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Iowa Congressional 2Q fundraising news roundup, with a few surprises

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 13:24:37 PM CDT

With all four U.S. House districts in Iowa targeted by one or both parties this year, and competitive primaries happening in three of the four races, I was eager to see where the nominees stood at the end of the second quarter.

Highlights from the Federal Election Commission filings are after the jump. After lackluster fundraising the last three quarters, six-term Representative Steve King finally managed to out-raise his Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer, but to my surprise, Mowrer retained a big advantage over King in cash on hand as of June 30.  

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All four Iowa Congressional districts to be targeted races in 2014

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 10, 2014 at 15:12:59 PM CDT

All four Iowa Congressional districts are being targeted by at least one of the major-party committees focused on U.S. House races. This week the National Republican Congressional Committee moved three Iowa candidates to the top tier of its "Young Guns" program: Rod Blum (IA-01), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), and David Young (IA-03). The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee moved IA-03 nominee Staci Appel to the top tier of the "Red to Blue" program in March and elevated Pat Murphy (IA-01) and Jim Mowrer (IA-04) to that status shortly after the June 3 primary.

So far the DCCC does not appear concerned about four-term Representative Dave Loebsack's race against Miller-Meeks, whom he defeated by a large margin in 2008 and a narrow margin in 2010. In contrast to the last election cycle, Loebsack has not been added to this year's "Frontline" program for vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

Likewise, the NRCC has not put six-term incumbent Steve King in its "Patriot" program for vulnerable Republican House members, despite the fact that Mowrer has out-raised King for the last three fundraising quarters.

Not every candidate named to the "Young Guns" or "Red to Blue" program will receive the same level of financial assistance. I expect the DCCC and NRCC to spend more money in IA-03, generally considered the only "tossup" race in Iowa, than in the other three districts combined.

Any comments about this year's Iowa Congressional races are welcome in this thread. After the jump I've posted the latest voter registration totals for all four districts. Those numbers explain in part why various forecasters have categorized the seats in IA-01 and IA-02 as leaning or likely Democratic, while Republicans are favored to hold IA-04.

Next week, federal candidates must file financial reports for the second quarter. I'll be particularly interested to see how much Murphy, Young, and Miller-Meeks were able to raise between the June 3 primary and the end of the quarter. Although Young had to spend heavily and loan his own campaign $250,000 to get through the GOP primary, I expect his connections to Senator Chuck Grassley's network and multitudes of career lobbyists and Congressional staffers will allow him to keep pace with Appel, who has raised a lot of money and didn't have to spend much in her uncontested Democratic primary. I'm skeptical that Blum will be able to match Murphy in IA-01, even though Murphy wasn't the strongest fundraiser in the Democratic field there. I also wonder whether we'll see signs of King taking Mowrer's challenge more seriously than he has up to now.  

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Iowa reaction to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 13:23:00 PM CDT

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today in favor of Hobby Lobby's right not to provide contraception coverage in its health insurance package for employees. The Obama administration had already exempted some religious organizations and non-profits from the contraception mandate in the 2010 health care reform law. Today's ruling allows a closely-held (that is, not publicly traded) for-profit corporation to claim religious rights that override the rights of their employees, not to mention the need to comply with federal law.

You can read the full text of the Supreme Court's decision and dissents here (pdf). Justice Samuel Alito wrote the "opinion of the court," joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy. Strangely, Kennedy wrote a separate concurring opinion "in an attempt to show how narrow the Court's decision was." Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer dissented. The majority ruling appears to apply only to contraception health care services, as opposed to other medical procedures to which some groups have religious objections (such as vaccinations or blood transfusions). Still, Ginsburg seems on track when she warns that the court "has ventured into a minefield" by "approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation." Analyzing today's decision, Lyle Denniston predicted more litigation will be needed to clarify the limits of the new religious exemption for closely-held companies.

For background on the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case (formerly Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius) and the implications of the ruling, check the Alliance for Justice and SCOTUSblog websites.

After the jump I've posted comments from various Iowa elected officials and candidates. So far Iowa Democrats have been quicker to respond to the Hobby Lobby ruling than Republicans. I will update this post as needed.

