Caitlin Clark snubbed? Quite an over-reaction

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

Given all the outrage in Iowa and among sports scribes around the nation over Caitlin Clark not being named to Team USA—our women’s basketball entry in the Paris Olympics—you’d think everyone should be upset.

At least three who should not be furious: the coach of Team USA, one of the twelve players named to the 2024 team, and Caitlin Clark. Indeed, when the press or broadcast media cover her being “snubbed,” Ms. Clark sometimes seems like the only adult in the room

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Blue-eyed grass

Diane Porter of Fairfield first published this post on My Gaia, an email newsletter “about getting to know nature” and “giving her a helping hand in our own backyards.” Diane also maintains the Birdwatching Dot Com website and bird blog.

So small and hiding. You could walk right past them. But look down into the long grasses, and you’ll see their tiny blue faces looking up at you.

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Why Iowa's governor had to sign one bill twice

Governor Kim Reynolds signed an economic development bill twice last month after the legislature initially forwarded an incomplete version of the bill to her office.

Secretary of the Senate Charlie Smithson wrote to the governor on May 10 that “due to a clerical error,” part of a late amendment was omitted from the enrolled text of Senate File 574, which the governor had signed on May 1. Smithson enclosed “an accurate version of the bill,” which Reynolds signed the same day.

Former legislative staff who worked in the chambers for decades told Bleeding Heartland they could not recall any similar mix-up happening.

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Iowans haven't changed

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring. He can be reached at 

Lately, on my walks, I’ve pondered changes in Iowa. I’ve written about some of them and have read some great articles comparing Iowa now to how our beloved state was in the past.

I’m left with a threshold question: Have Iowans really changed so dramatically that “Iowa Nice” has morphed into “Iowa Nasty?” Around mile 3 of my walk I concluded Iowans haven’t changed, but our state’s leadership has. Here’s what I mean. 

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Don't forget to welcome the stranger

Al Charlson is a North Central Iowa farm kid, lifelong Iowan, and retired bank trust officer. The Bremer County Independent previously published a version of this commentary.

From the time our forefathers broke the prairie sod and began building communities Iowans have been known as hard workers who took pride in a job well done. Stories of my Norwegian immigrant great-grandfather highlight his ability to stack grain bundles perfectly to protect the shock from rain, and to plant corn in rows straight as an arrow.

We recently had windows replaced and our house re-sided by a north central Iowa contractor whose reputation was endorsed by a family member. The contractor has a branch in central Iowa, and a Des Moines area siding team was assigned to our house. The entire team was Hispanic; the only one I could communicate with was the team leader, José. 

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Teachers, parents, public still want answers on Perry school shooting

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and can be reached at

Five months have passed since a 17-year-old Perry High School student walked out of a school bathroom and began shooting toward students who were having breakfast before heading to their classes on the morning of January 4, 2024.

The first details about the tragedy had barely started trickling out when the first questions began. And six months later, most of those questions remain.

Where did Dylan Butler get the guns he used that day?

Who owned the guns?

Did his parents know he had access to the weapons?

Were there any signs before that morning Butler might be thinking about violence? 

Had he been the target of bullying by other students?

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A D-Day postscript: Sacrifice and Survivors

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

The people called “leaders of the free world” and some 4,500 of their citizens gathered on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on June 6 to mark the 80th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. D-Day is often considered the beginning of the end of World War II.

The annual rites of memories, mourning, and hope had a special poignancy this year. It was clear this would be the last time many of the few hundred remaining D-Day veterans would visit their place of nightmares, where they scrambled to establish a beachhead to bring the battle home to Hitler.

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Meet Aime Wichtendahl, who could be Iowa's first trans legislator

After inching toward greater diversity following each of the last two general elections, the Iowa legislature could take another step forward this year if Hiawatha City Council member Aime Wichtendahl becomes the first transgender person elected as a state lawmaker.

While other trans candidates have run for the legislature—Democrat Elle Wyant and Libertarian Jeni Kadel competed for Iowa House seats in 2022—Wichtendahl is the first trans major-party nominee in a district that leans to her party. She was unopposed in the June 4 Democratic primary for House district 80, covering part of the Cedar Rapids metro. It’s an open seat because longtime Democratic State Representative Art Staed opted to run for the Iowa Senate.

