Laura Belin

Joni Ernst tweets about aliens, silent on Trump pushing Ukraine for political gain

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst is among Ukraine’s most vocal supporters in Congress. While in college, she visited the Ukrainian Republic of the USSR as part of an agricultural exchange. Now a member of the bipartisan Senate Ukraine Caucus, she has met with high-level Ukrainian officials in Washington and Kyiv, advocating for the U.S. to “make it clear to Russia that we will stand by Ukraine in the face of unjustified aggression.”

Yet Iowa’s junior senator has been silent this week as multiple news organizations reported that President Donald Trump abused his power to seek political assistance from his Ukrainian counterpart.

Continue Reading...

"Plan B" for the Iowa caucuses will leave many disenfranchised

The Iowa Democratic Party has approved a plan to replace the “virtual caucus” recently nixed by the Democratic National Committee.

But while a news release hailed the proposal to “increase participation and make the caucuses more accessible for Iowans who have traditionally been unable to attend their in-person precinct caucus,” many Democrats won’t be able to use satellite caucuses.

Continue Reading...

Jack Hatch running for Des Moines mayor

Former State Senator Jack Hatch will run for Des Moines mayor, he announced on WHO-TV on September 19, the last day for local candidates in Iowa to file nominating papers. A few minutes later, his campaign released a statement and a video, both enclosed below, and launched a website at JackHatchforMayor.com.

Key issues for Hatch will include fixing roads and neighborhood infrastructure, addressing “the urgent mental health care crisis that has been ignored,” protecting drinking water, improving area schools, and public safety measures including steps to reduce gun violence. All of those topics were mentioned in a telephone poll Hatch commissioned earlier this month, which Bleeding Heartland summarized here.

Defeating sixteen-year incumbent Mayor Frank Cownie will not be easy, and Hatch will have only six and a half weeks to build his case with voters. However, unlike most challengers, he already has very high name recognition. Hatch represented parts of Des Moines in the Iowa House or Senate for more than 20 years, was the 2014 Democratic nominee for governor, and is a well-known property developer.

Hatch told WHO-TV’s Dave Price he started thinking about running for mayor after Cownie “decided not to protect our drinking water when he had a chance to,” adding that Cownie “was silent” as Republican legislators tried to break up the Des Moines Water Works in 2017. Hatch acknowledged he was starting his campaign late, saying others had considered running against Cownie but backed off. He’s in the race because sees the future of Des Moines “being blurred” without strong leadership.

Turnout on November 5 may be higher than usual for a city election, because Des Moines has multiple competitive city council races, and this is the first year school board elections will be held concurrently with elections for municipal offices. Early voting begins on October 7.

Continue Reading...

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Field thistle (Pasture thistle)

Thanks to lead organizer Mike Delaney, I was able to visit Tipton Prairie (west of Rippey on E57 in Greene County) earlier this month. The Raccoon River Watershed Association sponsored a walking tour, with expert guidance from Professor Thomas Rosburg of Drake University.

On my first outing to Tipton two years ago, I saw the four-acre, never-plowed prairie in late spring, when prairie phlox, prairie redroot, and yellow star grass were near their peak. The landscape looks quite different in late summer.

One treat was seeing a large colony of field thistle (Cirsium discolor), also known as pasture thistle. Although this plant is native to most of the U.S. and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains, most thistles growing along Iowa trails and roadsides are invasive species. However, according to the Illinois Wildflowers website, field thistle can thrive on disturbed ground as well as in high-quality habitats. You may find it in “moist to dry prairies, openings in woodland areas, moist meadows near rivers, limestone glades, pastures and abandoned fields, open areas along railroads and roadsides, and waste areas.”

Continue Reading...

Chief justice sheds new light on Iowa Supreme Court lobbying for judicial bill

Multiple Iowa Supreme Court justices spoke with Iowa House Republicans shortly before GOP lawmakers approved a bill that gave the governor more influence over the judicial selection process and shortened the chief justice’s term.

But only Chief Justice Mark Cady disqualified himself from considering the legal challenge to that law’s validity, and only Cady has been transparent about his communications on the issue with legislators and staff for Governor Kim Reynolds.

Justice Thomas Waterman and Justice Edward Mansfield appear to have pushed for the bill’s passage and stand to benefit from electing a new chief justice in 2021. Yet neither recused himself from hearing the case. Nor have they revealed their contacts with Republican legislators or the governor’s legal counsel Sam Langholz, despite a judicial rule calling for disclosure of information relevant to a recusal motion.

Continue Reading...
View More...