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New Iowa caucus thread: Jeb Bush exploring and a "Run Warren Run" event in Des Moines

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 16, 2014 at 20:22:06 PM CST

Who's up for a new thread on possible presidential candidates? The big news on the Republican side today was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announcing that he will "actively explore" a presidential bid. Bush is forming a leadership PAC to raise huge piles of money "help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation."

I can't see Bush winning the GOP nomination, given his past support for immigration reform including a path to citizenship. Among Iowa conservatives, his support for "Common Core" educational standards will be a deal-breaker too. On the other hand, Bush poses an immediate threat to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The two would be competing for many of the same donors and Republican moderate voters.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio's staff says Bush's decision won't influence Rubio's plans for 2016. I am 100 percent convinced that Florida's junior senator will run for re-election. He has pretty good odds of winning a second term but would be a long-shot to win the presidential nomination.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (technically an independent) was in central Iowa today. I've posted excerpts from news coverage after the jump. It's Sanders' fourth Iowa visit this year, but he told a supportive Ames crowd he hasn't decided whether to run for president.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren continues to repeat that she is not running for president in 2016. But MoveOn.Org's "Run Warren Run" project is organizing an event at Java Joe's coffee house in downtown Des Moines. Some central Iowa Democrats received phone calls from MoveOn today inviting them to the pro-Warren event, which is set for 5:30 pm on Wednesday, December 17.

I still think the draft Warren effort is a waste of time and energy. Apparently, so does progressive hero Al Franken. Minnesota's junior U.S. senator is "ready for Hillary" Clinton:

"I mean, I think that we've not had someone this experienced, this tough, and she's very, very impressive. People have asked me about Elizabeth Warren. She is great, but she's not running. She says she's not running. So I don't-I think Hillary would be great."

Any comments about the next presidential campaign are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Democracy for America announced on December 17 that it will invest $250,000 in the Draft Warren effort. I've added the group's press release at the end of this post. Run Warren Run ran a full-page ad in the Des Moines Register on December 17, featuring hundreds of Iowans who are urging the Massachusetts senator to run for president.

Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum attended the "Run Warren Run" event in Des Moines and called Warren "brilliant" and "courageous." But Jochum is not endorsing Warren over Hillary Clinton and hopes the Democratic field will include both women, as well as Vice President Joe Biden and others.

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Mid-week open thread: 2018 IA-Gov scenarios edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 12, 2014 at 21:15:00 PM CST

All topics are welcome in this open thread. I'd like to hear from Bleeding Heartland readers about the next race for Iowa governor. Winning that election needs to be a top priority for Iowa Democrats.

I remain 100 percent convinced that Terry Branstad will not serve out his entire sixth term. By the end of 2015, he will have set a record as the longest-serving governor in U.S. history. He is committed to "grooming" Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to be the next governor. But Reynolds was almost unknown when Branstad selected her as his running mate. She had only two years of experience in the state legislature, all of it in the Iowa Senate minority. Before that, she had a long tenure as the Clarke County treasurer, a job that doesn't allow politicians to build up a profile outside their home county.

Since Reynolds has no constituency in the Republican base, I find it hard to imagine she could win the nomination for governor campaigning from her current job. However, if she has a year or more under her belt as governor by the spring of 2018, she might have a fighting chance in the GOP primary. Even then, I don't think other Republicans would give her a pass. Plenty of people have ambitions to succeed Branstad. I'll be surprised if Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey doesn't run for governor during the next cycle.

On the Democratic side, several state lawmakers could be credible candidates for governor. Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum considered it this past cycle but opted out for family reasons. I hope Jochum will take the plunge in 2018, as she would be a great candidate and a fantastic governor. State Senators Janet Petersen and Rob Hogg would also be excellent leaders and will probably also give this race a look.

UPDATE: Two-time candidate for secretary of state Jake Porter is considering a gubernatorial bid on the Libertarian ticket and sees both outgoing Secretary of State Matt Schultz and newly-elected Secretary of State Paul Pate as likely Republican candidates. Pate sought the GOP nomination for governor in 1998 after one term in the secretary of state's office, so he could easily do that again. I find it hard to believe that the Madison County attorney position will give Schultz a good launching pad for a gubernatorial campaign, but anything is possible.

