Are women better candidates than men? (And other curiosities from the 2016 Iowa House elections)

After taking a closer look at the 2016 Iowa House election results, Kent R. Kroeger believes Iowa Democrats have reasons to worry but also reasons to be optimistic about their chances of taking back the chamber. You can contact the author at kentkroeger3@gmail.com.

The dataset used for the following analysis of 2016 Iowa House races with Democratic challengers or candidates for open seats can be found here: DATASET

When former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine asked in her July 2016 Huffington Post essay, “Is 2016 the year of the woman?”, she can be forgiven if her underlying assumption was that the U.S. would be electing its first female president four months later.

We know how that turned out. Yet, her question had a broader vision and was not dependent on the outcome of one presidential race in one country. The question springs from an emerging body of evidence that women may make for better politicians than men. Given that only 19 percent of U.S. congressional seats are currently held by women, it may seem ridiculous to ask such a question. And since 2000, the percentage of women in state legislatures has plateaued (see graph below). Nonetheless, looking across a longer time span, there is no question more and more women are running and winning elective office in this country.

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The 16 highest-traffic Bleeding Heartland posts in 2016

Traffic can be a touchy subject for bloggers. Most writers know the pain of pouring a lot of effort into a project that gets little traction. On the flip side, although clicks are always welcome, seeing a post take off is not as satisfying when you are less invested in the piece. The most-viewed post in nearly 10 years of Bleeding Heartland’s existence was nothing special, just another opinion poll write-up. FYI: A good way to get the Drudge Report to link to your site is to type up a long list of negative statements about Hillary Clinton.

I’ve never compiled a year-end list like this before, but since people occasionally ask what material is most popular at the blog, I figured, why not start a new tradition? Ulterior motive: I hope more readers will be inspired to write for Bleeding Heartland in 2017 after learning that guest authors wrote some of this year’s most-viewed posts, including the one at the very top.

Follow me after the jump for the sixteen posts that generated the most traffic in 2016. Some of the results surprised me.

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Five reasons Chris Hagenow is worried about winning Iowa House district 43

The Republican Party has spent more than $400,000 defending Iowa House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow’s seat in the Des Moines suburbs, which he held by only 23 votes in the last presidential election cycle. Most of the money has bought television commercials, beginning six weeks ago and continuing in heavy rotation to the end.

Hagenow led with a ludicrous spot portraying himself as some kind of champion for education funding and the preschool program he voted to eliminate. He moved to a deceptive hit piece against Democratic challenger Jennifer Konfrst, followed by an ad touting his role in making EpiPens more widely available for kids. A second negative spot was a narrowly-focused attack on a tax lien Konfrst resolved many years ago–the height of hypocrisy, since Republican leaders were simultaneously funding the campaign of a House candidate with a much larger, still unpaid federal tax liability. In the last few days, local television stations have been running Hagenow’s initial positive ad, which misrepresents his record on education funding.

Hagenow is running scared, for good reason.

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Iowa GOP spends big money promoting House candidate with unpaid federal taxes

Fighting for his political life in a district that’s trending away from him, Iowa House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow has approved hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign spending on television commercials. Two spots have trashed his Democratic challenger Jennifer Konfrst over accounting errors that led to some overdue taxes. The first Hagenow hit piece was blatantly false. The second ad, now in heavy rotation on Des Moines stations, is more narrowly focused on a tax lien put on Konfrst’s home more than a decade ago.

Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann portrayed Konfrst as unfit to serve because she made a mistake calculating child care expenses. After hiding from early media inquiries about his commercial, Hagenow defended the ad last week, telling the Des Moines Register, “One of the biggest jobs we deal with (in the Legislature) is spending taxpayers’ dollars […] And our focus has always been to handle that as responsibly as possible.”

So why did House Republican leaders give their blessing for the Iowa GOP to spend more than $93,000 promoting Shannon Lundgren, a House candidate with a much larger federal tax liability that “remains unpaid”?

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Coward Chris Hagenow running false personal attack against Jennifer Konfrst

Iowa House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow has plenty of reasons to worry about being re-elected in House district 43. During the last presidential election year, he won his race by fewer than two dozen votes, and the district has fewer registered Republicans now than it did in November 2012. His well-qualified challenger Jennifer Konfrst has been working hard, and Democrats in the district have submitted nearly 1,000 more absentee ballot requests than have Republicans.

