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Terry Branstad

Iowa reaction to Obama's executive action on immigration

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Nov 21, 2014 at 11:09:40 AM CST

President Barack Obama delivered a prime-time televised address last night to explain his new executive order on immigration. The order would remove the threat of deportation for an estimated 5 million of the 11 million immigrants who came to this country illegally. After the jump I've posted the full text of the president's speech, as well as reaction from some members of Iowa's Congressional delegation and several advocacy groups. I will update this post as needed.

Last year, Iowa's U.S. senators split when the Senate approved a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which has never come up for a vote in the U.S. House. Just before Congress adjourned for five weeks this summer, Iowa's representatives in the House split on party lines over a border security funding bill bill designed to speed up deportations of unaccompanied children entering this country. Likewise, Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) voted for and Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) against a separate bill that would have reversed the president's policy (announced two years ago) to suspend deportations of some undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Click here for background on those bills.

Note: King has been all over the national media the last couple of weeks, as journalists and pundits have discussed the president's expected action on immigration. Over the summer, King raised the prospect that Obama could be impeached over unilateral action on immigration. But as you can see from statements posted below, more recently he has not advocated impeachment. Instead, King has called on Congress to defund the federal agencies that would carry out Obama's executive order. Unfortunately for him, that approach is "impossible."

Both Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton have expressed support for Obama's executive order in the absence of Congressional action on comprehensive immigration reform.

Several Republican governors who may run for president in 2016 are considering legal action aimed at blocking the president's executive order. Such a lawsuit could raise the standing of Texas Governor Rick Perry, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, or Indiana Governor Mike Pence with Iowa conservatives who are likely to participate in the next GOP caucuses. I am seeking comment on whether Iowa Governor Terry Branstad might join this legal action.

The Obama administration is already preparing a legal defense that would include precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 ruling on an Arizona law relating to illegal immigration. Federal officials "have always exercised discretion" in prioritizing cases for deportation.

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Five reasons Teresa Wahlert's days are numbered at Iowa Workforce Development

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 13, 2014 at 10:15:00 AM CST

I don't expect Governor Terry Branstad to replace many state agency leaders going into his sixth term, but before too long he will need to find a new head of Iowa Workforce Development. Although he will probably nominate Teresa Wahlert for that post again, the Iowa Senate will likely reject her confirmation. Here's why:

1. Wahlert needs at least ten Democrats to join the 24 incoming Iowa Senate Republicans in order to be confirmed. She was confirmed in 2011 with only two votes to spare; two of the twelve Democratic senators who backed her then no longer serve in the Iowa legislature, and several who remain in the Senate have been critical of various Branstad administration policies implemented by Wahlert.

2. Wahlert presided over dismantling staffed Iowa Workforce Development field offices in dozens of communities, following a Branstad line-item veto that was eventually struck down by a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court.

3. Wahlert is a defendant in a lawsuit filed by former Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey. Depositions are happening soon in that case, following an Iowa Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.

4. Wahlert is also a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Joseph Walsh, the former Chief Administrative Law Judge for Iowa Workforce Development. Among other things, Walsh alleges that Wahlert "interfere[d] with the administrative judicial process in order to favor employers," attempted "to illegally strip [Walsh] of his merit protection," and eventually retaliated by removing him in "a political reorganization disguised as a budget layoff."

5. Just this week, an arbitrator ruled that Wahlert "overstepped her bounds when she promoted a judge who had been demoted after complaints that she created a hostile work environment." After the jump I've posted excerpts from David Pitt's report for the Associated Press.

No wonder State Senator Janet Petersen has predicted that Wahlert would face a tough confirmation process if re-appointed by Branstad. He could save everyone a lot of time by choosing new leadership for Iowa Workforce Development.

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Mid-week open thread: 2018 IA-Gov scenarios edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 12, 2014 at 21:15:00 PM CST

All topics are welcome in this open thread. I'd like to hear from Bleeding Heartland readers about the next race for Iowa governor. Winning that election needs to be a top priority for Iowa Democrats.

