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GOP State Representative Josh Byrnes will not run for Iowa Senate district 26

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 07, 2015 at 11:14:00 AM CDT

Republican State Representative Josh Byrnes will not run against Democratic State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm in Iowa Senate district 26 next year. The Iowa House Transportation Committee chair has thrown his hat in the ring to replace Kraig Paulsen as House speaker. Regardless of how the speaker contest goes, Byrnes confirmed to Bleeding Heartland, "I am not running for Senate."

The news will lift Democratic spirits, as Byrnes would have been the obvious GOP recruit for this competitive Senate district. Democrats hold a 26 to 24 majority in the upper chamber, and Republicans will almost certainly target Wilhelm next year.

First elected to the upper chamber in 2008, the former Howard County supervisor was the Iowa Senate incumbent re-elected by the narrowest margin in 2012. Redistricting pitted Wilhelm against GOP State Senator Merlin "Build my fence" Bartz, whom she defeated by just 126 votes in a district where Barack Obama carried 55.6 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, Byrnes was re-elected to the Iowa House by more than 4,000 votes in 2012, even as Obama carried 55.2 percent of the vote in House district 51. Only two other Republican-held House seats went to Obama by a larger margin: House district 91 (Muscatine area) and House district 58 (Maquoketa). Byrnes easily won re-election in 2014 as well. He disagrees with his more conservative House colleagues on some high-profile issues, giving him potentially strong crossover appeal.

I haven't heard of any other Republicans taking a close look at Senate district 26. I encourage Bleeding Heartland readers who know differently to contact me. Since December 2012, Bartz has run Representative Steve King's district office in Mason City. I will be surprised if he runs for the Iowa Senate again.

Senate district 26 includes all of Worth, Mitchell, Floyd, Howard and Chickasaw counties, part of Cerro Gordo County (but not Mason City or Clear Lake) and part of Winneshiek County (but not Decorah). A detailed map is after the jump. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office, Senate district 26 contains 11,202 active registered Democrats, 11,101 Republicans, and 16,899 no-party voters.

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Three cheers for Iowa's county recorders

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 24, 2015 at 11:23:52 AM CDT

Less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court majority struck down state-level bans on same-sex marriages, at least two county clerks in Kentucky have refused to issue marriage licenses to LGBT couples, prompting a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky on behalf of four couples. One of the county clerks has decided to stop issuing marriage licenses to anyone in her county so that she can't be forced to perform that service for LGBT citizens. How embarrassing. You want nothing to do with same-sex marriages? Go work for a church that doesn't recognize them.

I'm so proud that to my knowledge, no county recorder in Iowa ever used his or her religious convictions as an excuse for not doing a secular job in a professional way.

Not for lack of trying by some social conservative activists, egged on by certain Iowa Republican lawmakers. Follow me after the jump for a walk down memory lane and a list of Iowa counties where LGBT couples have exercised their right to marry since 2009.

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Weekend open thread: New jobs for former Iowa lawmakers edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Mar 15, 2015 at 09:56:11 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Looking through Governor Terry Branstad's latest set of appointments and nominations, I was again struck by how many former Iowa House and Senate members end up on state boards and commissions. I remember Governors Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver appointing lawmakers to high-profile jobs too, but the trend seems more pronounced under the current governor. Background and details on the new appointees are after the jump.

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Fewer Iowa Senate Republicans eager to ban same-sex marriage

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 23, 2015 at 11:08:08 AM CST

Ever since I saw how few Iowa House Republicans are still co-sponsoring a state constitutional amendment on marriage, I've been watching and waiting for Republicans in the state Senate to introduce their version of the same legislation. Any effort to overturn marriage equality will be a dead letter in the Iowa Senate as long as Democrats maintain their majority. Nevertheless, I was curious to see how many (or few) Republican senators are still willing to stand up and be counted on this issue.

Late last week, State Senator Dennis Guth, one of the leading social conservatives in the chamber, finally introduced Senate Joint Resolution 6, "specifying marriage between one man and one woman as the only legal union that is valid or recognized in the state." Just eleven of the 24 Republicans are co-sponsoring this amendment. That's a significant drop from two years ago, when three-quarters of the Iowa Senate GOP caucus co-sponsored the marriage amendment.

