IA-Gov: Andy McGuire has her work cut out for her

I’ve never seen a bigger disconnect between Iowa Democratic Party donors and activists than in their attitude toward Dr. Andy McGuire as a candidate for governor.

I’ve never seen a bigger disconnect between Iowa pundits and activists than in their assessment of McGuire’s chances to become the Democratic nominee.

Since McGuire rolled out her campaign three weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about how she might persuade enough rank-and-file Democrats to support her in a crowded gubernatorial field. I’m stumped.

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Iowa attorney general: Outside counsel should defend collective bargaining law

To “avoid any questions about a potential conflict,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller will request that outside legal counsel defend the state against a public employee union’s legal challenge to Iowa’s new collective bargaining law. AFSCME, the largest labor union representing state workers, and four of its members filed suit on February 20, charging that House File 291 violates Iowa constitutional provisions on equal protection and non-interference in contracts. In a statement I enclose in full below, Miller said he will ask the Iowa Executive Council to approve other counsel for this case, because “the new collective bargaining law has the potential to existentially threaten the viability of public sector unions,” which have supported him in past campaigns.

The council is likely to approve Miller’s request. Its five members are Governor Terry Branstad, Secretary of State Paul Pate, State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, and State Auditor Mary Mosiman. Branstad’s spokesperson Ben Hammes told Barbara Rodriguez of the Associated Press, “[Miller] summed it up when he said that AFSCME had supported him in the past and he wants to avoid any questions about a potential conflict.”

The Attorney General’s Office defended the Branstad administration against a lawsuit challenging the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home, for which AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan was a plaintiff. But outside counsel defended the state when Democratic lawmakers and Homan challenged the governor’s use of line-item vetoes to close Iowa Workforce Development offices.

Miller may need to ask outside counsel to be appointed if other labor unions and public employees file additional lawsuits challenging the collective bargaining law. Aside from the points raised by AFSCME, several other provisions may raise constitutional questions:

• The law bans automatic payroll deductions for labor union dues, while allowing such deductions to continue for professional association memberships or recurring charitable contributions.

• The law may violate free association rights by requiring unions to win a majority of all eligible voters, not just those who cast ballots, in order to stay certified.

• The law eliminates a quid pro quo contained in the first paragraph of Chapter 20, which could be seen as a due process violation.

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Republicans deliver worst month ever to Iowa students and educators

For all their talk about helping Iowa provide a “world class” and “globally competitive” education, Iowa Republicans are unwilling to provide the resources public schools need to keep up with rising costs.

And for all their talk about getting “better teachers in the classroom” and giving “hardworking teachers … all the tools necessary to succeed,” Iowa Republicans seem determined to discourage people from pursuing a teaching career in this state.

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IA-Gov: Democrat Jon Neiderbach launching campaign soon

Jon Neiderbach, the 2014 Democratic candidate for state auditor, plans to announce a campaign for governor by the end of the week, he confirmed to Bleeding Heartland. A New York native who has lived in Iowa since attending Grinnell College during the 1970s, Neiderbach has in-depth knowledge of state government, having worked for the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and later in the Iowa Department of Human Services. He also served a term on the Des Moines School Board and has been an attorney in private practice since 2012. He campaigned for a few months in Iowa House district 43 during the last election cycle but withdrew from that race before the filing period.

Last year, Neiderbach was an active supporter of Bernie Sanders for president, and he will need support from that part of the Democratic base in a primary likely to include better-funded candidates. His new Twitter handle is @Neiderbach4Gov, and he’s on Facebook here. A campaign website will launch soon. I enclose below a short bio released during Neiderbach’s 2014 race for state auditor.

The field of Democratic challengers to future Governor Kim Reynolds will expand further. Rich Leopold is already campaigning around the state, and former Iowa Democratic Party chair Andy McGuire is expected to make her candidacy official within a month or two. (However, when I asked McGuire at the recent State Central Committee meeting when she was going to announce, the mother of seven grown children answered with a joke: “Oh, do I look pregnant?”)

The rumor mill sees State Representative Todd Prichard as a likely gubernatorial candidate too.

State Senator Liz Mathis told a Democratic gathering in Des Moines this month that she thought about running for governor in 2018, “but I don’t believe it’s in the cards for me.” I’ve talked to several Democrats who hope she will reconsider, including AFSCME President Danny Homan. (He is not in McGuire’s fan club.) Terry Branstad ruled out running for governor in May 2009 but changed his mind a few months later.

