wasn't much better:
A third of likely Iowa voters say they will vote to retain Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit. Thirty-seven percent say they will vote to remove all three. Ten percent plan to retain some. The rest either don't plan to vote on judicial retention or haven't made up their minds.
I thought it was foolish for the anti-retention groups to feature Representative Steve King in their radio commercials, but if voters throw out the judges, King will be able to take some credit.
Obradovich didn't give poll numbers for the Congressional races but noted, "Mariannette Miller-Meeks appears to have the best chance of any of the GOP challengers to unseat an incumbent Democrat." That would be quite an achievement, since Iowa's second district has the strongest Democratic lean. However, Miller-Meeks has been campaigning hard, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's latest commercial against her is atrocious. It wouldn't surprise me if that ad drives more voters toward Miller-Meeks than toward incumbent Dave Loebsack.
Iowa Democrats need to get out the vote and hope the Register's poll contains faulty assumptions about who will turn out on Tuesday.
UPDATE: One positive sign for Loebsack is the large lead Democrats have in early voting in the IA-02 counties (pdf file).
SECOND UPDATE: The best news in the poll: Tom Miller 45, Brenna Findley 34.
Findley, a 34-year-old Dexter lawyer and tea party favorite, has spent more on advertising than Miller, who was first elected in 1978. However, Miller leads Findley among independent voters by 20 percentage points and nets a larger share of support from Democrats than Findley receives from Republicans.
What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.
The weather's been dry and unseasonably warm this October, ideal for candidates and volunteers. It's not too late to spend a few hours helping a campaign near you. The state legislative candidates can especially use help with phone-banking and door-knocking. Even if your home district is a shoo-in for one party, you probably live near one of the two dozen Iowa House districts or four Iowa Senate districts considered competitive.
For instance, the Des Moines area has basically no swing districts, other than House district 59 in the western suburbs, but it's easy for Democrats in the metro to volunteer for State Senator Staci Appel's campaign in Senate district 37. You don't even have to drive down to Warren or Madison County. Volunteers can make phone calls for Appel at the AFSCME Local 61 office (4320 NW Second Avenue in Des Moines) on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 pm to 8 pm, on Saturdays from noon to 6 pm, or on Sundays from 1 pm to 6 pm. I did this one evening, and it's so easy.
If you want to help but don't know how or where, I recommend calling your county Democrats or the Iowa Democratic Party (515-244-7292). Volunteers will also be needed on election day for phone-banking and contacting likely Democratic supporters who haven't voted yet.
Newspapers across the state have been weighing in on the elections. I've been browsing the endorsement editorials, and a few have left me wondering what the editors could have been thinking. Some examples are after the jump.
I figured Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was too conservative to have a chance against Representative Dave Loebsack in Iowa's second Congressional district. Loebsack represents the most Democratic-leaning House district in the state (partisan index D+7), and Miller-Meeks failed to reach the 40 percent mark in 2008. But I was wrong. Plenty of House incumbents who cruised two years ago are in tough races now, and many signs point to a highly competitive rematch in IA-02.
It's been too long since Bleeding Heartland last checked in on this race. Television commercials for Miller-Meeks and Loebsack are after the jump, as well as highlights from this week's debate between the candidates.
Two-term incumbent Dave Loebsack launched the first television commercial of this year's campaign on Thursday. The 30-second spot is playing district-wide (Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities, Ottumwa-Kirksville, and Quincy, Illinois) on broadcast and cable networks. The campaign hasn't specified the size of the buy.
Loebsack: I'm Dave Loebsack, and I approved this message.
Male voice-over: Raised in poverty by a single mother, Dave Loebsack knows first-hand the struggle just to get by. Starting at 16, Loebsack pulled himself up, worked at a sewage treatment plant, then through college as a janitor. It's why Loebsack is fighting to help small business create jobs and hold Wall Street accountable for recklessness and greed. Because Dave Loebsack will always stand up for what's right.
This ad doesn't break any new ground visually or in terms of content. The biographical piece emphasizing the candidate's humble beginnings and connection to ordinary people has become a staple of campaigns for all offices. The only unusual thing I noticed is the man with a pony tail talking to Loebsack near the end of the commercial. I'm not sure I've ever seen that in an Iowa political ad before. But it's hardly a radical fashion statement in a district with the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor as its population center.
Loebsack's campaign hasn't released any internal polling on his rematch against Mariannette Miller-Meeks, but I assume it's not too terrible if he's beginning with a positive ad. Many Democratic incumbents around the country are already running negative spots about the Republican challenger. Representative Leonard Boswell's opening radio advertisement contrasted his record on biofuels with statements by Republican Brad Zaun.
Among Iowa's five Congressional districts, IA-02 has the strongest Democratic lean (partisan voting index of D+7). In other words, Loebsack's district voted about 7 points more Democratic than the national average in the last two presidential elections. The Iowa City ballot measure regarding the ban on under-21s in bars will probably drive student turnout higher than in an ordinary midterm election, which has to be good for Loebsack.