Porter also mentioned State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald as a possible Democratic candidate. Fitzgerald considered running for governor in 2013.

SECOND UPDATE: Lots of names being floated in the comments: Bob Vander Plaats, Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, State Representative Peter Cownie, and State Senator Amy Sinclair on the Republican side; newly elected State Senator Chaz Allen or State Representative Nancy Dunkel on the Democratic side.

Erin Murphy, who covers Iowa politics for Lee Enterprises newspapers, has predicted a matchup between Jochum and Reynolds in 2018. I like Jochum's odds there, a lot.

Associated Press reporter Ryan Foley reports that Republican strategists are "keeping a close eye" on Chaz Allen. I wonder whether that may be wishful thinking on their part, as they appear to have no chance of winning Iowa Senate district 15 as long as Allen is around. I think 2018 would be a little early for him to run for governor.

I should also mention that incoming U.S. Senator Joni Ernst will probably go all-in for Reynolds in the 2018 primary. Reynolds helped to recruit Ernst for the Iowa Senate and later for the U.S. Senate race.

THIRD UPDATE: Some Iowa politics-watchers expect State Senator Liz Mathis to run for governor in 2018. I don't think she would run against Petersen or Jochum in a primary, though, and I consider either of them more likely to run than Mathis.

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IA-01: Who should run against Rod Blum?

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 06, 2014 at 11:56:27 AM CST

Judging by the comments in this thread, Bleeding Heartland readers are eager to discuss who should take on Republican Rod Blum in the next election to represent Iowa's first Congressional district.

Blum should be a one-termer. Unofficial results show he beat Pat Murphy by about 7,000 votes (51.2 percent to 48.7 percent) in a banner year for Iowa Republicans. Democratic turnout should be much higher for a presidential election than it was this year. Blum's record in Congress will also make him an easier target for the next Democratic opponent. He didn't campaign like an extreme right-winger, but he's about to start voting like one, which will hurt him with independents. The next Paul Ryan budget (which Blum will support) will include big cuts to entitlement programs. I wouldn't be shocked to see Blum help House Republicans shut down the federal government again.

Who should be the next Democratic nominee in IA-01? My first thoughts are after the jump.

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Fewer women will serve in the Iowa Senate, more in Iowa House

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 06, 2014 at 09:50:59 AM CST

For the past two years, ten women have served in the Iowa Senate (20 percent of the chamber's membership). That number will fall to seven or eight by the time the newly-elected legislature begins its 2015 session.

However, the number of women who will serve in the Iowa House will grow from 25 to 27 for the next two years. Follow me after the jump for details and a full list of Democratic and Republican women who will serve in the newly-elected Iowa legislature.

Following up on prospects for increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the Iowa legislature, all five African-American state representatives were re-elected to the Iowa House this week: Helen Miller (House district 9), Ruth Ann Gaines (House district 32), Ako Abdul-Samad (House district 35), Deborah Berry (House district 62), and Phyllis Thede (House district 93). Neither party nominated any African-American candidates for the Iowa Senate, which remains all-white.  

Iowans have yet to elect a Latino candidate to the state legislature. Democrats nominated Karyn Finn in House district 60 and Maria Bribriesco in Senate district 47, but both lost to Republican incumbents on Tuesday.

As has been the case since Swati Dandekar left the Iowa Senate in 2011, the Iowa legislature includes no Asian-American lawmakers. Neither party nominated any Asian-American candidates in 2014.

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Rest in peace, Paulee Lipsman

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Sep 13, 2014 at 22:17:02 PM CDT

People who choose a career in politics tend to fall into one of two groups: the "hacks" who work on campaigns, and the "wonks" who immerse themselves in public policy. Paulee Lipsman, who passed away on Thursday in Des Moines, was a rare person who excelled in both fields. She worked on many election campaigns and was a dedicated volunteer for the Iowa Democratic Party at all levels, from the Scott County Democrats all the way up to representing Iowa on the Democratic National Committee. Arguably, she had more influence on the state during more than 20 years of work on the Iowa House Democratic research staff (the later years as director). Staff rarely if ever receive public recognition for any legislation that comes out of the Iowa House or Senate, yet lawmakers could not do the job without them.

