Rob Hogg, Amanda Ragan to lead Iowa Senate Democrats

Iowa Senate Democrats unanimously chose Rob Hogg today to serve as Senate minority leader during the upcoming legislative session. Amanda Ragan will be the new minority whip, and the incoming assistant leaders will be Bill Dotzler, Liz Mathis, Rita Hart, Joe Bolkcom, Matt McCoy, and Herman Quirmbach.

Six Democratic senators lost their re-election bids this month, including Mike Gronstal, who had served as either minority or majority leader of the caucus since 1997. Pam Jochum, who was Senate president for the past four years, will not be on the new leadership team. Ragan, Dotzler, and McCoy were among last year’s assistant majority leaders, while Bolkcom served as majority whip.

Erin Murphy reported for the Quad-City Times,

Hogg said Senate Democrats will speak on behalf of Iowans “who need state government to work” and attempt to prevent Republicans from implementing policies that could damage the state’s economy or adversely affect its residents.

“I’m hopeful we can stop Republicans from going down a knee-jerk, partisan pathway,” Hogg said.

I see no realistic chance to stop Republicans from using their large majorities in both chambers to head down that partisan pathway. Among their likely top priorities: cutting taxes so that most of the benefits go to corporations and higher-income individuals, gutting Iowa’s 42-year-old collective bargaining law, restricting abortion rights, ending state funds for Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services, adopting the gun lobby’s wish list (“stand your ground,” “constitutional carry,” and/or open carry), and making it harder for Iowans to vote. Republicans will almost certainly need to reduce funding for education and a variety of social net programs, such as Medicaid and child care assistance, to pay for those tax cuts.

All Democrats can accomplish these next two years is to warn ahead of time how such policies will hurt the majority of Iowans, and to “document the atrocities” after Governor Terry Branstad signs the various harmful bills into law.

I enclose below a news release with more comments from Hogg. O.Kay Henderson’s profile of Gronstal for Radio Iowa is worth reading.

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Rest in peace, Joe Seng

Democratic State Senator Joe Seng has died after a two-year battle with brain cancer, Iowa Senate leaders confirmed today. I enclose below comments released by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Senate President Pam Jochum.

With the upper chamber split 26-24 and many important votes falling along party lines, Democratic leaders needed Seng’s presence often during the last two legislative sessions. He had phenomenal dedication and kept showing up for work while fighting a monstrous disease and undergoing regular chemotherapy. The Des Moines Register’s William Petroski posted a video of Seng singing and playing the accordion for his colleagues in April 2015.

Seng served as Davenport’s alderman-at-large and mayor pro-tem before representing parts of Iowa’s third-largest city for two years in the state House and fourteen in the Senate. A veterinarian by training, he chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee in recent years and served on the Commerce, Ethics, Labor and Business Relations, Natural Resources and Environment, and Ways & Means committees.

After Iowa’s new map of political boundaries put Scott County in the second Congressional district, Seng challenged U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack and won about 18 percent of the vote in the 2012 Democratic primary. In his final re-election campaign two years ago, Seng easily defeated a primary challenger and did not face a general election opponent.

Seng’s passing will force a special election later this year in Senate district 45 (map enclosed below). Because the district contains more than twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, the only real competition to replace Seng will be for the Democratic nomination, to be decided at a district convention. Democrats Jim Lykam and Cindy Winckler have represented the two halves of Seng’s Senate district in the Iowa House since 2003.

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Friends and former colleagues remember Rich Olive

Former State Senator Rich Olive died of cancer yesterday at the age of 66. He represented Wright and Hamilton counties, along with some rural areas in Story and Webster counties, from 2007 through 2010. During that time, he chaired the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee.

Many Iowans who knew Olive through his work in the legislature agreed to share some of their memories with Bleeding Heartland readers.

Photo of Rich Olive at the capitol taken by Senate Democratic staff; used with permission.

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Rob Hogg for Iowa attorney general in 2018 (updated)

Before digging into posts about the Iowa elections that just happened, I want note for the record that State Senator Rob Hogg would be an excellent candidate for Iowa attorney general in 2018. Though incumbent Tom Miller has not disclosed his plans, he has reportedly told many Iowa Democrats privately that he does not plan to seek a tenth (!) term. An open race for attorney general would likely bring out several Democratic candidates, possibly including Solicitor General Jeffrey Thompson and First Assistant Attorney General Kevin McCarthy, a former Iowa House majority leader. Hogg has a strong legal and public policy background, having clerked for two federal judges, practiced law in Cedar Rapids since 2000, and served in the Iowa legislature since 2003. He can speak knowledgeably about a wide range of issues, and he now has experience running a statewide campaign.

Hogg was gracious in conceding the U.S. Senate primary race to former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge this evening. He lost by about 8 percent of the vote against a candidate who started with much higher name recognition and was able to run television commercials during the final two weeks of the race. He was only half a percentage point behind the front-runner in Polk County.

Hogg will be up for re-election in Iowa Senate district 33 in 2018, so unlike this year, he would have to give up his seat in the legislature in order to seek higher office. I hope he will consider it. I enclose below the official bio from his Senate campaign website.

UPDATE: Several readers have suggested Hogg should run for governor in 2018. He would be a strong contender for the position too. I assume a number of Democratic state senators (Janet Petersen, Liz Mathis, Pam Jochum) will be looking at that race as well.

SECOND UPDATE: Multiple sources have contacted me to say Miller shows all signs of running for re-election in 2018. So either he has changed his mind, or sources who heard last year he was planning to retire were misinformed. In that case, many Democrats will be urging Hogg to run for governor in 2018.

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Never let it be said that the 2016 Iowa legislature accomplished nothing

In four months of work this year, Iowa lawmakers made no progress on improving water quality or expanding conservation programs, funded K-12 schools and higher education below levels needed to keep up with inflation, failed to increase the minimum wage or address wage theft, let most criminal justice reform proposals die in committee, didn’t approve adequate oversight for the newly-privatized Medicaid program, opted against making medical cannabis more available to sick and suffering Iowans, and left unaddressed several other issues that affect thousands of constituents.

But let the record reflect that bipartisan majorities in the Iowa House and Senate acted decisively to solve a non-existent problem. At a bill-signing ceremony yesterday, Governor Terry Branstad and supporters celebrated preventing something that probably never would have happened.

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