The 15 Bleeding Heartland posts I worked hardest on in 2015

As I mentioned on Tuesday, writing is a labor of love for me. Some posts are much more labor-intensive than others.

All of the pieces linked below took at least a couple of days to put together. Some were in progress for weeks before I was ready to hit the publish button. (No editor, deadlines, or word limits can be a dangerous combination.) A few of the particularly time-consuming posts required additional research or interviews. More often, the challenge was figuring out the best way to present the material.

Several pieces that would have qualified for this list are not included, because they are still unfinished. Assuming I can get those posts where they need to be, I plan to publish them during the first quarter of 2016.

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One pro-choice Democratic woman's question for EMILY's List

Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon was the first Congressional candidate endorsed this cycle by the influential political action committee EMILY’s List. The PAC’s mission is straightforward: “We elect pro-choice Democratic women to office.” EMILY’s List did not get involved in the 2014 primary to represent Iowa’s first district, in which three of the five candidates were pro-choice women. But the PAC’s leaders have signaled they will fight to help Vernon win the IA-01 nomination in 2016.

As in the last election cycle, Vernon’s main competition for the right to face Republican Rod Blum will be former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy. Even before Murphy officially entered the race last week, EMILY’s List took the first shot at the 2014 Democratic nominee. Cristinia Crippes reported for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier on July 20,

“Pat Murphy cannot be trusted to stand up for women and families across Iowa — just look at his long record of trying to restrict women’s access to health care and put politics in the middle of decisions that should be left between women and their doctors,” Emily’s List press secretary Rachel Thomas said in a statement.

On July 29, EMILY’s List fleshed out that case with a graphic I’ve enclosed below, highlighting Murphy’s “pro-life” votes and statements between 1996 and 2007.

This lifelong Democrat and third-generation supporter of reproductive rights in Iowa has one question for the EMILY’s List strategists: Do you really want to go there?

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EMILY's List endorses Roxanne Conlin

Lots of people have asked me this spring when EMILY’s List is going to get behind Roxanne Conlin’s campaign for U.S. Senate. Now we have our answer:

For Immediate Release

June 25, 2010

EMILY’s List Endorses Roxanne Conlin for United States Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest financial resource for women candidates, today announced its endorsement of Roxanne Conlin in her campaign for the Unites States Senate.

“EMILY’s List is thrilled to announce our support for Roxanne Conlin in her campaign to be Iowa ‘s next United States Senator. Roxanne has proven time and again that she is a strong and determined advocate for the people of Iowa ,” said Stephanie Schriock , president of EMILY’s List. “This year, more than ever, is it crucial that we elect smart, effective and capable leaders to take on powerful special interests and those who put corporations over American families. Roxanne Conlin has been fighting for families her entire career. She is not afraid to take on big challenges and stand up for Iowans in the court room or on the Senate floor. EMILY’s List is proud to endorse Roxanne Conlin for the United States Senate.”

“Chuck Grassley has served in Congress for over three decades. Three decades of taking more money from PACs than he has from people.  Iowans don’t need a career politician concerned with his next election,” Schriock continued. “Roxanne is a former United States attorney, Democratic nominee for governor, the first woman president of the American Association for Justice, and a grandmother who is concerned about the next generation, who is poised to move this seat to the Democratic column in November.”

A lifelong champion for women’s rights, Conlin founded and was the first chair of the Iowa Women’s Political Caucus, the president of NOW’s Legal Defense and Education Fund and, while serving as Iowa ‘s assistant attorney general, she wrote the first law of its kind protecting rape victims. Conlin later served as United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, where she worked with law enforcement, led major drug busts and cracked down on violent crime.

EMILY’s List is the nation’s largest resource for women candidates. In the 2007-2008 cycle, EMILY’s List raised more than $43 million to support its mission of recruiting and supporting women candidates, helping them build strong campaigns, and mobilizing women voters to turn out and vote. Since its founding in 1985, EMILY’s List has worked to elect 80 pro-choice Democratic women to the U.S. House, 15 to the U.S. Senate, nine governors, and hundreds of women to the state legislatures, state constitutional offices, and other key local offices.

For more information on EMILY’s List, please visit

This endorsement is bound to further raise Conlin’s profile on the national scene and bring in more donations from around the country.

This week the Cook Political Report moved its rating on this race from safe Republican to likely Republican. That’s where most other election forecasters, including Swing State Project, have had the race for some time.

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Update on the Congressional races

It’s time for a new thread on the Congressional races across the country.