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IA-01, IA-02: NRCC makes Blum, Miller-Meeks "contenders"

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 07:00:00 AM CDT

The National Republican Congressional Committee has elevated the GOP nominees in Iowa's first and second Congressional districts to the second level of their "Young Guns" program supporting challengers. Rod Blum will face former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy in the open IA-01. Mariannette Miller-Meeks will face four-term Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack for the third time in IA-02. As official NRCC "contenders," Blum and Miller-Meeks now have a chance to move up to the top level ("young guns") if they meet certain targets for fundraising and campaign organization.

Only some of the "young guns" will receive major financial assistance from the NRCC. So far, the group has reserved tv time for independent expenditures in seventeen Democratic-held U.S. House districts, none in Iowa. During the last election cycle, the NRCC paid for a small amount of advertising against Loebsack and against Representative Bruce Braley in IA-01 but never made a big commitment to either race.

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Four comments and a question about the IA-01 Democratic primary results

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 12:33:17 PM CDT

Past time for a post-mortem on the five-way Democratic primary in the open first Congressional district. Here are the unofficial results from June 3:

IA-01 Democratic primary results photo Screenshot2014-06-10at95141AM_zps4ce44fc8.png

A few thoughts struck me as I reflected on this campaign and looked more closely at the results.  

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IA-01, IA-04: DCCC put Murphy and Mowrer in "Red to Blue" program

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 17:15:00 PM CDT

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee included Pat Murphy (IA-01) and Jim Mowrer (IA-04) in the latest group of candidates promoted to the highest level of the "Red to Blue" program. (Staci Appel, the Democratic nominee in the open IA-03, was already promoted in the Red to Blue program earlier this year.) Mowrer is running in a tough district for any Democrat but raised more money than incumbent Steve King for the last three quarters. The DCCC had previously named IA-04 as an "emerging race."

Murphy just won a five-way primary in the Democratic-leaning first district. His opponent will be Rod Blum. Technically, IA-01 isn't a "Red to Blue" district because it's not Republican-held now; it's the open seat Bruce Braley is vacating in order to run for U.S. Senate.  

Red to Blue candidates are eligible for the highest level of support from the DCCC, although the committee won't necessarily spend much money in every named district. Last week the DCCC reserved television air time in IA-03 and IA-04, though ad buys are subject to change. Details are after the jump.

To my knowledge, the DCCC hasn't reserved any air time in IA-01 media markets. I doubt Murphy will need major independent expenditures to beat Blum. By the way, Murphy's four rivals in the Democratic primary endorsed him in statements released by the Iowa Democratic Party today. I've enclosed that press release below as well.

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Iowa primary election results thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 20:20:00 PM CDT

Polls close at 9 pm, and I'll be updating this post regularly with primary election results. Rumor has it that turnout was relatively low, even on the Republican side where there are hard-fought primaries for U.S. Senate and the third Congressional district. According to the Polk County Auditor's office, as of this afternoon only 1,506 absentee ballots had been requested and 1,350 absentee ballots received for today's GOP primary. Keep in mind that roughly half of all Republican voters in IA-03 live in Polk County, and six campaigns were competing for their votes. Not to mention that five U.S. Senate candidates should have been locking in early votes in Iowa's largest county.

By comparison, 2,883 Democratic primary absentee ballots were requested in Polk County, and 2,296 of those returned by today. The lion's share were from Iowa Senate district 17 in Des Moines, where three candidates are seeking to replace Jack Hatch (2,475 absentee ballots requested and 1,950 returned). Democratic campaigns have long pushed early voting more than Republicans, but still--that's a shocking failure to GOTV by the various Republican campaigns.

Share any comments about any Iowa campaigns in this thread, as well as any interesting anecdotes from voting today.

UPDATE: Polls are now closed and updates will continue after the jump.

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Enter Bleeding Heartland's 2014 Iowa primary election prediction contest

by: desmoinesdem

Sat May 31, 2014 at 16:10:00 PM CDT

I forgot to put up this year's primary election prediction contest earlier this week, but better late than never. To enter, post your answers to the twelve questions after the jump as a comment in this thread sometime before 7 am central time on Tuesday, June 3. It's fine to change your mind about some or all of your answers, as long as you post a comment with your new predictions before the deadline.  

