Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor's race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state's major events of the decade.

After the jump I've posted links to Bleeding Heartland's coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn't manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent's compilation of "Iowa's most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009," as well as that blog's review of "stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010."

January 2009

In a Des Moines Register interview, Chet Culver evaluated his first two years in office and said he was aiming to be the best Iowa governor in history. His comments inspired this post on what kind of politicians make history, and what Culver would have to do to go down as one of the all-time greats.

The Iowa State Board of Education was considering new restrictions on junk food in schools.

I reflected on the Iowa caucuses on the one-year anniversary.

Jennifer O'Malley Dillon was named executive director for the Democratic National Committee. She had been John Edwards' Iowa campaign director before the 2008 caucuses and later served as director of battleground states strategy for Barack Obama's campaign.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources was wavering on new coal ash disposal rules.

Key investors pulled the plug on a proposed coal-fired power plant near Waterloo after a joint venture fell apart.

Bleeding Heartland user American007 offered nine predictions for 2009 and wasn't far off the mark.

I discussed the need to field a strong candidate against Chuck Grassley in 2010.

Hackers caused some big problems with Soapblox, the software that runs this blog.

Matt Strawn became the new chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa and vowed to improve the way the GOP communicates with voters. I argued that the Republicans' problem is what they say, not how they say it.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Senate President Jack Kibbie laid out their priorities on the opening day of the 2009 legislative session.

Governor Culver appointed Charlie Krogmeier as his new chief of staff after Patrick Dillon resigned from that position in order to move to Washington.

The Des Moines Register published a bizarre article claiming that Tom Vilsack had relatively few ties to agribusiness.

Bleeding Heartland user IowaVoter reported on problems with the audit logs of Diebold voting machines.

A state infrastructure bonding program was the highlight of Governor Culver's Condition of the State address to the Iowa House and Senate. I supported borrowing money for infrastructure, but only if money was spent on a "fix-it first" basis.

Guest poster Senate Guru wondered whether Chuck Grassley might retire, but Grassley's office quickly denied that he was considering retirement.

A bunch of well-connected Democrats expressed interest in the U.S. attorney position for Iowa's southern district.

Governor Culver's outgoing chief of staff, Patrick Dillon, was appointed White House deputy director of political affairs.

Mary Lundby, a former Republican Iowa Senate majority leader, passed away.

I considered whether Hillary Clinton or John Edwards could have won the Iowa caucuses, assuming Barack Obama ran the same outstanding campaign he ran. This was one of the longest posts I've ever written, and it got a mixed reaction on national blogs where I cross-posted it.

John Norris announced plans to leave the Iowa Utilities Board in order to serve as Tom Vilsack's chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Norris was Vilsack's chief of staff during his first term as governor.

Selling the lottery would have been bad policy and disastrous politics. Fortunately, Culver's chief of staff announced that the proposal was going nowhere.

Former Des Moines City Council member Archie Brooks was sentenced for his role in the CIETC scandal, and I supported taking his name off the south-side community center.

Bleeding Heartland user IowaVoter explained the need for campaign finance reform.

Governor Culver endorsed significant spending cuts and no tax increases as he prepared to offer his 2010 budget proposal.

I took an early look at Chet Culver's re-election chances and concluded that he was in reasonably strong shape, but faced some danger signs including a declining economy.

Governor Culver recommended Michael Kiernan to be the new chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Swing State Project determined that Iowa's 2010 Senate contast was a "race to watch" but presumed safe for incumbent Chuck Grassley.

Iowa moved back up to second place in installed wind capacity.

Bleeding Heartland user cman (now a blogger for the Des Moines Register) warned Republicans that they had better adapt or die as a party.

The Des Moines Register announced the 2009 RAGBRAI route.

The Republican National Committee elected Michael Steele as new chairman. Iowa's RNC reps backed South Carolina Republican Party Chair Katon Dawson instead.

Jim Paprocki made a strong case for implementing instant-runoff voting in Iowa. It probably will never happen, but one can dream.

Bleeding Heartland user IowaVoter attended one of State Senate President Jack Kibbie's town-hall meetings and reported that Kibbie "showed his progressive side."

February 2009

I finally signed up for Twitter, but it took a few months for me to become well and truly addicted.

Michael Kiernan became the new chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party and said he would make it a priority to keep newly registered Democrats in the fold. I argued that he won't be able to do that unless the Democrats in charge of state government deliver real, lasting change that improves people's lives.