I remain 100 percent convinced that Terry Branstad will not serve out his entire sixth term. By the end of 2015, he will have set a record as the longest-serving governor in U.S. history. He is committed to "grooming" Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to be the next governor. But Reynolds was almost unknown when Branstad selected her as his running mate. She had only two years of experience in the state legislature, all of it in the Iowa Senate minority. Before that, she had a long tenure as the Clarke County treasurer, a job that doesn't allow politicians to build up a profile outside their home county.

Since Reynolds has no constituency in the Republican base, I find it hard to imagine she could win the nomination for governor campaigning from her current job. However, if she has a year or more under her belt as governor by the spring of 2018, she might have a fighting chance in the GOP primary. Even then, I don't think other Republicans would give her a pass. Plenty of people have ambitions to succeed Branstad. I'll be surprised if Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey doesn't run for governor during the next cycle.

On the Democratic side, several state lawmakers could be credible candidates for governor. Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum considered it this past cycle but opted out for family reasons. I hope Jochum will take the plunge in 2018, as she would be a great candidate and a fantastic governor. State Senators Janet Petersen and Rob Hogg would also be excellent leaders and will probably also give this race a look.

UPDATE: Two-time candidate for secretary of state Jake Porter is considering a gubernatorial bid on the Libertarian ticket and sees both outgoing Secretary of State Matt Schultz and newly-elected Secretary of State Paul Pate as likely Republican candidates. Pate sought the GOP nomination for governor in 1998 after one term in the secretary of state's office, so he could easily do that again. I find it hard to believe that the Madison County attorney position will give Schultz a good launching pad for a gubernatorial campaign, but anything is possible.

Porter also mentioned State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald as a possible Democratic candidate. Fitzgerald considered running for governor in 2013.

SECOND UPDATE: Lots of names being floated in the comments: Bob Vander Plaats, Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, State Representative Peter Cownie, and State Senator Amy Sinclair on the Republican side; newly elected State Senator Chaz Allen or State Representative Nancy Dunkel on the Democratic side.

Erin Murphy, who covers Iowa politics for Lee Enterprises newspapers, has predicted a matchup between Jochum and Reynolds in 2018. I like Jochum's odds there, a lot.

Associated Press reporter Ryan Foley reports that Republican strategists are "keeping a close eye" on Chaz Allen. I wonder whether that may be wishful thinking on their part, as they appear to have no chance of winning Iowa Senate district 15 as long as Allen is around. I think 2018 would be a little early for him to run for governor.

I should also mention that incoming U.S. Senator Joni Ernst will probably go all-in for Reynolds in the 2018 primary. Reynolds helped to recruit Ernst for the Iowa Senate and later for the U.S. Senate race.

THIRD UPDATE: Some Iowa politics-watchers expect State Senator Liz Mathis to run for governor in 2018. I don't think she would run against Petersen or Jochum in a primary, though, and I consider either of them more likely to run than Mathis.

Discuss :: (15 Comments)

Iowa named one of "worst states for Black People"

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 12, 2014 at 18:33:03 PM CST

Many Iowans think of our state as a great place to settle down, thanks to relatively low unemployment, crime rates, living costs, and other quality of life factors (such as short commute times). After considering 44 criteria, the StateMaster website ranked Iowa the sixth best state to live. The latest Kids Count report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Iowa third in terms of children's well-being.

So Danielle C. Belton's article for The Root last week should be a wake-up call. For the roughly 102,000 Iowans who are African-American, this state doesn't stack up nearly as well against the competition. In fact, Belton considers Iowa the fourth-worst state for black people.

If you're black and into marijuana, avoid Iowa. The state arrests blacks at a rate eight times higher than whites for marijuana possession, despite the rate of drug usage between blacks and whites being about the same. For years, Iowa also held the title for locking up black people at a higher rate than any other state (it recently lost that crown to Wisconsin). While other states have large prison populations, what makes Iowa stand out is that it's a relatively small state with a small population. In fact, its black population is only about 3 percent. Adding insult to injury, the poverty rate among African Americans in Iowa is 31 percent, compared with 11 percent for white Iowans.