I didn't know Paulee well, but when I talked with her, I was always impressed by her deep knowledge of state government and policy. She enjoyed spinning scenarios as much as the next political junkie, but her passion didn't end with getting Democrats elected. She was driven to improve public policy, and her views were grounded in facts.

Over the past few days, Iowa Democrats have posted many tributes to Paulee on social media. I enclose some of those words below, along with excerpts from her obituary. Several staffers, lawmakers, or lobbyists expressed gratitude for how Paulee helped them learn the ropes when they were newbies at the State Capitol. She was a role model for women working at the statehouse and a strong supporter of Democratic women running for state office.

Phil Specht's words in one thread rang especially true: "One of the things I loved about her was even though both of you knew she was smarter and knew more (about practically anything) she would never talk down to anyone." Presidential candidates sought out Paulee Lipsman's support--both John Kerry and Joe Biden bragged about her endorsement in press releases. But she wasn't the type to drop names or pull rank on anyone.

Until I read the Des Moines Register's piece on Paulee's passing, I did not know that she had been raped or that she filed an influential lawsuit related to that case during the 1980s. Roxanne Conlin was one of Paulee's closest friends and represented her in that lawsuit. I've enclosed some of her comments about the case below. Paulee retired from the Iowa House Democratic research staff in 2010 to work on Conlin's campaign for U.S. Senate.

UPDATE: During a stop in Des Moines on September 17, Vice President Joe Biden said, "Paulee Lipsman was a remarkable, remarkable woman. She was not only a friend of mine, but she was a tireless advocate for fairness and equality. I know that she will be greatly missed."

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Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 08:10:18 AM CDT

Forty men and ten women currently serve in the Iowa Senate. No senators are African-American, Latino, or Asian-American.

Seventy-five men and 25 women currently serve in the Iowa House. Five state representatives are African-American and none are Latino or Asian-American.

Time for a look at how those numbers might change after the November election, now that primaries have determined the major-party nominees in all state legislative districts. Click here for the June 3 unofficial election results and here for the full list of candidates who filed to run in the primaries.

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Weekend open thread: Jack Hatch running mate edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jun 08, 2014 at 07:14:21 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

Gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch will announce his choice for lieutenant governor sometime before the Iowa Democratic Party's statewide convention on June 21. He has been vetting and interviewing possible choices for several weeks. According to Hatch,

"I want to choose a running mate that can become governor on Day One, at any time, and that really supplements and adds to my experience as an elected official and a business person," he said.

He added he would not be "restricted" by demographic concerns such as a candidate's gender or geographic location - suggesting he would not consider women exclusively.

I think we can all agree that it would be a huge mistake for Hatch to choose a man, when Iowa Democrats are nominating only one woman for statewide office (Sherrie Taha for secretary of agriculture) and only one woman for federal office (Staci Appel in the third Congressional district).

The last five Iowa lieutenant governors have been women: Jo Ann Zimmerman (independently elected), Joy Corning (Terry Branstad's running mate), Sally Pederson (who served under Tom Vilsack), Patty Judge (Chet Culver's running mate), and current Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.

The logical choice for Hatch would be a woman from eastern Iowa, where two-thirds of the state's voters live. A few days ago, Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum of Dubuque told Erin Murphy that she won't be the lieutenant governor candidate and "declined to comment on whether Hatch had asked her to run with him." State Senator Liz Mathis, from the Cedar Rapids metro area, told James Q. Lynch, "I have been approached and encouraged, (but) it is not the right time for me to do that."

Lynch mentioned two of the unsuccessful candidates in Iowa's first Congressional district: Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon, who finished second to Pat Murphy, and State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo, who finished fourth. Vernon would be a better fit for the ticket, according to the criteria Hatch laid out for Lynch: a person "who could actually become governor, someone who does not need to be trained, who has had accomplishments in public life and or business, and who brings a level of depth to a campaign that we would want." Also, since Vernon was a Republican until about five years ago, she has a potentially compelling message for moderates and swing voters.    