David Yepsen announced plans to step down as political columnist for the Des Moines Register in order to become director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

The City Council of Sioux City passed a resolution (with no legal force) declaring marriage to be between a man and a woman. I urged Bleeding Heartland readers to get ready to make the case for marriage equality if the Iowa Supreme Court handed down a favorable ruling.

State Senator Staci Appel was selected to serve as Iowa State Director for the non-partisan Women Legislators' Lobby.

The Iowa Utilities Board delivered a long-awaited ruling on "ratemaking principles" for the proposed coal-fired power plant near Marshalltown. The ruling was not what the utility had hoped for, increasing the chance that investors would abandon the project.

Iowa showed slight growth in the number of small farms, according to the latest USDA survey.

Democratic State Senator Dick Dearden was still obsessed with dove-hunting for some reason.

The Iowa Commission on the Status of Women posted a diary about their legislative priorities. I'd like to see more organizations posting this kind of information during the legislative session.

State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald said the proposal on leasing the state lottery would be a very bad deal for the government.

The Iowa legislature wasn't considering any of the campaign finance reforms this state needs most.

The Iowa Family Policy Center warned that homosexuals were "co-opting" Valentine's Day.

As the House approved the stimulus bill (with Iowa's representatives split on party lines) and Tom Harkin said he wasn't a "happy camper" in light of compromises made, I looked at what the stimulus bill would mean for Iowa.

The Iowa Senate passed a bill banning wage discrimination based on age, race, religion, gender and the other protected classes cited in the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

President Obama signed the stimulus bill, and I linked to various pages with more details about what the package allocated to Iowa.

The Iowa House and Senate approved the Natural Resources Trust Fund constitutional amendment, which was backed by a large coalition of environmental groups. The amendment is now subject to a public vote in November 2010.

A top legislative priority for organized labor, the prevailing wage bill, stalled in the Iowa House. Leaders kept the vote open for a whole weekend, hoping to find a 51st vote. I saw the episode as the price of the Obama campaign's flawed GOTV program in 2008, which produced smaller down-ticket gains than expected.

The Culver family adopted a shelter dog.

I reflected on my biggest health scare and how much worse it might have been if I didn't have health insurance.

As the Iowa House failed to pass the prevailing wage bill, I discussed who was to blame for the fiasco and how Democrats should proceed on labor issues.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided to keep Leonard Boswell in its Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents.

The Iowa Senate's state government committee approved a bill that would assign Iowa's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who won the national popular vote.

Because the food-stamp program produces more economic stimulus than any other form of government spending (and much more stimulus than any kind of tax cut), I looked at how Iowa compared to other states in terms of food stamp participation rates.

State Auditor David Vaudt advocated rejecting some of the federal stimulus funds available to Iowa.

March 2009

The Iowa Citizen Action Network announced its 2009 award winners, including Representative Bruce Braley.

Rival colleges Wartburg and Luther channeled their competitive energy into a contest to see which campus could conserve more and reduce utility bills.

More details emerged on the highway funds allocated to Iowa under the stimulus bill.

Governor Culver and Secretary of State Mike Mauro spoke out against a bill that would award Iowa's electoral votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote, but I warned that saving the electoral college would not necessarily keep Iowa relevant.

Environmental groups asked citizens to send public comments to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on key water and air quality issues.

The nonprofit organization Plains Justice asked Iowans to contact state legislators about energy efficiency bills.

I urged state legislators to show engaged citizens some common courtesy when they care enough about a bill to contact lawmakers.

Interstate Power and Light pulled the plug on the Marshalltown coal-fired power plant.

Governor Culver named Rob Berntsen chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board, replacing John Norris.

Comments by Elizabeth Dole's former campaign manager reminded me that it helps for incumbents to have some record to run on.

I wondered whether it would be politically smart for Representative Tom Latham to cooperate with President Obama.

Guest poster Nathaniel90 created a 2012 Congressional map for Iowa, which sparked a blog skirmish between Bleeding Heartland and Republican blogger Krusty Konservative over alleged gerrymandering and compact districts.

Iowa Republicans let their hypocrisy show in the debate over a bill that would have allowed employees to select their own doctor in case of a workplace injury.

Survey USA released a pretty bad poll for Chet Culver, leading Bleeding Heartland user American007 to ask, Is the Big Lug in trouble?

Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, urged Iowa to "be a leader in the rapidly growing green economy."

