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Third-party and independent candidates in Iowa's 2014 elections

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 21, 2014 at 11:25:50 AM CDT

The filing period for general election candidates in Iowa closed last Friday, so it's a good time to review where candidates not representing either the Democratic or Republican Party are running for office. The full candidate list is on the Iowa Secretary of State's website (pdf(. After the jump I discuss all the federal, statewide, and state legislative races including at least one independent or minor-party candidate. Where possible, I've linked to campaign websites, so you can learn more about the candidates and their priorities.

Rarely has any Iowa election been affected by an independent or third-party candidate on the ballot. Arguably, the most recent case may have been the 2010 election in Iowa's first Congressional district. Final results showed that Democratic incumbent Bruce Braley defeated Republican challenger Ben Lange by 4,209 votes, while conservative candidates Rob Petsche and Jason Faulkner drew 4,087 votes and 2,092 votes, respectively.

Any comments about Iowa's 2014 elections are welcome in this thread.

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Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 08:10:18 AM CDT

Forty men and ten women currently serve in the Iowa Senate. No senators are African-American, Latino, or Asian-American.

Seventy-five men and 25 women currently serve in the Iowa House. Five state representatives are African-American and none are Latino or Asian-American.

Time for a look at how those numbers might change after the November election, now that primaries have determined the major-party nominees in all state legislative districts. Click here for the June 3 unofficial election results and here for the full list of candidates who filed to run in the primaries.

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Julian Garrett will represent Iowa Senate district 13 next year

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 07:40:00 AM CST

State Representative Julian Garrett won yesterday's special election in Iowa Senate district 13 by 3,908 votes to 2,627 for Democrat Mark Davitt, according to unofficial results (59.8 percent to 40.2 percent). He carried both the election-day vote and and the early vote.

During the 2014 legislative session, Democrats will retain a 26 to 24 Iowa Senate majority. Garrett will face re-election next year but will be heavily favored unless one of the far-right Republicans who sought the nomination for the special manages to defeat him in the primary. In 2012, Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama by 51.4 percent of the vote to 47.2 percent in Senate district 13.

Iowa will be better off without Kent Sorenson's toxic presence in the state Senate, even though Garrett's victory makes this Senate district a safer Republican hold next November.

Garrett will soon resign as state representative, forcing a special election in Iowa House district 25 in early January. After the jump I've posted a map of that district, covering Madison County and parts of Warren County. In 2012, Garrett defeated Democratic challenger Katie Routh by 9,082 votes to 7,487 (54.8 percent to 45.1 percent), while the presidential vote in House district 25 split 54.1 percent for Romney, 44.3 percent for Obama.

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Republican Julian Garrett leads Iowa Senate district 13 early voting

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 12:40:00 PM CST

Republican State Representative Julian Garrett has the wind at his back going into today's special election in Iowa Senate district 13. The district covers Madison County and most of Warren County. According to local elections officials, Republicans have returned 398 absentee ballots in Madison County, compared to 173 returned ballots from registered Democrats and 75 from no-party voters. In Warren County, Republicans have returned 947 ballots, compared to 767 from Democrats and 157 from no-party voters. Garrett lives in Madison County and represents that county plus parts of Warren County in the Iowa House. Democratic candidate Mark Davitt grew up in Madison County and has long lived in the Indianola area, representing much of Warren County in the Iowa House for six years.

There's no way to know yet which party was more successful identifying early supporters among independents, but GOP activists were able to generate more ballot requests and returns from partisans. As of November 1, Senate district 13 contained 13,291 registered Democrats, 15,037 Republicans, and 15,968 no-party voters.

Republican Senator Kent Sorenson's resignation opened up this seat. If Garrett wins, Democrats would maintain a 26 to 24 majority in the Iowa Senate. A win for Davitt would expand the majority to 27-23. Regardless of today's outcome, Senate district 13 will be on the ballot in 2014.

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Julian Garrett running tv ad for Iowa Senate district 13 special election

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Nov 15, 2013 at 08:05:00 AM CST

Next Tuesday, Iowans in Senate district 13 (Warren and Madison counties) will elect either Republican Julian Garrett or Democrat Mark Davitt as successor to the disgraced Kent Sorenson. Last night I saw a television commercial promoting Garrett several times on CNN. I don't know whether the spot is running on broadcast networks as well. UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland user rockm points out in the comments that the ad is running on Des Moines area broadcast networks.

