Reframing racism

Charles Bruner is a longtime advocate for policies that support children and strengthen families. He has endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president. -promoted by Laura Belin

Iowans like to see presidential candidates in the flesh, but sometimes their surrogates offer perspectives that deserve as much attention.

In early January, Heather McGhee spoke on behalf of Elizabeth Warren to a small group of Iowans at Smokey Row in Des Moines. Her message, however, was one that deserves to be considered and heeded by Democrats and progressives more generally.

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How will the Democratic candidates reduce the risk of nuclear war?

Greg Thielmann grew up in Newton and worked for more than 30 years on nuclear weapons issues in the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Foreign Service, and the Senate Intelligence Committee. He currently serves as a board member of the Arms Control Association. -promoted by Laura Belin

When I was growing up in central Iowa during the Cold War, I sometimes found myself headed west on Interstate 80, imagining the way nuclear war would be likely to arrive in Iowa – a series of Soviet nuclear ground bursts in Omaha to destroy Strategic Air Command Headquarters, bathing Iowa in a heavy dose of radioactive fallout.

Now the Cold War is over, but not the nuclear threat. The Trump administration has abandoned the anti-nuclear deal with Iran and six other states. President Trump’s efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament on the Korean peninsula have fizzled. The U.S. has pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and is dithering over Moscow’s offer to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the only remaining limit on the world’s largest nuclear arsenals. 

Meanwhile, the Trump administration proposes spending trillions of dollars to build new strategic weapons.

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Why I am supporting Elizabeth Warren

Amanda Rex-Johnson is an activist in central Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

I started volunteering on presidential campaigns last year long before I had identified my favorite candidate. My goal was to support folks getting more involved in the Iowa caucuses while advocating accessibility needs directly to the campaigns.

Not all the campaigns were easy to engage with. Despite multiple efforts, I was unable to connect with a top candidate’s operation here in Des Moines. When I found out that one of his top staffers would be a guest speaker at a training I was attending, I was excited to finally have a chance to ask how to volunteer and what they were doing to make their campaign more accessible for volunteers and organizers.

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Why I support Amy Klobuchar

Jackie Wellman is a Democratic volunteer in West Des Moines and a board member and Iowa ambassador of the Spastic Paraplegia Foundation. -promoted by Laura Belin

For years I was in denial about having a progressive, rare motor neuron disease, but the fact is that I have Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia.  Senator Amy Klobuchar is the co-sponsor of the rare disease caucus.  When someone is fighting for people like me and my son, they deserve a look. 

The senator was at my house in 2016 while stumping for Hillary Clinton.  I went to see her speak to the Asian Latino Coalition last April, walking away with even more appreciation.

After reading more about her and speaking to her, I decided she was the one I would be working for. Last June, I endorsed after trying to see as many candidates as I could.  Here are the reasons why:

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Don't make Iowa families suffer through a constitutional amendment on abortion

Tanya Keith of Des Moines spoke to the Iowa Senate subcommittee considering Senate Joint Resolution 21 on January 16. -promoted by Laura Belin

The Iowa Senate Republican majority has proposed amending Iowa’s constitution to state that the document “does not secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” I believe this is wrong on so many levels. But State Senator Jake Chapman refused to allow me to speak more than two minutes at the subcommittee meeting he chaired, even though I was the only person testifying with a personal story.

I encourage you to watch my testimony, but I hope you will honor my story by also reading the full text of what I wanted to say. I find it disgusting that this issue was pushed out of subcommittee so quickly, and that Chapman clearly has no interest in hearing from Iowans about it. Here is the video:

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2020

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2020 session on January 13 with 32 Republicans and 18 Democrats. Eleven senators are women (six Democrats and five Republicans), up from six women in the chamber before the 2018 elections.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. A few committees have new Republican leaders. On the Democratic side, Eric Giddens now represents the Senate district where Jeff Danielson resigned last year.

A few words about demographics: all current state senators are white. To my knowledge, the only African American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the Iowa legislature; in 2014, Nathan Blake fell 18 votes short of becoming the first. No Asian American has served in the Iowa Senate since Swati Dandekar resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Smiths (a Democrat and a Republican) and two Taylors (both Democrats). As for first names, there are three Marks, three Zachs, and two men each named Dan, Jim, Tim, and Tom.

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