# 2009 Elections

Throwback Thursday: Curt Hanson's crucial Iowa House special election victory

Today is State Representative Curt Hanson’s birthday. Six years ago at this time, he was in the thick of the first state legislative campaign following the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien ruling on marriage equality. Hanson’s win in a highly competitive House district was probably the second most important special election in recent Iowa history (after Liz Mathis’s victory in November 2011, which protected the Democratic Iowa Senate majority).

Kicking off an occasional “throwback Thursday” series, Bleeding Heartland takes a look at Hanson’s first campaign for the Iowa House.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Runoff local election results thread

Many Iowa communities held runoff local elections today. The highest-profile races are for two Des Moines City Council seats. Skip Moore and Leisha Barcus face off for the at-large seat vacated earlier this year by Michael Kiernan. On November 3 Barcus edged Moore by 32 percent to 30 percent, but this is anybody’s race. In recent days Mayor Frank Cownie endorsed Moore, who was already backed by many area labor unions. That should help him in a low-turnout environment. On the other hand, Barcus had the Des Moines Register’s endorsement and may have an advantage with west-side residents who voted for David Adelman on November 3.

Neither Barcus nor Moore lives in Des Moines’ first ward, where turnout is likely to be higher than in the city as a whole. In Ward 1, 20-year incumbent Tom Vlassis faces Drake University Law School student Halley Griess. I don’t envy the voters who faced this choice. Vlassis was knee-deep in the CIETC scandal and should have stepped down rather than run for a fifth term. Technically, city council elections are non-partisan, but it would have been nice to have a different Democrat on the ballot against Griess. I voted for two Republicans in Windsor Heights this year, but Griess seems like a real right-winger.

Turnout was relatively high (over 20 percent) for the Windsor Heights runoff, where four candidates compete for two at-large City Council seats. Only about 30 votes separated Betty Glover, Flo Hunter, Carole Tillotson and David Jenison on November 3. When Mr. desmoinesdem voted a little after 5 pm, he cast ballot number 271 in our precinct, which has about 1,200 registered voters. I expect this race to be decided by a handful of votes, so I’ve been making reminder calls the last few days to people who might not know about the candidates or remember the runoff date.

I’ll update this post later as results come in from the Des Moines area. Please post a comment about local election results in your corner of the state.

UPDATE: Preliminary results from the Polk County Auditor’s office: Moore defeated Barcus, 52 percent to 47 percent. Griess defeated Vlassis, 51 percent to 48.5 percent. If Griess becomes a rising Republican star, just remember that it could have been avoided if some people had talked Vlassis into retiring.

In West Des Moines Ward 1, Kevin Trevillyan defeated incumbent Robert Parks, 53 percent to 47 percent.

In Windsor Heights, incumbents Hunter and Tillotson were narrowly reelected. CORRECTION: Challengers Glover and Jenison won this election. I did not realize there was a precinct still to be counted in Windsor Heights when I wrote this last night. Glover and Jenison slightly increased their raw vote totals from November 3 to yesterday, which is remarkable. Typically turnout is significantly lower for a runoff.

SECOND UPDATE: The Cedar Rapids Gazette has results from two runoffs for City Council. Don Karr defeated Aaron Saylor, and Pat Shey defeated Jerry McGrane.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Des Moines Register explains how Moore won:

Moore won every precinct in northeast side Ward 2, where he lives, and handily won Ward 4 on the southeast side. Barcus ran strongest in southwest Des Moines’ Ward 3, and she held off Moore in Ward 1, where she captured roughly 57.5 percent of the vote.

However, there was a significant drop-off in voters in Ward 3, which hurt Barcus.

In a low-turnout election, it’s critical to turn out your base supporters.

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Congratulations to Kirsten Running-Marquardt

Democratic candidate Kirsten Running-Marquardt won Tuesday’s special election in Iowa House district 33 (Cedar Rapids) with 78 percent of the vote (pdf file) against Republican Joshua Thurston. Turnout was low at 9.45 percent, and John Deeth noted, “Nearly half the vote on absentee, a sign of the Democratic field operation at work.”

The Cedar Rapids Gazette has more information on the brief special election campaign here. Running-Marquardt had raised more than 20 times as much money as her opponent:

Kirsten Running-Marquardt has raised $43,115, according to a report filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board covering the period up to five days before the Nov. 24 election. […]

Republican Josh Thurston raised $2,000. […]

Running-Marquardt scored heavily with unions, including $5,000 donations from the Great Plains Labor District Council and Hawkeye Labor Council, $2,500 from Buy Local, Build Local, Employ Local and the Iowa State Building and Trades Council Education Committee.

She received donations of $1,000 from the Quad City Federation of Labor, UFCW District Union 431, Iowa Staff Union, Sheryl Marquardt, the AFL-CIO Iowa Committee on Political Education and Operating Engineers 234. The ISEA PAC contributed $1,500.

With this special election victory, Democrats maintain a 56-44 advantage in the Iowa House.

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Free campaign advice for Democratic women and their staffers

Lynda Waddington, contributor to Iowa Independent and creator of the Essential Estrogen blog, will be the featured speaker at two seminars on “developing campaign web pages and blogs for Democratic women candidates, and those who work their campaigns.”

If you know any women who have considered running for office, or anyone who wants to work on a woman candidate’s campaign, please spread the word. Waddington promises to “show participants the good, the bad, and the (oh so very) ugly that can come with being a politically active woman in the age of the internet and high technology.”

The Des Moines seminar will take place on Saturday, November 14, from 1:30 to 3:30 pm at the AFSCME office, 4320 NW 2nd.

The Cedar Falls seminar will take place on Saturday, November 21, from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at the Cedar Falls Public Library.

For more information, contact Jo Ann Zimmerman at 515-225-1136 or atzzzzz AT aol.com, or Marcia Nichols at 515-246-1517 (for the Des Moines event).

The seminars are free, no advance registration required.  Sponsored by DAWN (Democratic Activist Womens Network) and AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees). DAWN was founded in 1992 to recruit and mentor Democratic women to run for public office.

Speaking of women running for office, jamesvw posted information to help get out the vote for Kirsten Running-Marquardt in the November 24 special election in Iowa House district 33.

Election results discussion thread

I’ll update this thread periodically tonight, but please post comments about any local election results in your corner of Iowa.

I have a feeling the incumbents will lose in Windsor Heights; Mr. desmoinesdem says unusually high turnout is often a sign of anti-incumbent sentiment.

The Virginia governor’s race has already been called for Republican Bob McDonnell.

Adam Bink is liveblogging the results from Maine on Proposition 1 and is very optimistic.