First, I need to make two corrections. I reported late Tuesday night that Tom Harkin had won all of Iowa’s 99 counties. That was based on a map on the election results page of the Des Moines Register’s website, which showed all of Iowa’s 99 counties in blue. However, the Daily Kos election scoreboard shows the true picture (click on “Senate,” then on Iowa). Harkin won “only” 94 Iowa counties. He lost Page County in southwest Iowa as well as Sioux, Lyon, O’Brien and Osceola in the northwest corner.

Second, I have reported that EMILY’s List provided no financial support to Becky Greenwald’s campaign in the fourth Congressional district. However, Bleeding Heartland commenter Bill Spencer pointed out that Greenwald’s third quarter FEC filing shows a $5,000 contribution from EMILY’s List on September 22 (a few days after the group endorsed Greenwald).

It’s worth noting that when EMILY’s List strongly commits to a race, they invest considerably more than $5,000 in the candidate.

Earlier this year, EMILY’s List backed Nikki Tinker in the Democratic primary in Tennessee’s ninth district against Steve Cohen, who had a perfect pro-choice voting record. I have not been able to confirm a number, but EMILY’s list was reported to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars advocating for Tinker.

James L. of Swing State Project compiled this comprehensive chart showing independent expenditures in House races across the country. Look at how much EMILY’s List spent in some other districts: more than $160,000 in IL-11, nearly $150,000 in CO-04, nearly $60,000 in OH-15, more than $30,000 in NH-01, $19,000 in FL-13, $16,500 in NY-26.

That only counts the money EMILY’s List itself spends on behalf of Congressional candidates. The group can also raise substantial funds for candidates through their mailing list. Donors to EMILY’s List receive direct-mail and e-mail appeals regularly, asking them to contribute directly to key candidates from around the country. These letters contain short bios of the candidates EMILY’s List is backing. I have confirmed from more than one source that EMILY’s List did not send out any direct-mail or e-amil appeals urging members to contribute to Greenwald’s campaign.

So, while I was wrong to write that EMILY’s List provided no financial support to Greenwald, it is accurate to say that they did little to help her beyond issuing a press release very late in the game.

Getting to the big picture, Democrats have picked up six U.S. Senate seats: Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia. Three races have yet to be called. Norm Coleman leads Al Franken in Minnesota by 236 votes (out of more than 2.5 million cast) at the latest count. There will be a mandatory recount in this race once the initial count has been completed. I read last night that Franken can win if even one extra vote for him is found in every eight Minnesota precincts.

We may be headed for a recount in Alaska, although it seems unlikely that Mark Begich can overcome convicted felon Ted Stevens’ narrow lead. There is some speculation that Stevens will resign or be expelled from the Senate, in which case a different Republican (Sarah Palin?) could take the seat.

By the way, the election results in Alaska diverged from pre-election polling in an almost unprecedented way, not only in the Senate race but also in the presidential voting and in the race for Alaska’s at-large seat in the House. Further investigation is needed to figure out whether all polls in Alaska (and Alaska alone) were way off, or whether there was any tampering with the vote counting.

Georgia will hold a runoff in December between Jim Martin and the Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss. I don’t have high hopes for this one, since Georgia is a Republican state to begin with and I think the GOP base will be motivated to reduce President Obama’s working majority in the Senate. However, anything can happen. On a related note, there are some anomalies in the turnout figures in Georgia that will require further analysis.

As for the U.S. House, Democrats picked up 23 seats on Tuesday and lost four for a net gain of 19 and a total of 255. Seven races have not been called, all of them in Republican-held districts. Democratic candidates are leading in only two of those (MD-01 and VA-05). Republican leads are extremely small in OH-15 and CA-04, but the picture looks more discouraging for our side in CA-44 (a real under-the-radar race), WA-08 and Alaska’s at-large seat.

If all the candidates currently leading are eventually declared the winners, Democrats would hold 257 House seats and Republicans 181. Crisitunity posted these charts showing Republicans in blue districts and vice versa. Note that the partisan voting index for every Congressional district will have to be recalculated, tossing the 2000 presidential voting and adding the 2008 presidential voting. But using the current partisan voting index numbers (which are based on the 2000 and 2004 presidential voting), only nine Republicans in the whole country represent districts with any Democratic lean at all. One of them is Iowa’s own Tom Latham.

In contrast, at least nine Democrats represent deep-red Congressional districts with a partisan index of at least R+10 (for perspective, Iowa’s fifth district is R+8). Many more Democrats represent districts with only a slightly less Republican lean. We lost incumbent Nancy Boyda in KS-02 (R+7) but picked up Betsy Markey in CO-04 (R+9).

What does Crisitunity’s post mean for Iowans? I take away two lessons.

First, there’s no question that Latham will be tough to beat in 2010, but if he vacates the seat IA-04 becomes a top pickup opportunity for Democrats. I would be very surprised to see him run for governor, but if Chuck Grassley were to retire for any reason I think Latham would take a shot at the Senate race.

