Throwback Thursday: When Greg Forristall fought against putting commerce ahead of education

Republican State Representative Greg Forristall passed away yesterday at the age of 67. First elected to the Iowa House in 2006, he was most recently vice chair of the Education Committee and also served on the Human Resources, Labor, and Ways and Means committees. He had been battling cancer for some time and was too ill to participate in the last few weeks of this year’s legislative session.

In a written statement, Republican Party of Iowa chair Jeff Kaufmann described Forristall as a “friend to conservatives across our state” and a “happy warrior” in the Ronald Reagan tradition. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said Forristall “was a dedicated public servant to the people he represented and an advocate for the arts and education, two issues that he was incredibly passionate for.”

I never met Forristall, but one episode stands out for me as I think about his legislative career. The first two years after Republicans regained their Iowa House majority, Forristall chaired the Education Committee. House leaders reassigned him to lead the Labor Committee in 2013, a position he retained through the 2016 legislative session.

Why did then House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Majority Leader Upmeyer take the Education Committee away from Forristall, knowing how much he cared about that issue? I never saw any public confirmation, but the Iowa political rumor mill pointed to Forristall’s stance on one controversial bill.

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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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