Five ways ending straight-ticket voting could affect Iowa's 2018 election

For the first time in living memory, Iowans will not have the option of filling in one oval to vote a straight ticket for a political party in this year’s general election. Republicans eliminated straight-ticket voting here in 2017, as GOP legislators have done in several other states in recent years. The more publicized provisions of Iowa’s new law, on voter ID and signature verification, will benefit Republicans by creating obstacles for eligible voters in groups that tend to favor Democrats (people with lower incomes, college students, racial minorities, and senior citizens).

By contrast, the impact of eliminating straight-ticket voting is less clear. More Iowans filled in the Republican oval than the Democratic one in the 2014 election, the only midterm for which such statistics are available.

One thing is for sure:

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If all Iowa candidates had to win under rules Republicans forced on unions

“There’s not one Republican in this state that could win an election under the rules they gave us,” asserted AFSCME Council 61 President Danny Homan after the first round of public union recertification elections ended this week.

He was only slightly exaggerating.

A review of the last two general election results shows that Iowa’s capitol would be mostly devoid of office-holders if candidates for statewide and legislative races needed a majority vote among all their constituents–rather than a plurality among those who cast ballots–to be declared winners.

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New details on how the Koch brothers boosted Joni Ernst's campaign

Kenneth P. Vogel reports new details at Politico today on how the billionaires David and Charles Koch provided indirect financial support to Joni Ernst’s 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate. Politico’s headline “How the Kochs created Joni Ernst” (changed after a few hours to “How the Kochs launched Joni Ernst”) overstates the case somewhat. Arguably, the dark money employed to attack Ernst’s main rival for the GOP Senate nomination would have been less effective if either 1) Mark Jacobs hadn’t chosen to live outside this state for 30 years. fatally wounding his candidacy in my opinion; or 2) the other Republicans in the race had raised enough money to become credible alternatives to Jacobs themselves.

Still, money funneled through the Kochs’ network was a big help to Ernst. We already knew that the Kochs invited her to their 2013 summer “seminar” a few weeks after she kicked off her Senate campaign. We already knew that in the summer of 2014, the Koch brothers front group Concerned Veterans for America kicked off what became a sustained attack on Bruce Braley’s Veterans Affairs Committee hearings attendance. Vogel has shown that Ernst got more assistance before winning the primary than was previously known.

I enclose below excerpts from Vogel’s article, but I recommend clicking through to read the whole piece. Vogel concentrates on the Trees of Liberty PAC, which raised funds through the Koch network and spent most of that money to air a tv ad attacking Jacobs. You can view that ad here. It masquerades as non-election communication by ending with the line, “Call Mark Jacobs. Tell him Iowa families can’t afford higher energy costs from Washington,” instead of urging viewers not to vote for Jacobs.

Vogel does not address the role of American Heartland PAC, a single-candidate super-PAC supporting Ernst. American Heartland PAC piled on with more tv ads targeting Jacobs less than a week after the Trees of Liberty statewide ad buy ended on May 2, 2014. The super-PAC did disclose its donors (longer list here). The largest contributors were Robert McNair, owner of the Houston Texans football team, and hedge fund operator Robert Mercer.

P.S.-It’s worth recalling on “Throwback Thursday” that Governor Terry Branstad helped launch Ernst when he picked the little-known Kim Reynolds as his running mate in 2010. Reynolds’ election as lieutenant governor that year opened up the Iowa Senate seat Ernst won two months later. If Branstad had chosen a different running mate, Reynolds would have stayed in the state legislature, and Ernst would likely still have been the Montgomery County auditor in 2013–not a promising springboard for a statewide candidate.

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Where are they now? Mariannette Miller-Meeks edition

GOP county leaders in the second Congressional district elected Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks to the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee on August 1, the Iowa GOP announced in a press release. An Army veteran and ophthalmologist, Miller-Meeks was the Republican challenger to Representative Dave Loebsack in IA-02 three times: in 2008, 2010, and 2014. She also served as director of the Iowa Department of Public Health in Governor Terry Branstad’s administration from January 2011 to January 2014, when she stepped down in preparation for her third Congressional campaign. She currently lives in Ottumwa.

Although Miller-Meeks was not able to unseat Loebsack, she left a lasting mark on Iowa politics in at least one way. I am convinced that her coattails in the Ottumwa area pulled Mark Chelgren over the line in his 2010 Iowa Senate race against Democratic incumbent Keith Kreiman. Chelgren won that election by ten votes in a district considered so heavily Democratic that neither party spent any serious money there. Don’t get me started on how Chelgren managed to win re-election last November. Democrats should have been able to get Iowa Senate district 41 back. Chelgren may be the GOP nominee against Loebsack in IA-02 next year.

The Iowa GOP just opened a field office in Ottumwa, signaling that Republicans view that part of southeast Iowa as fertile ground. Thanks in part to a strong history of organized labor at area factories, Ottumwa has traditionally supported Democratic candidates. In fact, Wapello County was one of just five Iowa counties to vote for John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election as well as one of just four counties to vote for Bonnie Campbell in her 1994 gubernatorial race against Terry Branstad.

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