Iowa Democrats trying to add autism insurance coverage to budget bill

Earlier this month, Claire Celsi informed Bleeding Heartland readers about the demise of an autism insurance bill after State Representative Peter Cownie refused to bring the measure up for a vote in the Iowa House Commerce Committee, which he chairs.

As both Autism Awareness Month and the 2016 legislative session wind down, Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate have been working to add the same requirements to a must-pass budget bill. Follow me after the jump for background and where things stand in this fight.

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Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature (post-filing edition)

Now that the deadline to compete in the Democratic or Republican primaries has passed, the field of candidates is set in most of the 100 Iowa House districts and 25 Iowa Senate districts that will be on the ballot this fall.

It’s time for a first look at chances to increase diversity in the state legislature for the next two years. The proportion of white lawmakers is unlikely to change, while the proportion of women could move in either direction.

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Jon Neiderbach ends campaign in Iowa House district 43

Jon Neiderbach announced on Facebook today that he has decided not to run in Iowa House district 43: "We desperately need to fight hard to fix Iowa government, but I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t the best way for me to help make that happen." He added that he "strongly" endorses fellow Democrat Jennifer Konfrst, "a wonderful candidate with strong connections to HD 43," and will volunteer for her campaign. Neiderbach was the Democratic candidate for state auditor in 2014 and launched his bid for the Iowa House this September.

Incoming Iowa House Majority Leader Hagenow will be favored to win a fifth term here. His campaign will have virtually unlimited financial resources, and for decades, voters in this part of the Des Moines suburbs have elected Republicans to the state legislature. However, Hagenow is far more conservative than most of those predecessors. In addition, as Bleeding Heartland has noted before, Hagenow won re-election by fewer than two dozen votes in the last presidential election cycle, after Republicans spent heavily on negative tv ads that Democrats left unanswered. He won by fewer than 100 votes in 2008.

House district 43 leans slightly to the GOP on paper, with 6,673 active registered Democrats, 7,416 Republicans, and 5,981 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. President Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney in these precincts by 50.6 percent to 48.3 percent, smaller than his statewide winning margin. Then again, Joni Ernst beat Bruce Braley by only 2 percent in HD-43, a lot less than her 8-point victory in the 2014 U.S. Senate race.

Any comments about potentially competitive Iowa House races are welcome in this thread. I enclose below a map of House district 43. Click here for background on Konfrst, who is on the web at JenniferKonfrst.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Final note: few Iowans in either party know more about the inner workings of state government than Neiderbach, who worked in the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau for fourteen years and as a management analyst for the Iowa Department of Human Services for fifteen years after that. He would be a valuable asset to any Democrat’s efforts to improve state budgeting and operations.

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Jon Neiderbach is second Democrat to challenge Chris Hagenow in Iowa House district 43

This morning Jon Neiderbach officially launched his candidacy in Iowa House district 43. The former Iowa legislative fiscal analyst, Des Moines School Board president, and Democratic nominee for state auditor in 2014 said he is running

because the current Representative from District 43 is financed by special interests and is more interested in advancing his political career than fighting inefficient and ineffective government. Residential property taxes have soared since he has been in office, and education funding has been inadequate.

My experience with the Iowa Legislature and in state and local government allow me to understand how bureaucracy and special interests resist change. I am a fiscal conservative committed to open and transparent government, and I will not be sidetracked by campaign money, other politicians, or building a political career.

Neiderbach’s key issues will be limits on campaign contributions, “accountable government” with no more tax increases or “corporate welfare,” investing more in K-12 education, and reducing student debt. His campaign is on the web here as well as on Facebook and on Twitter @neiderbach2016.

The full news release from Neiderbach is after the jump, along with a detailed map of the district covering Windsor Heights, Clive, and parts of West Des Moines. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office, House district 43 contains 6,678 active registered Democrats, 7,454 Republicans, and 5,954 no-party voters.

Four-term Republican incumbent Chris Hagenow was recently chosen to be the new Iowa House majority leader. Challenging him will be an uphill battle, as Republicans will spare no expense to hold this seat. On the other hand, as Bleeding Heartland discussed here, this once-heavily Republican suburban district has been trending toward swing status. President Barack Obama won 50.6 percent of the vote in 2012 in the HD-43 precincts, while Mitt Romney won 48.3 percent. Joni Ernst beat Bruce Braley by only 2 percent in HD-43—a lot less than her statewide winning margin in the 2014 U.S. Senate race.

