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Iowa Senate, House approve gas tax increase

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 24, 2015 at 16:48:31 PM CST

A bill that would raise Iowa's gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon is on its way to Governor Terry Branstad's desk after approval today by both chambers in the Iowa legislature. The Iowa Senate passed Senate File 257 this morning by 28 votes to 21. Sixteen Democrats and twelve Republicans voted for the bill, while ten Democrats and eleven Republicans opposed it. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal had reportedly insisted on at least half the GOP caucus supporting a gas tax increase as a condition for bringing the bill to the floor.

A few hours later, the Iowa House took up the Senate bill (rather than the bill that cleared two House committees last week). Thirty Republicans and 23 Democrats voted yes, while 26 Republicans and 20 Democrats voted no.

Only two state legislators missed today's votes: Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren and Republican State Representative Chip Baltimore. Baltimore voted against the House version of this bill in committee last week, while Chelgren doesn't serve on the committees that approved the bill in the Senate. Chelgren appears to have been absent for all of today's votes, while Baltimore was at the Capitol but left the chamber when the gas tax bill came up. Speaking to reporters later, he tried to make a virtue out of his absence: "I refuse to legitimize either the bill or the process with a vote." Weak sauce from a guy who is widely expected to seek higher office someday.

Conservative groups are urging Branstad to veto Senate File 257, but that seems unlikely, given the governor's recent comments on road funding. Branstad's spokesman said today that the governor will carefully review the final bill before deciding whether to sign it.  

After the jump I've enclosed the roll call votes in both chambers, as well as Senate Transportation Committee Chair Tod Bowman's opening remarks this morning, which summarize key points in Senate File 257.

Final note: several of the "no" votes came from lawmakers who may face competitive re-election campaigns in 2016. Those include Democrats Chris Brase (Senate district 46), Steve Sodders (Senate district 36), and Mary Jo Wilhelm (Senate district 26), and Republicans Dennis Guth (Senate district 4) and Amy Sinclair (Senate district 14).

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 1047 words in story)

IA-01 Democratic candidate news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 29, 2015 at 09:52:40 AM CST

Another Democrat is moving closer to a Congressional bid in Iowa's first district. The Daily Iowan reported several days ago that Ravi Patel "is assembling campaign operatives and meeting with influential donors in Eastern Iowa in preparation for the run." He is best known as principal and president of Hawkeye Hotels, a fast-growing company his parents established. Pat Rynard wrote on the Iowa Starting Line blog that Patel "has built connections from holding many fundraisers for Democratic candidates" and is "an entrepreneur involved in many startup businesses."

If he runs for Congress, Patel told the Daily Iowan that his campaign "would be data-driven and heavy on social media." His biggest potential weakness would probably be his youth (current age: 29). Iowans have nominated some young candidates who faced competitive primaries against more experienced rivals, most recently Ben Lange, the GOP's 2012 nominee in IA-01. But despite a lot of excitement on social media, State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic didn't make much headway with IA-01 Democratic voters, finishing fourth in the 2014 primary. Anecdotally, many Democrats liked Kajtazovic but questioned whether she had enough experience for the job she was seeking. Patel would also be competing against others who have more longstanding ties to the district. Although he owns a home in Cedar Rapids now, he has spent most of his life in either Burlington or Iowa City, which are located in the second Congressional district.

The front-runner in the Democratic primary remains Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon, who last week added her first labor union endorsement to the long list of sate legislators backing her second bid for Congress. After the jump I've posted the press release announcing the Teamsters Local 238 endorsement of Vernon. That local did not endorse in the 2014 primary to represent IA-01, but two other Teamsters locals backed the eventual winner Pat Murphy. Note: the press release mentions that Teamsters Local 238 has approximately 6,000 members. A representative for the union told me that between 2,000 and 2,500 of those members live in the IA-01 counties.

Other Democrats considering a bid in IA-01 include former Governor Chet Culver, former State Senator Swati Dandekar (who placed third in the 2014 primary), and former Saturday Night Live actor Gary Kroeger. His most recent blog post, which I've excerpted below, takes a quick look at the history of America's major political parties with a view to reducing the "vitriol in our disagreements." Kroeger posted today on Facebook that if elected to Congress, he would push for creating a national jobs program inspired by a non-profit foundation he profiled at his blog a couple of years ago.

Any comments about the IA-01 race are welcome in this thread. Republican blogger Craig Robinson pointed out recently that GOP incumbent Rod Blum will benefit tremendously from having U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley on the ballot in 2016.

