Laura Belin

There must have been a better way

Everyone knew Iowa’s State Canvassing Board wouldn’t have the final word on the 2020 election in the second Congressional district when it certified a six-vote win for Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks on November 30. Most politics watchers expected Democratic candidate Rita Hart to file for an election contest.

Instead, the Hart campaign announced on December 2 that it will bypass Iowa’s process and appeal directly to the Democratic-controlled U.S. House.

This won’t end well.

Continue Reading...

Iowa journalists form new group, with politicians as gatekeepers

After months of planning, journalists announced the creation of the Iowa Capitol Press Association on November 30. The group’s mission “is to support robust coverage of Iowa state government for the benefit of the public and to promote policies that encourage transparency and access” as well as safe working conditions for reporters.

Association president Erin Murphy of Lee Newspapers said in a news release, “Our members have enjoyed a respectful working relationship with our leaders in state government. We look forward to working with them to foster a climate of transparency and accountability, for the benefit of the people of Iowa.”

For now, Republican legislative leaders and their partisan appointees will have the final say on who can participate in the association.

Continue Reading...

Get ready for an election contest in IA-02

All 24 counties in Iowa’s second Congressional district have recounted their votes, but the race between Democrat Rita Hart and Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks is far from over.

Trackers including Pat Rynard of Iowa Starting Line and Tom Barton of the Quad-City Times reached the same conclusion: once all counties submit their new numbers to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, Miller-Meeks will have a six-vote lead out of more than 394,000 ballots cast. Rynard posted vote changes in each county since election day here. The two candidates’ vote share is identical to the one-hundredth of a percent (49.91 percent).

The Miller-Meeks campaign’s lawyer Alan Ostergren declared victory after Clinton County’s recount board finished its work on November 28. The Republican candidate said in a written statement, “While this race is extraordinarily close, I am proud to have won this contest and look forward to being certified as the winner by the state’s Executive Council on Monday.”

Three Republicans (Governor Kim Reynolds, Secretary of State Paul Pate, and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig) and two Democrats (State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald and State Auditor Rob Sand) serve on the Executive Council. Assuming that body certifies the result, an election contest is extremely likely.

Continue Reading...

How many Iowa candidates "won" under rules Republicans forced on unions?

Sixth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2020 state and federal elections.

Republican lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad set out to cripple public sector unions in 2017 by enacting a law that eviscerated bargaining rights and established new barriers to union representation. Under that law, public employees must vote to recertify their union in each contract period (in most cases, every two or three years). Anyone not participating in the election is considered to have voted against the union. So a successful recertification requires yes votes from a majority of all employees in the bargaining unit.

The law hasn’t accomplished its goal of destroying large unions that typically support Democratic candidates. The vast majority of bargaining units have voted to recertify in each of the past four years. This fall, all 64 locals affiliated with the Iowa State Education Association voted to keep having that union negotiate their contracts. AFSCME Council 61, which represents most Iowa state and local government workers, was nearly as successful, with 64 out of 67 units voting to recertify.

I decided to return to a question Bleeding Heartland first pondered in 2017: how many candidates for other Iowa offices could declare victory under the system Republicans forced on labor unions?

I found that even after Iowa’s highest-turnout election in decades, our state would have no representation in Congress if contenders needed a majority vote among all constituents. “Winners” could be declared in about a third of state legislative races.

Continue Reading...

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Flowering plants gone to seed

“This was my worst year ever for getting out with my camera,” I told a friend in October.

“It’s been the worst year for a lot of things,” she replied.

Most of the wildflower posts I’d planned for this fall never came together. Day after day, I kept finding reasons not to drive to a prairie or go for a bike ride on nearby wooded trails. So instead of closing out this year’s series with my own pictures of late bloomers like asters and goldenrods, I am sharing images of plants that finished flowering months ago. Katie Byerly, also known as the “Iowa Prairie Girl,” gave permission to publish the photographs enclosed below, which she took in Cerro Gordo County in early October.

Iowa wildflower Wednesday will return sometime in the spring of 2021.

Continue Reading...
View More...