Who's who in the Iowa House for 2018

The Iowa House opens its 2018 session today with 58 Republicans, 41 Democrats, and one vacancy, since Jim Carlin resigned after winning the recent special election in Iowa Senate district 3. Voters in House district 6 will choose Carlin’s successor on January 16.

The 99 state representatives include 27 women (18 Democrats and nine Republicans) and 72 men. Five African-Americans (all Democrats) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 95 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the Iowa Senate following the 2008 election.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted significant changes since last year.

Under the Ethics Committee subheading, you’ll see a remarkable example of Republican hypocrisy.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Taylors (one from each party) and two Smiths (both Democrats). As for first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Roberts (two Robs, one Bob, and a Bobby), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), three Johns and a Jon, and three men each named Gary and Charles (two Chucks and a Charlie). There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Brian, Bruce, Chris, Todd, and Michael (one goes by Mike).

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IA-Gov: John Norris releases first batch of high-profile endorsers

Gubernatorial candidate John Norris announced a statewide steering committee yesterday with more than 90 “current and former state legislators, public officials, party activists and officers, farmers, educators, students, labor leaders and business owners.”

State Representatives Marti Anderson and Jo Oldson became the first two Iowa House Democrats to back Norris, joined by former State Representatives Brian Quirk, Andrew Wenthe, Mark Kuhn, Deo Koenigs, and Roger Thomas, and former State Senators Daryl Beall, Bill Hutchins, and Lowell Junkins (who was the 1986 Democratic nominee for governor).

Other notable endorsers include Brad Anderson, who managed Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign in Iowa and was the 2014 Democratic nominee for secretary of state, former Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, and Marcia Nichols, the longtime political director for the public employee union AFSCME. Candidates won’t release their fundraising reports until January, but I doubt these three would publicly back Norris unless they were confident that he would have the resources to compete on a statewide level before the primary. Anderson, Sterzenbach, and Nichols were part of State Representative Todd Prichard’s leadership team earlier this year. Prichard left the governor’s race in August and endorsed Fred Hubbell yesterday.

I’ve posted below the full Norris steering committee list, along with a November 20 e-mail blast from Brad Anderson and a Facebook post by Marti Anderson.

Bleeding Heartland readers may recognize the names of other Norris endorsers, such as Jess Vilsack (the former governor’s son), former Vilsack aide Dusky Terry, 2016 Iowa House candidate Heather Matson, and Kevin Techau, who was U.S. attorney for Iowa’s Northern District from 2014 until this March. Dave Swenson and Matt Russell have been occasional guest authors at this site. Emilene Leone is one of the newly-engaged Scott County activists profiled in this post. Bill Sueppel represented Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson during her impeachment hearings and later in her civil lawsuit, resolved last month in her favor.

Any comments about the governor’s race are welcome in this thread. Bleeding Heartland previously posted audio and transcripts of stump speeches by all seven contenders and a comprehensive list of current or former state lawmakers who have endorsed a gubernatorial candidate.

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IA-Gov: Boulton, Hubbell lead in early legislative endorsements

State Senator Nate Boulton and Fred Hubbell have locked up more support among state lawmakers than the five other Democrats running for governor combined.

Whether legislative endorsements will matter in the 2018 gubernatorial race is an open question. The overwhelming majority of state lawmakers backed Mike Blouin before the 2006 gubernatorial primary, which Chet Culver won. Last year, former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge won the nomination for U.S. Senate, even though about 60 current and 30 former Democratic lawmakers had endorsed State Senator Rob Hogg.

Nevertheless, prominent supporters can provide a clue to activists or journalists about which primary contenders are well-positioned. Where things stand:

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IA-Gov: Prichard's exit points to challenges for others in field

State Representative Todd Prichard suspended his campaign for governor yesterday, saying “my responsibilities to my family, the Army, my constituents, as well as my small business must take priority over the many hours a day it takes to raise the sums of money required to run successfully.”

Fundraising difficulties were also a key reason Rich Leopold, the first declared Democratic candidate for governor, ended his campaign in June. The same challenge may lead one or more of the remaining seven Democrats in the field to leave the race before the filing deadline next March.

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Ross Wilburn makes eight Iowa Democratic candidates for governor

Ross Wilburn joined the field of Democratic candidates for governor today, promising to focus on health, education, and economic opportunity. In a news release enclosed in full below, the former Iowa City mayor and city council member said he would govern in an inclusive way, drawing on skills gained through community work and service in local government. He pledged to listen and build consensus, “bringing together sometimes disparate interests,” as opposed to the “fighting” and “divisions” often seen in Iowa politics at the state level.

Wilburn’s campaign is on the web at justbeiowa.com, on Twitter @letsbeiowa, and on Facebook at Ross Wilburn for Governor.

In alphabetical order, the other Democratic candidates for Iowa governor are:

Nate Boulton (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Cathy Glasson (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Fred Hubbell (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Andy McGuire (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Jon Neiderbach (website, Twitter, Facebook)
John Norris (website, Twitter, Facebook)
Todd Prichard (website, Twitter, Facebook)

Glasson is technically still in the exploratory phase, but she has hired campaign staff and spoken to audiences around the state this summer, including the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame event last month.

Supporters are welcome to submit commentaries here advocating for candidates in Democratic primaries. Please read Bleeding Heartland’s guidelines for guest authors before writing.

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Nine ways Democrats can keep 2018 primaries from becoming destructive

More Democrats are running for Iowa’s statewide and federal offices than at any other time in at least four decades. I’m excited to watch so many strong candidates make their case to be elected governor, secretary of state, or to Congress in all three Republican-held U.S. House districts.

Contested primaries are mostly good for political parties, I believe. For too many election cycles, Iowa Democrats tended to coalesce around one candidate early on. A battle for the nomination forces contenders to work harder and sharpen the message. With more campaigns trying to identify supporters and get them to the polls, I expect a record-setting turnout for Iowa Democrats in June 2018.

The process will also drive more activists to attend next year’s precinct caucuses and county conventions, since conventions may be needed to select Democratic nominees for governor and in the third Congressional district, if no candidate receives 35 percent of the vote in the primary.

The only downside to a competitive primary is the risk that the campaign could become intensely negative, leaving some of the most engaged activists feeling angry and alienated from one another. Case in point: some people are still arguing about Hillary v. Bernie more than a year later.

Fortunately, Democrats can prevent that destructive dynamic from playing out.

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