Only comments posted in this thread will be valid contest entries. Predictions submitted by e-mail or twitter will not be considered. Please try to answer every question, even if it's just a wild guess. We're all guessing anyway, since few polls have been published about these races.

The winner receives no cash or other prizes--just bragging rights in the Bleeding Heartland community. Can someone stop ModerateIADem from "three-peating"? He won both the 2010 and the 2012 primary election prediction contests.  

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New polls show Pat Murphy, Rod Blum favored to win IA-01 nominations

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 22, 2014 at 10:35:00 AM CDT

Loras College has released its latest polls of the Democratic and Republican primaries in the first Congressional district. On the Democratic side, not much has changed the first Loras poll in April: State Representative Pat Murphy has a big lead and is close to the 35 percent he would need to win the primary outright on June 3. The latest poll memo is here, and full results are here (pdf). Among 300 likely Democratic primary voters surveyed on May 14 and 15, 34.7 percent plan to support Murphy, with 28.7 percent undecided. The next three candidates are still bunched close together: Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon and former State Senator Swati Dandekar both have 11.3 percent support, State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic has 9.3 percent, and Cedar Rapids attorney Dave O'Brien has 3.3 percent. Some may argue that Loras doesn't have a track record of Iowa polling. But it's notable that first-quarter financial reports indicated that all of the Democratic candidates had paid for survey research, yet only Murphy's campaign has released partial results from internal polling.

All five Democrats are running paid advertising and direct mail in the final weeks before the primary. Bleeding Heartland will survey the main messages from each candidate in a future post. The other candidates need to hope that no candidate wins 35 percent on primary day, though even in that scenario, I think the nomination would go to Murphy.

The latest Loras Republican poll in IA-01 shows a big shift toward Rod Blum since last month's survey. Among the 300 Republican respondents surveyed on May 15, 48.7 percent are undecided, but Blum is knocking on the door with 31.4 percent support. Steve Rathje is far back at 15.6 percent, and Gail Boliver barely registers at 2.4 percent. For months, I haven't doubted Blum's ability to win the GOP nomination. He is the only candidate in  a position to run a strong district-wide effort, and the National Republican Congressional Committee recognizes that fact.

Any comments about the IA-01 race are welcome in this thread. Most election forecasters, with one exception, see this open seat leaning Democratic. The latest figures from the Secretary of State's office indicate that the 20 counties in the Congressional district contain 158,580 active registered Democrats, 133,229 Republicans, and 192,921 no-party voters.

If Blum and Murphy win their respective party's nominations, the Dubuque area would be sending its first resident to Congress since Republican Tom Tauke (coincidentally a Loras College graduate) represented the area from 1979 through 1990.

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Labor union endorsements in contested 2014 Iowa Democratic primaries

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 21, 2014 at 12:17:37 PM CDT

With less than two weeks remaining before June 3, interest groups with a preference in competitive primaries have presumably made their views known by now. On the Democratic side, labor unions are most likely to get involved in primaries, so I wanted to compile in one place the full list of candidates in competitive Democratic races who have been endorsed by one or more organized labor group. None of the Democrats seeking statewide office in Iowa this year has a primary opponent, and I've omitted county-level races. The list below includes candidates running for Congress in the first district and seeking various Iowa House and Senate seats.

I will update this post as needed if I learn of other labor union endorsements. Note that many other Democratic candidates already have or will have organized labor's official support for the general election campaign. Blog for Iowa posted all of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO's endorsements for 2014 here. A complete list of candidates who will appear on primary ballots is on this page of the Iowa Secretary of State's website.

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Iowa House rejects broadband access bill

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 28, 2014 at 09:05:00 AM CDT

When bills come to the floor of the Iowa House or Senate, the outcome of the vote is typically a foregone conclusion. Leaders rarely call up bills that don't have the votes to pass. But in "the most surprising vote of the day, if not this year's session," Iowa House members on Friday rejected House File 2472, a bill designed to expand broadband access in small-town and rural Iowa. The initiative was among Governor Terry Branstad's legislative priorities this year. While the goal is uncontroversial, especially in communities where people are stuck with dialup internet, lawmakers disagreed on how to accomplish the task.