The massive racial disparity in Iowa's arrest and imprisonment rates has been one of the country's worst for a long time. Way back in 2005, Bruce Dixon of the Black Commentator highlighted Iowa as one of the "ten worst places to be black" for this very reason. If Governor Terry Branstad wants to spend the next four years cementing his legacy as a leader who cares about all Iowans, he should try to do something about this persistent problem. I don't know how to change the culture in local law enforcement or county attorney offices, but there's no excuse for such a large disparity in whether people will be arrested or charged for the same unlawful behavior. Surely the governor's staff could research, and Branstad could propose, policies Iowa can adapt from other states that have addressed this problem.

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Veterans Day links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 11, 2014 at 21:16:43 PM CST

November 11 was first celebrated as "Armistice Day" in 1919 and became a national holiday in 1926. Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day in 1954. Any thoughts about military service or veterans issues are welcome in this thread.

Earlier this year, the Iowa legislature approved several bills supporting Governor Terry Branstad's Home Base Iowa Initiative. Some details are after the jump. Branstad himself is a veteran, and he tapped former U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell to co-chair the initiative.

The decline of veterans in Congress continues. Thirty years ago, about a third of the members of Congress had military experience. But only 81 of the 435 newly-elected members of the House of Representatives and thirteen of the 100 U.S. Senators have served or are serving in the U.S. military. No one in Iowa's incoming U.S. House delegation has served in the military, although several have veterans in their immediate families. Outgoing U.S. Senator Tom Harkin is a veteran, and his successor, Joni Ernst, is a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard.

Seven of the 50 people who will serve in the Iowa Senate next year have military experience: Democrats Jeff Danielson, Tom Courtney, Dick Dearden, Bill Dotzler, and Wally Horn, and Republicans Bill Anderson and Jason Schultz (just elected to the Senate for the first time after several terms in the state House).

Of the 100 people just elected to the Iowa House, nineteen have military experience. The Republican veterans who were just re-elected are Dwayne Alons, Stan Gustafson, John Landon, Dave Maxwell, Kraig Paulsen, Sandy Salmon, Quentin Stanerson, Guy Vander Linden, Matt Windschitl, and Dave Heaton. Five Republican veterans were just elected to the Iowa House for the first time: Darrel Branhagen, Ken Rizer, Zach Nunn, John Wills, and Steve Holt. Four House Democrats who are veterans were just re-elected too: Dennis Cohoon, Jerry Kearns, Todd Prichard, and Brian Meyer. Retiring House Republicans Steve Olson and Tom Shaw are also veterans, as is retiring House Democrat Roger Thomas.

Many Iowa lawmakers have immediate family members who either served in the military or are doing active duty.  

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Now he tells us: Branstad will support gas tax hike

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 11, 2014 at 09:13:50 AM CST

Two days after being re-elected to a sixth four-year term, Governor Terry Branstad finally came out for raising the gasoline tax as part of a plan to increase transportation funding. He told journalists on November 6, "The timing is good because gas prices have dropped significantly. That makes it a little more palatable to the public."

For years, a bipartisan group of legislators have been working on a bill to increase Iowa's gas tax for the first time since 1989. The governor has left them hanging again and again and again. The issue is politically charged, since gas taxes disproportionately hit lower-income drivers and residents of rural Iowa. Joni Ernst switched from supporting an increase to opposing it as soon as she started preparing to run for the U.S. Senate. Legislative leaders have long made clear that a bill raising the tax would move forward only if at least half the members of Democratic and Republican caucuses in the Iowa House and Senate were ready to vote for it.

Iowa House Republican Brian Moore believes "this is the year" a gas tax increase will happen, because the issue will be on the "front burner" when lawmakers reconvene in January. Moore was vice chair of the House Transportation Committee. He and committee Chair Josh Byrnes have worked closely on this issue with Iowa Senate Democrat Tod Bowman, who leads the transportation committee in the upper chamber.

Arguably, 2015 will be a good opportunity for bipartisan cooperation, since it's not an election year. However, I am inclined to think the gas tax increase will fail to gain broad support in either chamber. Many Iowa House Republicans are hostile to any tax increase, and what's in it for House Democrats to stick their necks out on the issue? Meanwhile, several Iowa Senate Democrats will face tough re-election bids in 2016, and Senate minority leader Bill Dix has long been close with leaders of anti-tax interest groups. Gasoline prices have dropped to relatively low levels now, but they could bounce back up by the time lawmakers would be considering a gas tax bill in February or March.

