IA-02: Mark Lofgren is first Republican to challenge Dave Loebsack (updated)

State Representative Mark Lofgren of Muscatine will formally announce tomorrow that he is running against four-term Representative Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s second Congressional district, James Q. Lynch reported today for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. After the jump I’ve posted Lofgren’s official bio and material from the “issues” and “endorsements” pages of his campaign website. Of the seventeen current Iowa House Republicans and four former state representatives who have endorsed Lofgren, four live in Loebsack’s district. Dan Dolan, who lost last year’s GOP primary in IA-02 to John Archer, has also endorsed Lofgren.

As of June 2013, the 24 counties in IA-02 contain 170,130 active registered Democrats, 138,390 Republicans, and 180,950 no-party voters. Loebsack defeated Archer by a comfortable margin in 2012, but in the 2010 midterm election he needed help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to fend off a challenge by Mariannette Miller-Meeks, winning by only about 11,000 votes in what was then a more Democratic-leaning district.

Governor Terry Branstad appointed Miller-Meeks to lead the Iowa Department of Public Health in 2011. The GOP challenger to Loebsack in 2008 as well as 2010, Miller-Meeks has attended some Republican Party events this year and confirmed last week that she is still considering a third Congressional bid. Having fallen short in the 2010 Republican wave, Miller-Meeks would likely face an uphill battle persuading GOP primary voters that she deserves another chance to win this district.

Lofgren’s decision leaves Iowa House district 91 open for the 2014 election cycle. This swing district currently contains 6,300 registered Democrats, 6,291 Republicans, and 8,401 no-party voters. A detailed district map is at the bottom of this post. Democrat Nathan Reichert represented the Muscatine area in the Iowa House for three terms, losing to Lofgren in the 2010 wave. Lofgren defeated Democratic challenger John Dabeet last year by 915 votes.

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First take on the Iowa House and Senate results (updated)

Democrats suffered big losses in the Iowa House and Senate last night. Assuming no results change through recounts, the House is likely to switch from 56 Democrats and 44 Republicans to 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats. I’ve seen some online references to a 58-42 split, but that’s not how the count looks based on unofficial results posted on the Secretary of State’s website.

Democrats maintain control of the Iowa Senate, but their majority shrank from 32-18 to 27-23. Governor-elect Terry Branstad should easily be able to get his agenda through the Iowa House, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal may have trouble keeping his caucus united.

UPDATE: Late returns could change the outcome in two Senate seats; it’s possible the chamber could have a 25-25 split, or a 26-24 Democratic majority.

SECOND UPDATE: A few more races could switch as more absentee ballots come in. As of Wednesday evening, Democrat Tom Schueller is now trailing in House district 25 by about 150 votes.

Here’s my take on the seats that changed hands and the near-misses.

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Open thread with events coming up this week

I didn’t have time to pull this together yesterday, but here’s a late weekend open thread. Share whatever’s on your mind.

(UPDATE: If you think you know American history, see how well you do on Charles Lemos’ Presidents’ Day trivia quiz. Each president is the correct answer to only one question.)

After the jump I’ve posted details on many events coming up this week. I hope to attend the screening of the “Big River” documentary in Des Moines on February 18. It’s a sequel to the must-watch “King Corn,” and the screening is a joint benefit for the Iowa Environmental Council and Practical Farmers of Iowa.

If you are a Democratic candidate in Iowa, please e-mail me your list of upcoming events so I can include them in these threads. (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com)

Oxfam America “is seeking Des Moines area volunteers to lend 5-8 hours of time per week to help them raise awareness of the impacts of climate change on global communities and encourage action to alleviate it.” If you’re interested, you need to contact them by February 15 (information below).

Have a laugh at this from the Onion: New law would ban marriages between people who don’t love each other.


New Law Would Ban Marriages Between People Who Don’t Love Each Other

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Good news for Iowa water quality (for once)

State legislators have allowed clean water “anti-degradation” rules to stand, a step toward filling a significant hole in Iowa’s water quality regulations. A last-ditch effort by Republicans failed to win enough votes on the Iowa legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee (ARRC) to set aside rules adopted by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

I’ve joked that the ARRC’s unofficial motto is “Where good rules go to die,” because on several occasions the committee has rejected rules oriented toward environmental protection. Today Republican Senator Merlin Bartz tried to keep that tradition going with a motion to object to the new water quality rules. However, only Bartz’s three fellow Republicans on the committee (Senator James Seymour and State Representatives Dave Heaton and Linda Upmeyer) voted for rejecting the DNR’s rules. The six Democrats on the ARRC (Senators Wally Horn, Jack Kibbie and Tom Courtney, and State Representatives Marcella Frevert, Tyler Olson and Nathan Reichert) all voted against Bartz’s resolution.

Governor Chet Culver’s chief legal counsel, Jim Larew, spoke in favor of the rules at today’s ARRC hearing, saying they would help Iowa reverse the trend of declining water quality. Unfortunately, we’ve got a long way to go on this front. Further regulation of pollution is warranted, but the political will to accomplish that is currently absent in the state legislature.

Several non-profit organizations deserve special recognition today. Without their efforts, the DNR might not have moved forward to adopt the anti-degradation rules, as required by the Clean Water Act. The Iowa Environmental Council issued a release today with more background and details about the anti-degradation rules. Excerpt:

With the passage of the federal Clean Water Act in 1972 states were required to enact Antidegradation rules to prevent the further pollution of lakes, rivers and streams in the nation by 1985.  Iowa adopted rules but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informed Iowa that its rules violated federal law as early as 1997.  

Repeated delays in rewriting the rules led a coalition of environmental organizations – Iowa Environmental Council, Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association, the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law & Policy Center – to file a Petition for Rulemaking with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in 2007 requesting that the State act immediately to adopt antidegradation implementation rules.  This action initiated a rule-making process that included several opportunities for public comment and a hearing before the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, which approved the revised rules in December of last year. Monday’s meeting of the legislative Administrative Rules and Review Committee marked the final step in the decades-long process.

The full text of the press release is after the jump.

Thanks again to the Iowa Environmental Council, the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association, the Sierra Club Iowa chapter, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

UPDATE: I’ve added the press release from the Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter after the jump.

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