Air war fully engaged in key Iowa House special election

Both major parties are on the air in Iowa House district 82, where voters will choose a new state lawmaker three weeks from today. Whereas the last two special House elections happened in heavily Republican or Democratic districts, the late Curt Hanson represented a politically balanced area. The outcome on August 8 could shape the media narrative about political trends in Iowa and affect candidate recruitment for other competitive statehouse races.

Republicans were first to run negative advertising in most of the 2016 Iowa House and Senate campaigns, but Democrats defending House district 82 have already launched a brutal spot about the Republican candidate’s “tax problem.”

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Major battle shaping up for Iowa House district 82 (updated)

Curt Hanson won the most important Iowa legislative special election of the last decade. So it’s fitting that the election to replace the Iowa House Democrat, who passed away last month after a long battle with cancer, is shaping up to be our state’s most consequential special legislative race in years.

What happens here on August 8 won’t determine the outcome of Iowa’s 2018 elections but could have political repercussions beyond the three counties in House district 82.

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July 4 thread: Legalized fireworks in Iowa

During the action-packed legislative session, I never got around to writing about the bill making fireworks sales legal in Iowa for the first time in 79 years. Even if you hadn’t heard about the change in state law, you’ve probably noticed more fireworks going off in your neighborhood at all hours of the night lately, or seen complaints about the phenomenon on your social media feeds. Although numerous local ordinances restrict the use of fireworks to a short window on or close to the 4th of July, many enthusiasts either don’t know or don’t care. I haven’t heard of many people being fined for ignoring those rules.

I’m no fan of do-it-yourself fireworks, which can be triggering for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many veterans say unexpected or “random” explosions near their homes are more upsetting than large municipal fireworks displays, which happen at predictable times.

Amateur fireworks also cause many preventable injuries. So far this year, a Davenport teenager lost a hand, and a woman in Shueyville has third-degree burns after “a multi-shot box misfired sending a projectile” into her lap. Her four-week-old infant was lucky to escape with only cuts and a broken leg after the quick-thinking mom “tossed the baby aside before the firework exploded.”

Iowa’s long ban on fireworks sales was inspired by major fires, in particular the 1931 blaze that destroyed downtown Spencer. When House members debated Senate File 489 in April, Democratic State Representative Tim Kacena warned about incidents he had seen as a firefighter in Sioux City. Already this year, amateur fireworks have caused several serious fires, one burning down an abandoned farm house near a friend’s residence in Wayne County.

Support for the fireworks bill didn’t fall strictly along party lines. After the jump I’ve posted the Iowa House and Senate roll calls, so you can find out whom to credit or blame, depending on your perspective. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

For those interested in the events that made July 4 a day worth celebrating, I recommend a trip Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was drafted, approved, and signed in 1776. My family recently traveled there for the first time. The highlight was the phenomenal Museum of the American Revolution, possibly the best historical museum I’ve ever seen. Plan to spend at least three or four hours there to make the most of the exhibits.

The National Constitution Center is also worth at least a half-day. My favorite parts were the temporary exhibit on the rise and fall of Prohibition, a permanent display featuring books that inspired the founding fathers, and an interactive feature (accessible on the center’s website) showing the influences on each amendment in the Bill of Rights. My kids’ favorite part of the Constitution Center was an area where you can vote for past presidents after reading genuine campaign statements about ten issues, not attached to either candidate’s name.

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Jon Jacobsen will represent Iowa House district 22

Republican candidate Jon Jacobsen, an attorney and former weekly radio host, won yesterday’s special election to represent Iowa House district 22 with 1,069 votes, about 44 percent, according to final unofficial results. Carol Forristall, who filed as an independent candidate after losing at the GOP special nominating convention, placed second with 803 votes (33 percent).

Almost all of the 465 write-in votes (19 percent) were presumably for the Democratic candidate Ray Stevens, who failed to submit his nominating papers on time. The Pottawattamie County Auditor’s Office will confirm the write-in results today, Mike Brownlee reported for the Omaha World-Herald. Libertarian Bryan Jack Holder received 98 votes (4 percent) in the special election.

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Weekend open thread: Short-sighted elected officials edition

Who knew that when you tell a state agency leader to save another $1.3 million somehow, he might cut some important programs and services? Not State Representative Dave Heaton, the Republican chair of the Iowa legislature’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

Who knew that when you impeach a mayor using a kangaroo court proceeding, a judge might order the mayor reinstated while her appeal is pending? Not Muscatine City Council members.

Follow me after the jump for more on those stories. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

I’m also interested to know what readers think about Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen’s request to waive certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act in order to bring Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield back to Iowa’s individual insurance market for 2018. Elements of the “stopgap” measure violate federal law; health care law expert Timothy Jost told the Des Moines Register’s Tony Leys that some parts of Ommen’s proposal are “extremely problematic” and not likely “doable.” Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Anna Wilde Mathews and Louise Radnofsky saw the Iowa developments as “a key test of the ability to modify the [Affordable Care Act] through executive authority.” Slate’s Jordan Weissmann agreed.

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Democrat Dan Nieland challenging Zach Nunn in Iowa House district 30

“Our state has been hijacked by a group of people who have absolutely no interest in making the state better. If you’re not like them, they don’t care about you.” With those words, Dan Nieland officially launched his Democratic campaign for Iowa House district 30 this week.

Although rising Republican star Zach Nunn won re-election here comfortably last year, this seat encompassing much of eastern Polk County could become a competitive race in 2018.

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