Guidelines for guest authors covering Iowa Democratic primaries

With the Iowa caucuses in the rear-view mirror, political attention will soon shift to other important campaigns.

Five Democrats are competing for the U.S. Senate nomination. Two are running in Iowa’s second Congressional district, and two of the most competitive state Senate races have multiple declared Democratic candidates as well. During the filing period for state and federal offices, which begins on February 24 and runs through March 13, I expect competitive Democratic primaries to take shape in other races as well.

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts about elections at all levels, including those urging readers to support a certain candidate in a Democratic primary. Once writers hit the “submit for review” button, their commentaries are “pending” until I approve them, to block spammers. But I publish all substantive, non-spam pieces.

If you do not already have a Bleeding Heartland user account, get in touch with me, so I can set one up for you and explain the process.

My advice for anyone wanting to write about any 2020 Democratic primary:


Explain why you are supporting your candidate in the style and manner of your choosing. Bleeding Heartland has no standard format or minimum or maximum word length for guest submissions. I copy-edit for clarity but don’t micromanage how writers express themselves. For inspiration, check out some of last year’s posts endorsing presidential hopefuls or commentaries supporting 2018 candidates for governor.

Feel free to criticize Democratic candidates. I wasn’t a cheerleader in high school, and I’m not interested in being one now. Although Bleeding Heartland generally supports Democrats, this website has a long history of calling out Democratic candidates or elected officials when warranted. I ask writers arguing against someone to do their homework to make sure all claims are accurate. Keep the focus on policy (red flags in the politician’s record, a stand the candidate took on an issue important to you) or politics (a flawed campaign strategy, reasons why this candidate would be weak in a general election).

Write about candidate events, house parties, or forums. First-person accounts from the campaign trail are usually fun to read. You can focus on the candidate’s speech or add details about the atmosphere or audience reaction. If covering a multi-candidate forum, you can write about a few highlights or provide a play-by-play like Stephen Nein did in this account of a forum before the 2016 primary in the third Congressional district. Let me know if you need help uploading photos or audio clips, or embedding a video.

Compare candidates on the issues. Many Bleeding Heartland readers are policy wonks and would enjoy reading analysis of several candidates’ stances on climate change, health care reform, student debt, or some other salient issue.

Describe advertising, direct mail, or robocalls you have seen or heard urging voters to support or oppose any candidate. How candidates are presenting themselves to voters can be good fodder for a story. I especially like to know about telephone polls testing messages about various candidates. So if you receive one of those, do not hang up. Record the call or take detailed notes if possible, and write up what you heard. Last year, Bleeding Heartland user corncam shared notes from a survey on behalf of Terry McAuliffe.


Conceal conflicts of interest. Democratic candidates or their employees are welcome to post here. In order to avoid problems that have cropped up at other political blogs, I ask paid campaign staffers or consultants to disclose that fact if they write about the campaign they’re working on. For example, last year Abshir Omar and Danya Rafiqi shared personal stories about why they decided to work for Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke, respectively.

Violate copyright laws. A news report or post at another blog can be the basis for a guest piece, but do not enclose lengthy excerpts or the entire text of copyrighted materials. Legal “fair use” involves posting a link to the original article and an excerpt of a few paragraphs. I will not publish material that crosses the line.

Engage in personal attacks. I give guest authors some leeway for colorful language, but if your post is mostly name-calling or cheap shots, I won’t publish it.

Abuse the ability to post anonymously. Bleeding Heartland commenters and guest authors may write under any screen name that is not already in use here. No one is required to reveal real names or any personal information. “Outing” users who choose to post anonymously will get you banned from this site. At the same time, I ask Bleeding Heartland users writing under a pseudonym not to make false statements about themselves.

Use this website as a dumping ground for press releases. It’s fine to use all or part of a statement from a candidate as a way to illustrate reasons you support that Democrat for a particular race, but add value with some analysis or commentary. I won’t publish any piece consisting primarily of a campaign press release or email blast.

Thanks in advance for keeping these rules in mind, so we can have a vigorous and clean debate between now and June 2 over voters’ options for the U.S. Senate race or other Democratic primaries.

Top image: Former State Senator Rita Hart, now a candidate for Congress, speaking at the Clinton County Democrats Hall of Fame dinner in the spring of 2019. Photo by Emilene Leone, published with permission.

About the Author(s)

Laura Belin