I wasn't able to find it on YouTube, but I got it on tape, and I've posted my annotated transcript after the jump. You can see one still shot from the ad on Garrett's Facebook page.

Garrett isn't hiding his party affiliation in this Republican-leaning district; his red and white campaign logo includes an elephant. But in an apparent effort to distance himself from Washington-style politics, this commercial portrays Garrett as a pragmatist interested in "fixing problems," not "fixing the blame." It also emphasizes his "life on the farm," not mentioning his long career as an attorney.

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Iowa Senate district 13 special: Julian Garrett vs. Mark Davitt

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 22, 2013 at 06:55:00 AM CDT

Iowa House Republican Julian Garrett will face former Iowa House Democrat Mark Davitt in the November 19 special election to represent Iowa Senate district 13. The district covers Madison County and most of Warren County. State Senator Kent Sorenson resigned earlier this month, forcing a special election to fill the vacant seat. The winner will be up for re-election in 2014.

Senate district 13 is a must-hold for the GOP if they want to win a Senate majority in 2014. For that reason, many state party leaders and several Iowa Senate Republicans attended the nominating convention on October 17. Garrett went into the convention as the only announced candidate and easily won the nomination on the first ballot. Kevin Hall liveblogged the event for The Iowa Republican. I expected at least one far-right Republican to compete for the nomination, but I was surprised to learn that delegates nominated three alternatives to Garrett. Unsuccessful 2012 Iowa House candidate Steve McCoy was an obvious choice, but I wouldn't have guessed that Republican National Committeewoman Tamara Scott would run for the Iowa Senate. I'd never heard of the third candidate, David Keagle, and I couldn't find much information about him, other than his past donation to former Iowa House Republican Glen Massie.

Democratic delegates nominated Davitt at a special Senate district 13 convention last night. This race will be an uphill climb; as of October 1, the district contained 13,293 registered Democrats, 15,013 Republicans, and 15,909 no-party voters. That said, upsets can happen in a low-turnout environment. McCoy spoke harshly of the GOP establishment during the nominating convention. If from tea party Republicans stay home on November 19, hoping to nominate one of their own in the primary next June, strong GOTV could win it for Davitt.  

After the jump I've posted Garrett's official bio, a Senate Democrats press release containing background on Davitt, and a map of Senate district 13. Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Iowa Senate district 13 special election set; Democrat Mark Davitt is running

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 07, 2013 at 14:14:00 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad signed a proclamation today setting the special election to fill Iowa Senate district 13 for Tuesday, November 19. Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson resigned last week after special investigator Mark Weinhardt delivered an exhaustive report about Sorenson's alleged malfeasance to the Iowa Senate.

I highly recommend looking through Weinhardt's report (here are links to volume 1 and part 2). It astounds me that Sorenson is posturing as the victim of a "straight-up political witch hunt." Exhibit 12 in this part of Weinhardt's report summarizes an interview with Susan Geddes, who managed Sorenson's Iowa House campaign in 2008 and Iowa Senate campaign in 2010. She repeatedly warned Sorenson that he could not be paid by the Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign under Iowa Senate rules, and that the truth would catch up with him.

Republican blogger Craig Robinson discussed "winners and losers" in the Sorenson ordeal here. I largely agree with his list, but I would put Senate Minority leader Bill Dix in the loser category, as well as Senate Ethics Committee Republicans Jack Whitver and Jerry Behn. If they'd had their way, Weinhardt would never have been appointed to look into Sorenson's wrongdoing. Speaking of ethics, it is customary to link to a blog post when you mention it. Robinson referred to, but failed to link to, this Bleeding Heartland post about the legal problems of Sorenson's attorney, Ted Sporer.

Former Iowa House Democrat Mark Davitt announced today that he will run in the Senate district 13 special election. I've posted his press release after the jump. Davitt was born in Madison County and represented most of Warren County in the Iowa House for three terms before losing his seat to Sorenson in 2008. Republican State Representative Julian Garrett is running, but I expect at least one other person to seek the Republican nomination for the special election.