President Obama proposed reforms to the Congressional earmarking process, and I gave background on the failure of Democratic leadership that led to Tom Harkin's $1.8 million earmark for studying odors from large hog confinements (CAFOs) in Iowa. That earmark that became a poster child for Republican outrage over wasteful spending.

Tom Latham took credit for getting earmarks to fund Iowa projects in the omnibus spending bill he voted against.

Chuck Grassley posted my all-time favorite tweet by him, indicating that Iowa Republican lawmakers felt ignored by business lobbyists.

Tom Harkin recommended Stephanie Rose and Nick Klinefeldt for the positions of U.S. attorney in Iowa's northern and southern districts.

Steve King took credit for stimulus funds that will help widen U.S. Highway 20 in rural northwest Iowa, even though he voted against the stimulus bill.

On my 40th birthday I posted a list of 40 good bloggers over 40, though it turned out a few of them were younger than I realized.

Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08 posted an outstanding piece analyzing Iowa's 2001 redistricting process and evaluating three possible Iowa maps with four Congressional districts.

I suggested some tips for advocates to use in communicating with state legislators.

The Iowa Global Warming Campaign noted that "Iowa residents and businesses could save over $690 million on their utility bills if utility companies cut demand for electricity by 15 percent and natural gas by 10 percent by 2020."

Iowa Democratic Veterans Caucus chair Bob Krause  announced plans to run against Chuck Grassley in 2010.

One of Iowa's largest employers, the Principal Financial Group, announced pay cuts to affect all employees in lieu of another mass layoff (which Principal had enacted in December 2008).

The Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference had more bad news about the economy.

A bill that would allow some early ballots to be counted before election day concerned me.

Organic dairy farmer Francis Thicke announced that he was considering a bid for Iowa secretary of agriculture in 2010.

The Iowa legislature pretended to care about money in politics, passing a bill to close the so-called "Fallon loophole."

The White House held a regional forum on health care reform in Des Moines.

Bleeding Heartland user Iowan said Iowans need the large increase in clean water funding in President Obama's budget proposal.

The cover story for the Atlantic Monthly promped me to make my case against Hanna Rosin's case against breastfeeding.

The Rebuild Iowa Office announced smart growth assistance for five Iowa communities needing to rebuild after tornadoes and floods in 2008.

Food Democracy Now founder Dave Murphy made the economic case for healthy food.

I urged statehouse Democrats to pass key bills that would benefit Iowa women.

The Iowa Global Warming Campaign made the case for expanding passenger rail in our state.

Bleeding Heartland user Sean Flaherty posted an action alert about election reforms that passed the Iowa House unanimously but stalled in the Iowa Senate.

David Yepsen published his last column for the Des Moines Register.

I pondered why Iowa leaders don't do more to protect the environment.

April 2009

I was a respondent for a detailed Republican poll on the 2010 governor's race and wrote up what I could remember from the survey. I later learned that a 527 organization involving Doug Gross commissioned the poll. It marked the beginning of the effort to recruit Terry Branstad to run for governor again.

A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey indicated that Iowa contains 42 of the 150 watersheds that create the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. Advocates had expected that ruling but were surprised the seven judges acted unanimously. This post summarized early Democratic reaction to the court ruling, and this post summarized early Republican reaction.

Food Democracy Now advocated changes to current rules, which allow "large corporate farms to take advantage of [federal] subsidy loopholes that place independent family farmers at a serious competitive disadvantage."

I previewed the coming battle to amend the Iowa Constitution.

Opponents of marriage equality immediately funded robocalls to identify like-minded Iowans.

Bleeding Heartland user Elton Davis cross-posted Drake Law Professor Sally Frank's take on the Iowa Supreme Court ruling.

Four days after the Varnum v Brien decision was announced, Governor Culver said he would not seek to overturn the ruling, in part because it "reaffirmed that churches across Iowa will continue to have the right to recognize the sanctity of religious marriage in accordance with their own traditions and church doctrines."

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal dared conservatives to push for a constitutional convention, saying "There's a lot of good, progressive issues that we could pursue: a woman's right to choose, guaranteed health care for all Iowa citizens, workers' rights - so if there are people that want to help us get to a constitutional convention, that's kind of my dream world."

A bar in West Burlington became the first business to lose its liquor license for failing to comply with the Iowa Smokefree Air Act.

Guest poster RDemocrat discussed child poverty in rural America.

Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy blocked attempts by Republicans to bring a resolution to the floor on amending Iowa's constitution to ban gay marriage. Only two of the 56 Iowa House Democrats voted with Republicans on a key procedural motion.