Looking more closely at who is and is not "loud and proud" about taking rights away from LGBT couples, some patterns emerge.

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Fired Iowa Senate Republican staffer files sexual harassment lawsuit

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 17, 2014 at 12:30:00 PM CDT

Former Iowa Senate Republican staffer Kirsten Anderson filed a lawsuit in Polk County District Court yesterday, claiming she was subjected to "sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act." Anderson served as communications director for the Iowa Senate GOP caucus from February 2008 to the middle of May 2013. Bleeding Heartland covered the circumstances surrounding her firing here and here. Anderson filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission last year. She is suing the State of Iowa, the Iowa Senate, the Iowa Senate Republican caucus, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, Iowa Senate Republican senior staffer Eric Johansen, and Ed Failor, Jr., the primary advisor to Dix since shortly after Dix was chosen to lead the GOP caucus in late 2012.

William Petroski's report for the Des Moines Register includes a link to the 20-page court filing, which can be downloaded as a pdf file. Pages 3 through 7 list many incidents supporting Anderson's claims about a hostile work environment and sexual harassment, starting in 2010. Several current and former lawmakers are named. The lawsuit paraphrases inappropriate comments by former GOP Senators Shawn Hamerlinck and Merlin Bartz. Senator Tim Kapucian is said to have laughed at an unnamed senior analyst's inappropriate comments about a "loose" female Democratic senator. Senators Joni Ernst and Sandy Greiner allegedly "did and said nothing" after witnessing "sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior exhibited by their male colleagues." Ernst denied that charge in a written statement, which I've enclosed after the jump. She suggested Anderson was perhaps "being exploited ahead of the election."

Speaking to the Des Moines Register, Anderson's attorney Mike Carroll

denied any political motivation behind the timing of the lawsuit. He said that before a lawsuit could be filed, his client had to file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. The complaint was filed last year. The commission issued a letter in July giving Anderson 90 days to file a lawsuit, and the filing deadline was set to expire Oct. 29, he said.

In her own statement, Anderson said, "As to the suggestions that I am a pawn in a political drama, that is not the case. I am standing up for my rights as an employee; a right to work in a place without inappropriate and discriminatory conduct."

Pages 12 through 17 of the court filing include a memo Anderson handed to Johansen on the morning of May 17, 2013, suggesting that her work was being criticized because she had complained about a "sexually hostile work environment" that "no private sector workplace would tolerate." Later the same day, in Dix's presence, Johansen gave Anderson a choice of resigning or being fired. Pages 17 and 18 list six causes of action under the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Anderson is seeking back pay and benefits, compensatory damages, a ruling that her termination was unfair and/or discriminatory, and injunctive relief requiring (among other things) new training procedures for Iowa Senate staffers.

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Five Iowa Senate races to watch in 2014

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 02, 2014 at 10:34:50 AM CST

It's the time of year for blog posts about notable candidates and upcoming elections. Every politically engaged Iowan knows already that 2014 will be an unusually exciting year. We haven't seen an open U.S. Senate race since 1974. The last time Iowa's first Congressional district was open was in 2006. The last time Iowa's third Congressional district was open was in 2002, but it wasn't a wide open seat, since incumbent Representative Leonard Boswell moved into Polk County to run. Amazingly, 1940 was the "last time there was a Congressional race in Polk County without an incumbent seeking re-election." All of Iowa's statewide elected officials are up for re-election as well this year, and the secretary of state's position may become open if Matt Schultz decides to go for the Republican nomination in IA-03.

Since Bleeding Heartland readers already know about the big Iowa races to watch, I want to focus today and tomorrow on the elections that are likely to determine control of the Iowa House and Senate in 2015 and 2016.  

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Timothy Junker first GOP challenger against Amanda Ragan in Iowa Senate district 27

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 15:05:00 PM CST

Three-term Democratic State Senator Amanda Ragan has her first declared challenger, as Timothy Junker announced yesterday that he will seek the Republican nomination in Iowa Senate district 27.

Ragan's race is one of a handful of contests that will likely determine control of the Iowa Senate after 2014. As of December 2013, Senate district 27 contained 11,997 registered Democrats, 13,396 Republicans, and 17,747 no-party voters according to the Iowa Secretary of State's office. I've posted a district map after the jump. It covers Franklin County, part of Butler County, and most of Cerro Gordo County, including the population center of Mason City.