It's also worth noting that at least three and perhaps as many as six battleground Iowa Senate races will be located within IA-01 next year. State Senator Jeff Danielson will seek a fourth term in Senate district 30, covering parts of Waterloo and Cedar Falls; he faced well-funded challengers in his last two re-election campaigns. State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm won by just 126 votes in Senate district 26 in 2012. I expect the GOP to target that district, half of which is in IA-01 and half in IA-04. Republicans are less likely to mount a serious challenge against either State Senator Liz Mathis in Senate district 34 or State Senator Brian Schoenjahn in Senate district 32, but a surprise retirement would instantly make either of those races competitive. Meanwhile, Democrats are likely to target Senate district 28, where GOP State Senator Mike Breitbach won by only 17 votes in 2012. First-term Senator Dan Zumbach could also face a serious challenger in Senate district 48. After the jump I've posted a map showing all the Iowa Senate district lines. UPDATE: Perhaps I should also have mentioned Democratic State Senator Steve Sodders (SD-36) and Republican Tim Kapucian (SD-38), who will be up for re-election in 2016 as well in counties that are part of IA-01. I haven't heard of potentially strong challengers in either Iowa Senate district, but that could change before next spring.

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Weekend open thread: Woulda, coulda, shoulda edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 10:50:10 AM CST

Now that we've all had a few days to take in the election results, candidates and political activists in both parties can reflect on how our time and money could have been better spent during the campaign. After the jump I've posted links about Republican and Democratic regrets.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Where things stand in the Iowa Senate races

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 10:51:34 AM CST

Democrats are assured of maintaining their majority in the Iowa Senate, with one race headed for a recount and another to be decided in a December 11 special election.
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Democratic and Republican party spending in the Iowa Senate races

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 19:16:09 PM CST

Candidates for the Iowa legislature were required to submit campaign finance disclosure reports on October 19 and November 2. The Schedule E forms on "In-Kind Contributions" contained the most interesting numbers, because they showed how Democratic and Republican party leaders are allocating resources across the battleground districts.

After the jump I've enclosed in-kind contribution figures for the Senate districts expected to be in play tomorrow. Candidates running in other Senate races did not report large in-kind contributions from their respective parties.

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Four strategies for interest group Iowa legislative endorsements

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 07:47:54 AM CST

Many candidates for the Iowa House and Senate tout endorsements by outside groups in their campaign communications. Some of those groups pay for direct mail, phone calls, or even advertising supporting their endorsed candidates.

Iowa's influential political action committees and advocacy groups have very different ways of getting involved in the state legislative campaign. Follow me after the jump for examples of four distinct strategies.

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Vander Plaats group on radio in two races, conspicuously absent in one

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 16:15:00 PM CDT

Three-time candidate for Iowa governor Bob Vander Plaats has made news this fall primarily on the "No Wiggins" campaign trail. However, the social conservative group he runs is supporting some Republican Iowa Senate candidates as well.

Last week the FAMiLY Leader launched radio advertising campaigns in two competitive Senate races--but notably, not in the district where Vander Plaats' longtime right-hand man Matt Reisetter is running.  

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Iowa Senate ad watch: Water bottles (really)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 25, 2012 at 14:10:00 PM CDT

In a surprising turn of events, Republican challengers are putting an obscure vote on water bottles at the center of their attacks on Iowa Senate Democrats. Follow me after the jump for background on this year's equivalent to the non-existent "heated sidewalks" of 2010.
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Hello Dolly! The War on Women, Iowa Edition

by: 2laneIA

Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 08:41:14 AM CDT

(Great post. Iowa Senate District 26 is one of the tossup races that will determine control of the Senate for the next two years. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Merlin Bartz is an Iowa State Senator who carries around an unusual picture of his opponent, State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm.  The photo is a life-size legless paper doll. At public events he sets his creepy companion in a chair next to him.  If Senator Wilhelm arrives at the event, she has to move it so she can sit down.
lakemillsforum-sm
What message do you think this sends to Iowans? To women? To Senator Wilhelm?

There is more below the fold.
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Weekend open thread: Iowa state legislative race edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 07:00:00 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? A bunch of posts on Iowa House and Senate races are in the works for the next couple of weeks. Several Democratic candidates for the Iowa House have been targeted by push-polls similar to the one I received attacking Susan Judkins in House district 43. Direct mail pieces are resurrecting some of the dishonest Republican talking points of the 2010 campaign, including non-existent "heated sidewalks" allegedly funded with state money, fancy flowerpots and "bus service for lobbyists."

Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee strategists included three Iowa Senate races in the new list of 50 essential state legislative races around the country. Those are Senate district 26, where Democratic incumbent Mary Jo Wilhelm faces Republican incumbent Merlin "build my fence" Bartz, Senate district 46, pitting Republican incumbent Shawn "Go Home" Hamerlinck against challenger Chris Brase, and Senate district 49, an open seat pitting almost-elected 2010 GOP candidate Andrew Naeve against longtime teacher and planning and zoning commissioner Rita Hart on the Democratic side.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, who is working hard to preserve his 26-24 edge in the chamber, has chaired the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee since 2007. Republicans failed to recruit a strong candidate against Gronstal in the new Senate district 8, covering Council Bluffs and Carter Lake.

