Fred Hubbell, Nate Boulton up on tv ahead of Iowa caucuses

For the first time in Iowa history, multiple gubernatorial candidates are airing television commercials four and a half months before the primary. Fred Hubbell’s campaign launched its fourth statewide tv ad last week, while the first spot for Democratic rival Nate Boulton hits the screens today in the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids markets. UPDATE: Cathy Glasson has placed a television ad buy too. Iowa Starting Line reported today that committees affiliated with the Service Employees International Union have donated $1,819,931 to Glasson’s campaign already.

The new Hubbell ad references the themes of his campaign’s first three spots: support for Planned Parenthood, mental health funding, and better economic development practices. (Bleeding Heartland published those videos here, here, and here.) Boulton’s commercial highlights his role leading the opposition to Republican efforts to strip away collective bargaining rights during last year’s legislative session. Scroll down for details on both ads.

Hubbell has been on the air for months, having raised well over $1 million since last summer. Boulton’s campaign war chest is likely to be substantially smaller–we’ll know for sure when all the 2017 finance reports are published later this week. While candidates normally conserve their cash to use on television and radio spots closer to the primary, Boulton has good reason to spend some money now.

The Iowa Democratic precinct caucuses are coming up on Monday, February 5. Caucus-goers will elect county convention delegates, who in turn will select district and state delegates at county conventions on March 24. With seven Democrats running for governor, state convention delegates may end up selecting the nominee on June 16, if no candidate receives at least 35 percent of the vote in the June 5 primary.

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Weekend open thread: Accountability

Senator Chuck Grassley hit a new low last week in running interference for the White House on the Trump/Russia investigation. After leaders of the private research firm Fusion GPS called on Congressional Republicans “to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony” about the so-called Steele dossier, Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham wrote to the Department of Justice and the FBI “urging an investigation into Christopher Steele.” Ranking Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein was not consulted about the referral, which she accurately characterized as “another effort to deflect attention from what should be the committee’s top priority: determining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election and whether there was subsequent obstruction of justice.”

Here in Iowa, the Department of Human Services recently acknowledged that privatizing Medicaid “will save the state 80 percent less money this fiscal year than originally predicted,” Tony Leys reported for the Des Moines Register. The Branstad/Reynolds administration has claimed since 2015 that shifting care for one-sixth of Iowans to private companies would result in big savings for the state. Officials were never able to show the math underlying those estimates. Staff for Governor Kim Reynolds and the DHS now portray the miscalculation as an honest mistake, which a more “comprehensive methodology” will correct. The governor would have been wiser to pull the plug on this disaster last year.

Forthcoming Bleeding Heartland posts will address those failures in more depth. But now it’s time to hold myself accountable for the 17 Iowa politics predictions I made at the beginning of 2017. Did I improve on my showing of seven right, two half-right, and seven wrong out of my 16 predictions for 2016?

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Iowa AG has joined 36 legal actions challenging Trump policies

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller signed on to three dozen multi-state actions challenging Trump administration policies last year, covering a wide range of immigration, environmental, civil rights, consumer protection and labor issues. Miller also joined fellow attorneys general in nine amicus curiae briefs related to state-level or local policies on reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, gun control, voting rights, and gerrymandering.

Although federal lawsuits aren’t the main focus of Miller’s work, Iowans can be proud our attorney general repeatedly stood for fundamental rights and core progressive values.

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The 17 Bleeding Heartland posts I worked hardest on in 2017

Since I started writing for this website a decade ago, I’ve never worked harder than I did in 2017. This momentous year in Iowa politics provided an overwhelming amount of source material: new laws affecting hundreds of thousands of people, our first new governor since 2011, and a record number of Democrats seeking federal or statewide offices.

In addition, my focus has shifted toward more topics that require time-consuming research or scrutiny of public records. As I looked over the roughly 420 Bleeding Heartland posts I wrote this year, I realized that dozens of pieces were as labor-intensive as some of those I worked hardest on in 2015 or 2016.

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The 17 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2017

I had mixed feelings about compiling last year’s review of highest-traffic posts. Being hyper-aware of clicks and views can be demoralizing, because the most labor-intensive stories rarely attract the most attention.

On the other hand, it’s fascinating to see what strikes a chord with readers. A preview of stores coming to an outlet mall in Altoona was the fourth most-read Des Moines Register article of 2017. The second most popular New York Times story contained highlights from a boxing match. And this year’s highest-traffic piece at USA Today was about the “kiss cam” at the NFL Pro Bowl.

During an unusually eventful year in Iowa politics, some hot topics at Bleeding Heartland were predictable. But surprises were lurking in the traffic numbers on posts published during 2017 (418 written by me, 164 by other authors).

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"Make America America again": photos, highlights from Iowa Democrats' fall gala

Everyone could have guessed Alec Baldwin would get Iowa Democrats laughing with jokes at President Donald Trump’s expense.

But who would have predicted the serious part of the actor’s speech would evoke an even stronger response from the crowd?

Follow me after the jump for audio and highlights from Baldwin’s remarks and those of the seven Democratic candidates for governor, along with Stefanie Running‘s photographs from a memorable evening in Des Moines.

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