Junker is from Butler County and served six terms as the elected county sheriff before President George W. Bush appointed him U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Iowa in 2006. Since leaving that position in 2010, "Junker has been selling real estate for Schuck Realty Co., served on the Allison City Council and Allison Tree Board, and is an active member of Trinity Reformed Church, Allison Am Vets and the Am Vets/Legion Drill Team." He has been exploring this candidacy for some time and held a meet and greet with Franklin County Republicans earlier this month.

I've heard rumors of several other Republicans considering this race. This fall, some Mason City residents received telephone polls asking whether they would support former Mayor Bill Schickel or Ragan for the Senate seat. Other possible candidates include former Mason City Mayor Roger Bang and former State Senator Merlin "build my fence" Bartz, who runs Representative Steve King's Mason City office. Bartz would have to move from his Worth County farm to run against Ragan, though. Cerro Gordo County GOP Chair Gabe Haugland was on my radar because he considered running for the Iowa House during the last election cycle. But he told me today that he is "99 percent sure" he is not running in Senate district 27.  

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Health insurance compromise will be key issue in Iowa Senate district 27 (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 28, 2013 at 09:35:00 AM CDT

Many questions remain to be answered about Iowa's new plan to provide health insurance to low-income citizens, but this much is clear: resolving the impasse over Medicaid expansion will be a major theme in State Senator Amanda Ragan's re-election campaign next year.

Follow me after the jump for background on Ragan and more details about Iowa Senate district 27, sure to be targeted by both parties in 2014.  

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First look at the potential Republican field in IA-01

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 11:30:28 AM CST

No Republicans have announced firm plans to run for the open seat in Iowa's first Congressional district, but several people are definitely or rumored to be considering the race.

To evaluate who is best poised to win this Democratic-leaning district, it's helpful to look at where the votes are in a Republican primary as well as in a general election. After the jump I've posted a district map, the latest voter registration numbers for the 20 counties in IA-01, and a brief take on some of the possible Republican candidates.  

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Democrats have failed to convey the importance of the Iowa Senate

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 07:41:11 AM CST

On one level, yesterday's special election in Iowa Senate district 22 was no surprise. One would expect a Republican victory in a district with a large GOP voter registration advantage, where Republicans spent far more money and only the Republican candidate ran television commercials.

On the other hand, the special election loss is a big red flag that Iowa Democrats have failed to communicate how crucial it is to hold their narrow Senate majority.

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Where are they now? Merlin Bartz and Annette Sweeney edition

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 16:35:00 PM CST

Losing a re-election contest is no fun for any state legislator, but defeated incumbents often land on their feet. Such is the case with outgoing State Senator Merlin Bartz and State Representative Annette Sweeney.
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Weekend open thread: Woulda, coulda, shoulda edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 10:50:10 AM CST

Now that we've all had a few days to take in the election results, candidates and political activists in both parties can reflect on how our time and money could have been better spent during the campaign. After the jump I've posted links about Republican and Democratic regrets.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Huge day for marriage equality in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 07:25:00 AM CST

Supporters of LGBT equality are celebrating yesterday's votes for same-sex marriage rights in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, as well as Minnesotans rejecting a constitutional amendment designed to restrict marriage rights to heterosexuals.

The election also slammed the door on any prospect of overturning marriage equality in Iowa.

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Democratic and Republican party spending in the Iowa Senate races

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 19:16:09 PM CST

Candidates for the Iowa legislature were required to submit campaign finance disclosure reports on October 19 and November 2. The Schedule E forms on "In-Kind Contributions" contained the most interesting numbers, because they showed how Democratic and Republican party leaders are allocating resources across the battleground districts.

After the jump I've enclosed in-kind contribution figures for the Senate districts expected to be in play tomorrow. Candidates running in other Senate races did not report large in-kind contributions from their respective parties.

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Vander Plaats group on radio in two races, conspicuously absent in one

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 16:15:00 PM CDT

Three-time candidate for Iowa governor Bob Vander Plaats has made news this fall primarily on the "No Wiggins" campaign trail. However, the social conservative group he runs is supporting some Republican Iowa Senate candidates as well.