I enclosed a map of Senate district 13 after the jump. As of October 1, the district contained 13,293 registered Democrats, 15,013 Republicans, and 15,909 no-party voters.

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Julian Garrett will seek GOP nomination in Iowa Senate district 13

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 09:15:00 AM CDT

Two-term Iowa House Republican Julian Garrett told WHO-TV's Dave Price yesterday that he plans to seek the GOP nomination for the special election in Iowa Senate district 13. The seat is vacant because of Kent Sorenson's resignation. A date for the nominating convention will be set sometime after Governor Terry Branstad announces the special election date.

I've posted Garrett's official bio after the jump. I knew he was a retired attorney but didn't realize that he is a former assistant Iowa attorney general for consumer protection. The current holder of that position, Nathan Blake, is seeking the Democratic nomination in Iowa Senate district 17.

I expect at least one other candidate to seek the Republican nomination in Senate district 13, where the GOP has a voter registration advantage. Garrett represents Madison County and parts of Warren County in the Iowa House already, but unlike Kent Sorenson, he's never been wildly popular among the GOP's tea party or "liberty" factions. Party central committee delegates from the precincts in the district will choose a nominee, and the Warren County Republican activists have not favored mainstream candidates lately. Warren County was one of the strongest performers for Bob Vander Plaats in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, and way out there Steve McCoy easily defeated Carlisle Mayor Ruth Randleman in the 2012 primary to represent House district 26. McCoy later lost the general election to Democrat Scott Ourth.

I wouldn't be surprised to see McCoy take a shot at Senate district 13. Another possible candidate is Warren County GOP Chair Ricky Halvorson. He was active in Sorenson's previous successful campaigns and made the Des Moines Register's "50 Most Wanted" list of Republican activists in 2011.

UPDATE: Added more comments from Garrett below. I agree with him that this seat is a must-hold for Republicans if they want to win a Senate majority in 2014.

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More fallout from Kent Sorenson resignation (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 03, 2013 at 12:27:00 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad praised Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix today for asking Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson to resign yesterday.

"I've tried to be very careful and that's why I was pleased that Bill Dix was the one that asked for his resignation and that he made the decision to resign," Branstad said. "I think it was handled in the appropriate way and I want to give the Republican leader in the senate credit for making the ask for the resignation in light of the report that was done."

According to O.Kay Henderson's report for Radio Iowa, Branstad never mentioned Sorenson by name today, referring to him as "he" or "the member." In early 2010, Sorenson vowed never to vote for Branstad. Sorenson's home base in Warren County was one of the strongest performers for Bob Vander Plaats in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary.

Within five days, Branstad must set a date for the special election in Iowa Senate district 13. Whether Republicans retain the seat will not affect control of the Iowa Senate, where Democrats now have a 26 to 24 majority. Whoever wins the special will be up for re-election in 2014. I consider the GOP favored to hold Senate district 13. Theoretically, a Democratic candidate would have been better positioned to defeat Sorenson than someone else, but Sorenson's presence on the Iowa political scene was so toxic that we're all better off with him gone.

Sorenson's resignation does not preclude possible criminal prosecution. Polk County Attorney John Sarcone's office will review the report special investigator Mark Weinhardt filed yesterday with the Iowa Senate. Sorenson still claims he's done nothing wrong.

Talk radio host Steve Deace, who did more than anyone else to promote Sorenson's political career, finally commented on this mess. I've enclosed excerpts from his post after the jump.

UPDATE: Added a few comments from Sorenson's Senate Republican colleagues after the jump.

Weinhardt's report implicates David Polyansky, then a consultant for Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign, in arranging the payments for Sorenson. Polyansky is now a consultant for State Senator Joni Ernst's campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

According to Kevin Hall of The Iowa Republican blog, Wes Enos has resigned from the Iowa Senate GOP caucus staff. Enos was a senior official in Bachmann's campaign and publicly defended Sorenson against allegations that he had been paid to switch his support to Ron Paul. UPDATE: On October 4, Enos resigned as a member of the Iowa GOP's State Central Committee.

