Iowa's Democracy Spring

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts advocating for candidates in competitive Democratic primaries. Please read these guidelines before writing. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In the 2016 Iowa Democratic Senate primary, if we are not careful, we are going to get corporate ag anti-environment, anti-labor Patty Judge jammed down our throats. The two progressives in the race are Tom Fiegen and Rob Hogg. The purpose of this letter is to compare the two on the issues that are important to us as progressives:clean water, CAFOs, blocking the Prestage slaughter plant in Mason City, the Bakken pipeline, $15 minimum wage, family farming, economic fairness and immigrant rights.

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IA-04: Joni Ernst is all in for Steve King

Today U.S. Senator Joni Ernst became the third Iowa Republican heavyweight to endorse Representative Steve King, who faces a primary challenge from State Senator Rick Bertrand in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district. Ernst didn’t just allow King’s campaign to announce her support in a statement, she also filmed a short video which I’ve enclosed below, along with a transcript.

Birds can be heard singing in the background as Ernst praises King for supporting life, liberty, the military, four-laning U.S. Highway 20, and the fuel blender tax credit. The sound you can’t hear is the door slamming on Bertrand’s already slim chance to win this primary.

Ernst served with Bertrand in the Iowa Senate GOP caucus from 2011 through 2014, so has observed his political work more closely than most Republicans. She could have stayed neutral, though seven-term incumbent King was heavily favored to win the IA-04 primary even before Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley publicly backed him.

As with Grassley’s endorsement, I wonder whether Ernst wanted to dish out some payback to Nick Ryan, the dark money operative who was recruiting a primary challenger in IA-04 and endorsed Bertrand immediately after the state senator made his campaign official.

Ryan worked for Mark Jacobs during his race against Ernst and others in the 2014 GOP primary for U.S. Senate. (Bruce Rastetter, a frequent ally of Ryan and major ethanol industry figure who is also supporting Bertrand against King, backed Ernst early in that race.)

Bertrand has been promoting himself as someone who will deliver for IA-04 in Congress, rather than trying to be a "national figure." Last week, he asserted in an interview with the Des Moines Register’s William Petroski that there is widespread "discontentment" with King, who "has gone Washington." Echoing that talking point, Ryan told Petroski, "I believe we can do better. I want a conservative congressman that cares more about getting things done for his district than booking an appearance on Fox or MSNBC."

Ryan can raise a lot of money to spend on campaigns, but his track record in Iowa GOP contests is mixed. Unsuccessful candidates who benefited from spending controlled by Ryan include: Jim Gibbons in the 2010 primary for Iowa’s third Congressional district, Annette Sweeney in the 2012 primary for Iowa House district 50, Jacobs in the 2014 Senate primary, Matt Schultz in the 2014 primary for IA-03, and Mike Huckabee before the latest Iowa caucuses.

P.S.-Asked this morning whether he wants "to see King defeated" in June, Governor Terry Branstad replied, "It’s up to the voters to decide in each of these instances and I’ve always had confidence in the voters of Iowa to make a good decision and I will obviously support the Republican nominees," O.Kay Henderson reported for Radio Iowa. Branstad made headlines by calling for Ted Cruz’s defeat less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. King was Cruz’s leading surrogate in Iowa after endorsing the Texas senator for president in November.

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IA-Sen: Judge playing down, Hogg playing up differences on water quality

Photo of Iowa stream courtesy of InIowaWater.org, a project of the Environmental Law & Policy Center

By entering the U.S. Senate race, former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge ensured that environmental issues would become salient for many Iowa Democrats trying to choose among the four candidates running against Senator Chuck Grassley.

During the past two weeks, Judge has sought to minimize the daylight between herself and State Senator Rob Hogg on the need to address water pollution. But Hogg, widely considered Judge’s leading rival for the nomination, has made environmental concerns a big part of his pitch to Democrats.

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IA-04, IA-Gov?: Bill Northey endorses Steve King for Congress

The Republican National Convention delegate elections grabbed most of the attention from today’s Iowa GOP district conventions, but Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey made some news at the fourth district gathering in Fort Dodge. Kathie Obradovich reported for the Des Moines Register,

“When I think of somebody I want in the room talking with conservative congressmen and senators, a potential president, on ethanol issues, I want Steve King,” [Northey] said.

King, in turn, suggested a promotion for Northey — but not to governor, a job for which he is often mentioned as a potential candidate. He noted there will be a new U.S. Agriculture secretary next year. “We’ll no longer have Secretary (Tom) Vilsack. I think maybe Secretary Northey sounds pretty good to me.”

King touted the quadrupling of ag land values during the first 12 years he was in Congress. “We should not forget, those are the best 12 years that agriculture has ever had in the history of this state during that period of time,” he said.