New Jersey is too close to call. Swing State Project posted 2008 NJ results by county and projected how well Governor Jon Corzine has to do in each county in order to pull through tonight. Exit polls suggest Republican Chris Christie won independents, but more women than men voted overall, which would be good for Corzine. Turnout in Democratic stronghold Hudson County (Newark) is quite a bit down from last year. Still not clear what percentage of voters cast early ballots. The New Jersey Democratic Party did a big absentee ballot push, but Republicans did not. That strategy has paid off for Iowa Democrats, but will it be enough for Corzine?

(updates moved after the jump)

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Election day open thread

This thread is for any comments or predictions about any election happening today. I expect turnout in Windsor Heights to be relatively high for a local election; this is the most competitive race for mayor and city council that I can remember. I’ve received GOTV calls on behalf of several candidates.

The Virginia governor’s race looks like a blowout for Republican Bob McDonnell. The conservative Creigh Deeds won the primary on an electability argument, but we might have been better off with a candidate who excited the Democratic base more. Probably we would have lost the governor’s race, but with less damage done down-ticket.

The New Jersey governor’s race is a dead heat according to the Pollster.com polling average, but my hunch is that Republican Chris Christie is going to pull out a narrow win. The independent candidate, Chris Daggett, will be buried way down the ballot with a bunch of no-hopers, and I feel that a lot of his leaners will land with Christie when the ballot is in front of them. Given where the race stood in the summer, it’s a miracle that Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine has any prayer of pulling this out in the middle of a severe recession.

Mark “mystery pollster Blumenthal and Chris Bowers also give a slight edge to Christie in this race.

I am cautiously optimistic about no winning the Prop 1 battle in Maine, although the most recent poll of that race showed the yes position ahead. A “yes” vote would overturn same-sex marriage rights, which the Maine legislature approved and the governor signed into law earlier this year. The No on 1 forces have a strong ground game and appear to have banked a lot of early votes there. The main problem is that younger voters are less likely to turn out for an off-year election, and older voters are less likely to support marriage equality. Adam Bink reports from the ground:

The field team is firing on all cylinders. Biggest concern is youth turnout in off-year. In 2005, an anti-discrimination ballot initiative went our way and we had one campus field organizer for the whole state. This year we have nine. But the numbers are tight as hell, and if turnout is like a normal election year, we’ll lose. Everyone is saying we have to execute a flawless [GOTV] program.

New York’s 23rd district will be an easy win for conservative candidate Doug Hoffman, who forced moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava out of the race over the weekend. Although Scozzafava endorsed Democrat Bill Owens and recorded a robocall on his behalf, this district just has too strong a Republican lean for a Democrat to win, in my opinion.

Looking on the bright side, the parade of national Republican politicians and commentators behind Hoffman will crush future GOP recruiting efforts in districts where they need moderates to win. There could be no clearer sign that moderates are unwelcome in the Republican Party. I expect the fallout to affect recruiting for state-level races as well as Congressional ones.

What do you think about any of these races, or local elections in your community?

UPDATE: Unusually heavy turnout (for a local election) in Windsor Heights today. I voted around 3:15 and was voter number 241. An election worker told me there are 1,211 registered voters in my precinct, so even before the after-work rush, turnout was above 20 percent.  

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Yes, we can mock Sarah Palin without sexist insults

So, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin won’t headline the Iowa Family Policy Center’s fundraiser on November 21, but she will headline an event for the group some other time. Contrary to what you may have read in this shoddy piece by Jonathan Martin, Palin apparently didn’t demand her usual speaking fee from the Iowa Family Policy Center and won’t charge the group for her future appearance. Consider this another lesson on the need to take Politico reporting with a grain of salt.

In any event, Palin will come back to Iowa sometime. I’ve always believed that having her in the spotlight would be good for Democrats, and quitting her job has further lowered her favorability ratings.

All the same, I have one request for her Iowa detractors: please avoid sexist nicknames for Palin.  

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Weekend open thread: Halloween and local elections

Lousy weather for trick-or-treating last night, but the Windsor Heights Fire Department had a truck going round handing out glow-sticks to the kids. That was fun for the kids.

I miss the days when more people handed out home-made food on Beggars’ Night. There was a guy in my neighborhood in the 1970s who would set up a grill in his driveway and give all the trick-or-treaters hot dogs to eat. People don’t know enough of the neighbors to do that today. We did take an apple from our neighbor two doors down, though.

We saw some impressive pumpkins in our neighborhood, but this photo diary has some of the most creative carvings I’ve ever seen.

Although my kids don’t like face-painting, I liked this article on makeup safety for kids.

Blog for Iowa has a good post up on sugary cereals marketed to children.

There are yard signs all over Windsor Heights for Tuesday’s local elections. I’m voting to re-elect Jerry Sullivan as mayor and Flo Hunter and Diana Willits as City Council members. Diana happens to be a Republican, and I don’t know what Flo’s voter registration is, but they are both doing a great job. They don’t just show up for council meetings; I see them volunteering at every event in Colby Park. In general, I feel this community has more to offer families than it did in the past, and I like the focus on redevelopment and more events like music and movies in the park.

What’s going on in your community? Are you involved in any local election? John Deeth is voting for the students in the Iowa City election.

I have friends on all sides in the race to replace Michael Kiernan as at-large member of the Des Moines City Council. Skip Moore has been endorsed by many labor unions, Leisha Barcus has been endorsed by the Des Moines Register, and the Association of Professional Firefighters is backing David Adelman.

Candidates selected for House district 33 special election

Earlier this month, State Representative Dick Taylor announced his resignation, setting up a November 24 special election to represent Iowa House district 33 (Cedar Rapids). On Wednesday night, members of the Linn County Democratic Central Committee from precincts in the district selected Kirsten Running-Marquardt as the Democratic candidate. Lynda Waddington wrote up the proceedings for Iowa Independent.

While this is the first time Running-Marquardt has personally sought public office, she is hardly a stranger to Iowa politics. The daughter of former state Rep. Rich Running, she most recently worked in U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack’s office and previously worked for Iowa for Health Care, a project of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Yesterday the Republican Party’s special nominating convention selected Joshua Thurston as the GOP candidate for the special election. He is an Iraq War veteran and, unusual for a Republican office-seeker, is a member of Teamsters Local 238. Waddington reported this week that Thurston “switched from having no political party affiliation to being a member of the Republican Party of Iowa on Oct. 26.”

Holding House district 33 should be relatively easy for Democrats, compared to this summer’s hard-fought battle in Iowa House district 90. But House Speaker Pat Murphy isn’t taking anything for granted:

The Democratic strategy, according to Murphy, is no secret and will closely follow past practices that have met with success.