This is an open thread. If you've noticed any interesting direct mail, phone calls, radio or television commercials supporting or attacking Iowa House and Senate candidates, please post a comment here, put up your own diary, or send a message to desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com. Most of the candidates are not uploading their campaign advertising to YouTube. Remember not to hang up the phone when you get calls targeting your local state legislative candidates. Instead, take detailed notes if you can, and don't be afraid to ask the caller to repeat the questions.

UPDATE: Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak and Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack will be at today's Reichert Oktoberfest in Muscatine supporting state Senate Candidates Brase and Tom Courtney and state House Candidates John Dabeet and Sara Sedlacek.  

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

First look at the Obama and Romney ground games in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:45:00 AM CDT

At this time four years ago, Barack Obama's campaign had about 30 field offices up and running in Iowa, compared to six offices for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Obama's campaign has had eight Iowa field offices open this summer and is rolling out another 26 offices around Iowa this weekend. So far, Mitt Romney's campaign has ten Iowa field offices, in addition to the unified Republican headquarters in Urbandale.

After the jump, I compare the field office locations for each presidential campaign, grouped by Iowa Congressional district. Where relevant, I've also noted competitive Iowa House and Senate districts near the Obama and Romney field offices, although I doubt either presidential campaign will do much for down-ticket Democratic or Republican candidates.

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Weekend open thread: Candidate filing deadline edition

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 16, 2012 at 20:26:59 PM CDT

I'm posting the weekend thread early, because the filing period for primary election candidates in Iowa closed this afternoon. The Secretary of State's Office posted the full list of candidates here (pdf). John Deeth has been covering the filing on a daily basis all month at his blog. Some highlights from races I'm watching are after the jump.

This is an open thread; all topics welcome.

UPDATE: Gotta agree with Senator Chuck Grassley: the History Channel is useless.

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Bartz confirms re-election bid in Iowa Senate district 26

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 13:04:32 PM CST

Republican State Senator Merlin Bartz confirmed this week that he will run for re-election in the new Iowa Senate district 26. His race against Democratic incumbent Mary Jo Wilhelm is probably a must-win for Senate Democrats in order to preserve their majority. After the jump I've posted a district map. Bleeding Heartland previewed the Bartz/Wilhelm matchup here.

Bartz has given Iowa progressives plenty of reasons to want him gone, from encouraging county recorders to ignore a Supreme Court ruling to trying to block the most significant water quality regulations of the last decade. Bartz's record is so bad that even learning he "has performed for over 35 years in north and northeast Iowa with various dance bands" didn't give me any sympathy for the guy. Democrats who live within striking distance of Worth, Mitchell, Floyd, Howard, Chickasaw, Cerro Gordo, or Winneshiek counties have a golden volunteer opportunity here.

P.S. to the Des Moines Register's editorial staff: that last link was to William Petroski's blog post. I liked the dance band detail. When you read something interesting on a blog, it won't kill you to link to it. I mention this because your January 15 comment on Bartz's crusade against "obsolete" laws reads a lot like Bleeding Heartland's post from January 10.  

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Merlin "Build my fence" Bartz taking on obsolete laws

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 10, 2012 at 06:35:00 AM CST

Republican State Senator Merlin Bartz set the bar high for irony on the opening day of the 2012 legislative session. Bartz sought publicity for a bill he has introduced to remove "frivolous, obsolete, and redundant mandates" from the Iowa Code.

On the one hand, that's a worthwhile effort for the ranking member of the Iowa Senate Local Government Committee. On the other hand, a guy who's using a 19th-century law to force neighbors to pay for half of his new fence might not be the best standard-bearer for this cause.

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Iowa Workforce Development offices as a 2012 campaign issue

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 29, 2011 at 09:00:49 AM CST

The state agency Iowa Workforce Development has replaced 36 field offices with hundreds of new "enhanced access" computer terminals this year.

Although the shuttered offices are unlikely ever to reopen, they may live on as talking points in many competitive Iowa House and Senate races next fall.

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Iowa Senate district 26 preview: Mary Jo Wilhelm vs Merlin Bartz

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 07:03:34 AM CST

Only one Iowa Senate race in 2012 will pit Republican and Democratic incumbents against each other. First-term Democrat Mary Jo Wilhelm confirmed this week that she will seek re-election in the new Senate district 26. Her likely opponent is four-term Republican Senator Merlin Bartz. Follow me after the jump for a district map and first take on this matchup.

As a bonus, this post also covers the strangest failure to do basic damage control I've seen from a political veteran.  

There's More... :: (23 Comments, 2138 words in story)

IA-01: Rod Blum joins Republican field against Braley

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 07:25:15 AM CDT

Dubuque businessman Rod Blum will formally announce today that he is seeking the Republican nomination in the first Congressional district. Blum considered running against Democrat Bruce Braley during the last election cycle, and I suspect he would have had a much better chance of winning the primary and general elections in 2010.
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IA-01: Ben Lange exploring rematch against Braley (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 12, 2011 at 07:09:00 AM CDT

Republican Ben Lange will formally announce today that he is exploring a second campaign against three-term incumbent Bruce Braley in Iowa's first Congressional district.
There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1310 words in story)
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