How Democrats can reach rural America, build relationships, create change

Second in a series of post-election commentaries by Amber Gustafson, who was the Democratic candidate in Iowa Senate district 19. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Remember the Hippos – A Parable

Once a non-profit organization decided to “help” a poor, rural village in a country in Africa. When the fresh-faced, idealistic, young European aid workers arrived, they noticed many things right away. They noticed that the people in the village were malnourished. They also noticed that the village had no fields, no vineyards, and no orchards.

The aid workers, full of compassion, saw that what the people of the village needed was food; and more than that, they needed to be taught how to farm.

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Judicial nominating commission rejects effort to boot three members (updated)

All sixteen current members of the State Judicial Nominating Commission will be able to participate in selecting finalists for the Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals in early 2019, the judicial branch announced today.

Republican attorney Bill Gustoff had argued that three of the commission’s eight attorneys need to be replaced, as their six-year terms expire on December 31. That would have given the eight political appointees (all Republicans named by Governors Terry Branstad or Kim Reynolds) the votes to control the short list of candidates for the high court vacancies.

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Sara Craig Gongol joins small group of top Iowa women staffers

The first woman elected to our state’s highest office has picked the third woman to serve as an Iowa governor’s chief of staff.

Sara Craig Gongol will replace Governor Kim Reynolds’ current chief of staff Ryan Koopmans, effective December 15. Craig Gongol was a leading campaign strategist for Reynolds this year and has been “a key member of my team” since 2014, the governor said in a December 11 press release.

The appointment inspired me to look into which women have held the top staff position for governors or members of Congress from Iowa. Like Craig Gongol, who ran Mitt Romney’s 2012 Iowa caucus campaign, several women who managed high-level Iowa campaigns went on to serve as chiefs of staff.

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Iowa political reaction to final passage of Farm Bill

All four Iowans voted yes as the U.S. House sent a new five-year Farm Bill to President Donald Trump on December 12. A day after passing the U.S. Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, the conference committee agreement sailed through the lower chamber by 369 votes to 47 (roll call).

Farm Bills have typically received strong support from both parties, thanks to a grand bargain struck decades ago, putting food assistance and agriculture-related subsidies and programs in the same legislation. This year’s initial House bill was an exception, as Republicans tried to impose work requirements on Americans in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps. House and Senate negotiators wisely removed that language from the final version.

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Nate Boulton's victim-blaming is harmful and unnecessary

State Senator Nate Boulton responded this week to the misconduct allegations now standing in the way of his full participation in Iowa Senate business next year.

Two of the points he raised would likely have been sufficient to convince Iowa Senate Ethics Committee members to dismiss the complaint against him when they consider the matter on December 20.

Unfortunately, Boulton chose not to leave it there. Most of his written response supports a third argument, seeking to discredit his accuser. The victim-blaming was not only unnecessary, but harmful.

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Grassley, Ernst part ways on five-year Farm Bill

The U.S. Senate approved a new five-year Farm Bill today by 87 votes to 13, sending the conference committee compromise to the U.S. House. The final version rejected efforts to undermine food assistance programs, which House Republicans had approved this summer. Provisions affecting conservation, the environment, and rural communities were a mixed bag; the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Center for Rural Affairs summarized the key points.

Iowa’s senators have rarely voted differently in the past four years, especially on major legislation. But today Senator Chuck Grassley was among the thirteen Republicans to oppose the new Farm Bill. Though he acknowledged some positive features, Grassley could not get past the failure to impose “hard caps on what any one farmer can get,” a reform he’s advocated for many years. He also blasted a “new gimmick” that “makes more subsidies available to the wealthiest farmers and many non-farmers.”

In contrast, Senator Joni Ernst hailed a “farmer-focused” bill containing several bipartisan provisions she co-sponsored.

I enclose below a video and transcript of Grassley’s speech explaining his vote, as well as Ernst’s full written statement on the bill.

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