“We are going to go after this like we have the other election, and we are going to do a heavy absentee ballot campaign just like we did in Fairfield and in the general elections,” Murphy said, referencing the party’s most recent success in the House District 90 special election. “We are going to keep a heavy focus talking about the issues that we think are important to Iowans, which are creating jobs, balancing the state budget, focusing on what we can do to expand health care at the state level and move forward in those areas.”

UPDATE: Running-Marquardt plans to focus on flood recovery and prevention issues, such as “hiring Cedar Rapids workers to rebuild our community both stronger and safer while coordinating state level incentives for better watershed management upstream.”

LATE UPDATE: Lynda Waddington has more on Thurston and the GOP meeting where he was selected.

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Special election coming in Iowa House district 33

State Representative Dick Taylor of Cedar Rapids announced his resignation today, effective immediately, saying, “after 9 years in the House, it’s time for me to focus full-time on my family.” Within the next five days Governor Chet Culver will set a date for a special election in Iowa House district 33 (map here–pdf file). UPDATE: On October 14 Culver set this election for November 24.

The race to replace Taylor will lack the drama of the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90, because district 33 leans much more heavily Democratic. In 2008, Taylor won nearly 70 percent of the vote against Republican Kathy Potts.

A district convention made up of Linn County Central Committee members who live in Iowa House district 33 will select the Democratic candidate for this special election within the next few weeks. Bleeding Heartland readers familiar with Linn County politics, who should replace Taylor?

LATE UPDATE: Iowa Independent previews two likely candidates:

Norm Sterzenbach, Sr., a military veteran who has been a steady presence in county politics for years and currently serves as the county Democrats’ second vice chairman, is expected to make a bid for the seat. Kirsten Running-Marquard, 32, who works in U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack’s office and is the daughter of former state Rep. Rich Running, has also been contacting local Democrats to drum up support.

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Iowans not eager to overturn marriage equality

Marriage equality is here to stay in Iowa, if the latest statewide poll for the Des Moines Register is any guide:

Forty-one percent say they would vote for a [constitutional amendment to] ban [same-sex marriage], and 40 percent say they would vote to continue gay marriage. The rest either would not vote or say they are not sure. […]

The overwhelming majority of Iowans – 92 percent – say gay marriage has brought no real change to their lives. […]

The poll shows that 26 percent of Iowans favor April’s unanimous court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, 43 percent oppose it and 31 percent don’t care much or are not sure.

Despite the 43 percent opposition to the ruling, 61 percent of Iowans say other issues will influence their decision on whether to vote to retain Iowa Supreme Court justices in the 2010 elections.

Selzer and Co. surveyed 803 Iowans between September 14 and 16, and the poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

I recommend clicking through to view the chart showing the breakdown by party affiliation on this issue. Among independents, only 44 percent either oppose or strongly oppose the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision that cleared the way for marriage equality, while 32 percent “don’t care much” and 22 percent either favor or strongly favor it.

Many Iowa Republicans are convinced that they can gain traction in next year’s legislative elections by bashing statehouse Democrats who oppose a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. However, the Republican candidate fell just short in the recent special election in Iowa House district 90, even though the National Organization for Marriage poured nearly $90,000 into ads supporting the Republican because of the marriage issue. (The NOM plans to be involved in next year’s Iowa elections as well.)

A poll commissioned by The Iowa Republican blog in July indicated that two-thirds of Iowans wanted a public vote on same-sex marriage, but that poll framed the question as follows: “The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled gay marriages can legally be conducted in the state. Whether you agree or disagree with the decision, do you think Iowa voters should have the chance to vote on a traditional marriage amendment to the constitution or is the issue best decided by the Supreme Court?” Todd Dorman was right to point out that it would have been more enlightening to ask respondents how they would vote on a marriage amendment.

The Register’s poll could strengthen the hand of Republicans like Doug Gross, who have been saying all year that the GOP should downplay divisive social issues and focus on the economy in next year’s elections. On the other hand, 51 percent of Republicans surveyed by Selzer and Co strongly oppose the Supreme Court decision, while 11 percent just oppose the decision, 27 percent don’t care much and only 10 percent either favor or strongly favor it. Gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats promises to issue an executive order on day one halting same-sex marriages if elected, and he will find plenty of support among the Republican rank and file.

I’ve been telling my friends, “Don’t worry, be happy,” since the Iowa Supreme Court announced its Varnum v Brien decision in April. I figured that with each passing year, more Iowans would understand that no one is harmed and thousands are helped by granting gays and lesbians civil marriage rights. I also felt that Republicans would not be able to win many races on this issue in 2010, let alone in subsequent years. Still, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a poll this year showing majority support for overturning the Supreme Court ruling. Learning that a constitutional amendment on marriage lacks majority support even now makes me that much more optimistic. (UPDATE: Forgot to add that Iowa has a lengthy constitutional amendment process.)

Now it’s imperative to defeat Proposition 1 in Maine this November. Please help if you can.

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

This weekend is packed with good events for Iowa progressives. If you love books, make your way to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale in the 4-H building at the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. Admission is free; the sale is open from 9-9 Friday and Saturday and from 9-6 Sunday and Monday. The sale offers great deals on books, DVDs, prints, comics, and music, especially on Sunday, when everything is half-price, and on Monday, when everything left is 25 cents.

Proceeds support Planned Parenthood’s education programs, which you can learn more about here.

Incidentally, Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa recently merged with Planned Parenthood of Nebraska/Council Bluffs to form a new affiliate called Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

The Iowa Renewable Energy Association‘s annual Energy and Sustainability Expo takes place in Norway Saturday and Sunday. There’s so much to learn at the I-RENEW expos.

On Sunday, Senator Al Franken (cartographer extraordinaire) will headline Senator Tom Harkin’s 32nd Annual Steak Fry. The event will be at the Warren County Fairgrounds from 1 pm to 4 pm. Click here for more info and to buy tickets.

Follow me after the jump for details on many other events coming up soon.

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School board election results thread

Turnout was low in most of Iowa’s school board elections yesterday, but not in Iowa City, where a controversy over a school closure earlier this year helped spark the highest level of voter participation since the 1995 school board races. John Deeth has details and analysis of the results. Many Iowa Democrats will recognize the name of Sarah Swisher, a superdelegate to the DNC who has been Iowa Political Director of the SEIU.

In Des Moines, Margaret Buckton was the only challenger to win one of the four seats up for grabs. As the associate executive director of public policy for the Iowa Association of School Boards, she’s got a lot of relevant experience.

Buckton’s day job is to train school board members and superintendents about how to work with state legislators and advocate for their district, how school finances and budgets work, and how to implement policies such as the new Iowa Core Curriculum, the state’s blueprint for what students should learn while in school.