Bleeding Heartland user sgarystewart wrote an open letter to his state senator about the real threat to Iowa marriages and his plans to marry his partner in Ringgold County.

Governor Culver confirmed that he is against passing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, because "we have to be very respectful of the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. This court in a unanimous decision has stated that it is discriminatory to deny people rights that they're given under the current Constitution."

Activists on the religious right confirmed that they will urge Iowans to vote against retaining the three Supreme Court judges who will be on the ballot in 2010.

Representative Steve King continued to speak out against same-sex marriage and recorded robocalls paid for by the National Organization for Marriage.

Chuck Grassley's public comments on same-sex marriage in Iowa enraged social conservatives, and I wished they would follow through on their threats to run a primary challenger against Grassley in 2010.

Guest poster The Electrical Worker wrote about efforts to help workers in the renewable energy manufacturing sector to join labor unions.

Democratic leaders kept trying to round up votes for the tax reform package that stalled in the Iowa House.

After Bob Vander Plaats and Bill Salier suggested defying the Iowa Supreme Court ruling, I wondered if any Republicans in this state understood the concept of judicial review.

My message to county recorders thinking about discriminating against same-sex couples: No one who applies for a marriage license needs your blessing.

On April 15 I posted some links related to the federal and Iowa tax systems as Mike Huckabee and Representative Steve King appeared at a "Fair Tax" rally in South Carolina.

With Iowa about to experience a wave of same-sex marriages, I posted some wedding planning advice here and here.

A harsh exchange of words between Ed Fallon and Governor Culver's staff prompted this post urging the governor to take his Democratic critics seriously.

Iowa House Democrats were unable to find enough votes to pass a tax-reform package, but the state bonding initiative remained alive.

Iowa Senate Republicans blocked the confirmation of three Culver appointees: Shearon Elderkin for the Environmental Protection Commission, Carrie La Seur for the Iowa Power Fund board, and Gene Gessow as head of the Department of Human Services.

I examined the best ways for interest groups to buy influence in the Iowa legislature.

Chuck Grassley's comments on how to address the Iowa Supreme Court ruling didn't please red-meat conservatives.

Iowa Republicans pushed legislation that would have allowed county recorders to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Democratic leaders didn't let the idea go anywhere. The Iowa Attorney General's Office drafted a memo that the Iowa Department of Public Health sent out to all country recorders, confirming that "All county recorders in the state of Iowa are required to comply with the Varnum decision [...]."

I took another look at Chet Culver's re-election chances in light of the deepening recession and softening of his poll numbers. Several Bleeding Heartland commenters were more pessimistic about his prospects than I was.

State Senator Merlin Bartz used his official page on the Iowa Senate Republicans website to push a petition drive to pressure county recorders not to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

President Obama came to Newton for Earth Day.

One Iowa ran a pro-marriage equality tv ad in five Iowa markets.

Ed and Lynn Fallon filed an ethics complaint against State Senator Merlin Bartz, saying his actions violated the Senate Code of Ethics requirement for every legislator to "encourage respect for the law."

Visiting a friend in Pella, I was amused to find a flier from a national group opposing gay marriage. It compared Iowa Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley to a "chicken," because he "refuses to do what it takes to get a vote on the Iowa Marriage Amendment."

The Iowa legislature ended its 2009 session after several long days and late nights, and I recapped some of the most important bills that passed or failed to pass. Tax reform died, but the I-JOBS state bonding initiative survived.

I discussed the divisions among Iowa Republicans and concluded that the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage would make it even harder for moderates to reorient the party, downplaying social issues.

I posted links to my favorite online sources for Iowa news.

Governor Culver pulled a switcheroo by appointing Shearon Elderkin to the Power Fund and Carrie La Seur to the Environmental Protection Commission.

I discussed a few reasons to eat pork that's not factory-farmed.

Governor Culver named Charlie Krogmeier to head the Department of Human Services.

The Varnum v Brien ruling went into effect on April 27. There were protests outside county recorder offices in Des Moines and some other parts of the state, but I never heard of any couples being denied a marriage license.

Governor Culver said county recorders had a duty to comply with the court ruling, while Senator Tom Harkin predicted that one day marriage will be uncontroversial. Jefferson County supervisors led by Stephen Burgmeier passed a resolution demanding that state legislators take action to stop same-sex marriage. What seemed like pointless grandstanding (since the legislature had just adjourned until 2010) made more sense a few months later when Burgmeier became the Republican candidate in the Iowa House district 90 special election.  