"Where rubber hits the road - because it's connected to the deficit issue, the debt issue - is what we do about those making over $200,000 and couples making $250,000?" he said. "I've said all along that I didn't want to extend those [Bush] tax cuts, but I'm rethinking that at the moment."
Extending the tax cuts for those top-earners would cost the federal treasury $700 billion over 10 years, but Loebsack is having second thoughts because of the impact ending the tax cuts for the wealthy might have on the economy.
"We have a weak recovery that needs to continue," Loebsack said. "Those folks at those top levels consume a pretty fair amount of what is consumed in this country and this is a demand-driven economy.
No, the folks at the top tend not to spend most of what they get back in tax cuts. In contrast, people who are struggling will spend all their extra money immediately. If Congress wants to "support the recovery" to the tune of $70 billion a year, they should extend unemployment benefits for the "99-ers" (those who have exhausted all 99 weeks of payments). Unemployment benefits are among the most stimulative forms of government spending.
The conservative 501(c)4 organization American Future Fund commissioned polls last week in Iowa's first, second and third Congressional districts. Yesterday the group released partial results from the surveys, touting the supposedly low re-elect numbers for Bruce Braley (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03).
The topline results showed Democratic incumbents leading their challengers in all three races, even among the "certain to vote" sub-sample.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks considered withdrawing from her rematch against Representative Dave Loebsack in Iowa's second Congressional district this summer, the Republican candidate told the Des Moines Register's editorial board yesterday. Miller-Meeks stepped down from her ophthalmology practice in early 2009 to focus on running for Congress again, so when her husband lost his job this July, her family had no income.
Miller-Meeks said she told no one about her dilemma, not even Republican Party officials. [...]
The family financial crisis influenced her political perspectives, she said. It sharpened her beliefs that the government should stay out of debt and that steps must be taken to make health insurance more affordable.
Since stepping down from her medical practice, Miller-Meeks had had health insurance coverage through her husband's job. He has a new job now, but Miller-Meeks told the Register's staff that she has chosen not to be on his insurance plan.
"I'm a very healthy person, and what I've done is look at my family history and determine what my level of risk is," she said. "Am I saying it's a smart thing to do? No. I think we need to make health insurance more affordable."
The country needs to get to a point where a family of four can pay $2,000 a year for a plan that covers immunizations, preventative medicine and catastrophic needs, Miller-Meeks said. She also supports a nationwide risk pool and allowing health insurance purchasing across state lines, she said.
If elected, she would like to choose a federal plan that covers only catastrophic illness or injury, she said.
It must have been a very stressful summer for the Miller-Meeks family. While I'm sorry to hear about her situation, I wouldn't recommend going without health insurance based on a good medical history. A flukey infection can incur tens of thousands of dollars in health care costs, to say nothing of a cancer diagnosis or some chronic illness. I also wouldn't advise a friend to choose a limited catastrophic plan like the one Miller-Meeks prefers for herself and many others. There's a reason such policies are commonly known as "junk insurance." Letting people buy insurance across state lines sounds good in theory, until you consider how the race to the bottom gutted regulations for credit card issuers.
Miller-Meeks is a hard worker and clearly committed to seeing this race through, but some Republicans may be upset to learn that she was on the verge of quitting for the second election in a row. A wingnut faction in the Iowa GOP already distrusts Miller-Meeks for allegedly being too moderate.
Few analysts expect the IA-02 race to be competitive this year, because the district has a strong Democratic lean, and Loebsack defeated Miller-Meeks by 57 percent to 39 percent in 2008. (A Green Party candidate who isn't running this year picked up 3 percent last cycle.) Loebsack also has a large cash on hand advantage over his challenger. Then again, the overall political environment favors Republicans, and pockets of the second district have high unemployment.
Any comments about the IA-02 campaign are welcome in this thread.
CORRECTION: I didn't realize that the candidates had agreed to three debates already: an AARP forum in Coralville on September 13, a joint Iowa Public Television appearance on September 24 and a debate hosted by KCRG in Cedar Rapids on October 12.
UPDATE: Miller-Meeks thinks staggered enrollment in Medicare is the way to make the program solvent. But people approaching retirement age are among those most likely to have pre-existing conditions and have sky-high private insurance costs. How is that going to work?
You come across the strangest things on Twitter sometimes:
Yes, it's delusional to believe Politico is in the game to "protect" Barack Obama, but for now I'm more interested in Republican National Committeewoman Kim Lehman's claim that the president is Muslim. Presumably she was responding to Tim Grieve's August 19 report for Politico on the latest Pew survey about the president's religion. Pew found that about 18 percent of American adults say Obama is Muslim, while about 34 percent say Obama is Christian. About 34 percent of those who identified themselves as conservative Republicans told Pew Obama was Muslim. Grieve's report referred to "a dramatic spike in false views about the president's religious faith." Politico's Josh Gerstein also reported on the Pew finding, as well as a Time magazine survey which (using different wording) found even higher numbers of Republicans believe the president is Muslim.