Guidelines for guest authors covering Iowa's 2023 local elections

Two candidates announced mayoral campaigns in Des Moines this week: community activist Denver Foote, and city council member Josh Mandelbaum.

Bleeding Heartland only occasionally endorses candidates in city or school board elections. But I welcome guest posts about local races in Iowa, including those by candidates or urging readers to support a candidate. I copy edit guest commentaries for clarity and to conform to my “house style,” but I let authors speak their truth and publish all substantive pieces.

My advice for anyone wanting to write about any city or school board election in Iowa this year:


Writers need not email a draft or seek permission to pursue a story idea. But you do need to be a registered user to publish here. To avoid confusion over authorship, I ask writers to post on their own accounts.

If you don’t have a Bleeding Heartland account, you can create one using the “sign up” feature near the right side of this page, or I can set one up for you. Contact me with your preferred username (which will be visible to the public) and the e-mail address you want to be associated with the website (the public won’t see that address).

Your username could be your real name or another handle that hasn’t already been claimed on this site. Pseudonyms are allowed as long as the writer isn’t trying to impersonate someone else or be a “sock puppet.” I do not reveal authors’ identity without their permission, and no one is required to reveal real names or any personal information. (Identifying 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.

Once you have an account, you can login, click “add new post” and start writing your text in the window. There is no minimum or maximum word length or standard format. You can save a draft to work on another day. Hit “submit for review” when you are ready to publish. The piece will be pending until I copy edit and move it to the front page.

Alternatively, you can email your draft to me, and I will publish it under your byline.

I need some non-copyrighted photograph or image to run at the top of your post. Horizontally-oriented images are best, but I can make another kind of image work as well.

Speaking of copyright, a news report or blog post can be the inspiration 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.


This website has no standard format or minimum or maximum word length for guest submissions. You can go in depth or submit a brief post for consideration.

Judging from past experience, many guest posts will endorse someone running for a school or city office. Candidates or their supporters are welcome to write here. To avoid any concealed conflicts of interest, I ask paid campaign staffers or consultants to disclose that fact if they write about a race they’re working on.

Since local elections are nonpartisan in Iowa, contenders don’t run with a party label. Your favored candidate doesn’t need to be a registered Democrat to be featured here. That said, endorsements should be for candidates running from a progressive or left of center perspective. For instance, I’m not interested in promoting those who want to use a school board seat to ban books, out LGBTQ students, or undermine diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

It’s helpful for readers to know why someone has stepped up to run for mayor, city council, or school board. That information might be combined in one piece or spread out over a series of commentaries.

It’s fine to use all or part of a candidate’s speech or statement, but try to add value with some analysis or commentary. I won’t publish any piece consisting primarily of a campaign press release or email blast.

Posts criticizing candidates for local offices are also allowed, as long as all claims are accurate and the issues raised are substantive. I ask writers to 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 could not win the election).

Not all posts about local elections need to endorse a candidate. First-person accounts from the campaign trail are usually fun to read, so feel free to write up any candidate forum, house party, or other noteworthy event. Let me know if you need help uploading photos or audio clips, or embedding a video.

Many Bleeding Heartland readers are policy wonks and would enjoy reading some comparison of two or more candidates on some issues facing your city or school board.

As we get closer to the November 7 election, I will welcome guest posts describing any 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 contenders. 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.

Thanks in advance for keeping these guidelines in mind. Reach out to me with any questions about the process.

Top photos of Denver Foote (left) and Josh Mandelbaum first published on their campaign Facebook pages (see here and here).

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