Five Democrats who might run for Congress in IA-01

Despite the huge swing toward Donald Trump and down-ballot Republicans in northeast Iowa last year, Democrats are gearing up for a major challenge to GOP Representative Rod Blum in Iowa’s first Congressional district. Many Iowans considered Blum’s 2014 victory a fluke of a GOP wave year, but he outperformed Trump by about 5 points while winning re-election in 2016.

Now IA-01 is in the top tier of pickup opportunities for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Former Bernie Sanders campaign staffer Blair Lawton is already on the ground organizing for the Iowa Democratic Party in the district.

A competitive Democratic primary here is a near-certainty. After the jump, I’ve posted background on five possible candidates, in alphabetical order. I’d welcome tips on others who may be considering this race.

The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 164,485 active registered Democrats, 144,687 Republicans, and 189,606 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, a traditional Democratic stronghold that is also Blum’s home base.

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Democrats set to target Blum in IA-01; GOP will go after Loebsack in IA-02

Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting system has given our state an unusual number of competitive Congressional districts. Major-party candidates and outside groups spent millions of dollars last year in Iowa’s first district race pitting GOP Representative Rod Blum against Democratic challenger Monica Vernon, as well as in the third district, where Republican Representative David Young faced Democrat Jim Mowrer.

Not only are Democrats determined to go after IA-01 and IA-03 again in 2018, Iowa Republicans have signaled that they will try to defeat six-term Representative Dave Loebsack, who mostly got a pass in the second district during 2016.

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Weekend open thread: Threats to national security edition

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

Only one week into Donald Trump’s presidency, the outrages are piling up. Philip Rucker and David Filipov report today for the Washington Post that Trump has restructured the National Security Council to give his political strategist Steve Bannon a permanent spot on the “principals committee” of senior officials. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence will no longer be regular members of that committee. President George W. Bush never allowed his hatchet man Karl Rove to attend National Security Council meetings.

Trump issued several executive orders this week related to immigration. The most controversial (and probably unconstitutional) one restricts entry from seven countries–but maybe not for Christians from those areas. Despite the trending hashtag #MuslimBan, the order is technically not a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.–though Rudy Giuliani says Trump asked advisers to help him accomplish that goal through legal means. The White House is portraying the order as an anti-terrorism measure, but knowledgeable people know otherwise.

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IA-01: Democrat Courtney Rowe may challenge Rod Blum

Cedar Rapids-based engineer Courtney Rowe may run for Congress against Representative Rod Blum in Iowa’s first district, she confirmed to Bleeding Heartland today. Rowe has been an active Democrat locally and was a Bernie Sanders delegate to last year’s Linn County, first district, and state conventions, as well as an alternate to the Democratic National Convention. She has volunteered her time on church missions, as a mentor for middle-school students, and as an officer for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Rowe described her background and motivation for considering a Congressional bid in a document I enclose below. She has not yet created an exploratory committee but plans to launch a campaign website sometime next month, both to present some of her policy ideas and to create an interactive format for voters to weigh in on the issues.

The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 166,338 active registered Democrats, 146,164 Republicans, and 191,340 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, a traditional Democratic stronghold that is also Blum’s home base, where Democrats underperformed badly in 2016.

Blum was considered one of the most vulnerable U.S. House members in the country going into the 2016 election cycle, and many Iowa Democrats believed his narrow victory over Pat Murphy in 2014 had been a fluke. However, the Freedom Caucus member defeated Monica Vernon by a larger margin of 53.7 percent to 46.1 percent. Blum ran about five points ahead of Donald Trump, who carried the IA-01 counties by 48.7 percent to 45.2 percent. That was a massive swing from Barack Obama’s double-digit advantage in this part of Iowa in 2012.

Although I haven’t yet heard of any other Democrats thinking seriously about challenging Blum, I expect a competitive 2018 primary. Any comments about the race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released its first target list on January 30. IA-01 and IA-03 are among those 33 Republican-held House seats.

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17 Iowa politics predictions for 2017

Two weeks late and humbled by the results from previous efforts to foretell the future, I offer seventeen Iowa politics predictions for the new year.

I struggled to compile this list, in part because it’s harder to come up with things to predict during a non-election year. I didn’t want to stack the deck with obvious statements, such as “the GOP-controlled Iowa House and Senate will shred collective bargaining rights.” The most consequential new laws coming down the pike under unified Republican control of state government are utterly predictable. I needed time to look up some cases pending before the Iowa Supreme Court. Also, I kept changing my mind about whether to go for number 17. (No guts, no glory.)

I want to mention one prediction that isn’t on this list, because I don’t expect it to happen this year or next. I am convinced that if the GOP holds the governor’s office and both chambers of the Iowa legislature in 2018, they will do away with non-partisan redistricting before the 2020 census. I don’t care what anyone says about our system being a model for the country or too well-established for politicians to discard. Everywhere Republicans have had a trifecta during the last decade, they have gerrymandered. Iowa will be no exception. So if Democrats don’t want to be stuck with permanent minority status in the state legislature, we must win the governor’s race next year. You heard it here first.

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Steve King defends scrapping Ethics Office; Blum and Young say they oppose

The main order of business in the U.S. House on January 3 was electing the speaker on the first day of the new session. House members returned Paul Ryan to that position with only one dissenting vote from the GOP caucus, in contrast to January 2015, when Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and Steve King (IA-04) were among 25 Republicans not supporting Speaker John Boehner’s re-election.

The big news on Tuesday, however, was House Republicans backpedaling on their vote the previous night to gut the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics.

While staff for dozens of House members hid behind “we don’t know” or “we’ll get back to you” in response to constituent calls, King became one of the few “loud and proud” supporters of the amendment. In fact, he will seek to abolish the office rather than merely neutering it.

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