Throwback Thursday: When Terry Branstad first tried to elevate Kim Reynolds, 18 years ago

Terry Branstad passed over some better-known and better-connected Republicans when he picked State Senator Kim Reynolds to be his running mate in 2010. During that campaign, Branstad said he was looking for a lieutenant governor who could take his place. He made clear on many subsequent occasions that he was “grooming” Reynolds. The plan will come to fruition after Branstad is confirmed as U.S. ambassador to China.

Few Iowans outside Clarke County had heard of Reynolds in June 2010, but Branstad had taken an interest in her political career long before then. If his original plan had worked out, Reynolds would have been elected to the Iowa Senate for the first time on this day in 1999.

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Throwback Thursday: When Iowa was on the "wrong" side of a Republican landslide

Like many politically active teenagers, I was excited to be old enough to vote for the first time, in 1988. I’d volunteered and caucused for Paul Simon earlier in the year, but I had no trouble coming around to support our party’s nominee, Michael Dukakis. I was fortunate to attend part of the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, where most people were confident we were going to win back the White House. By the time I filled out my absentee ballot in the fall, I was worried, because a disastrous debate moment and a brutal attack ad from George H.W. Bush’s campaign had turned things around.

Indeed, Dukakis was wiped out, gaining 7 million fewer votes and losing the electoral college 426 to 111.

As a college student on the east coast for most of Bush’s presidency, I felt proud that Iowa had been among the ten states to reject him. In fact, my favorite comeback to rude comments about “flyover country” was, “As least we voted for Dukakis.” It was more than people from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, or even California could say.

This week I looked up the Iowa returns from 1988 and realized that Dukakis carried this state much more convincingly than I remembered: 670,557 votes to 545,355 (54.7 percent to 44.5 percent). Dukakis outpolled Bush here by roughly as large a margin as Donald Trump’s advantage over Hillary Clinton this week.

When I looked at the county map of results, I was stunned to see that Dukakis carried 75 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Bush carried only 24.

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The truth about that so-called "trolley for lobbyists"

Iowa Republicans have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars this fall on television commercials and direct mail highlighting supposedly wasteful spending by Democratic state lawmakers. For the fourth election cycle in a row, many of these attacks repeat zombie lies from the 2010 campaign about money spent on “heated sidewalks” and a “trolley for lobbyists.”

As Bleeding Heartland explained here, Iowa House and Senate Democrats never approved money for heated sidewalks. They simply rejected a GOP amendment to a 2010 appropriations bill, which would have prohibited using state funds for “geothermal systems for melting snow and ice from streets or sidewalks.” The amendment was pointless, because planners of the award-winning streetscape project in question had already ruled out heated sidewalks in favor of porous pavement.

What about the Republican hit pieces claiming Democrats spent money on a “trolley for lobbyists”?

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Throwback Thursday: Five Russian jokes about rigged elections

Last night’s debate stirred up memories from my “past life.” In two of the most spirited exchanges, Hillary Clinton depicted Donald Trump as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s potential “puppet,” and Trump suggested the “corrupt media” and millions of people who don’t belong on the voter rolls could steal the election.

Large scale voter fraud has been more than a losing candidate’s fantasy in Russia. Observers have documented stuffed ballot boxes and other methods of undermining opposition candidates.

Dark political humor shone a light on some of those flaws in Russia’s early post-Soviet elections.

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Throwback Thursday: Down memory lane with politicians who don't pay income taxes

By Tom Witosky

Donald Trump’s reported avoidance of paying federal income taxes – possibily for almost two decades – raises a simple, but interesting question for Iowa voters.
Does it matter? And, if it doesn’t matter to voters in 2016, then why did it matter when Gov. Terry Branstad and his supporters made such a big deal of it in his campaigns against Democrat candidate Roxanne Conlin in 1982 and Jack Hatch in 2014?

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Throwback Thursday: A year since Bruce Harreld shook up the University of Iowa

One year ago today, the University of Iowa’s Faculty Senate voted no confidence in the Iowa Board of Regents, saying the board “has failed in its duty to take care of the University of Iowa and citizens of Iowa and shown blatant disregard for the shared nature of the university governance.” Five days earlier, the regents had offered the university presidency to Bruce Harreld, passing over three other finalists with substantial support among campus stakeholders and far more experience in higher education.

Harreld’s first year on the job did little to reassure his critics, in part because he’s never acknowledged any flaws in the process that brought him to Iowa City. The American Association of University Professors issued a detailed report last December on the presidential search. Cliffs Notes version: key members of the Board of Regents decided early on to pick a “non-traditional” candidate from the business world, who would preside over “transformative” change at the university; diminished faculty power on the search committee; made Harreld a finalist without a committee vote and despite substantial opposition from faculty; and discounted input from staff, students, and faculty in choosing Harreld over finalists with strong backgrounds in academic administration.

In June, delegates to the AAUP’s national meeting voted unanimously to sanction the University of Iowa for “substantial non‐compliance with standards of academic government” in connection with Harreld’s hiring. Soon after, Harreld commented on the sanctions, “It’s bizarre to me. […] It doesn’t make any sense.” As Mark Barrett noticed, Harreld had the same reaction last fall when asked about controversy surrounding his secret meetings with decision-makers before he formally applied for the presidency: “I find the criticism bizarre, to be really honest about it. […] There is an assumption that I somehow was given preferential treatment. I didn’t see that at all.”

Speaking of bizarre, the University of Iowa will hold a celebration next week to “officially welcome” Harreld to campus, more than ten months after he started work.

I decided to mark this anniversary by cataloguing my coverage of events that inspired the hashtag #prezfiasco. Before Harreld arrived on the scene, University of Iowa politics had inspired only a handful among more than 5,000 posts I’d written over eight and a half years. Some pieces about the Harreld hire turned out to be among the most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2015.

Readers with a strong interest in this subject should check out Barrett’s more extensive archive of “Ongoing Harreld Hire Updates” at the Ditchwalk blog.

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