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Highlights from this year's Iowa Senate votes on Branstad nominees

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 08, 2014 at 07:38:29 AM CDT

During the 2014 legislative session, the Iowa Senate confirmed all but a handful of Governor Terry Branstad's more than 200 nominees for state boards and commissions. It's not unusual for senators to vote down one or two appointees, but this year the Senate confirmed everyone who came up for a vote on the floor.

The only close call was former Iowa House Republican Nick Wagner, confirmed to the Iowa Utilities Board last month with just one vote to spare. Branstad originally named Wagner to the three-member utilities board in 2013 but pulled his nomination when it became clear that senators would not confirm him. Branstad named Wagner to that board anyway, right after the Senate adjourned for the year in 2013. By the time his nomination came up for consideration this year, a couple of factors that worked against him were no longer relevant. Former State Senator Swati Dandekar had resigned from the board to run for Congress, so there would no longer be two of three members from Marion (a Cedar Rapids suburb). Furthermore, Branstad named attorney Sheila Tipton to replace Dandekar, so senators could no longer object to the lack of a lawyer on the Iowa Utilities Board.

Still, most of the Democratic caucus opposed Wagner's nomination. State Senator Rob Hogg cited the nominee's support for a bad nuclear power bill that the legislature considered a few years back. Meanwhile, State Senator Matt McCoy (who incidentally wanted to pass the nuclear bill) noted that as a key Iowa House Republican on budget matters, Wagner "was not willing to listen" and "took very difficult and very hard-line positions." After the jump I've posted the roll call on the Wagner nomination; 11 Democrats joined all 24 Republicans to confirm him.

As in recent years, the governor withdrew a handful of nominees who were not likely to gain at least 34 votes (a two-thirds majority) in the upper chamber. A few nominees for low-profile boards had to go because of party imbalance issues. Chet Hollingshead, one of seven Branstad appointees to the Mental Health and Disability Services Commission, never came up for a vote, presumably because of a theft incident Bleeding Heartland user Iowa_native described here.

I am not sure why Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal informed Branstad that Jason Carlstrom was unlikely to be confirmed as chair of the Iowa Board of Parole. The governor first appointed Carlstrom to that position in the summer of 2012, to fill out the remainder of someone else's term. The Iowa Senate unanimously confirmed him during the 2013 legislative session. When Branstad reappointed Carlstrom to the parole board this year, I didn't expect him to run into any trouble. I will update this post if I learn more details.

The highest-profile nominee withdrawn by Branstad was former Iowa House Republican Jamie Van Fossen, whom the governor wanted to chair the Public Employment Relations Board. Cityview's Civic Skinny described the backstory well; I've posted excerpts after the jump. Van Fossen still serves on that board, having been confirmed to a full term in 2012. But the new chair will be Mike Cormack, a Republican who served four terms in the Iowa House and later worked for the State Department of Education. Senators unanimously confirmed Cormack last month. The outgoing Public Employment Relations Board chair, Jim Riordan, has alleged that the board faced political pressure from Branstad staffers to hire an employer-friendly administrative law judge.

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Weekend open thread: End of 2014 legislative session edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat May 03, 2014 at 09:46:47 AM CDT

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

The Iowa legislature got out of town on May 2, 110 calendar days after the 2014 session began. That's ten days after lawmakers' per diem payments ran out but earlier than in any year since 2010, when Democrats held majorities in both chambers. After the jump I've posted closing remarks delivered by the top Iowa Senate Democrats (Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and President Pam Jochum) and the top Iowa House Republicans (Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer). A series of posts next week will focus on some of the more significant legislative results from the session, as well as important bills that never did pass.

I've also enclosed Gronstal's prepared remarks on the final Iowa Senate vote of the session: granting subpeona power to the Government Oversight Committee to continue investigating various scandals in Governor Terry Branstad's administration. Gronstal emphasized that the resolution is "narrowly drafted" and "not a criminal investigation. The goal is not to convict people. The only goal is to find out what went wrong [in state government] and how to fix it." The resolution passed by voice vote just before the Senate adjourned on Friday morning. Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix blasted what he called a "dangerous" and "underhanded partisan move." He claimed the "disruption of separation of powers" will invite "a state constitutional crisis," and that the Oversight Committee's investigation is politically motivated.