If Branstad had campaigned on this issue, he could have claimed a popular mandate for raising the gas tax. But he didn't, even when pressed on the issue during debates with challenger Jack Hatch.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Although the road use tax fund clearly needs more money, I would hesitate to raise the gasoline tax without strong "fix-it first" language in the bill. The lion's share of additional revenue should go toward fixing roads and bridges that are in bad shape, not toward building new roads (or new lanes on existing roads) that we won't be able to maintain adequately.

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We needed another six years from Tom Harkin

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 05, 2014 at 07:40:00 AM CST

From the day Senator Tom Harkin announced plans to retire, I had a bad feeling about Iowa Democrats defending an open U.S. Senate seat in a midterm year when Governor Terry Branstad would be on the ballot. Harkin may not have known other retirements would hand several Senate seats to Republicans practically before the campaigns began. He couldn't have anticipated that issues like ISIS terrorism and the ebola outbreak would dominate the media discourse during the last two months of the campaign. He probably didn't expect tens of millions of dollars to come into Iowa, amplifying Bruce Braley's every misstep (plus a bunch of made-up stuff) thousands of times.

I appreciate Harkin's many years of service in Congress and don't mean to begrudge him time with his family. But the bottom line is that if he had sought a sixth term, Republicans would not have fielded a serious Senate candidate in Iowa. Harkin would have cruised against a challenger on the "clown car" level of Christopher Reed.

In the coming days and weeks, plenty of Iowa Democrats will rail against tactical or strategic errors by Braley and his strategists. They'll have a point, but in a year like this, none of it mattered. Candidates who started their campaigns in a stronger position and ran better races (such as Senator Kay Hagan in North Carolina or independent Greg Orman in Kansas) had the same result. Almost every competitive Senate race shifted toward the Republican at the end. Good grief, Senator Mark Warner nearly lost Virginia, which wasn't even on the radar as a potential GOP pickup.

Instead of running for an open Senate seat in 2020 (a presidential election year), Iowa Democrats will have to find a candidate who can compete with the better-known and better-financed incumbent Senator Joni Ernst.

Discuss :: (18 Comments)

2014 election results discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 04, 2014 at 20:52:38 PM CST

Polls across Iowa close in just a few minutes, and I'll be updating this post with results throughout the evening. Any comments about any of today's races, in Iowa or elsewhere, are welcome in this thread.

Many races on the east coast and in the Midwest have already been called. As expected, Republicans picked up the U.S. Senate seats in West Virginia, Arkansas, and South Dakota. Louisiana will go to a runoff in December. Jeanne Shaheen held the New Hampshire Senate seat for Democrats, but Kay Hagan may be in trouble in North Carolina, and in a potentially stunning upset, Mark Warner is behind in Virginia. He needs a strong turnout in the DC suburbs.

As state-level results come in, these are the key Iowa Senate races to watch, and these are the key Iowa House races to watch. For the last four years, Democrats have held a 26-24 Iowa Senate majority. For the last two years, Republicans have held a 53-47 Iowa House majority.

UPDATE: Polls are closed and further updates will be after the jump. News organizations called the governor's race for Terry Branstad immediately.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of November 3)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 04, 2014 at 09:40:00 AM CST

We won't know the final early voting numbers until the Iowa elections are certified a few weeks from now, but after the jump I've posted absentee ballot figures based on the final daily update from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

As of yesterday, more than 455,000 Iowans had already returned early ballots to county auditors, a huge increase on total early voting in the 2010 midterm election. Registered Democrats have returned about 8,000 more ballots statewide than Republicans have. If Democrats identified and mobilized more independents to vote early (as happened in 2012), Bruce Braley could go into election day tens of thousands of votes ahead of Joni Ernst. Iowa Republicans typically perform better on election day than Democrats; how much better is open for debate, since the GOP encouraged many more people to vote early this year who previously voted on election day.

