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

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

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

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Trump delivers stolen Supreme Court seat to Neil Gorsuch

President Donald Trump announced this evening that he is nominating 10th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court seat that should have gone to President Barack Obama’s nominee. A few good backgrounders on the man who will benefit from last year’s unprecedented Republican obstruction: Eric Citron for SCOTUS blog, Robert Barnes for the Washington Post, and Adam Liptak for the New York Times. Liptak dug up a 2002 article by Gorsuch, in which he lamented the Senate’s treatment of two appeals court nominees “widely considered to be among the finest lawyers of their generation”: John Roberts (the current Chief Justice) and Merrick Garland (who should have been confirmed to fill this vacancy).

USA Today’s justice reporter Brad Heath observed, “It would be hard for Trump to have picked a federal appellate judge more like Scalia than Gorsuch.” Heath posted excerpts from a number of Gorsuch’s opinions in this thread, noting the judge believes in “applying the Constitution’s ‘original public meaning.’” Some of the rulings are counter-intuitive, such as this case in which Gorsuch found “extortion doesn’t violate the Equal Protection Clause if [the] corrupt official solicited bribes from everyone.”

Senator Chuck Grassley praised Gorsuch for being well qualified and having been confirmed unanimously to the appeals court. Speaking to the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble, the Judiciary Committee chair said he hoped Democrats would not filibuster Gorsuch, just as Republicans didn’t filibuster Supreme Court nominees during the first terms of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. What’s missing from this narrative? Grassley never even gave Garland a hearing.

After the jump I’ve posted prepared statements from Grassley and Senator Joni Ernst welcoming the nomination. I also enclose below the Alliance for Justice fact sheet on Gorsuch, which references many of his legal writings. That non-profit’s president Nan Aron described Gorsuch as a “disastrous choice,” because his “record shows no sign that he would offer an independent check on the dangerous impulses of this administration. What it does show is that he would put the agenda of powerful special interests ahead of the rights of everyday people […].”

Gorsuch is only 49 years old, so he will probably serve on the high court for decades. Several analysts believe picking him was an effort to “reassure” Justice Anthony Kennedy “that it would be safe to retire.” Once Kennedy goes and Trump appoints another justice, we can say goodbye to reproductive rights, voting rights, any kind of environmental and labor regulations, consumer protections, and equal rights for women and LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court will for all practical purposes be unavailable as a check on Republican governance.

While conservatives across the country celebrate tonight, a few locals may be disappointed Trump passed over 8th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Steven Colloton of Iowa. Colloton and Iowa Supreme Court Justice Edward Mansfield were both on the long list of possible Supreme Court nominees Trump released during the campaign. By some recent accounts, Colloton was on the president’s short list after the election too. Maybe next time.

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Weekend open thread: Threats to national security edition

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

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

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

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Leadership contest may leave Iowa Democrats more divided than before

UPDATE: Derek Eadon was the winner; have added more about the meeting below, along with the audio from his first comments to reporters as state party chair and background on the new vice chairs. Democrats avoided a polarizing result today.

For many years, the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee “elected” the state chair in name only. In reality, insiders rubber-stamped a decision made by one person (Senator Tom Harkin, Governor Tom Vilsack, or Governor Chet Culver). So I was thrilled to see an open competition among four talented people seeking the top position in 2015. Contrary to some predictions, that race was not a foregone conclusion for the establishment’s favorite candidate; Andy McGuire needed three ballots to win.

The spirited campaign to become state party chair for the next two years is encouraging, considering the huge challenges facing our party after losses in November exceeding most people’s expectations.

I decided early not to endorse any candidate, because everyone in the field brought valuable skills and experience to the table. Reading the pieces posted here by Julie Stauch, Kurt Meyer, Derek Eadon, Sandy Dockendorff, Blair Lawton, and Kim Weaver, along with messages to State Central Committee members from Mike Gronstal and Bob Krause, I felt confident that whoever won would understand the key tasks facing the party and could draw on many good ideas floated during the process.

As today’s election approached, I have become increasingly concerned that the outcome will leave Iowa Democrats more angry and divided–party because the voting procedure won’t allow for consensus-building, and partly because some old hands simply don’t understand the mindset of many activists energized by the Bernie Sanders campaign.

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These Iowa Democrats will conduct the 2016 election post-mortem

On a dark day for Democrats across the country, the Iowa Democratic Party announced most members of the “Building Blocks” committee that will analyze what went wrong in the 2016 elections. Representative Dave Loebsack spearheaded the initiative and will help raise money to cover the costs of a listening tour and research including a professional focus group. Members named in a January 20 press release:

– Joe O’Hern- Campaign Manager Loebsack for Congress
– Laura Hubka- 1st District SCC Member
– Kate Revaux- 2nd District SCC Member
– Jason Frerichs- 3rd District SCC Member
– Penny Rosfjord- 4th District SCC Member
– Emily Parcell- Wildfire Consulting
– Jessica Vanden Berg- Maverick Consulting and Mail
– Erich Schmidt- Laborers International Union
– Representatives from House Truman Fund
– Representatives from State Senate Majority Fund
– Representatives from the Iowa Democratic Party Staff

Best of luck to this group. I look forward to reading their report sometime this spring. Broadly, we know that white voters without a college degree were the key to Iowa’s massive swing to Trump. But we have a lot to learn about why so many people in counties that had voted for Barack Obama twice either did not vote or voted for Trump. We need to figure out how to reconnect with voters in eastern Iowa communities that were Democratic strongholds for decades. We need to assess the party’s early GOTV strategy, which seems to have inadvertently turned out Trump voters. We also need to understand why some of our hard-working Iowa Senate incumbents and state House candidates performed so poorly in down-ballot races. Why didn’t Governor Terry Branstad’s disastrous Medicaid privatization and under-funding of education and mental health care resonate more with voters in communities of all sizes?

P.S.- I learned after publishing my latest Throwback Thursday post that Jessica Vanden Berg and Scott Ourth (an Iowa House Democrat since 2013) worked on John Judge’s campaign for the January 1999 special election to replace Patty Judge. I hope to hear their stories someday and publish an account of that race from the Democratic perspective.

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Another Southern Iowa Red County- Wayne County (5/99)

Continuing a 99-part series. Previous installments are here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

This week I will review our fifth-smallest county in terms of population, Wayne County. The 2010 census found 6,403 people living in the entire 527 square miles (34th smallest) that are within Wayne County. To put this in perspective, it is roughly equal to population with the city of Oelwein. Wayne County is south and just a bit east of Des Moines. According to Google Maps, the county seat of Wayne County, Corydon, is 70.5 road miles from the Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines. Wayne County was founded in 1846 from Appanoose County and was named after Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne.

As we’ve seen as another trend in these first five rural counties, the highest population in the county of 17,491 was in the 1900 census. Wayne County has lost population in every census since that time.

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