The three re-elected incumbents in Des Moines were Connie Boesen, Teree Caldwell-Johnson and Patty Link, whom many of you may have seen at Democratic functions. She is married to the campaign consultant Jeff Link.

The Des Moines Register published results for many other central Iowa school districts here. Many Iowa Democrats may know newly-elected West Des Moines school board member Liz Brennan, a Montessori pre-school teacher. Her husband, Scott Brennan, was the previous chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Ankeny voters rejected a bond initiative that would have funded a new elementary school and improvements to a different school. Given the rapid population growth in Ankeny during the past decade, it’s hard to see how the school district can avoid overcrowding if they can’t build a new elementary school.

Share any thoughts about education or school board races in this thread.

Atlantic residents are rightly angry about the strip search of five girls that staff conducted after a student said $100 had gone missing.

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Five reasons to vote in today's school board elections

School board elections are being held across Iowa today. Here’s why you should get out and vote.

1. Everyone should support strong educational standards in our schools and competent management of the school district’s affairs, whether or not you have kids in school or will have in the future.

2. Your vote is more likely to make a difference in a low-turnout school board election. Many of these races will be decided by a handful of votes.

You should vote even if your school board election is a snoozer, with only as many registered candidates as seats available. Extremely low turnout creates opportunities for fringe candidates to win seats on write-in campaigns.

3. Your property tax dollars are being spent in the local schools, whether or not you have kids. Homes in a good school district are often worth more than comparable homes in an area with lower-performing schools.

4. School board members vote on some issues that affect the broader economy and quality of life. For instance, property values in established neighborhoods and the ability of many kids to walk to school were harmed when school boards closed Roosevelt Elementary in Ames a few years ago and voted this year to close Roosevelt Elementary in Iowa City.

Iowa school boards will be less constrained in making decisions on school closures going forward. This summer, the Iowa Supreme Court invalidated the Barker rules on school closure procedures that the State Board of Education adopted more than 30 years ago. That ruling simultaneously rejected the lawsuit of parents challenging the Des Moines school board’s decision a few years ago to close several schools. Click here for the Iowa Supreme Court ruling (pdf file).

5. Iowans will have almost no legal recourse against future decisions by school boards, thanks to a law the Iowa legislature adopted during the 2009 session. House File 233 was a below-the-radar bill that unanimously passed both the House and Senate. It changed the rules so that citizens have only ten days (as opposed to the 12 months previously allowed) to file a lawsuit challenging a school board’s decision on disposition of property.

For all practical purposes, it is impossible to find plaintiffs, hire legal counsel, draft arguments and file a complaint in ten days. It’s disappointing that a bill limiting legal checks on a school board’s actions passed with so little public debate. Despite following the news during the legislative session closely, I would never have heard about this bill if not for a panel discussion at the 1000 Friends of Iowa annual meeting in July.

House File 233 makes it all the more important for citizens to choose their school board members wisely. Abuses of power can happen, and there’s no guarantee school boards will always comply with the law. For instance, Spirit Lake school board members “met illegally twice in 2007 and 2008” and were fined by a judge this year. Amazingly, no challengers filed to run against two of the incumbents involved.

If you’re reading this post at work, it should only take you a few minutes to vote on the way home today. Or, if you’re reading this at home, zip out to vote before or after dinner.

Your local newspaper probably has published short bios of the candidates. For those in central Iowa, these nine candidates are seeking four spots on the Des Moines school board, and here’s a list of candidates in other Des Moines-area districts. John Deeth has been covering the Iowa City school board campaign at his blog.

Sometimes it can be hard to figure out what the candidates stand for based on news reports or vague campaign mailings. If you aren’t sure how to vote, ask a friend who has attended a candidate forum or has been following the school board campaign closely. (Teachers and retired teachers can be good sources of information.) Many of my well-informed friends speak highly of Des Moines school board candidate Margaret Buckton, for instance.

Please post any comments about education or school board elections in this thread.

Department of unconvincing spin

This article by Jason Clayworth in Thursday’s Des Moines Register was good for a few laughs:

A group opposed to same-sex marriages failed to secure victory for Republicans in Iowa this week, but the massive injection of out-of-state money on the issue foreshadows what’s to come in next year’s elections, political scholars said Wednesday.

Despite the loss, the National Organization for Marriage succeeded in making gay marriage an issue, the head of the group said Wednesday. He vowed that its “Reclaim Iowa Project” will remain active in the 2010 state elections.

I’m sure “making gay marriage an issue” was just the kind of success the NOM’s generous donors (whoever they are) were looking for. Why, Iowans in House district 90 might never have realized same-sex couples could marry if not for the NOM’s major ad campaign.

Back to that Register article:

Jeff Boeyink, executive director of the Iowa Republican Party, said many no-party voters Tuesday supported [Stephen] Burgmeier. That was a victory itself, he said.

Voters want the opportunity to vote on the gay marriage issue, he said.

“We moved the needle a lot,” Boeyink said. “We didn’t get the victory, but we take away some real positives out of this.”

Sure, Mr. Boeyink, you “moved the needle a lot.” Your candidate, elected three times as a Jefferson County supervisor, lost his own county by more than 600 votes.

The marriage group did not lose the race for Burgmeier, said Chuck Hurley, a former Republican legislator and now president of the Iowa Family Policy Center, a group against gay marriage. He said the issue will be a major topic in the 2010 elections.

“Marriage won the day,” Hurley said of the election. “I think it was a huge issue in the campaign.”

Yes, Republicans tried to make marriage a huge issue in the campaign while Curt Hanson talked about jobs, economic development and renewable energy. The National Organization for Marriage’s television ad used the same kind of rhetoric as the Iowa Family Policy Center’s “Let Us Vote” campaign: instead of advocating discrimination against same-sex couples, the ads supported Burgmeier as someone who would “let voters have a say.” Well, voters in House district 90 had their say.

I don’t want to get too cocky. Tuesday’s election could have gone the other way if not for the outstanding GOTV effort by organizers supporting Hanson. But the fact is, a special election a few months after the Iowa Supreme Court ruling went into effect is exactly the kind of race likely to be disproportionately influenced by same-sex marriage. In Vermont and Massachusetts, the electoral backlash against supporters of marriage equality was short-lived. If the Iowa Family Policy Center (which designated a staffer to work on Burgmeier’s campaign) and nearly $90,000 worth of NOM tv ads couldn’t leverage this issue into a victory on Tuesday, I don’t think Republicans will get far running against gay marriage 14 months from now.

For a more honest Republican assessment of Tuesday’s special election results, read this post by Craig Robinson at The Iowa Republican.

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House district 90 results thread: Hanson wins!