Statewide, about 33,000 Democrats, 19,000 Republicans, and 23,000 no-party voters had requested absentee ballots that county auditors had not received as of yesterday. Not every unreturned ballot represents an Iowan who will not vote. Some people mailed ballots that hadn't reached county auditors by yesterday, but those will still count if they either arrive today or arrive before next Monday with a postmark on or before November 3. Other people will hand-deliver ballots to the county auditors today; those will be counted as long as they arrive by 9 pm.

While canvassing the last few days, I've met a bunch of people who plan to "surrender" their absentee ballots at the regular polling place today, then vote with a regular ballot.  

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Election day links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 04, 2014 at 06:30:00 AM CST

Happy election day to the Bleeding Heartland community. The weather forecast looks good for most parts of Iowa. Polls are open everywhere from 7 am to 9 pm. It's too late to mail absentee ballots, but you can still hand-deliver completed absentee ballots to your county auditor's office, or "surrender" you ballot at your regular polling place, then vote with an ordinary ballot.

Three new polls of the U.S. Senate race came out on Monday. Quinnipiac found Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst tied at 47 percent. (That pollster's previous Iowa survey had Ernst leading by 49 percent to 45 percent.) Fox News found Ernst ahead by 45 percent to 44 percent. Public Policy Polling found Ernst ahead by 48 percent to 45 percent.

All three polls confirmed my belief that the Des Moines Register's Iowa poll by Selzer & Co was an outlier. No other survey has found Ernst above 50 percent or ahead by such a large margin. If she does win the IA-Sen race by 7 points, I will declare Ann Selzer a polling genius.

Incidentally, the new polls also found Governor Terry Branstad ahead of Democratic challenger Jack Hatch by a smaller margin than in the Register's final Iowa poll. Quinnipiac found Branstad ahead by 52 percent to 41 percent. That was similar to Public Policy Polling's finding of Branstad at 54 percent and Hatch at 43 percent. Fox News found a bigger lead for the governor: 53 percent to 36 percent.

PPP has been the only firm to consistently poll down-ballot statewide races in Iowa this year. Its final poll found Democrat Brad Anderson ahead in the secretary of state race, with 44 percent support to 38 percent to Paul Pate and 3 percent each for Jake Porter and Spencer Highland. (Porter, a Libertarian, received about 3 percent of the statewide vote in the 2010 secretary of state race.)

PPP found State Auditor Mary Mosiman leading her Democratic challenger by 46 percent to 41 percent. State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald is ahead of his Republican challenger Sam Clovis by 48 percent to 38 percent, with Libertarian Keith Laube pulling 5 percent. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has a comfortable 51 percent to 33 percent lead over Democrat Sherrie Taha, with a minor-party candidate pulling 5 percent. Finally, Attorney General Tom Miller leads Republican Adam Gregg by 55 percent to 36 percent.

While canvassing in Windsor Heights and Clive on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, I didn't see any Republicans knocking on doors, nor did I see Republican campaign literature on doorknobs or front porches. Another Democratic canvasser in a different part of the state had a similar experience. I would like to hear from Bleeding Heartland readers about what you've seen of the Republican "ground game" during the final days. As far as I can tell, the GOP has relied mainly on robocalls and perhaps live-caller phone-banking. Republicans paid for many robocalls in the final days.

Speaking of robocalls, many Democratic households in the third Congressional district (including mine) received a call Monday evening recorded by Senator Chuck Grassley, making the case for David Young.

Any comments related to today's election are welcome in this thread.

P.S. - A testy exchange with a reporter about how President Barack Obama has handled the ebola outbreak underscored why Joni Ernst's handlers didn't want her sitting down with most Iowa newspaper editorial boards.

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of November 2)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 03, 2014 at 09:43:16 AM CST

More than 430,000 Iowans have already returned absentee ballots to county auditors, but nearly 90,000 absentee ballots requested statewide are still outstanding. If you have not yet returned your absentee ballot, either "surrender" it tomorrow at the polling place (and receive a new ballot to vote like everyone else on election day), or hand-deliver a completed ballot to your county auditor's office today or tomorrow by 9 pm.

Today is the last day for in-person early voting: all 99 county auditors' offices are open until 5 pm.