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Weekend open thread: ISU cronyism and favoritism edition

Insider dealing at the University of Iowa has drawn intense scrutiny since President Bruce Harreld’s hiring last year. This week, several news reports cast an unflattering light on the culture President Steven Leath is fostering at Iowa State University.

The July 9 Des Moines Register carried a front-page story by Lee Rood on Leath’s recent purchase of land from one of the companies controlled by Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter. After trying to weasel out of answering questions regarding what he called his “personal life,” Leath insisted he got no “special deal” on the land. However, the arrangement appears highly irregular, as discussed below following excerpts from Rood’s article.

Two recent stories by Vanessa Miller for the Cedar Rapids Gazette raised further questions about what kind of operation Leath is running. Click through to read about the hiring of former Republican lawmaker Jim Kurtenbach for a high-paying job that was never advertised, as well as Kurtenbach’s restructuring of ISU’s information technology services unit, which involved eliminating 23 positions and paying 19 people not to work since May 25. Excerpts from those stories are below as well.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

P.S.- Speaking of cozy Republican networks, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on Friday that the University of Iowa “is retaining a social media startup company with Republican Party ties that benefited from earlier no-bid contracts.” Wholecrowd is run by Jim Anderson, who served as Iowa GOP executive director during part of the time the University of Iowa’s current Vice President for External Relations Peter Matthes was a staffer for the GOP state Senate caucus. Under no-bid contracts Matthes signed with former Iowa GOP state party chair Matt Strawn’s company, Wholecrowd did the same kind of “digital advocacy” work as a subcontractor. The university’s new contract, signed directly with Wholecrowd after a competitive bidding process, seems to have cut Strawn out as the middleman.

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The Polk County Democratic convention fiasco

The most important business at yesterday’s Iowa Democratic and Republican county conventions was electing delegates to each party’s district conventions in April and state convention in June. Iowa Democratic rules do not bind county convention delegates to the candidates they supported at their precinct caucuses, and not all delegates chosen at precinct caucuses show up for the county conventions. Those factors helped Barack Obama make big gains in March 2008, from a lead of “16 state delegates to Clinton’s 15 on caucus night […] to a 25-14 lead after the county conventions.” John Deeth explained the 2008 county convention happenings at the time and on Friday provided a detailed look at what goes on behind the scenes to organize these events.

Yesterday’s conventions didn’t change Clinton’s expected lead over Bernie Sanders in state delegates. After the Iowa caucuses, the Iowa Democratic Party calculated Clinton had 700.47 state delegate equivalents, Sanders had 696.92 state delegate equivalents, and Martin O’Malley 7.63. The Iowa Democratic Party reported last night that the 99 county conventions elected 704 state delegates for Clinton, 700 for Sanders, one for O’Malley, and one uncommitted. Scroll to the end of this post to see the numbers for each candidate from all 99 counties. The projected national delegate count from Iowa remains 23 for Clinton and 21 for Sanders.

While most counties saw little change after yesterday’s conventions, the balance of power did shift slightly in some counties. For example, Johnson County elected 54 delegates for Sanders yesterday and 38 for Clinton. Those numbers represented a net gain of one delegate for Clinton compared to what was expected following the precinct caucuses.

Sanders improved his standing most in Polk County. He won only about 46 percent of the county delegates here on February 1 to 53 percent for Clinton. But at the end of a very long day in West Des Moines, the Polk County convention elected 115 delegates for Clinton and 113 for Sanders, a net gain of about six state delegates for Sanders.

That could have been big news, except for one problem. Hours before Polk County delegates ratified their slates, social media exploded as thousands of people, eventually including Sanders himself through his campaign Twitter account, alleged that Clinton allies had tried to “steal” the convention.

I wasn’t at Valley High School, but I followed postings yesterday by dozens of delegates for each candidate. Since the convention, I have spoken to or received direct messages from multiple delegates on both sides, including leaders of the Clinton and Sanders groups and members of the Polk County Credentials Committee. My best effort to piece together what happened is after the jump.

Short version: evidence points not to “stealing,” but to mismanagement by convention leaders, especially Rules Committee Chair Jeff Goetz. Unusual procedures implemented without transparency fueled suspicions among people who may have gone into the convention expecting dirty tricks from party establishment types supporting Clinton.

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