Enos said Friday he had defended Sorenson previously because he believed the Milo Republican hadn't done anything wrong. "The report was pretty damning and that is why I felt this was necessary....Realistically, now that we have seen the report it is best if I just kind step aside."
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Iowa House Democrat Scott Ourth rules out bid in Senate district 13

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 03, 2013 at 09:40:31 AM CDT

State Senator Kent Sorenson's resignation will force a special election in Iowa Senate district 13. The two sides of this Senate seat are House district 25, represented by two-term Republican Julian Garrett, and House district 26, represented by first-term Democrat Scott Ourth. I asked Ourth whether he would consider running in the special election. He responded,

"I am flattered and honored that so many of my neighbors and friends have asked me to consider a bid for the Iowa Senate seat vacated today by Senator Kent Sorenson.  I did not run for a seat in the Iowa House of Representatives to use it as a launch pad for higher office.  The people of House District 26 placed their trust in me in the 2012 election, and I intend to represent them to the best of my ability. The voters of this district elected me to be their voice, and to advocate for them in the Iowa House.  Hence, I will continue my work as an Iowa State Representative, working to create jobs, improve education, support agriculture, and give voice to our seniors, veterans, and children."

John Deeth speculated about some possible candidates from both parties yesterday. Perhaps Mark Davitt, who lost his Iowa House seat to Sorenson in 2008, will take a shot at the special election. As for the Republicans, the Warren County GOP has plenty of ambitious tea party types, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Garrett stay in his Madison County-based House district. I doubt Jodi Tymeson would leave her new position as commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home in the hope of joining the minority caucus in the Iowa Senate.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I've posted a map of Senate district 13 after the jump. As of October 1, the district contained 13,293 registered Democrats, 15,013 Republicans, and 15,909 no-party voters.

UPDATE: Speaking by telephone on October 3, Garrett told me he is thinking about running in the special election but hasn't made a decision yet.

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Curtain falls on Kent Sorenson's political career

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 02, 2013 at 17:47:00 PM CDT

State Senator Kent Sorenson resigned this afternoon after special investigator Mark Weinhardt filed a damning report with the Iowa Senate on Sorenson's conduct. Iowa Senate ethics rules don't allow senators to receive payment from political action committees, but Weinhardt found probable cause that money from political action committees supporting presidential candidate Michele Bachmann flowed to Sorenson indirectly by way of consulting firms. The Des Moines Register uploaded the more than 500-page report in two pdf file: volume one and volume two. Weinhardt also discussed "deeply suspicious" wire transfers and a check Sorenson received from a Ron Paul presidential campaign official.

Speaking to the Des Moines Register today, both Sorenson and his attorney Ted Sporer insisted that the senator never lied, because he was a subcontractor, not an employee of Bachmann's campaign.

Senate Ethics Committee Chair Wally Horn announced plans to convene a meeting of that committee next week. Later this afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix said in a statement, "Today, I called for Senator Sorenson's resignation, and he agreed to do so effective immediately."

While looking for Dix's full statement on the Iowa Senate Republicans website, I was amused to see photos of Sorenson scrolling across the front page, featuring "latest news" from May 28. Apparently no one involved with the Senate GOP caucus has figured out how to keep the website up to date since Dix fired their key communications staffer in May. For fun and for posterity, I took a screen shot that I've posted after the jump.

Sorenson's resignation opens up Republican-leaning Senate district 13. I haven't heard yet about any candidates from either party planning to run for that seat in 2014. UPDATE: John Deeth speculates on possible candidates for the special election in that district. I think Iowa House Democrat Scott Ourth will stay in House district 26 rather than run for the Senate seat.

UPDATE: O.Kay Henderson posted the e-mail Sorenson sent to his constituents today. I've enclosed the relevant portion below. He accuses his opponents of conducting a "straight-up political witch hunt" against him because he tried to remove Iowa Supreme Court justices from the bench. What ever happened to personal responsibility?

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More bad news piling up for Kent Sorenson (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 07:20:00 AM CDT

Allegations that State Senator Kent Sorenson sought and received payment for endorsing presidential candidate Ron Paul are now the subject of a complaint with the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee. You can read the full text of Peter Waldron's latest complaint at The Iowa Republican blog. Earlier this year, the former consultant for Michele Bachmann's 2012 presidential campaign filed complaints with the Federal Elections Commission and the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee, focused on alleged payments Sorenson received for his work on Bachmann's campaign. Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady appointed a special investigator in May to look into those claims.