Finally, in non-legislative news, Patrick Caldwell reported for Mother Jones this week on a remarkably shady deal involving Danny Carroll in 1996. At the time, Carroll was a real estate agent in the Grinnell area and an Iowa House Republican. He currently chairs the Republican Party of Iowa--though probably not for much longer. After reading Caldwell's piece, I want to know why anyone supposedly committed to Christian values would participate in a scheme to take advantage of an elderly widow with debts.  

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IA-01 4Q fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 06:50:00 AM CST

Last week I never got around to posting highlights from the year-end Federal Election Commission reports for candidates in Iowa's open first Congressional district. Better late than never.

On the Democratic side, the money race remains highly competitive; all five candidates entered the election year with more than $100,000 to spend before the primary. The Republican race in IA-01 provided another reminder that establishment support does not necessarily translate into strong fundraising.  

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Highlights from the first day of the Iowa legislature's 2014 session

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 20:18:12 PM CST

The Iowa House and Senate convened today to begin the 2014 legislative session. All of the opening remarks reflected on key achievements of the 2013 session, such as compromise bills on commercial property tax cuts, education reform, and providing health care to low-income Iowans. All of the speeches called for more bipartisan work this year, and all stressed "pocketbook" issues such as improving education and building the middle class rather than social issues. But Republican and Democratic leaders take different priorities into the 2014 session.

I've summarized below the key points Iowa House and Senate majority and minority leaders raised today. I also enclosed lengthy excerpts and in some cases the full texts of their opening day speeches.

Click here for a tentative schedule of key dates during the 2014 legislative session. Lawmakers tend to finish their work earlier in election years than in odd-numbered years, but I highly doubt they will be ready to adjourn by March 30, as House Speaker Paulsen hopes. They will be lucky to finish work on the state budget by April 22, when lawmakers stop receiving per diem payments.

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Branstad, federal officials reach agreement on Medicaid expansion alternative

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 20:58:00 PM CST

Governor Terry Branstad announced today that his administration and officials in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have struck a deal over the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, our state's alternative to a straightforward Medicaid expansion. Earlier this week, federal officials approved most of the proposal but rejected a provision that would have kicked some low-income Iowans off the plan if they failed to pay monthly premiums. Under the tentative agreement, Iowa would still be able to charge premiums to some people who did not meet wellness criteria, but those people would not lose coverage for not paying the premiums. A statement released by the governor's office is after the jump.

Branstad had the option of appealing the HHS decision, and Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen suggested yesterday that Iowa officials should fight for the whole plan state legislators approved in May. Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal argued that the governor should "take the deal" federal officials approved: "It wasn't the whole nine yards, but it was about 8.9 yards. It was most of what we asked for." Commenting on this evening's news, Senate President Pam Jochum said, "Hallelujah. Amen. [...] I can't imagine the governor would have wanted to be held responsible for 55,000-plus people losing coverage come Jan. 1."

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Charging even small health insurance premiums to people making less than $11,000 a year is stupid in my opinion, but this compromise is better than no coverage for tens of thousands of Iowans.

P.S.- Can't help noticing how just like the messaging from his re-election campaign, the governor's press releases invariably mention Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds whenever possible. I doubt she played any role in these negotiations or the governor's decision not to appeal the HHS decision on the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan.

UPDATE: Added comments from Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01) below. Last week he wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging the federal government to approve a waiver for Iowa.

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Federal government approves most of Iowa's Medicaid expansion alternative

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 18:39:21 PM CST

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has granted a waiver for Iowa's alternative to the Medicaid expansion foreseen under the 2010 health care reform law. Governor Terry Branstad signed the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan compromise into law in June, and state officials submitted a formal request for a waiver in August. Iowa elected officials from both parties as well as many non-profit organizations with a stake in the outcome had urged Health and Human Services to approve the plan.

However, Governor Terry Branstad may appeal today's decision, because federal officials rejected a provision he insisted on during negotiations with Democrats in the Iowa legislature.