The House Journal for April 25 includes details from the floor debate, including roll calls on two Democratic amendments that failed to pass on party-line votes. One of them was a "strike" amendment replacing the entire content of House File 2472 with stronger incentives favored by House Democrats. After the routine business of rejecting minority party amendments, a vote was called on final passage. But only 42 Republicans voted yes, joined by just two Democrats. I've posted a list of yes and no votes after the jump. House Minority Leader Mark Smith said Democrats opposed the bill because it "does not go far enough in expanding broadband access to more homes and small businesses." The Republicans who voted no may have been put off by the size of the tax breaks or the lack of accountability. State Representative Guy Vander Linden told Radio Iowa, "We don't say they need to meet any requirements in terms of our capacity, speed - anything. All we say is: 'If you will put broadband infrastructure in place in any unserved or underserved area...we'll give you all these benefits.' That, to me, sounds like a blank check that I'm not willing to sign up to."

House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer has already filed a motion to reconsider the vote on this bill, so leaders may believe they can find the votes they need through friendly persuasion or arm-twisting. (She was one of the "no" votes, presumably to preserve her ability to file the bill again after realizing it would not pass.) Two Republicans (Clel Baudler and Ron Jorgensen) were absent from Friday's vote. Assuming they support the broadband bill and Upmeyer changes her vote, House leaders would need to persuade four more Republicans or Democrats.

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Education budget passes, ensuring tuition freeze at state universities

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 06:40:00 AM CDT

Iowa lawmakers are finally getting the hang of divided control--or maybe they just want to get out of town early in an election year. During the 2011 legislative session, Iowa House Republicans and Senate Democrats were still arguing about state budget targets well into June and didn't approve final spending bills until the very last day of the fiscal year.

In contrast, legislative leaders agreed on fiscal year 2015 spending targets seven weeks ago. On April 23, both the Iowa House and Senate approved the conference committee report for the education appropriations bill. Details on the education budget debate, final funding levels and roll calls are after the jump.

Amazingly, the legislature may be ready to adjourn for the year by the end of next week.

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Thoughts on the primary polls in IA-01, IA-02, and IA-03

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 10:30:22 AM CDT

Loras College in Dubuque released its first-ever set of polls on Iowa Congressional primaries this week. Click here for the polling memo and here (pdf) for further details, including the full questionnaires.

After the jump I've posted my thoughts on what these polls tell us about the front-runners (or lack thereof) in each primary. Unfortunately, a big methodological flaw makes it more difficult to interpret the results.

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IA-01: First-quarter fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 12:18:31 PM CDT

Since the last quarterly fundraising reports came in, the Republican primary race in Iowa's open first Congressional district has settled into a predictable win for Rod Blum. The Democratic primary is still highly competitive, though, with all five candidates in a position to run a district-wide race before June 3.  
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What could go wrong? Less training for manure spreaders edition

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 06:50:00 AM CDT

More than 800 manure spills have occurred on Iowa farms during the past two decades. At least 262 manure spills reached Iowa waterways between 2001 and 2011 alone, affecting the vast majority of counties.

More than half of rivers and streams in the region including Iowa are in "poor condition for aquatic life." Manure spills are a major contributing factor to this problem, and they are happening more often. The number of recorded manure spills in Iowa grew from 46 in 2012 to 76 in 2013.

How should state government respond to this set of facts? Various policies might address the explosion in waterways officially recognized as "impaired."  

But this is Iowa, where it's a minor miracle to get state lawmakers to take any steps against water pollution, and agricultural interests have repeatedly moved to undermine regulations related to the handling of manure on large-scale farms.

Last week, two-thirds of Iowa House members saw fit to reduce continuing education requirements for people certified to spread liquid manure on farm fields.  

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What could go wrong? Iowa House legalizes silencers (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 09:54:36 AM CST

Most gun-related bills failed to make it through in the Iowa legislature's first "funnel" last week. The list of proposals that are dead for this year included efforts to restrict access to firearms (such as Senate File 2179 to close the gun show loophole) and several bills aimed at making guns more available: House File 384 to authorize possession of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns; House File 169/Senate File 251 to allow Iowans with permits to carry concealed weapons on school grounds; House File 172 to allow school employees to carry guns in school; and House File 2012 to allow children as young as 12 to possess handguns.