Since Sorenson appears determined to fight these charges rather than leave the political stage quietly, this saga could drag on for some time. Senate Ethics Committee Chair Wally Horn told Rod Boshart yesterday that committee members would meet soon "to discuss how to proceed."

Meanwhile, the U.S. House Ethics Committee voted last week to continue its investigation of the Bachmann presidential campaign, Kevin Diaz reported for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on September 11. Alleged payments to Sorenson feature prominently in that investigation. According to Diaz, the Office of Congressional Ethics board has recommended that Sorenson be subpoenaed, because he did not cooperate with investigators.

Sorenson may need to find a new attorney at some point. Former Polk County Republican Party chair Ted Sporer has been representing him so far. Multiple Bleeding Heartland readers have brought to my attention an August 16 decision by Polk County District Court Judge Douglas Staskal. In that ruling, Judge Staskal found that "beyond a reasonable doubt," Sporer "fabricated evidence" and "lied under oath" to help a client who was violating the terms of a divorce decree. I've posted six pages from the 25-page decision after the jump. If Judge Staskal's findings become the subject of a formal complaint with the Iowa Supreme Court Grievance Commission, Sporer might eventually be disbarred.

UPDATE: On September 18, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its latest report on most corrupt members of Congress. Bachmann made the list, in part because of activities allegedly linked to Sorenson's work for her campaign.

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Kent Sorenson poised to fight, not quit

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 11:40:00 AM CDT

Despite growing calls for him to resign, Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson signaled yesterday that he will fight a new ethics complaint based on alleged payments from Ron Paul's presidential campaign. The Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs reported that Peter Waldron plans to file a second complaint with the Iowa Senate, claiming that Sorenson worked with Paul campaign officials "to solicit and conceal compensation" for himself and others. Waldron is a political consultant who worked for Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign. Earlier this year, he filed complaints against Sorenson with the Federal Election Commission as well as with the Iowa Senate.

Documents and audio recordings published by The Iowa Republican blog indicate that intermediaries negotiated with Paul campaign officials on Sorenson's behalf, and that Sorenson later received a big check from a Paul campaign manager. But Sorenson's attorney Ted Sporer told the Des Moines Register that the charges are "gibberish."

Sporer confirmed [Dimitri] Kesari, against Sorenson's wishes, surreptitiously handed Sorenson's wife a check drawn on a retail business's bank account. But the check is still in Sorenson's possession, he said.

"It has never been cashed," Sporer said. "Obviously we can show it's never been cashed. And an uncashed check is simply an autograph."

Three weeks ago, Sporer told a Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter, "There was no money that changed hands. There was no direct or indirect payment from the Ron Paul campaign."

The Iowa Senate Ethics Committee won't be able to punt this time, but it may take months to investigate the new charges. Meanwhile, I haven't heard of anyone planning to challenge Sorenson in the GOP primary to represent Iowa Senate district 13. If I were a Republican in Warren or Madison County, I'd have started looking for a more viable candidate months ago.

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How long can Iowa Republicans stand by Kent Sorenson? (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 07, 2013 at 08:53:00 AM CDT

Following up on yesterday's bombshell news, The Iowa Republican publisher Craig Robinson has now published an audio recording with transcript of State Senator Kent Sorenson describing how he took money in exchange for endorsing Ron Paul for president.

There is no excuse for Sorenson's behavior or the continued silence of state Republican Party leaders. I don't care if Iowa GOP Chair A.J. Spiker and several state central committee members are old "Paulinista" buddies with Sorenson. You have to be blind not to see the damage Sorenson has already done to the Iowa caucuses. Governor Terry Branstad and Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix may be afraid to take a public stand because Sorenson has a cheering squad among social conservatives, but this man does not belong in the Iowa Senate.

I will update this post as needed, and I hope it will be needed.

UPDATE: Sorenson's attorney Ted Sporer told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that no money changed hands, either directly or indirectly, between Sorenson and the Paul campaign. Is he lying, or did his client lie to him?

So far I've seen no comment about this scandal from conservative talk radio host Steve Deace, a longtime Sorenson ally. Deace's motto is "Fear God, Tell the Truth, and Make Money." I guess two out of three ain't bad.