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IA-Gov: Democrat Pam Jochum declines for family reasons

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 31, 2013 at 08:42:00 AM CDT

Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum has decided against running for governor in 2014, she confirmed by telephone yesterday. Although she has been "overwhelmed by encouragement from people" across Iowa, she sad her most important priority is her daughter Sarah. Jochum is the primary caregiver for Sarah, an adult with developmental disabilities, and she decided it would be difficult to balance her daughter's needs with an "18/7" statewide campaign for governor. Jochum added that she greatly enjoys being president of the Iowa Senate, a position to which she was elected last November.

Similar considerations prompted Jochum to opt out of the first Congressional district race earlier this year. Raising money for a Congressional bid and campaigning across 20 counties would have been almost as time-consuming as running for governor. Jochum is not up for re-election in the Iowa Senate until 2016, and her Dubuque-based district 50 is safe as long as she desires to serve.

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IA-Gov: More Branstad campaign hires, Tyler Olson ready to announce

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 13:15:00 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad's re-election campaign announced four hires today in preparation for next year's election. I've posted the campaign press release after the jump. Phil Valenziano, who will serve as political director, joined the Branstad campaign full-time two months ago to focus on grassroots organizing and public events. Jake Ketzner and Jimmy Centers will serve as campaign manager and communications director, respectively. Both have worked in the governor's office for some time but left for a while to help run Representative Steve King's 2012 re-election campaign. Vonna Hall will be the Branstad campaign's office manager after doing the same job for the Republican Party of Iowa since 2010. So far, Branstad's campaign has $2 million cash on hand. When the fundraising reports are available online, Bleeding Heartland will take a closer look at the donors.

Meanwhile, State Representative Tyler Olson has scheduled public events for July 9 in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and Mason City. Of those cities, only Cedar Rapids is in the first Congressional district, making it a near-certainty that Olson will announce his campaign for governor tomorrow. The four-term Iowa House Democrat is roughly the same age Branstad was when he first ran for governor in 1982. Two other Democrats have previously announced plans to run for governor: State Senator Jack Hatch and former State Representative Bob Krause.

Any comments about the governor's race are welcome in this thread. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are replete with jokes about Branstad racing "full speed ahead" on his campaign--a reference to the speeding incident that prompted a 25-year veteran of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to file a formal complaint. There is no excuse for state troopers driving the governor at 20-25 mph over the speed limit. He's not above the law and shouldn't endanger people's lives to get back on what Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds calls an "ambitious schedule." It's not credible to suggest that Branstad has no input on the driving or didn't realize his SUV he was riding in was speeding.

The Iowa Democratic Party launched an anti-Branstad "Iowa Problem Causer" website today. Republicans (not clear whether in Iowa or on the National Republican Senatorial Committee) have registered a similarly named Iowa Problem Causer site to shine an unflattering spotlight on Representative Bruce Braley. The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate is presenting himself as an "Iowa Problem Solver."

UPDATE: Senate President Pam Jochum told the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald that she is not likely to run for governor next year, "but I haven't made up mind for sure."

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Tom Vilsack rules out IA-Gov candidacy

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 09:25:00 AM CDT

Radio Iowa's O.Kay Henderson just tweeted a few minutes ago that according to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's spokesman Matt Paul, Vilsack "considered it" but won't run for governor of Iowa next year. No one will be surprised by this news. It's good for Vilsack to make it official as other Democrats consider challenging Governor Terry Branstad: Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, State Senator Jack Hatch, Senate President Pam Jochum, State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, State Representative Tyler Olson, and former State Representative Bob Krause.

Any comments about the governor's race are welcome in this thread.

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IA-Gov speculation thread: Mike Gronstal, Tyler Olson and ... Mike Fitzgerald?

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 10:05:00 AM CDT

Two Democrats are already exploring running for governor next year: State Senator Jack Hatch and former State Representative Bob Krause.

After the jump I've posted some recent signals surrounding other possible Democratic challengers to Terry Branstad.  

