Seven more pitches for seven Iowa Democratic candidates for governor

To all the Democrats who want to hear directly from each contender in the Iowa governor’s race before deciding how to vote next June: this post’s for you.

Since Bleeding Heartland published seven pitches for gubernatorial candidates from a major party event this summer, Todd Prichard has left the race and Ross Wilburn has joined the field.

All seven Democrats running for governor appeared at the Progress Iowa Corn Feed in Des Moines on September 10, speaking in the following order: Cathy Glasson, Fred Hubbell, John Norris, Ross Wilburn, Jon Neiderbach, Andy McGuire, and Nate Boulton. I enclose below the audio clips, for those who like to hear a candidate’s speaking style. I’ve also transcribed every speech in full, for those who would rather read than listen.

As a bonus, you can find a sound file of Brent Roske’s speech to the Progress Iowa event at the end of this post. With his focus on single-payer health care and water quality, Roske should be running in the Democratic primary. Instead, he plans to qualify for the general election ballot as an independent candidate, a path that can only help Republicans by splitting the progressive vote.

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Privatized Medicaid makes no sense for people with disabilities

Who could have guessed that privatizing Medicaid would lead to for-profit companies cutting essential services to Iowans with disabilities? Aside from anyone who spent five minutes reading how the same approach had played out in Kansas?

When Iowa Democratic lawmakers sounded the alarm two and a half years ago, Governor Terry Branstad and his aides dismissed the warnings as “Washington D.C.-style partisan attacks.” They insisted privatization would allow Iowa patients to “enjoy the increased quality of service and care that comes with modern plans administering Medicaid.”

Instead, thousands received less in-home care or had trouble accessing medications and services after private insurance companies began managing their cases. The state now faces a class action lawsuit on behalf of 15,000 Iowans with disabilities.

Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven admitted yesterday what should have been obvious from the start: letting for-profit companies control access to health care for people with disabilities makes no sense.

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Yet another Iowa Republican budget atrocity

The hits just keep on coming from the health and human services budget Iowa Republicans enacted this year.

As if big spending cuts to public health programs, child care assistance, social worker field services, the closure of four Planned Parenthood clinics, and ending on-site ombudsmen visits to nursing homes didn’t do enough to harm vulnerable people, that budget bill also called for short-changing Iowans who sign up for Medicaid.

The Reynolds administration is moving forward with the plan to end decades-long practice on covering health care for new Medicaid recipients.

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Bill Northey's heading to the USDA. Who will take his place?

President Donald Trump has officially nominated Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey to a senior position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In another sign of this administration’s lack of basic competence, the USDA’s news release says Northey will be Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, while the statement from the White House says he will be Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. (See excerpts enclosed below, along with Northey’s official biography.)

Either way, U.S. Senate confirmation should be smooth sailing, clearing a path for Governor Kim Reynolds to appoint a new secretary of agriculture later this year or in early 2018. The appointee would presumably be a prohibitive favorite for the Republican nomination next spring.

This thread is for any speculation about successors to Northey. A few months ago, I thought State Representative Pat Grassley was a lock for the job. He was seen as a likely candidate for secretary of agriculture in 2014 or 2018, had Northey run for higher office. His grandfather, Senator Chuck Grassley, is co-chairing the Reynolds campaign for governor.

And yet: ever since Pat Grassley tweeted last week that he was “not convinced” a state tax incentives package worth $400,000 per long-term job created by Apple was “good value for Iowa taxpayers,” I’ve been wondering whether he and the governor had a falling out. Perhaps word reached him that Reynolds is leaning toward someone else for secretary of agriculture. The governor has been talking up the Apple deal as a major accomplishment. Her chief of staff, Jake Ketzner, is not known for showing tolerance toward Republicans who criticize or question his boss.

Former State Representative Annette Sweeney could be a contender. She’s executive director of the Iowa Angus Association, having previously headed a public policy group called Iowa Agri-Women. Before that, she served as Iowa House Agriculture Committee chair and floor-managed the country’s first “Ag Gag” bill.

The political map drawn up after the 2010 census put Sweeney and Pat Grassley in the same legislative district, and she lost a tough, expensive 2012 primary widely viewed as a proxy war between Bruce Rastetter and Senator Grassley. The two Iowa Republican powerhouses were on opposite sides again during last year’s GOP primary in the fourth Congressional district.

Sweeney is a childhood friend of Rastetter, who has been a major donor to Reynolds and before that, had tremendous influence over her mentor, Governor Terry Branstad (see also here). Reynolds’ chief of staff Ketzner became a senior adviser to Chris Christie’s presidential campaign around the same time Rastetter endorsed the New Jersey governor.

Iowa Democrats do not have a declared 2018 candidate for secretary of agriculture yet. Northey narrowly defeated Denise O’Brien in his first statewide election, then won his second and third terms by comfortable majorities.

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Iowa political opinion is shifting against corporate tax giveaways

The Apple corporation’s plan to build a “state-of-the-art data center” in Waukee is attracting national attention and ridicule for a state and local incentives package worth more than $4 million to the country’s most profitable company for every long-term job created.

While Governor Kim Reynolds celebrated yet another deal to fleece taxpayers, one encouraging sign emerged last week: more Iowa politicians are willing to say out loud that this approach to economic development doesn’t pay for itself.

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