I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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Weekend open thread: Final Iowa polls edition (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Nov 01, 2014 at 20:00:00 PM CDT

The Des Moines Register dropped a hammer on Iowa Democrats this evening with the latest statewide poll by Selzer & Co. The Register's new poll finds Joni Ernst ahead of Bruce Braley by 51 percent to 44 percent, leading Braley in all four Congressional districts, and winning independent voters by 12 points. The poll looks like an outlier to me, compared to most other surveys that were in the field these past two weeks. No other poll has found Ernst above 50 percent this fall, and no non-partisan poll has found her leading Braley by more than four points. Of the ten other polls in the field during the last two weeks, two found Braley ahead by one point, two found the race tied, two found Ernst ahead by one point, and four found her ahead by margins between two and four points.

On November 5, either Ann Selzer will look like a genius, or a bunch of other pollsters (whose surveys found a close race here) will laugh.

The problem for Democrats is that the Register's Iowa poll always generates more media coverage than any other poll. Even if this poll turns out to be an outlier, it could depress volunteers during the final days. A good GOTV program can overcome a one-point deficit but not seven points.

The Register's latest poll found Governor Terry Branstad ahead of Democratic challenger Jack Hatch by 59 percent to 35 percent, one of the biggest leads any poll has found for Branstad. Selzer only polled on two other statewide races. Democratic Attorney General leads challenger Adam Gregg by 50 percent to 39 percent. The secretary of state race looks too close to call, with Republican Paul Pate ahead of Democrat Brad Anderson by 44 percent to 41 percent.

P.S. - There's still plenty of time to enter Bleeding Heartland's election prediction contest.

UPDATE: Below I've added excerpts from the Register's analysis of the Selzer poll, along with the Braley campaign's reaction, calling the Register poll an "outlier."

SECOND UPDATE: Added more commentary on Senate polling below.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 30)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 31, 2014 at 10:13:49 AM CDT

Early voting by Iowa Democrats, Republicans, and no-party voters already exceeds the number of absentee ballots cast by each of those groups in the 2010 general election. Depending on how many more ballots are returned in time to be counted, this year's early vote may exceed 40 percent of the electorate.

Democrats lead in absentee ballots returned by about 7,000 statewide but have many more ballots outstanding (about 47,000) than do Republicans (about 30,000). Each 11,000 to 12,000 ballots left on the table represents roughly 1 percent of the expected statewide vote.

Although Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley have asked the U.S. Postal Service to put legible postmarks on all absentee ballots, I would not risk dropping a ballot in the mail now. If it arrives after election day with no postmark, it will not be counted. Safer to either take your ballot to the post office and demand a postmark on the envelope, or hand-deliver the envelope to the county auditor's office.

I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

The big question remains: which party has mobilized more voters who otherwise would not have participated in the midterm election? A new Des Moines Register analysis suggests Democrats have only a "thin edge" in early voting. But Nate Cohn of the New York Times' "Upshot" blog has a different take:

In Iowa, the overall early vote is nearly tied in a state where Democrats usually fare well in the early vote.

But Democrats insist that the Republicans are merely banking voters who would have voted on Election Day anyway, and back it up with data showing a lead among people who didn't vote in 2010, 40 to 29 percent. If the G.O.P. is faring better in the early vote by attracting voters who would have turned out anyway, then they diminish their ability to fare as well on Election Day as they have in the past.

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Enter Bleeding Heartland's 2014 general election prediction contest

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 30, 2014 at 14:32:51 PM CDT

Time for another Bleeding Heartland election prediction contest. To enter, post your guesses as comments in this thread before 7 am on Tuesday, November 4. Predictions submitted by e-mail or social media will not be considered. It's ok to change your mind, as long as you post your revised predictions as an additional comment in this thread before the deadline.

No money's at stake here, just bragging rights like those enjoyed by Bleeding Heartland users ModerateIADem (twice), American007, Johannes, and tietack. This isn't "The Price is Right"; the winning answers will be closest to the final results, whether they were a little high or low.

Even if you have no idea, please try to take a stab at answering every question. We had no clear winner in this year's primary election prediction contest; the best guessers on some races were way off on other races.