May 2009

The Iowa Democratic Party announced plans to induct former Governor Tom Vilsack, former First Lady Christie Vilsack and former Lt. Governor and IDP Chair Sally Pederson to the Hall of Fame.

Marshalltown considered banning non-biodegradable plastic bags.

The H1N1 flu continued to spread in Iowa. Marshalltown schools closed for several days.

I wrote about the joys of "sample Sunday" at three central Iowa farms.

The advance of marriage equality in Iowa and Vermont made it even more important to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

The long list of exemptions in a bill allowing individuals to sue businesses for fraud indicated the influence of lobbyists over the Iowa legislature.

I continued to wait for some Republican, any Republican, to explain the concept of judicial review to religious conservatives who refuse to accept the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling in Varnum v Brien.

Tom Harkin defended his decision to recommend Stephanie Rose for U.S. attorney in Iowa's northern district, even as the U.S. Supreme Court found that "federal prosecutors have inappropriately used aggravated identity theft laws to prosecute undocumented workers."

The USDA had some good news for organic and transitioning farmers.

Inspired by Woodbury County rural economic development director Rob Marqusee's "local food challenge," I suggested seven ways to eat more local food.

Terry Branstad ruled out running for governor again, and I said I doubted he would have a smooth ride in the GOP primary if he did run.

Survey USA found significant dips in the approval ratings of Chuck Grassley and Chet Culver during the month of April. I noted that Survey USA tends to find lower numbers for Culver than other pollsters.

Former Governor Terry Branstad and his onetime chief of staff Doug Gross went on record supporting the concepts of separation of powers and judicial review, even though they sometimes disagree with the Iowa Supreme Court's decisions. I took that as a sign that Branstad wasn't planning to run for governor again.

I wondered why Bruce Braley's Populist Caucus wasn't speaking up more on health care reform.

An Iowa Independent feature on carcinogens in coal ash made me thankful that two proposed coal plants in Iowa were shelved.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee kept Leonard Boswell in its "Frontline" program for vulnerable incumbents, but I argued that Boswell would not be vulnerable in 2010. (2012 is a different story.)

I posted links on the anniversary of the immigration raid in Postville.

A group of bar owners dropped their lawsuit against Iowa's public smoking ban, which went into effect in July 2008.

The Iowa Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously to dismiss the ethics complaint against State Senator Merlin Bartz, who tried to pressure county recorders not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Iowa Republicans pushed lots of misleading talking points about the I-JOBS bonding, and I tried to set the record straight.

On the anniversary of the immigration raid in Postville, Iowa, guest poster Frank Sharry profiled Steve King's extremist statements about the incident and immigration.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources considered lowering recreational use protections on 119 stream segments.

News emerged that the FBI infiltrated an Iowa City anti-war group in late 2007 and 2008.

Federal stimulus funds and revenues from the I-JOBS state bonding initiative will improve water quality in Iowa through sewer upgrades and other programs.

State Auditor David Vaudt ruled out running for governor in 2010.

Ed and Lynn Fallon blasted the "sham" hearing on their ethics complaint.

Several Iowa communities received stimulus money to remove lead from housing units.

Chuck Larson, a former state senator and U.S. ambassador to Latvia, said he didn't plan to run for governor in 2010.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey hired "high-profile staffers" in an apparent move toward exploring a gubernatorial campaign.

Yes, you can avoid mosquitoes without using DEET.

I advocated letting native plants take over your yard.

Appalling new details emerged about how mentally disabled workers were underpaid and exploited by a company with ties in Iowa and Texas.

The Des Moines Register profiled Iowan Dave Murphy, a founder of Food Democracy Now, and I liked his message about local foods strengthening rural economies.

When California's Supreme Court let Proposition 8 stand, I reminded Bleeding Heartland readers that Iowa recognizes all California marriages.

I took an early look at the 2010 Iowa Senate races and predicted at most three or four realistic pickup opportunities for Republicans.

There was good news for water quality in Culver's final bill signings, including an important line-item veto.

Howard Dean spoke in Des Moines about marriage equality and reflected on his experience after he signed a civil unions bill in Vermont.

Steve King recorded robocalls to identify and solicit donations from opponents of same-sex marriage rights. The National Organization for Marriage paid for the calls.

Governor Culver discussed gay marriage during an appearance on Iowa Public Television.

Iowa Workforce Development issued a huge fine against the company that allegedly exploited mentally disabled workers.