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Last-minute Iowa legislative scramble is nothing to brag about

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 24, 2013 at 12:30:00 PM CDT

The Iowa Senate wrapped up its work for the year shortly after midnight on May 23, and Iowa House members adjourned about 11 hours later. Lawmakers in both parties have been congratulating themselves for compromising on some big issues that ended in stalemate the previous two years. Rod Boshart compiled an excellent list of what the legislature did and didn't approve during 2013.

We all can appreciate the desire to finish a big project before a holiday weekend, and since legislators stopped receiving per diem payments weeks ago, they understandably wanted to get out of town as quickly as possible. However, I found it disturbing that votes were held before most lawmakers, let alone members of the public, had time to digest final conference committee deals on education reform, an alternative to Medicaid expansion, property taxes, and the health and human services budget. Transparency isn't just a buzzword. Had journalists and advocacy groups been able to look over the last-minute compromises, people might have discovered problematic language or even simple drafting errors, which could produce unintended consequences after Governor Terry Branstad signs these bills into law.

I have a lot of questions about the final education reform bill and the plan to provide health insurance to low-income Iowans, particularly those earning between 101 percent and 138 percent of the poverty level. I also need more time to sort through the budget numbers and final changes to the standings bill. After the holiday weekend Bleeding Heartland will examine the important results of the legislative session in more detail. For now, I've posted after the jump details on who voted for and against the major bills approved this week.

UPDATE: In the May 24 edition of the On Iowa Politics podcast, statehouse reporters Mike Wiser and James Lynch discussed how the big issues came together "behind closed doors," with no public scrutiny or oversight. Lynch commented that to his knowledge, the conference committee named to resolve the impasse over Medicaid expansion never formally met, except perhaps for one organizational meeting. Lynch recounted one occasion when Iowa House Republican Dave Heaton was briefing journalists about the health care talks, and the journalists asked when that happened, since there hadn't been any public notices of conference committee meetings. According to Lynch, Heaton replied, "We're not having meetings, but we're meeting." Senate President Pam Jochum said that negotiations between Democratic State Senator Amanda Ragan and House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer produced the "key to Iowa's health care compromise." Notably, Upmeyer didn't have a prominent role in passing the House health insurance plan, nor was she named to the conference committee assigned to merge the House and Senate proposals.

Speaking to journalists on May 22, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Jochum weren't able to answer a specific question about compromise wording reached regarding Medicaid coverage of abortions. That was no minor issue--it was the last sticking point holding up approval of the health and human services budget. In effect, Gronstal told journalists, you can see the wording after the final bill is published.

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New hope for Medicaid expansion in Iowa?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon May 20, 2013 at 17:29:00 PM CDT

When news broke last week of a tax compromise skewed toward business, I wondered why Senate Democrats would agree to pass that bill without progress toward Medicaid expansion, one of their top priorities. Governor Terry Branstad was saying legislators should adjourn after approving a budget, education reform and the tax deal, returning later this year for a special session on health insurance coverage for low-income Iowans. In my opinion, Democrats would be insane to give Republicans what they want on taxes now, hoping for Medicaid expansion later.

Today several signs point toward a possible deal on Medicaid coverage before the end of the legislative session.

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Iowa Senate GOP staffer alleges hostile work environment, sexual harassment (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 19, 2013 at 19:30:00 PM CDT

Kirsten Anderson lost her job on Friday afternoon as communications director for the Iowa Senate Republicans. Today she went public alleging that she was fired after documenting sexual harassment by GOP state senators and staffers. WHO-TV broadcast Dave Price's exclusive interview with Anderson Sunday morning, and I recommend watching the whole clip at their website. After the jump I've posted highlights from Anderson's claims and a denial from Ed Failor Jr., a top staffer for Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix.

As a bonus, I enclose below your laugh for the day: a screenshot from the official Iowa Senate GOP website as of 7 pm on Sunday. The front page includes a link to the Des Moines Register's blog and the headline, "Iowa Senate GOP staffer claims she was fired for protesting sexual harassment; Dix aide issues strong denial." I wonder whether Anderson was the only person on that staff who knew how to update the website. It's also possible that the Des Moines Register political blog headlines automatically feed into that box on the front page, and no other Senate GOP staff checked the site over the weekend.  

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