The trouble is, many incumbents don't want to face the gun lobby's wrath in an election year. Many lawmakers want to have something to brag about when pro-gun activists compile scorecards and endorsement lists. Such concerns prompted Iowa House and Senate leaders to revive and eventually pass a 2010 bill to make it easier for Iowans to carry concealed weapons.

I believe the same dynamic prompted Iowa House members to vote overwhelmingly yesterday to legalize firearm suppressors, better known as "silencers" popular for many decades among snipers and assassins.

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IA-01: Is the Democratic primary Pat Murphy's to lose?

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 09:26:05 AM CST

By some measures, the race for the Democratic nomination in Iowa's first Congressional district looks wide open. All five candidates have raised enough money to run credible campaigns. None are rookie candidates: four have been elected multiple times to either local government or the state legislature, and the fifth has prior experience running for Congress.  

For various reasons, I've long felt that former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy was best positioned to win the Democratic nomination, whether it's decided in the June 3 primary or at an IA-01 district convention (if no candidate wins at least 35 percent of the primary votes).

Last week Murphy's campaign released partial results from an internal poll showing a "commanding lead" against his four Democratic rivals. I've enclosed the polling memo below, along with a few thoughts on its findings and the dynamic in this race going forward.

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IA-01 4Q fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 06:50:00 AM CST

Last week I never got around to posting highlights from the year-end Federal Election Commission reports for candidates in Iowa's open first Congressional district. Better late than never.

On the Democratic side, the money race remains highly competitive; all five candidates entered the election year with more than $100,000 to spend before the primary. The Republican race in IA-01 provided another reminder that establishment support does not necessarily translate into strong fundraising.  

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Judge orders Branstad administration to reopen Iowa Juvenile Home

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 13:29:14 PM CST

Polk County District Court Judge Scott Rosenberg ruled yesterday in favor of plaintiffs who are challenging the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home by the Iowa Department of Human Services. Finding that the four state legislators and the president of a public employees union were "likely to succeed on the merits" when the court considers their lawsuit, Judge Rosenberg granted the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. He ordered Governor Terry Branstad's administration to "reopen the Toledo home and abide by the duly passed laws of the state of Iowa which established the Toledo Home [...]."

After the jump I've posted an excerpt from the ruling, which you can read in full on the Des Moines Register's website. I've also posted reaction from several of the plaintiffs and from Branstad.

This isn't the first time a state court has found that the governor overreached in disregarding legislative intent on the allocation of state funds. Maybe Branstad should get better legal advice before deciding to ignore language from budget bills he signed into law.  

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Democratic legislators, AFSCME leader sue Branstad over closing juvenile home

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 03, 2014 at 11:15:00 AM CST

Four Democratic state legislators and the leader of Iowa's largest public employee union filed a lawsuit yesterday seeking to block Governor Terry Branstad's administration from closing the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo (Tama County) this month. Joining AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan are gubernatorial candidate Senator Jack Hatch, Senator Steve Sodders (whose district includes Toledo), Iowa House Minority Leader Mark Smith, and former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy. The lawsuit alleges that it is unconstitutional for Branstad to close the home after signing into law budget appropriations for operating the home in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. An official statement from the plaintiffs is after the jump, along with a brief summary provided by Sodders.

When Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer announced in December that the Iowa Juvenile Home would be closed after all the resident girls were relocated, he said the "difficult decision" was in the best interests of the girls who had lived there. Yesterday Governor Branstad also cited the interests of "those kids who've been mistreated and abused and not gotten their education."

Over the past year, the Des Moines Register's Clark Kauffman has documented outrageous practices at the Iowa Juvenile Home, including long placements in isolated cells. In October, a task force appointed by Branstad recommended reforms for the facility. The lawsuit alleges that at the governor's direction, DHS Director Palmer disregarded the task force's recommendations and will unlawfully use funds appropriated for the Juvenile Home for other purposes.

In 2012, the Iowa Supreme Court found that Branstad had improperly used his line-item veto power to change how state funds were allocated. This case is somewhat different but poses similar constitutional questions.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 671 words in story)
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