June 2009

I made the case for having Kate Gronstal, daughter of Iowa Senate Majority leader Mike Gronstal, on the I-JOBS board.

Grade A wingnut Bill Salier got into a public fight with Representative Steve King about the right way to oppose same-sex marriage.

I analyzed how the nursing home industry's political investments paid off, as the state legislature passed and Governor Culver signed a bill that will make it easier for nursing home owners to evade the law.

The I-JOBS board convened and adopted rules and a timeline for considering applications.

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy declined to reclassify marijuana in Iowa.

Iowan Jackie Norris departed as chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama to become a senior adviser to the Corporation for National and Community Service. Unnamed sources said she wanted out of the job.

Just for fun, guest poster possumtracker1991 wondered if it would be possible to gerrymander Iowa for four Democratic-leaning seats if we had politicized redistricting. Here's the map he came up with.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came to Des Moines to raise money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Republicans responded with tired rhetoric and robocalls about taxes, Pelosi's liberal agenda and San Francisco values.

Former Iowa GOP chair Mike Mahaffey said he was considering running against Leonard Boswell in 2010. Boswell defeated Mahaffey in Iowa's third Congressional district in 1996.

The Republican Party of Iowa's revamped outreach strategy struck me as a new machine built to sell old ideas.

Chet Culver announced plans to crank up his political operation, saying, "I'm excited about it. I love campaigning."

A Supreme Court ruling related to a West Virginia Supreme Court judge made me grateful that Iowa did away with judicial elections in the 1960s.

Newsweek placed six Iowa schools on its list of the top 1,500 public high schools in the country. Bleeding Heartland readers pointed out some problems with Newsweek's methodology.

President Obama nominated John Norris to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa created an online petition for Iowans of faith and goodwill who support marriage equality.

Iowa Republicans continued to demonstrate that they didn't understand the point of the stimulus bill. They criticized Governor Culver and statehouse Democrats for using federal funds to "backfill" the 2009 budget, even though that was the express purpose of the state transfer funds included in the stimulus package.

Ed and Lynn Fallon announced that I'M for Iowa would recruit primary challengers to certain unnamed Iowa House Democrats, leading me to speculate about which "six-pack" members might be targeted.

The Project on Government Oversight reviewed state websites, looking for resources for those who want to report fraud, waste and abuse in how federal stimulus funds are being used. Iowa's website on the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act scored well in the report but wasn't in the top tier of especially whistleblower-friendly websites.

Some Iowa legislators weren't happy with the State Board of Education's new nutrition standards, so the legislature's Administrative Rules Review Committee voted to let state lawmakers review the nutrition standards during the 2010 session.

Francis Thicke argued that organic farming can employ cutting-edge technology and won't take us back to obsolete practices.

Former Iowa Democratic Party chair Gordon Fischer announced that he was permanently retiring from politics.

I wasn't pleased by the changes Leonard Boswell advocated in the climate change bill.

The official website for the I-JOBS infrastructure bonding program launched. It includes lots of charts and a search engine to help people track spending.

Des Moines School district administrators recommended against extending a controversial contract with a firm that managed construction projects.

Inspired by Rob Marqusee's local food challenge, I posted links to help people find locally produced foods in Iowa.

The Iowa Democratic Party hired Dena Gleason to be field director during the 2009/2010 election cycle.

Health Care for America Now ran tv ads supporting the public option in 10 states, including Iowa.

This post contained constructive criticism of the Cash for Clunkers program, for which Representative Bruce Braley was a lead sponsor.

I wasn't convinced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's creative analogy comparing climate-change skeptics with opponents of genetically-modified foods.

The Des Moines City Council took Archie Brooks' name off the community center on the city's south side.

Ed Failor Jr., head of Iowans for Tax Relief, likened Democratic economic policies to events in Nazi Germany in 1933.

Survey USA's May and June findings on Chet Culver's approval rating prompted this post.

Haley Barbour headlined the Iowa GOP's "night of the rising stars" fundraiser. I was struck by how much modern-day Republicans have embraced Herbert Hoover's approach to economic policy.

The Des Moines Register named Kathie Obradovich as its new political columnist.

Bleeding Heartland user American007 put early odds on the Republican race for governor.

I had good news and bad news about the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame event.

At its first meeting, the I-JOBS Board approved eight flood recovery projects totaling $45.5 million.

Smart Growth America released a review on how wisely states were spending transportation money from the stimulus bill. Iowa got good marks.

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