Wichtendahl discussed her campaign and her priorities in a June 6 telephone interview.

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Trump's conviction forces tough choice on Republicans

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

The facts are as follows:

On May 30, a New York trial jury of five women and seven men unanimously convicted former President Donald Trump of falsifying business records regarding a hush money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. The payment, in several installments just before the 2016 presidential election, was made in order to prevent her claim about having sex with Trump several years earlier from going public, according to the jury finding. Trump denies a sexual encounter occurred.

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Close shaves for two Iowa lawmakers; others coast in 2024 primaries

All seven Iowa legislators who faced competition for their party’s nominations prevailed in the June 4 elections. The outcome was a reversion to normal following a tumultuous 2022 cycle, in which six Iowa House Republicans lost their primaries. Two years ago, Iowa’s new political map forced three pairs of House members to face off against each other, and Governor Kim Reynolds endorsed challengers against several more GOP lawmakers who had opposed her “school choice” plan.

Crucially, Reynolds did not endorse any 2024 candidates running against incumbents. On the contrary, she backed one of the incumbents in a tough primary.

In addition, property rights proved to be a less potent issue here than in South Dakota, where fourteen Republican lawmakers lost to primary challengers on June 4.

Although Iowa saw no upsets, several of this year’s legislative races revealed that Republicans could be vulnerable to candidates from the right. The two challengers who came closest to knocking off incumbents were both vocal opponents of using eminent domain to build CO2 pipelines.

This post covers the primaries from the narrowest winning margin for the incumbent to the most comfortable victory.

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Americans take rule of law for granted at their peril

Jim Chrisinger is a retired public servant living in Ankeny. He served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, in Iowa and elsewhere. He also holds a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Donald Trump and MAGA are tearing down the rule of law, and most Americans don’t understand this threat or its gravity. The Declaration of Independence grounds our entire system of government:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This system, which America pioneered for the world, depends on everyone being treated equally. No royal, aristocrat, wealthy person, property owner, white person, male, straight person, Christian, or anyone is more equal. We each carry the same weight, and responsibility, in our democracy.

But how does that work? What makes it real? The rule of law.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Spring Cress

Katie Byerly of Cerro Gordo County is also known as Iowa Prairie Girl on YouTube.

Several years ago I gave a presentation called “The Wildflowers of Wilkinson Park” at an assisted living. For one woman in her 90s, the images of Spring Cress (Cardamine bulbosa) stirred up fond memories. She was grinning from ear to ear and teary eyed as she reminisced, “We lived next to that area (before it was a park) and my mother would pick spring cress for our supper.”

I wonder now if she often thought about her mother and spring cress or if the images triggered a forgotten memory.

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Underwhelming wins for Miller-Meeks, Feenstra in GOP primaries

The president of the Congressional Leadership Fund (the main super-PAC aligned with U.S. House Republicans) congratulated U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks on her “resounding victory” in the June 4 primary to represent Iowa’s first district.

U.S. Representative Randy Feenstra hailed the “clear message” from fourth district voters, saying he was “humbled by the strong support for our campaign.”

They can spin, but they can’t hide.

Pulling 55 to 60 percent of the vote against an underfunded, first-time candidate is anything but a “resounding” or “strong” performance for a member of Congress.

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Yes, the criminal justice system is rigged

Writing under the handle “Bronxiniowa,” Ira Lacher, who actually hails from the Bronx, New York, is a longtime journalism, marketing, and public relations professional.

Former President Donald J. Trump thus reacted in dismay last week after a Manhattan jury convicted the former U.S. president and current GOP candidate to reclaim that office on 34 counts of business impropriety, adding …

Sorry; that wasn’t Trump who said that. Or any Trump supporter. Or last week, or last year, or even last decade. It was what University of Southern California law professor Jody David Armour told the Los Angeles Times after four police officers in that city were acquitted of assault against Rodney King in 1992.

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We need to accept outcomes we dislike

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and can be reached at

Most people go through life never stepping foot inside a courtroom. Most people, that is, except for attorneys, judges, journalists, the few of us chosen to be jurors, and an even more select group, those who are accused of crimes.