It’s a nail-biter in Iowa House district 90. Democrat Curt Hanson carried Jefferson County, which includes Fairfield. Republican Stephen Burgmeier ran up a big margin in Van Buren County. A few precincts remain to be counted in Wapello County, and Hanson leads by about 200 votes, but I can’t tell whether the absentee ballots have already been reported.

I’ll update this post later with more results, but I invite other Bleeding Heartland readers to post links in the comments if final returns become available before I can get back to my computer.

Turnout was reportedly high for a special election, but I don’t know what that means in terms of percentage.

UPDATE: Democrats will retain a 56-44 majority in the Iowa House for the 2010 session. From the Secretary of State’s office: There were 8,046 total votes (I had heard predictions that 6,000 to 7,000 people would vote in this race). Hanson won 3,932 votes (48.9 percent), and Burgmeier 3,825 votes (47.5 percent). Click the link for the breakdown by county. Only four votes separated the two candidates in Wapello County. Jefferson County was the key for Hanson–he led by more than 600 votes there, while Burgmeier led by just over 500 votes in Van Buren County.

Conservative Dan Cesar of the Fourth of July party got just 40 votes, but independent candidate Douglas Phillips got 242 votes. I have no idea what kind of campaign he was running or which candidate he drew support from. (NOTE: Commenters at The Iowa Republican blog say Phillips was running as a social conservative. He got about 9 percent of the vote in Van Buren County.)

I received this statement from Iowa Democratic Party chair Michael Kiernan:

FAIRFIELD, IA – “I congratulate Curt Hanson on a successful campaign. His was a local campaign about local issues, and it is not surprising he was successful.  Curt will make an excellent addition to the Democratic majority in the Iowa House.  Congratulations to Speaker Murphy, Majority Leader McCarthy and the staff of the Iowa Democratic Party, for their outstanding effort and teamwork, and the victory that has followed.  

“Democrats have been successful in the last two election cycles and tonight because we have recruited great candidates, followed through on the promises we’ve made and are governing the state responsibly.

“We will continue to build upon this strong organization and team approach as we prepare for statewide elections next fall.  Tonight’s results don’t change our strategy for 2010.  Tomorrow we will get back to work on candidate recruitment, fundraising and organizing.  We have every reason to expect continued success.”

I was nervous about this race, but Bleeding Heartland user American007 was right on the money, predicting a Hanson victory today and observing more than a month ago, “never underestimate the power of a well-liked local teacher in politics.”

SECOND UPDATE: A few more thoughts come to mind. Once again, the Democrats’ superior plan for banking early votes made the difference in a statehouse race. No doubt absentee ballots will remain a crucial part of both parties’ GOTV next year.

This result should make it easier for Democratic leaders in the Iowa House and Senate to keep their caucuses in line next year regarding marriage equality. Republicans will use every procedural trick in the book to try to force floor votes on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. If Burgmeier had won, some Democrats in tough districts might have been more inclined to support the Republicans on procedural votes of this kind.

Tonight’s result must be very disappointing for Iowa Republicans, who invested a lot of resources in this race and were hoping a victory would boost their candidate recruitment and fundraising going into next year. The GOP has suffered net losses of seats in the Iowa House and Senate for the last four elections. Burgmeier was well-known in the district as a Jefferson County supervisor and was thought to have a lot of crossover appeal. Republicans have been beating the war drum over tax and spending issues, while the National Organization for Marriage ran ads for Burgmeier because of his support for overturning same-sex marriage. You would think that this message would be successful in the middle of a recession and just a few months after the Iowa Supreme Court ruling went into effect.

THIRD UPDATE: Statements from Governor Chet Culver, Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn and Iowa House minority leader Kraig Paulsen are after the jump.

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Election day in House district 90

Today’s the big day in Iowa House district 90. Latest news from the race:

Beth Dalbey wrote a good feature on the campaign for Iowa Independent. I didn’t realize that Republican candidate Stephen Burgmeier ran for Jefferson County supervisor as a Democrat and later as an independent before switching to the Republican Party.

One Iowa and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund filed a formal ethics complaint against the National Organization for Marriage with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

The NOM claims to be in compliance with Iowa law.

Post any thoughts or election predictions in this thread. I am having trouble making a prediction. This race “should” go to Burgmeier because low-turnout special elections favor the opposition party, and because conservative interest groups have advertised much more heavily in the district. On the other hand, I hear field organizers supporting Curt Hanson on the ground have been doing a tremendous job. I will update this post with my final prediction this afternoon.

I agree with Kathie Obradovich, who argued last week:

This is primarily a local race. So what will the outcome say about the larger political landscape? Republicans have the most to gain and the least to lose. If Burgmeier fails, they can point to the Democratic advantage in the district. If he wins, it will be another boost for GOP voters. It’ll look like a rejection of Culver and the Democrats’ policies.

Still, another State Fair will have come and gone before the general election. Both parties will have a chance to learn from any mistakes in this race, and voters will have long forgotten them. Victory will be as sweet as cotton candy and probably just as long-lasting.

The state of the economy next fall will be much more important for the 2010 Iowa legislative races than whatever happens in House district 90 today.

UPDATE: Trying to be optimistic, but unfortunately I think Burgmeier will win this narrowly (53-47).

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One day left in House district 90 campaign

Democrats and Republicans were busy in Iowa House district 90 over the weekend, making calls and knocking on doors to GOTV for tomorrow’s special election. Democrats had an early lead in terms of absentee ballots returned, and according to the field organizer for the Fairness Fund, efforts to collect outstanding absentee ballots continued.  We won several Iowa House seats in 2008 through big leads in early voting. A strong absentee ballot showing will be crucial for Curt Hanson, because the national political environment for Democrats is less favorable now than it was last November, conservative interest groups are heavily invested in this race, and same-sex marriage has galvanized the Republican base in Iowa.

Speaking of gay marriage, the National Organization for Marriage has spent nearly $90,000 trying to get Republican Stephen Burgmeier elected. It’s an astronomical sum to spend on advertising in a rural Iowa House district. The group will have to do things differently if they want to get involved in our statehouse races next year:

An out-of-state anti-gay marriage group will likely need to form its own Political Action Committee and disclose its donors if it continues its Iowa activities, a state official warned today. […]

NOM will likely need to disclose future donors if it continues its Iowa activities, Charlie Smithson, the head of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, warned NOM in a letter today.

“I’m not as much concerned with this particular race as I am that Iowa is not going to become a dumping ground for undisclosed campaign contributions,” Smithson said in an interview.  “Anyone can play the game here, but they are going to play within the rules.”