Hagenow didn’t run any positive television commercials during the 2012 election cycle and only started airing a misleading ad against his opponent in late October.

In contrast, a few weeks ago the majority leader went up with a bizarro world tv ad portraying himself as an advocate for education. That spot was ludicrous on several levels, as Bleeding Heartland discussed here and Iowa Starting Line chronicled here. Hagenow has been part of a leadership team that for several years in a row ignored Iowa law on setting K-12 education funding. He and his fellow House Republicans have repeatedly refused to appropriate enough money to help school districts keep up with rising costs. Although Hagenow postures as a supporter of preschool in his tv ad, he voted to eliminate the state preschool program in early 2011. Furthermore, because House Republicans insisted on only a small increase in K-12 school funding this year, the West Des Moines school district (where most of Hagenow’s constituents live) cut its 3-year-old preschool program.

But as deceptive as Hagenow’s positive ad is, the hit piece he started running against Konfrst on October 5 is even more mendacious.

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Weekend open thread: Revisionist history

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

Many cities and towns in northeast Iowa have been flooded over the last few days, and Cedar Rapids is bracing for the city’s second-worst flood in history. The latest forecast indicates the Cedar River will crest Tuesday morning around 23 feet, about two feet below the projected crest from a couple of days ago but still seven feet above “major flood” level. Many downtown streets are closed, National Guard members will assist local law enforcement, and a small army of volunteers have been sandbagging and trying to protect local landmarks. The Cedar Rapids Gazette is regularly updating this page with more 2016 flood coverage.

Several Iowa House Republican candidates began running television commercials this past week. Some GOP candidates for the Iowa Senate have been on the air for a couple of weeks now, and campaigns on both sides have begun to send out direct mail. Usually, those communications are not available online, so I appreciate reports on any direct mail pieces or state legislative campaign commercials you’ve seen or heard on radio and tv stations in your area. Whatever details you can remember are helpful, as are screen shots or pdf files showing images. My e-mail address is near the lower right-hand corner of this page.

In Iowa House district 43, one of the top targets for Democrats, House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow is running a tv ad whitewashing his record on education. Several other Republicans are trying out similar talking points, which presumably tested well in polls that were in the field a few weeks ago. I’ll have more to say about Hagenow’s ad in a future post. A few key points for now:

• Five legislative sessions in a row, House Republicans have refused to pass bills setting state support for K-12 education (“allowable growth”) on the timeline required by state law. Their delays left school district leaders unable to plan their budgets on time.
• Six legislative sessions in a row, Iowa House and Senate Democrats have fought House Republicans over education funding. Every year, House GOP leaders insisted on a final budget below what school districts, community colleges, and state universities would need to keep up with rising costs.
• Hagenow absurdly postures as a supporter of more funding for preschool. In reality, within weeks after Republicans took over the Iowa House in 2011, Hagenow and everyone else in his caucus voted to eliminate state preschool funding. If Hagenow had gotten his way, Iowa would not even have a state-supported preschool program for 4-year-olds.

Speaking of revisionist history, Donald Trump’s campaign is now claiming that Carter Page was never a foreign policy adviser to the presidential candidate. Both Trump and Page talked to journalists in March about his adviser role. Why the change? Probably because according to Michael Isikoff’s September 23 story for Yahoo News, “U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine” whether Page “has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials.” Questions center on Page’s activities during a July visit to Moscow.

But how well-connected is Page in Russia anyway? Julia Ioffe talked to specialists in the U.S. and Moscow and reported in her must-read piece for Politico, “despite the tightly knit nature of the expat business community in Russia, no one I spoke to had ever heard of Carter Page.” Several people who have worked in the Russian energy sector discounted Page’s self-described role with the gas monopoly Gazprom. People who knew Page from Merrill Lynch’s Moscow office or his work with Russia’s electricity monopoly were unimpressed. Talk about irony: the ultimate con man Trump, who lies about matters large and small, may have been tricked into elevating Page’s stature.

Ioffe’s reporting suggests that Iowa’s own Sam Clovis recruited Page on behalf of the Trump campaign. Clovis refused to answer the journalist’s questions.

Final note: Craig Robinson and I discussed the Trump campaign’s Russia connections with Dave Price for one of WHO-TV’s September 21 newscasts; click here to watch that video. Robinson and I talked about other aspects of the presidential race on today’s edition of “The Insiders.” I’ll add links when they become available.

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