Minor-party or independent candidates are on the ballot for some races, so the percentages of the vote for Democratic and Republican nominees need not add up to 100. You can view the complete list of candidates for federal and state offices in Iowa here (pdf).

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 29)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 30, 2014 at 09:40:00 AM CDT

Roughly 50,000 registered Iowa Democrats, 35,000 Republicans, and 35,000 no-party voters have requested but not yet returned absentee ballots. The Iowa Secretary of State's Office sent out a press release yesterday on deadlines for returning those ballots. Excerpt:

Absentee ballots returned by mail and received in the county auditor's office by 9 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, November 4 are eligible for counting. Absentee ballots returned by mail and received by the auditors office after the polls close must be postmarked by November 3 or earlier and be received by the auditor before noon on Monday, November 10.  Mail is not always postmarked so it is important to return the ballot as soon as possible. Absentee ballots can also be returned to the county auditor's office in person no later than 9 p.m. on Tuesday, November 4.

I would not simply drop a ballot in the mail at this point. The risk of it arriving late without a postmark is too great. Either take it to the post office and demand a postmark on the envelope, or hand-deliver it to the county auditor's office.

If you make a mistake while filling out your absentee ballot, or your ballot gets lost or damaged, or you realize after mailing that you forgot the secrecy or affidavit envelopes, call your county auditor's office. In many cases you will be able to come in, sign a form to void your original absentee ballot, and fill out a new absentee ballot right there.

I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 28)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 29, 2014 at 09:35:00 AM CDT

As of yesterday, the number of registered Republicans who had returned absentee ballots to county auditors (138,362) exceeds the total early Republican vote in the 2010 Iowa general election (136,243). Ballots returned by registered Democrats and no-party voters are likely to exceed 2010 early voting levels today or tomorrow.

Statewide, Democrats have returned about 5,000 more absentee ballots to county auditors than Republicans have, but they also have a lower return rate. Roughly 56,000 Democrats have requested but not yet returned absentee ballots, compared to about 38,000 ballots outstanding for Republicans and 38,000 outstanding for no-party voters. Every 11,000 to 12,000 ballots left on the table represents roughly 1 percent of the expected total vote in the 2014 general election.

For Iowans who have not yet returned their absentee ballots, the safest options are to hand-deliver the completed ballot to the county auditor's office, or to take it to the post office and demand a postmark for the envelope. Late-arriving mailed ballots with no postmark will not be counted.

Iowans cannot turn in completed absentee ballots at their regular polling place on election day. However, they may go to their precinct polling place next Tuesday, surrender their unreturned absentee ballot to poll workers, and receive a new ballot to fill out like other election-day voters.

I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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New thread on competitive Iowa Senate races

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 28, 2014 at 09:49:43 AM CDT

It's been a while since Bleeding Heartland posted a thread dedicated to the Iowa Senate races. Democrats go into the election with a 26 to 24 majority in the upper chamber, where 25 of the 50 districts are on the ballot this year. Only a handful of those races appear to be competitive.

Carolyn Fiddler, who blogs about state legislative races here, has rated the Iowa Senate as a "Tossup/Tilt D" chamber on her list of state legislative chambers most likely to flip. In those terms, I consider the Iowa Senate a "lean D" chamber, as a lot has to break for Republicans to get them to 26 seats.

In theory, Democrats are defending six seats: five incumbents have challengers, and one Democratic-held seat is open. In reality, Republicans have failed to mount strong challengers against Amanda Ragan in Senate district 27 or Tod Bowman in Senate district 29. Moreover, the Iowa GOP is not putting significant money behind Jeremy Davis, its challenger in Senate district 23. Davis has just started running some positive radio ads in the Des Moines area, whereas radio commercials were launched more than a month ago in the targeted races.

The Democratic incumbent who appears to be most at risk is Daryl Beall in Senate district 5. His territory changed quite a bit with redistricting, and Mitt Romney carried it in the 2012 presidential election. Republicans are also making a strong play for the open Senate district 15. Both parties have been running radio ads since late September, but as of last week only Democrats were on television in Senate district 15, with a positive spot about Chaz Allen. To a lesser extent, Republicans have put money behind Brian Schmidt's campaign in Senate district 49, but the demographics of that district favor incumbent Senator Rita Hart.