The One Iowa blog has more details and a link to Smithson’s letter. The bottom line is that the National Organization for Marriage will need to form a PAC that discloses donors in order to spend more than $750 on advocacy activities in Iowa. Click here to sign One Iowa’s petition calling on NOM to disclose their funding sources.

If you live in or near House district 90, let us know what you’ve seen in terms of advertising, yard signs, or door hangers for either candidate. I’m also interested to know whether either party has been aggressively contacting the large number of Green and Libertarian voters in the Fairfield area. The Greens would be more inclined to support Democrat Curt Hanson, while I could see Libertarians going either way in this race.  

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Roundup of news on the House district 90 election

In four days voters will elect a new state representative in Iowa House district 90. Here are some links to recent news in the campaign.

The Iowa Democratic Party has organizers in the district, and they are doing a good job:

A report released today by the Iowa Secretary of State shows that of the 2,156 early absentee ballots received in his office by noon, 1,308 of them were from Democrats while 603 were from Republicans. The rest were from people who registered as no- or other-party voters.

This is no time for complacency, though, because low-turnout by-elections tend to favor opposition parties. Iowa Republicans have a lot of angry, enthusiastic activists. Click here to volunteer for Curt Hanson’s campaign, and be sure to remind your friends and relatives in district 90 to vote on Tuesday.

Jason Clayworth of the Des Moines Register and Jason Hancock of Iowa Independent reported on the disclosure reports filed by Hanson and Republican Stephen Burgmeier. Burgmeier is getting much more help from outside groups; the National Organization for Marriage is spending nearly $90,000 on advertising, and Iowans for Tax Relief has also been running ads supporting Burgmeier.

One Iowa, an advocacy group supporting marriage equality, has slammed the National Organization for Marriage’s involvement in this race:

This is not an isolated effort, but an organized, well-funded, full-throated assault on civil marriage equality across the country. The same extremists that bankrolled ballot initiative efforts in Maine and California are now spending money to buy an election in Iowa. NOM has a history of funneling money from the Mormon Church into anti-gay measures, while refusing to disclose the source of their funds.

Click here to sign One Iowa’s petition demanding that the National Organization for Marriage disclose their funding sources. By the way, a money laundering complaint has been filed in Maine in response to the way groups including the National Organization for Marriage are funding efforts to overturn same-sex marriage rights in Maine.

The Fairness Fund PAC has a blog here with a field organizer’s updates from district 90. The Fairness Fund also has received a matching gift pledge to help respond to the NOM’s effots. Click here to donate so they can meet their fundraising goal. Hard work on the ground will determine the outcome in this special election.

If you’re on Twitter, use #HD90 to find updates from Republicans and Democrats who are involved in this race.

Share any thoughts about the campaign or election predictions in this thread.

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Anti-gay group goes all-in for Republican in special election

Neither Republican Stephen Burgmeier nor Democrat Curt Hanson has highlighted same-sex marriage rights during the campaign for the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90. However, a group opposing marriage equality is funding an intense advertising campaign in the district.

Chase Martyn of Iowa Independent noticed that the “National Organization for Marriage has purchased $86,060 worth of television and radio ads” to help Burgmeier. That is a major ad buy for an Iowa legislative election. Martyn uploaded an independent expenditure report (pdf file) that the group filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, but that didn’t include information about the content or placement of the ads.

If you have seen or heard any advertising paid for by National Organization for Marriage, please post a comment in this thread or e-mail me at desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com with as much detail as possible about the message. How many different versions of the ads are running? Do the commercials mention any issues besides overturning the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage? Do they mainly support Burgmeier, who is under attack from a right-wing candidate? Or do they also attack Hanson, and if so, using what kind of language?

I hope the National Organization for Marriage’s ads are as laughable as the group’s “Gathering Storm” commercial from April, which spawned many parodies on YouTube and a brilliant response from Stephen Colbert.

When solving one problem creates another

The Republican Party appears to have learned at least one important lesson from the 2008 Iowa legislative races: making social issues like abortion the centerpiece of the campaign was a poor strategy in competitive districts.

This year Republican leaders in the legislature and the state party apparatus have talked much more about economic and fiscal issues than about the religious right’s agenda. Even in the weeks following the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien ruling, the state party said little about gay marriage.

Republican candidate Stephen Burgmeier is sticking to the new GOP script in his campaign for the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90. The “views” page on his website doesn’t spell out his views on abortion or same-sex marriage, and his first television ad focused on the state budget and taxes. The decision to downplay social issues doesn’t seem to bother the Iowa Family Policy Center, which has one of its staffers working on the ground in district 90.

However, some social conservatives don’t appreciate being told to keep their mouths shut while doing heavy lifting for Republicans. One of them is Dan Cesar, who ran in House district 90 last year on the Fourth of July ticket when Republicans declined to field a candidate against incumbent John Whitaker. Cesar is running in the special election too and is bashing Burgmeier:

“[Burgmeier] has avoided the words pro-life in everything he says. He’s avoided the fact that he’s a Catholic and belongs to a faith community. I take exception to that. His handlers are telling him to do that.” […]

“The [Republican] party told me they don’t want to focus on pro-life,” he said. “So I either run again as a third party or shut up. Shut up and let a coward run as a Democrat and someone I consider a sellout run as a Republican. I stood up and said I will run.”

Cesar also doesn’t like Burgmeier’s record of raising taxes as a county supervisor.

The Iowa GOP will likely repeat the district 90 playbook across the state next year, especially if Burgmeier wins on September 1. Social conservatives won’t appreciate being marginalized. If Democratic candidate Curt Hanson prevails in district 90, the religious right-wingers will probably be even more angry, claiming that social issues could have won the day.

This argument is sure to continue during the Republican gubernatorial primary, which will come down to Bob Vander Plaats against someone backed by the business wing (Terry Branstad, Chris Rants or Christian Fong). Vander Plaats believes the GOP can win by embracing “core principles” and “bold-color conservatism that inspires faith, family and freedom.”  

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Nice work if you can get it

Have you gotten four raises in the past six years? Jefferson County supervisor Stephen Burgmeier has, I learned after writing about the Republican’s first television ad for the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90. Burgmeier is highlighting alleged overspending by Democrats, but if he’s so stingy with the people’s money, why did he keep voting to raise his own pay?

The “check the facts” page on Democratic candidate Curt Hanson’s website contains other useful information too. In addition to raising his own pay repeatedly, Burgmeier voted five times to raise taxes on Jefferson County residents. Did Iowans for Tax Relief know about this record when the group took responsibility for running Burgmeier’s campaign?

The Iowa Democratic Party is running this ad backing Hanson:

Share any relevant thoughts about phony Republican posturing in this thread. You can sign up here to volunteer for the Hanson campaign.

Republican ad for special election targets Culver, borrowing

UPDATE: Curt Hanson has already posted a rapid response at his campaign website.