Conservative radio host Simon Conway commented on the Sorenson allegations, "Does not look good." An understatement, but at least it's something. Conway added, "We did a full hour on this yesterday and will be doing more today."

SECOND UPDATE: As of the late afternoon on August 7, Iowa Senate Republicans had "no comment at this time" regarding Sorenson. Unreal.

THIRD UPDATE: The source for this story, former Ron Paul aide Dennis Fusaro, spoke to the Washington Post. Meanwhile, The Iowa Republican posted audio and transcript of a different conversation between Sorenson and Fusaro about the check Sorenson received.

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz became the first GOP elected official to say Sorenson should resign if the allegations are true.

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Republican blog drops Kent Sorenson bombshell

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 15:11:00 PM CDT

Since the day State Senator Kent Sorenson dumped Michele Bachmann for Ron Paul, Iowa politics watchers have speculated that he was paid well to do so. Earlier this year, news emerged of indirect payments totaling $7,500 per month from entities supporting Bachmann to Sorenson while he chaired her presidential campaign in Iowa. Today The Iowa Republican blog's publisher Craig Robinson posted e-mails and memos detailing a large "payoff" for Sorenson in exchange for publicly endorsing Paul.

I hope these allegations will generate momentum in the Iowa legislature to prohibit lawmakers from being paid by political campaigns. An ethics investigation of Sorenson is pending, but these rules should be written into state law in my opinion. The integrity of the Iowa caucuses is undermined by the perception that presidential candidates can buy state legislators.

I assume that whoever leaked this information to The Iowa Republican is hoping that Sorenson will either resign or lose in a GOP primary to represent Senate district 13 next year. It's a district Republicans "should" hold, but Sorenson is surely not the best candidate to accomplish that goal. To my knowledge, no Republican has announced plans to challenge Sorenson in a primary. He has passionate defenders in the social conservative wing, thanks to his uncompromising stance on Medicaid abortion funding, his hostility toward an LGBT youth conference, his support for impeaching Iowa Supreme Court justices and bringing back the death penalty, among other issues.

It's worth noting that Robinson has never been sympathetic to the Ron Paul faction within the Iowa GOP. His website displayed a strong "Rick Santorum" slant in late 2011 and early 2012. Critics have even accused Robinson of taking money in exchange for promoting a certain angle at The Iowa Republican. Still, today's post on Sorenson's "payoff" is a must-read.

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Analysis of the Obama-Romney vote in the Iowa Senate districts

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 10:57:01 AM CDT

The Daily Kos Elections team has been compiling 2012 presidential election results by state legislative district as well as by Congressional district. Yesterday the Iowa numbers were added to the database. You can view Google documents with raw vote totals and percentages for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney by Iowa Congressional district here, by Iowa Senate district here, and by Iowa House district here.

Looking closely at the presidential vote in the legislative districts provides some insight about where the competitive Iowa statehouse races might be next year. After the jump I've highlighted some key data points related to the Iowa Senate races. Later I will post a separate diary with first thoughts about the Iowa House districts.

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Weekend open thread: "Not guilty" doesn't mean "did the right thing"

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jul 13, 2013 at 21:58:00 PM CDT

A Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of both second-degree murder and manslaughter today in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The verdict doesn't surprise me. No one witnessed the whole encounter that led Zimmerman to shoot an unarmed teenager. Although I did not watch the trial, I gather from commentaries and coverage at Talk Left and elsewhere that the defense turned several of the prosecution witnesses and produced their own witnesses supporting parts of Zimmerman's story. They didn't need to prove the self-defense narrative--only create reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors.

That said, I doubt any jury would have acquitted an African-American man of shooting an unarmed white teenager under the same circumstances.

Roberto Martinez, a former U.S. attorney in Florida's Southern District, made the case for a manslaughter conviction in the Miami Herald. I recommend reading the whole piece, but I've posted an excerpt after the jump. Even those who believe the jury reached the right verdict from a narrow legal perspective should acknowledge that Zimmerman's stupid and reckless behavior caused the death of an innocent child. This verdict does not vindicate the actions of vigilante wannabe cops.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

UPDATE: Why am I not surprised? State Senator Kent Sorenson (contender for creepiest Iowa lawmaker) celebrated the verdict as "a victory for 2nd Amendment rights around the nation." Hat tip to Christian Ucles, who commented, "Really Kent? The death of a child is a victory for 2nd amendment rights. [...] You make me sick. I can't believe to think that you and I both went to the same church, an considered you a Brother in Christ. You value guns and the actions of gun owners over the lives of children not your own?" In the comment thread, Sorenson responded, "Your [sic] a political hack that [sic] doesn't care about anything other then [sic] your parties [sic] talking points!"