Last week the FAMiLY Leader launched radio advertising campaigns in two competitive Senate races--but notably, not in the district where Vander Plaats' longtime right-hand man Matt Reisetter is running.  

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Iowa Senate ad watch: Water bottles (really)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 14:10:00 PM CDT

In a surprising turn of events, Republican challengers are putting an obscure vote on water bottles at the center of their attacks on Iowa Senate Democrats. Follow me after the jump for background on this year's equivalent to the non-existent "heated sidewalks" of 2010.
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Hello Dolly! The War on Women, Iowa Edition

by: 2laneIA

Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 08:41:14 AM CDT

(Great post. Iowa Senate District 26 is one of the tossup races that will determine control of the Senate for the next two years. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Merlin Bartz is an Iowa State Senator who carries around an unusual picture of his opponent, State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm.  The photo is a life-size legless paper doll. At public events he sets his creepy companion in a chair next to him.  If Senator Wilhelm arrives at the event, she has to move it so she can sit down.
lakemillsforum-sm
What message do you think this sends to Iowans? To women? To Senator Wilhelm?

There is more below the fold.
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Weekend open thread: Iowa state legislative race edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 07:00:00 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? A bunch of posts on Iowa House and Senate races are in the works for the next couple of weeks. Several Democratic candidates for the Iowa House have been targeted by push-polls similar to the one I received attacking Susan Judkins in House district 43. Direct mail pieces are resurrecting some of the dishonest Republican talking points of the 2010 campaign, including non-existent "heated sidewalks" allegedly funded with state money, fancy flowerpots and "bus service for lobbyists."

Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee strategists included three Iowa Senate races in the new list of 50 essential state legislative races around the country. Those are Senate district 26, where Democratic incumbent Mary Jo Wilhelm faces Republican incumbent Merlin "build my fence" Bartz, Senate district 46, pitting Republican incumbent Shawn "Go Home" Hamerlinck against challenger Chris Brase, and Senate district 49, an open seat pitting almost-elected 2010 GOP candidate Andrew Naeve against longtime teacher and planning and zoning commissioner Rita Hart on the Democratic side.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, who is working hard to preserve his 26-24 edge in the chamber, has chaired the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee since 2007. Republicans failed to recruit a strong candidate against Gronstal in the new Senate district 8, covering Council Bluffs and Carter Lake.

This is an open thread. If you've noticed any interesting direct mail, phone calls, radio or television commercials supporting or attacking Iowa House and Senate candidates, please post a comment here, put up your own diary, or send a message to desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com. Most of the candidates are not uploading their campaign advertising to YouTube. Remember not to hang up the phone when you get calls targeting your local state legislative candidates. Instead, take detailed notes if you can, and don't be afraid to ask the caller to repeat the questions.

UPDATE: Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak and Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack will be at today's Reichert Oktoberfest in Muscatine supporting state Senate Candidates Brase and Tom Courtney and state House Candidates John Dabeet and Sara Sedlacek.  

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First look at the Obama and Romney ground games in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:45:00 AM CDT

At this time four years ago, Barack Obama's campaign had about 30 field offices up and running in Iowa, compared to six offices for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Obama's campaign has had eight Iowa field offices open this summer and is rolling out another 26 offices around Iowa this weekend. So far, Mitt Romney's campaign has ten Iowa field offices, in addition to the unified Republican headquarters in Urbandale.

After the jump, I compare the field office locations for each presidential campaign, grouped by Iowa Congressional district. Where relevant, I've also noted competitive Iowa House and Senate districts near the Obama and Romney field offices, although I doubt either presidential campaign will do much for down-ticket Democratic or Republican candidates.

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Weekend open thread: Candidate filing deadline edition

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 16, 2012 at 20:26:59 PM CDT

I'm posting the weekend thread early, because the filing period for primary election candidates in Iowa closed this afternoon. The Secretary of State's Office posted the full list of candidates here (pdf). John Deeth has been covering the filing on a daily basis all month at his blog. Some highlights from races I'm watching are after the jump.

This is an open thread; all topics welcome.

UPDATE: Gotta agree with Senator Chuck Grassley: the History Channel is useless.

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