Two and a half weeks before the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90, Republican Stephen Burgmeier’s campaign launched its first television commercial:

The producers fit quite a few misleading statements into one 30-second ad. The visual suggests Iowa has taken on “a billion dollar debt,” and the voice-over emphasizes the word “billion,” even though the I-JOBS infrastructure bonding initiative was for $830 million.

The commercial accuses “Governor Culver and his allies” of borrowing “almost a BILLION dollars to pay their bills.” However, the I-JOBS program was created to fund infrastructure projects and has nothing to do with meeting state government’s ongoing spending obligations. (Click here for a breakdown of how the money will be spent.)

During this recession, several other states have been forced to borrow money to pay their bills, but Iowa is borrowing for capital investments. Credit analysts and national institutional investors understand the difference, even if Iowa Republicans don’t. That’s why “investor enthusiasm and high market demand” drove down the interest rate on the I-JOBS bonds.

Next, Burgmeier’s ad shows a man saying, “That’s money taxpayers are on the hook for,” implying that taxes will go up to repay the debt. In fact, existing gaming revenues will provide the approximately $43.2 million in annual payments on the bonds.

The ad begins with a voice-over asserting that “red ink is rising in Des Moines” and later shows a woman saying, “Stop the red ink.” Those statements, along with the cartoon of red ink drowning Culver and the capitol, wrongly suggest that the infrastructure borrowing is deficit spending.

The second part of the ad promises that Burgmeier will vote for a new budget law “to make it harder to waste tax dollars.” I’d like more details about how such a law would work, and I’d also like Burgmeier to specify which of these investments he considers wasteful.

The ad promises Burgmeier will “serve as a check and balance to Governor Culver’s runaway spending” and closes by saying Burgmeier will bring “balance and spending restraint back to our government.” Iowa Republicans may believe Culver is very unpopular in district 90, or they may have decided to run against him in order to rile up their base. It’s notable that the ad never uses the word “Republican” and doesn’t identify the candidate’s political party. I guess the outside interest groups running the Burgmeier campaign don’t have much confidence in the Republican brand to carry the day.

The Iowa GOP didn’t announce the size of the ad buy, which networks would run the ad or which programs have been targeted. If you live in the viewing area for this district, let us know whether you’ve seen the ad, and if so during which television shows. If you prefer not to post a comment here, you can send me a confidential e-mail at desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com. Please also report on any radio ads you’ve heard.

I’m curious to see whether this will be Burgmeier’s only television commercial or if his campaign will mention other issues, including same-sex marriage, in later ads.

Having spent no time in this district lately, I have no idea whether Burgmeier or Democrat Curt Hanson has an edge. Political scientists will tell you that as a general rule, the party out of power does well in low-turnout by-elections and special elections. Both Democrats and Republicans are working hard to get out the vote in district 90. State GOP Chairman Matt Strawn and some other Republicans view this race as a must-win.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

Iowa GOP outsourcing special election to special interests

When your party suffers a net loss of seats in the state House and Senate for four elections in a row, it’s time to try something different. In the case of the Republican Party of Iowa, that apparently means outsourcing operations for the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90.

In a July 31 e-mail blast, Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn encouraged activists to contact “Matt Gronewald, our Legislative Majority Fund Director,” if they would like to volunteer for Stephen Burgmeier, the Republican candidate in district 90. However, Burgmeier’s campaign website tells the real story:

 To volunteer please contact:

   * Katie Koberg, katiekoberg@gmail.com, 515-971-4571

   * Mary Earnhardt, mkearnhardt@gmail.com, 515-778-5229

   * Mark Doland, luviowa10@aol.com, 641-295-0135

Koberg and Earnhardt serve as vice president and policy director, respectively, for the conservative group Iowans for Tax Relief. The Iowa Republican blog’s Al Swearengen was partly right when he wrote,

Ed Failor Jr. and Iowans for Tax Relief are running the entire campaign effort in the special election…

Word is that Failor has committeed big dollars to the race and already has his ITR staff embedded in the district and running the race […]

Anybody that questions the power and influence of Failor and ITR need to look no further than this race…they are running this race…and are in charge of all House and Senate elections…

I say Swearengen was partly right because Burgmeier’s site also lists Mark Doland, who is on the Iowa Family Policy Center’s payroll as chief candidate recruiter.

You may remember the Iowa Family Policy Center, which organized a petition drive in April to pressure county recorders not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The “views” page on Burgmeier’s campaign website doesn’t talk about same-sex marriage, but Burgmeier is on record supporting legislative action to overturn the Iowa Supreme Court ruling, which matches the agenda of Iowa Family Policy Center Action (the group’s political wing).

The special election in district 90 won’t change the balance of power in the Iowa House, but it is the first high-profile race since Republicans selected Strawn to be state chairman in January. Strawn can’t be too confident about the party’s ability to fund and manage a statehouse campaign if he is giving outside interest groups control over this race.

Democrats within striking distance of district 90 can sign up here to volunteer for Curt Hanson.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks (updated)

Political activity slows down during the summer, especially in an off-year, but there’s still plenty for progressives to do. Event details are after the jump. Please post a comment or send me an e-mail if you know of other events I’ve left out.

If you live near southeast Iowa, please consider volunteering for Curt Hanson, Democratic candidate for the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90. UPDATE: Senator Tom Harkin is headlining a fundraiser for Hanson on Saturday, Augsut 1. Details below.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is looking for volunteers during the Iowa State Fair (August 13-23):

The Iowa DNR River Programs will be at the Iowa State Fair this year and requests your help to staff our booth at the DNR building. We will have a River Programs staff person there the whole time, but our space is much larger this year. Because of the large number of visitors who pass through the building, any help we can get is greatly appreciated. We are asking for a 5 hour shift from each volunteer. You may sign up for more than one shift if you’d like. The morning shift will be from 9:00 to 2:00 and the afternoon shift will be from 2:00 to 7:00.  What you get: A River Programs Volunteer Cap and a ticket to the fair the day you volunteer, and the satisfaction of knowing you made a difference.

Please respond by email or phone with your desired shift(s) and availability Thursday, August 13th through Sunday August 23rd to John Wenck, IDNR River programs outreach coordinator, John.Wenck@dnr.iowa.gov, 515-281-8969 or 515-491-9881.

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Candidates selected for House district 90 special election

On Wednesday Democrats in Iowa House district 90 nominated Curt Hanson for the special election set for September 1:

Born and raised on an Iowa family farm, Hanson has been living and teaching in Fairfield for over 43 years. He attended the University of Northern Iowa and received his masters from the University of Iowa.  He and his wife, Diane, have two grown children. They are members of First United Methodist Church and Curt is also a member of the Fairfield Kiwanis Club.