Hagenow narrowly won this House seat in 2008, by 93 votes. He had an easy re-election in 2010 but had to spend money on push-polls and negative tv ads to eke out a 23-vote margin over Susan Judkins in the last presidential election cycle.

Last month, Jennifer Konfrst became the first Democrat to launch a campaign in House district 43. The party establishment seems to favor Konfrst, who already has the official support of State Senator Janet Petersen and State Representative Jo Oldson. I’m happy to see two qualified, dedicated people ready to take on Hagenow. May Konfrst and Neiderbach work hard and fight fair as they seek Democratic votes across the district. Bleeding Heartland is unlikely to endorse in this primary.  

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Jennifer Konfrst running against Chris Hagenow in Iowa House district 43

Jennifer Konfrst announced this morning that she will challenge four-term GOP incumbent Chris Hagenow in Iowa House district 43. The swing district covers Windsor Heights, Clive, and part of West Des Moines. A detailed map is after the jump, along with Konfrst’s press release and official bio. Her campaign is on the web here as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

As the newly-elected House majority leader, Hagenow will have virtually unlimited financial resources backing his re-election bid. On the other hand, this part of the Des Moines suburbs, solidly Republican for decades, has been trending toward Democrats for some time. President Barack Obama won 50.6 percent of the vote in 2012 in the HD-43 precincts, while Mitt Romney won 48.3 percent. Although Joni Ernst carried the district in the 2014 U.S. Senate race, she beat Bruce Braley by only 2 percent in HD-43—a lot less than her winning margin statewide. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicate that 6,682 active registered Democrats, 7,493 Republicans, and 5,897 no-party voters live in the district.

Hagenow won his first election to the House in 2008 by 93 votes against then Windsor Heights Mayor Jerry Sullivan. After being re-elected comfortably in the 2010 midterm, Hagenow got a scare in the last presidential year. Despite paying for push-polls and negative tv ads against a challenger who was massively outspent, the incumbent defeated Susan Judkins by only 23 votes in 2012.

Judkins now serves on the Clive City Council. Last week she confirmed to Bleeding Heartland that she will not run for the Iowa House in 2016.

Konfrst may face a competitive primary anyway, because Jon Neiderbach is seriously considering a campaign against Hagenow. He was the Democratic nominee for state auditor in 2014. I think highly of both Konfrst and Neiderbach. The Iowa Democratic establishment sometimes hyperventilates about contested primaries, but assuming the candidates fight fair, I see little downside to two people pounding the pavement to get out the vote in my home district before next June’s primary.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Bonus political trivia: To my knowledge, HD-43 is one of just two Iowa House seats where voters registered with each major party currently outnumber independents. The other is Democratic State Representative John Forbes’ territory in House district 40 (part of Urbandale).

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20 Iowa House races to watch tonight

Thanks to Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting process, we have an unusually large number of competitive state legislative districts. In any given general election, depending on candidate recruitment, between one dozen and two dozen of the 100 Iowa House districts could be up for grabs. Democrats and Republicans spend big money on a much smaller number of districts; this year, only seven Iowa House races involved a large amount of television advertising. But the parties and candidates invest in direct mail and/or radio commercials in many more places than that.

Republicans go into election day favored to hold their Iowa House majority, which now stands at 53 seats to 47. Carolyn Fiddler has pegged seven “districts to watch” at her Statehouse Action blog, and in September, the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble discussed five districts he viewed as “key to Iowa House chamber control.” I see the playing field as much larger.

Follow me after the jump to review 20 Iowa House seats that will determine control of the chamber for the next two years.

Caveat: most years, there’s at least one shocking result in an Iowa House district neither party had their eye on. I’m thinking about Tami Weincek defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent in Waterloo in 2006, Kent Sorenson defeating a Democratic incumbent in Warren County in 2008, three Democratic state representatives who had run unopposed in 2008 losing in 2010, and Democrat Daniel Lundby taking out the seemingly safe Republican Nick Wagner in the Linn County suburbs in 2012. Wagner had run unopposed in the previous election.

So, while I don’t expect any of the “favored” seats discussed below to change hands, I would not rule out a surprise or two. That would be excellent news for the stealth challenger’s party.

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