SECOND UPDATE: Iowa House Democrat Ako Abdul-Samad reacted to the verdict here.

THIRD UPDATE: Comments from President Barack Obama and Representative Steve King are after the jump. King really goes out of his way to stir up the pot sometimes.

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Kent Sorenson is big winner in Bachmann lawsuit settlement

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 08:00:00 AM CDT

Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson no longer has to worry about open court testimony regarding his alleged theft of a homeschooling organization's e-mail list on behalf of Representative Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign in late 2011. Bachmann has settled the lawsuit her former presidential campaign staffer Barb Heki announced last year. On Friday, Heki's attorney filed legal papers to dismiss the case. In a statement provided to The Iowa Republican blog, Bachmann said,

"Barb Heki is a trustworthy person and a woman of integrity. She was a loyal member of the Bachmann for President team and capably performed her duties. I am not aware of any evidence whatsoever that Barb had any part in misusing or misappropriating NICHE's email list of homeschoolers and I consider her an exemplary homeschooling leader."

It's not clear whether Bachmann agreed to pay any compensation to Heki or her husband for damage done to their reputations. They had to resign from a national homeschooling organization's board after the Bachmann campaign hung Heki out to dry. Heki won't be able to re-file the lawsuit, because it was dismissed "with prejudice."

Sorenson's attorney Ted Sporer told the Des Moines Register that "the settlement included a release of all claims with no admission of wrongdoing by his client." Previously, a trial date for Heki's lawsuit had been set for May 2014, meaning the case would have been big local news shortly before the June primary election. To my knowledge, no Republican has declared plans to challenge Sorenson in Iowa Senate district 13, but I'd be looking for new representation if I were a Republican in that district. A former aide to Sorenson acknowledged downloading the list from Heki's computer, but other sources have said Sorenson was involved.

Technically, the Urbandale Police Department has a criminal case open regarding the theft, but I doubt charges will ever be filed. Sorenson still faces an ethics investigation into indirect salary payments he allegedly received from the Bachmann campaign, but I don't expect the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee to impose any serious consequences.  

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Kent Sorenson clashing with House Republicans over abortion funding

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 15, 2013 at 11:35:00 AM CDT

State Senator Kent Sorenson claims to have made some Iowa House Republicans unhappy by helping the advocacy group Iowa Pro-Life Action pressure state representatives over abortion funding. Currently, Iowa's Medicaid program covers abortions under very limited circumstances. In fact, our state is among the most restrictive in this area. Nevertheless, a compromise worked out on the final day of the 2011 legislative session angered many conservatives. Some Iowa Republicans have pushed for a total ban on Medicaid-funded abortion.

In a Facebook post last night, Sorenson lambasted members of his own party who do not keep their promises on the "pro-life" issue. He claimed that some House Republicans "are considering filing ethics charges against me" because he signed a letter Iowa Pro-Life Action sent to lawmakers. Looking through the Iowa House Code of Ethics, it's not clear to me which rule Sorenson might have violated. House Republican staffer Josie Albrecht told me by telephone that she was not aware of any pending ethics complaints by legislators against Sorenson.

I enclose the full text of the Facebook post after the jump. At this writing, it has been "shared" by 63 Facebook users, including conservative talk radio hosts Steve Deace and Jan Mickelson.

Sorenson is already facing an ethics investigation related to alleged paid work for Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign. I have been wondering whether Republicans might be better off with a different nominee in Iowa Senate district 13 next year. However, an uncompromising stand against abortion funding would serve Sorenson well if he faced a GOP primary challenger.

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Affidavit details indirect salary payments for Kent Sorenson

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 07:05:00 AM CDT

Following up on last Friday's post, Michele Bachmann's former chief of staff Andy Parrish signed an affidavit yesterday containing details on State Senator Kent Sorenson's compensation for work on the Bachmann presidential campaign.  
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