If I were talking now with my dear parents, may they rest in peace, I would quickly assure them that my many days spent in courtrooms have been in a professional capacity, not as a defendant trying to avoid the slammer.

As a reporter and later as the boss of reporters, I have had an up-close vantage point to watch our court system as it works. I claim no special expertise. But 50 years in a ringside seat on the judiciary have given me perspective worth sharing.

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Project 2025 poses threat to democracy

Steve Corbin is emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa and a freelance writer who receives no remuneration, funding, or endorsement from any for-profit business, nonprofit organization, political action committee, or political party. 

NBC News recently compared where President Joe Biden and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump stand on a multitude of issues of importance, ranging from abortion to health care reform, housing, climate change, education, crime, trade, immigration, taxes, foreign policy, student loan debt, and much more.

One issue missing from the NBC News report has become a focal point for the Biden camp: democracy vs. authoritarianism. Will the duly elected president inaugurated on January 20, 2025 keep the U.S. as a democracy, in line with centuries of tradition? Or will that day be the start of a shift toward authoritarian governance or fascism?

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Iowa House district 60 primary: Jane Bloomingdale vs. John Rosenfeld

UPDATE: Unofficial results show Bloomingdale won the nomination by 1,729 votes to 1,112 (60.8 percent to 39.1 percent). Original post follows.

Four of the 64 Iowa House Republicans have competition in the June 4 primary, and the most closely-watched of those elections will happen in House district 60. State Representative Jane Bloomingdale held off a primary challenger in 2022, even as several of her GOP colleagues failed to secure their nominations. She now faces John Rosenfeld, who is running to her right on several issues.

In a late twist, Governor Kim Reynolds endorsed Bloomingdale, even though the incumbent voted against one of the governor’s top legislative priorities last year and has consistently opposed GOP efforts to ban abortion in Iowa.

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Ernst to seek re-election, but open to role in Trump administration

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa journalist. He is the co-founder of the Western Iowa Journalism Foundation and a member of the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative, where this article first appeared on The Iowa Mercury newsletter. His family operated the Carroll Times Herald for 93 years in Carroll, Iowa where Burns resides.

Two-term U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, a Red Oak Republican and the first female combat veteran to serve in the Senate, said on May 29 that she will seek a third term in 2026.

In an interview in Carroll with Iowa Mercury and the Carroll Times Herald following an economic-development event, Ernst, 53, left the door open to a possible cabinet position in a second Trump administration if the former president prevails in November. Trump vetted Ernst in the 2016 cycle as a possible vice presidential running mate.

Asked directly if she planned to seek re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2026, and to rate her likelihood on a scale of 1 to 10 for a third-term bid (with 10 being most likely) Ernst said, “That is my intent. So I would say, yes, 10 very likely. I love representing the people of Iowa, and it really has been a very fulfilling position for me to be able to fight for rural America. Of course, important to me as well are our veterans and Armed Services.”

Ernst said she would wait until after the 2024 election cycle to get a “little closer” to 2026 before announcing.

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Political knot tying while auditioning

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring. He can be reached at 

I always considered knot tying and auditioning as two separate skills with nothing in common. I learned knot tying from an overly-patient Scoutmaster who scowled but never criticized when knots like the sheepshank, square, clover hitch, and bowline were too loose or completely flubbed. 

I also had auditions. I went for a music scholarship in college. I didn’t get it. I tried out for a few plays and scored parts.

Both skills require practice, discipline, and willingness to fail. I never tried both skills at once. After all, that would have left me tied in knots and looking bad during an audition.

But it’s happening now on the political stage.

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Brenna Bird outdoes critics in building a case against her

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

Attorney General Brenna Bird continues to ignore her critics, doubling down on actions that have drawn criticism. Unfortunately for Iowans, she’s picked a bad model to imitate.

This shoot-yourself-in-the-foot strategy had worked so well for Donald Trump that Bird seems to figure, “Why not give it a try?”

And she’ll likely continue that style, despite the unanimous verdict(s) against Trump in the one trial he has not managed to delay.

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