You don’t have to be an economist to know the rise in Iowa farmland values since 2003 has very little connection to who represented our state in Congress. But let’s leave that aside for now. Northey and King have long had a friendly political relationship. The ag secretary cut a radio ad King aired near the end of his toughest re-election campaign, the 2012 race against Christie Vilsack in a substantially redrawn district. Click through to read the transcript of that commercial, in which Northey touted King’s record on agriculture issues and support from farm groups. I would not be surprised to see a similar testimonial hit the airwaves before King’s June 7 primary against State Senator Rick Bertrand. People linked to the ethanol industry are among Bertrand’s heavy-hitter supporters, largely because King endorsed Senator Ted Cruz for president, despite Cruz’s stand on the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Speaking of the presidential race, King discussed possible brokered convention scenarios on this weekend’s edition of Iowa Public Television’s "Iowa Press" program. He predicted that "neither Trump nor Cruz delegates are going to tolerate anyone coming in from the outside that hasn’t been a candidate," such as U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. The full video and transcript are here; I’ve enclosed relevant excerpts below.

Northey is widely considered likely to run for governor in 2018 rather than for a fourth term as secretary of agriculture. King’s support could be helpful in a primary that will almost certainly include at least two other candidates: Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett. Neither has a strong base in rural Iowa, although Corbett has tried to bolster his credentials with the farm community by touting all-voluntary efforts to reduce agricultural runoff and bashing some efforts to regulate farm-based pollution.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Turtle Protection Bill passes and is signed by the governor

When a bill passes by an overwhelming bipartisan vote, like the turtle harvesting bill did in both the Iowa House and Senate, one might assume it was easy to persuade lawmakers and the governor to act. Not necessarily. Thanks to Mike Delaney for an in-depth look at how one good idea became state law. Delaney is a founder of the non-profit Raccoon River Watershed Association. Turtle graphic produced by the non-profit Iowa Rivers Revival. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Over the years I have noticed a decline in the number of Soft-shelled turtles on my sandbars along the Raccoon River in Dallas County. When I first bought my farm in 1988 12” and 14” Soft-shells would regularly slide into the river off the sand where they were warming their cold-blooded bodies. A few seconds later you could see their noses and foreheads pop up to look around. When my son and daughter were little I showed them (as my older brothers had shown me as a child) how to walk along the shore at night, focus a flashlight at the water’s edge and spot the heads of baby Softshells sticking out of the sand. However, we have not seen these little guys for many years.

I asked around about what happened to the turtles. County conservation folks told me that the commercial turtle trappers were selling them to China. I asked some “environmentally concerned” friends. One said that the DNR was worried about Iowa’s turtles and had proposed rules to limit turtle “harvest” during egg laying season and limits on the numbers that could be taken. Iowa had no rules preventing over-harvest of turtles. I was told that the rules were being held up in the governor’s office.

I decided to act on the matter.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge highlights support from women in first batch of endorsements

Claiming to have "a broad, statewide network that can work together to defeat Chuck Grassley," former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge today released a list of nearly 60 prominent Iowa Democrats supporting her candidacy for U.S. Senate. I enclose below the full campaign statement, which highlighted endorsements from:

• "every living Democratic woman to hold a statewide office in Iowa," namely former Attorney General Bonnie Campbell, former Secretary of State Elaine Baxter, and former Lieutenant Governors Sally Pederson and Jo Ann Zimmerman. Gender will be a factor for many Iowa Democrats weighing their choices in the four-way IA-Sen primary.

• "activists and community leaders," such as LGBTQ advocates Nate Monson, Cecilia Martinez, and Bobbi Fogle; Jill June, the longtime leader of Iowa’s largest Planned Parenthood chapter; Joe Henry, national vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens; and former Secretary of State nominee Brad Anderson.

• "current and former elected officials," including former U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell, Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, former Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, and former Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran.

• former Iowa Democratic Party chairs Rob Tully and Michael Kiernan (and Bonnie Campbell), along with current and former county party chairs.

Also worth noting:

• While Judge’s list is heavy on Iowans who backed Hillary Clinton for president, it includes some well-known Bernie Sanders endorsers like Gluba and Henry.

• Judge has not peeled away any of the 61 Democratic state lawmakers (including 25 women) who endorsed State Senator Rob Hogg for IA-Sen earlier this year, before the former lieutenant governor and Iowa secretary of agriculture was known to be considering this race.

Any comments about the Senate campaign are welcome in this thread. With all respect to Judge and the women and men named below, someone who aligned herself with the Iowa Farm Bureau against efforts to clean up waterways will never get my vote in a Democratic primary.

P.S.- I got a kick out of seeing both Joe Henry and Des Moines activist Sean Bagniewski on Judge’s supporter list. Less than two weeks ago, they were key players on opposite sides in the epic drama also known as the Polk County Democratic Convention.

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