Republicans could win two of the Democratic-held Iowa Senate seats, but that won't get them to the magic 26 unless they hold all of their current seats. Two of those are heavily targeted. In the open Senate district 39, both parties have been advertising on the radio for more than a month. Democrats have invested far more in television ads (all positive for Kevin Kinney) than Republicans have for Mike Moore.

The other Republican-held Senate seat most at risk appears to be Senate district 41. By voter registration and top of the ticket performance, this should be a Democratic seat. The best thing going for State Senator Mark Chelgren is that Mariannette Miller-Meeks is the Republican nominee in Iowa's second Congressional district. She's an underdog against Representative Dave Loebsack, but a strong turnout for her in the Ottumwa area would benefit Chelgren, as it did in 2010.

Carolyn Fiddler encouraged readers to keep an eye on Senate district 47, but even though Barack Obama carried that district in 2012, it would be an upset for Maria Bribriesco to defeat incumbent Roby Smith. That said, Democrats have hit SD-47 with quite a bit of direct mail.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that surrogates have gotten involved with many of these races. Senator Tom Harkin headlined an October 27 rally in Fort Dodge for Beall. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley did an event earlier this month for Steve Siegel in Senate district 41. On the Republican side, Governor Terry Branstad has been in Ottumwa recently to help Chelgren and plans events for the GOP candidates in Senate districts 15 and 39 soon.

SECOND UPDATE: Tim Kraayenbrink, the GOP challenger to Beall in Senate district 5, has just started running a positive television commercial in the Des Moines market. The gist is that he's a small business owner, unlike "career politicians in Des Moines." I haven't caught it on tape yet but am fairly certain he did not mention Beall by name.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 27)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 28, 2014 at 08:55:00 AM CDT

A week before election day, early voting is on track to well exceed the total number of absentee ballots cast in the 2010 Iowa general election. I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

Republicans lead in ballots requested and returned in the fourth Congressional district. Democrats lead in the other three districts, by the largest margin in IA-02 (where Representative Dave Loebsack is facing Mariannette Miller-Meeks) and by the smallest margin in IA-03 (the open-seat race between Staci Appel and David Young).

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Three reasons Jon Neiderbach would be a better state auditor than Mary Mosiman

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 27, 2014 at 09:35:00 AM CDT

Iowa's state auditor is a low-profile position and a difficult office to campaign for, even without a marquee U.S. Senate race sucking up all the oxygen. But there are huge contrasts between Republican incumbent Mary Mosiman, appointed to the office last year, and her Democratic challenger Jonathan Neiderbach.

Last week, Robert Rees hosted a mini-debate of the state auditor candidates during his "Morning Drive" program on the Des Moines-based talk radio station 98.3 The Torch. You can listen to the 15-minute exchange here or look it up on the list of Morning Drive podcasts for October 21. The big takeaway is that Mosiman wants to maintain the status quo in State Auditor's office operations, despite mismanagement including secret payouts to state employees, which several years of audits failed to uncover. Neiderbach wants to improve the audits so that they are meeting the tasks set out in Iowa Code.

Follow me after the jump for highlights from last week's debate and two more reasons to support Neiderbach for state auditor.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 26)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 27, 2014 at 08:47:57 AM CDT

In all likelihood, at least a quarter of the Iowans who will participate in this year's midterm election have already returned completed ballots to county auditors. Another 150,000 voters have requested ballots but not yet returned them. To anyone planning to vote by mail: send your ballot back as soon as possible. Iowa law says any ballot mailed by the day before the election (in this case November 3) is valid, but county auditors will not count late-arriving ballots without postmarks. Unfortunately, post offices no longer routinely put postmarks on all mail that passes through. Iowans who are worried about their ballots arriving on time should either take them to a post office this week and ask for a postmark, or hand-deliver completed ballots to the county auditor's office.

Don't forget to seal the ballot in the secrecy envelope, seal the secrecy envelope in the affidavit envelope, and sign the affidavit envelope before mailing. If you make a mistake on your absentee ballot, don't erase or cross anything out. Contact your county auditor about the procedure for getting a replacement ballot.

I've enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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