Second, looking at the nationwide picture, Democrats are far more competitive in red Congressional districts than Republicans are in blue districts. I am confident that the Republicans have very little chance of recapturing IA-01 and IA-02.

Also, a new Democratic candidate will be favored to hold IA-03 whenever Leonard Boswell retires, even if redistricting after the 2010 census somewhat reduces the Democratic lean in this district.

This is an open thread for any commentary on any of the U.S. House or Senate races.

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EMILY'S List backs Greenwald

When I wrote this post over the weekend I had no idea that EMILY’s List was about to endorse Becky Greenwald in her race against Tom Latham.

Here is an excerpt from an EMILY’s List press release today, announcing the group’s backing for Greenwald as well as for Sharen Neuhardt in Ohio’s seventh Congressional district:

“Running in emerging take-back opportunities for the House, Becky Greenwald and Sharen Neuhardt represent the dynamic, capable, and visionary leaders we need in Congress today,” said Ellen R. Malcolm, president of EMILY’s List. “Hailing from the swing states of Iowa and Ohio , these exceptional candidates have the passion and experience to tackle the real problems facing their districts. Their backgrounds and leadership will be valued assets in the upcoming freshman class in Congress.  EMILY’s List members are proud to support these Democratic women and help elect them to the United States House in November.”

Becky Greenwald, Iowa ‘s 4th congressional district

In this history-making campaign, Becky Greenwald will be the first woman to represent Iowa in the United States House of Representatives. Born and raised in  Iowa , Greenwald has a strong understanding of the needs and concerns of everyday Iowans. Greenwald has been actively involved in the agricultural business in  Iowa for over two decades. In Congress, she is committed to fighting for the issues that are most important to voters in the fourth district – forging a sustainable energy plan, ensuring access to health care, and fighting for higher wages and income security.  In addition to her work at Iowa seed companies, she has held many leadership positions in the state Democratic Party and with agricultural organizations such as the American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC) and Iowa Forage and Grassland Council (IFGC). Becky Greenwald is committed to working for the families of the fourth district by standing with them on today’s critical issues and by bringing a new brand of politics to  Washington.

Gaining the support of EMILY’s List is a big boost for Greenwald, not only financially but also in terms of raising the profile of this race. Late last week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put IA-04 on its list of “emerging races”.

Here is the Greenwald campaign’s statement on this endorsement:

Waukee, IA – Today, EMILY’s List announced they are endorsing Becky Greenwald for Congress in Iowa’s 4th District. In announcing their endorsement, EMILY’s List cited the historic nature of this race. Iowa is the only state in the country that has the opportunity to elect their first woman to federal office, and this is the first time EMILY’s List has endorsed a candidate in Iowa’s 4th District.

EMILY’s List supports pro-choice Democratic female candidates. Their endorsement comes with financial support and a national network of voters who support progressive women for office.

“We are thrilled that EMILY’s List has endorsed our race,” said Becky Greenwald. “EMILY’s List recognized the opportunity to make history this year.”

“But I’m not going to Washington to make history. I will go to Washington, roll up my sleeves, and work across the aisle to get things done for the people of the 4th District,” Greenwald continued. “For too long, Tom Latham has been a wingman for George Bush and blames Congress, the same place he has been for 14 years, for getting nothing done for Iowans. Enough is enough.”

Greenwald is on her “Enough is Enough Tour” exposing Tom Latham’s lack of action on education, national security, energy, healthcare and the economy. Last week, the campaign launched and the Latham-Bush caption contest.

Tomorrow Becky will focus on the economy and small businesses during public events in Waukee, Perry and Iowa Falls:

Wednesday, September 17th

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Waukee, IA

Chit n’ Chat, 13 Carefree Lane

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Perry Noon Rotary, Perry Country Club

352 330th St

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Iowa Falls, IA

Coffee Attic, 604 Washington Ave

Please post a comment or a diary if you are able to attend any of these events.

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Why hasn't EMILY's List gotten behind Becky Greenwald?

Maybe someone out there who knows the inner workings of EMILY’s List can explain to me why this group has not put money behind Becky Greenwald, the Democrat challenging loyal Republican foot-soldier Tom Latham in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district.

I have been going over the list of Democratic women running for Congress whom EMILY’s List is supporting, with a particular focus on the six challengers most recently added to this group in early August. I do not mean to knock any of those candidates, and I recognize that every race has its own dynamic.

However, after comparing Greenwald’s race to those of other candidates, I remain puzzled that EMILY’s list is not more involved in IA-04.  

Follow me after the jump for more.

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