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Seven riveting passages from Politico's profile of Kent Sorenson

Anyone who has followed Iowa politics during the past decade must read Tim Alberta’s profile of former State Senator Kent Sorenson in the latest edition of Politico Magazine. “Kent Sorenson Was a Tea Party Hero. Then He Lost Everything” is fascinating from beginning to end, so I strongly encourage clicking through to read the whole piece.

Having covered Sorenson’s legislative career and intensely disagreed with nearly everything he stood for, I was genuinely moved to learn how his outlook has changed over the past few years. Some passages that caught my eye are after the jump.

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Attorney: Ethics board erred in dismissing complaint on Reynolds flights

Des Moines attorney Gary Dickey has asked the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board to reconsider its recent vote to dismiss his complaint related to free private plane flights provided to Governor Kim Reynolds and her family last year. The Reynolds campaign received prior approval from ethics board executive director Megan Tooker that the flights could be declared as an in-kind campaign contribution and would not be considered a violation of Iowa’s gift law.

David North, CEO of the Sedgwick corporation, covered the cost of travel to and from Memphis on December 30, 2017. In a complaint filed last week, Dickey asserted that the Reynolds campaign “underreported the fair market value” of that private jet service. If the board does not reconsider its decision, Dickey plans to appeal the agency’s action to district court.

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IA-Gov: New Register poll points to winning paths for Hubbell, Reynolds

If Iowans were voting for governor today, 43 percent would support Democrat Fred Hubbell and 41 percent Governor Kim Reynolds, according to a new poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom. Another 9 percent of the 555 likely voters surveyed were undecided, and 7 percent backed Libertarian Jake Porter. The poll validates the view of leading election forecasters that the governor’s race is a toss-up. Selzer’s poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 points.

If this snapshot of the race accurately reflects the views of Iowans likely to vote in November, I’d rather be Hubbell than Reynolds. An incumbent barely above 40 percent despite much higher name recognition than her opponent is not in a strong position. Nevertheless, the Register’s survey points to ways either Reynolds or Hubbell could improve their prospects during the final six weeks of the campaign.

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If Rod Blum tanks, how many Iowa House Republicans will he take with him?

A New York Times poll of Iowa’s first Congressional district this week found Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer leading two-term Representative Rod Blum by 51.5 percent to 37 percent. Finkenauer led by double digits in every turnout model the pollsters applied to the raw data. Blum’s favorability of 35 percent was even lower than President Donald Trump’s 39 percent approval rating among respondents.

As national Republican strategists and GOP-aligned advocacy groups write off Blum and election forecasters increasingly view IA-01 as a probable Democratic pickup, I’ve been thinking about how a Blum implosion could affect down-ballot Republicans. With no straight-ticket option for Iowa voters this year, coat-tails may be less important than they were in the past. Nevertheless, it can’t be good for GOP legislative candidates that Finkenauer’s campaign has had field organizers working across the district for at least six months to identify and turn out supporters.

Democrats need a net gain of ten Iowa House seats to win a majority in the lower chamber (currently split 59 R/41 D). At least eight potentially competitive GOP-held state House districts are located within the first Congressional district.

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Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Monkey flower

Monkey flower was a new discovery for me last summer, even though it’s not a rare plant. According to an article in UConn Today, “The so-called Monkey Flowers in the genus Mimulus got their name because their flowers have a mouth-like shape, and to some they resemble the face of a monkey. They are actually a diverse group of some 150 species worldwide, with about 80 of those species native to California.”

The only plant in this group that is prevalent in Iowa is Mimulus ringens. Sometimes known as Allegheny monkey flower or blue monkey flower, this species is native to most of the U.S. and Canada.

The Illinois Wildflowers website notes that Mimulus ringens thrives in “floodplain and bottomland forests (particularly in partially sunny areas), swamps, seeps, muddy borders of small streams or ponds, drainage ditches, prairie swales, and wet meadows. It typically occurs in areas that are prone to occasional flooding or standing water.” That observation is consistent with my experience. Both prairie plantings where I have found monkey flower in Windsor Heights (in Colby Park and behind the Iowa Department of Natural Resources building on Hickman Road) flooded this summer.

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Next time, just nominate the competent woman

What was already a difficult race for Democrats in Iowa Senate district 15 became virtually impossible on September 14, when a federal grand jury charged Leesa Marie Parkhill-Nieland with theft and Social Security fraud. Parkhill-Nieland is married to Dan Nieland, the Democratic candidate who will face two-term Republican State Representative Zach Nunn in November.

At an emergency meeting of the Jasper County Democratic Central Committee on September 17, Nieland admitted he knew his wife was facing a criminal investigation before seeking the nomination at a special convention last month.

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