“My parents taught me the importance of hard work, helping neighbors, and service to community.  Those Iowa values will guide my work as the next State Representative for District 90,” said Hanson.  “My priorities are simple: balance the state budget, create good-paying jobs in key industries like renewable energy, make health care more affordable for middle class families, and ensure our kids have the education and skills they need to get a job in these tough economic times.”

Hanson is a retired teacher and driver education instructor in Fairfield. He has been selected by his community as Fairfield Teacher of the Year and has been selected by his peers to serve those in the teaching profession at both the local and state levels. He was also runner-up National Driver Education Teacher of the Year and has served as President and Business Manager of the Iowa Association of Safety Education.

“As State Representative, I can promise the people of Jefferson, Van Buren, and Wapello Counties two things – I’ll work hard and I’ll always listen to you,” concluded Hanson.

For more information, go to www.curthanson.org.

Sounds like Hanson wants to build on the strengths that prompted CNBC to name Iowa the fourth-best state for doing business in 2009.

Today Republicans in district 90 formally selected Jefferson County supervisor Steve Burgmeier to be their candidate for the special election. Here’s his press release from Monday announcing his campaign. He’s clearly planning to run hard against same-sex marriage, which is not surprising given the way he made a show of posturing on April 27, the day the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien ruling went into effect.

Republicans would like to win this special election for many reasons, not least to fire up their base about the potential to demagogue against committed same-sex Iowa couples next year.

If you live in House district 90 or volunteer during this campaign, please consider posting diaries about your view from the ground. Scanning or transcribing campaign ads and fliers would be great material for a post. It only takes a minute to register for a Bleeding Heartland account. Or, you can e-mail me confidentially about what you’re seeing (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com). I’m curious to know whether The Iowa Republican’s Al Swearengen was correct about Ed Failor’s staffers from Iowans for Tax Relief running Burgmeier’s campaign operation.

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Update on Iowa House districts 90 and 21

Governor Chet Culver has set September 1 as the date for the special election in Iowa House district 90, which includes Van Buren and parts of Wapello and Jefferson counties. The seat opened up when State Representative John Whitaker decided to take a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

If you live within striking distance of this district, please consider volunteering for Democratic candidate Curt Hanson. His campaign website is here, and he’s also on Twitter and Facebook. This will be a low-turnout election, so a strong volunteer effort will be essential.

According to Bleeding Heartland user im4klein, the GOP will announce its candidate in House district 90 today or tomorrow. Supposedly he is a farmer who has won elections in the past. Sounds like a county supervisor to me, but we’ll find out soon enough.

UPDATE: The Republican candidate for this special election is indeed a county supervisor–to be more precise, Jefferson County supervisor Stephen Burgmeier. Click the link to read his press release. The last time Burgmeier was on my radar screen, he and his fellow supervisors had passed a resolution on April 27, 2009, asking the Iowa legislature to stop same-sex marriages. Burgmeier’s timing was either brilliant (because April 27 was the first day for legal same-sex marriages in Iowa) or stupid (because the legislature had just adjourned for the year on April 26). I expect him to make gay marriage a major issue in this special election campaign.

SECOND UPDATE: According to The Iowa Republican’s Al Swearengen,

Ed Failor Jr. and Iowans for Tax Relief are running the entire campaign effort in the [House district 90] special election…

Word is that Failor has committeed big dollars to the race and already has his ITR staff embedded in the district and running the race… […]

Anybody that questions the power and influence of Failor and ITR need to look no further than this race…they are running this race…and are in charge of all [Iowa] House and Senate elections…

Meanwhile, the Des Moines Register reports,

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating a case that involves a state audit that indicates a representative shortchanged an Iowa school $37,000, a state spokesman confirmed today.

No charges have been filed against Rep. Kerry Burt, D-Waterloo, but if the accusations prove to be accurate, they ultimately could lead to his removal from office, according to Iowa law.

House Speaker Pat Murphy told the Register, “I think [Burt] has a very good record, and I stand behind him at this point, and I’m 100 percent with him.” I hope Murphy has a plan B in case the criminal investigation confirms the allegations in the state auditor’s report. Burt’s seat wasn’t going to be an easy hold even before this scandal, because of his arrest in February on a drunk driving charge, which has not yet gone to trial.

We have a lot of good Democrats in the Waterloo area, and I’d like to see someone else on our ballot line in House district 21 next year.

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is holding its annual convention this Saturday, July 18, at the Hotel Fort Des Moines:

Iowa CCI’s statewide annual convention will feature workshops and plenary sessions on factory farming, campaign finance reform, immigration reform, and predatory lending. The convention will conclude with an exciting direct action targeting an undisclosed payday lender in a low-income community in  Des Moines.

More details on that and other events coming up soon are after the jump.

As always, please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of another event I’ve left out.

To Bleeding Heartland readers who plan to do RAGBRAI next week: consider posting a diary about your experience or any candidates you encounter during the ride. I saw this at Bob Krause’s campaign site:

Eric Rysdam of  Fairfield, Iowa has agreed to ride across the state in  RAGBRAI, The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa with a big Krause banner and shirt. Eric will be the core of an amorphous group participating and getting the word out about for us! Please wish Eric well with his training in anticipation of the July 19-25 event! Eric’s number is 319-293-6306 if you want to wish him well, or if you want to be on the ride with him.

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Newt won't give up his day job

Via Atrios, I learned that Newt Gingrich will not run for president, having learned that he would have to give up his day job to do so. Link is here:


Key excerpt:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will not run for president in 2008 after determining he could not legally explore a bid and remain as head of his tax-exempt political organization, a spokesman said Saturday.

“Newt is not running,” spokesman Rick Tyler said. “It is legally impermissible for him to continue on as chairman of American Solutions (for Winning the Future) and to explore a campaign for president.”


Just last week, Gingrich said he had given himself a deadline of Oct. 21 to raise $30 million in pledges for a possible White House bid, acknowledging the task was difficult but not impossible.

He abruptly dropped the idea Saturday, apparently unwilling to give up the chairmanship of American Solutions, the political arm of a Gingrich’s lucrative empire as an author, pundit and consultant.

American Solutions, a tax-exempt committee he started last October, has paid for Gingrich’s travel and has a pollster and fundraiser on staff.

Gingrich makes hundreds of speeches each year, many paid. He will not say how much he charges, and neither will the Washington Speakers Bureau, which books him. But some clients have said they paid $40,000 for a speech.

Amazing that people will pay $40,000 to hear Newt speak.

Still, too bad he won't be running for president. He would be my dream GOP opponent. Even Hillary could beat him. 

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