Fourteen Iowa House Democrats who seem content to stay in minority forever

Iowa Democrats are in a deep hole, controlling only 20 of the 50 seats in the state Senate and 41 of 100 in the House. On the plus side, strong candidate recruitment and a wave of Republican retirements are giving Democrats plenty of opportunities to pick up House seats. (The 2018 Iowa Senate map is less promising.)

Raising money can be challenging for leaders of a minority party, who don’t call the shots on legislation. Furthermore, Iowa Republicans have a natural advantage, since the policies they promote are often tailored to suit wealthy individuals or corporate interest groups. While money doesn’t always determine campaign outcomes, quite a few Democratic lawmakers and challengers lost in 2016 after being massively outspent on television commercials and direct mail (see here, here, and here for examples).

Yet the latest set of campaign financial disclosures reveal little sense of urgency among Democratic incumbents who could do much more to help others win competitive districts this November.

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Ten Iowa legislative incumbents who raised surprisingly little for their re-election campaigns

Since the latest deadline for state legislative candidates to report to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board passed on May 19, I’ve been going through the forms filed by incumbents or challengers in potentially competitive races.

Some of the contribution totals were much lower than I expected to see.

Follow me after the jump for ten Iowa House or Senate incumbents who haven’t been focused on fundraising, even though they could face tough re-election campaigns.

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Iowa Democrats trying to add autism insurance coverage to budget bill

Earlier this month, Claire Celsi informed Bleeding Heartland readers about the demise of an autism insurance bill after State Representative Peter Cownie refused to bring the measure up for a vote in the Iowa House Commerce Committee, which he chairs.

As both Autism Awareness Month and the 2016 legislative session wind down, Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate have been working to add the same requirements to a must-pass budget bill. Follow me after the jump for background and where things stand in this fight.

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Iowa House district 92 preview: Ross Paustian vs. Ken Krumwiede

Iowa House district 92, covering part of Davenport and other areas in Scott County, has changed hands more times in the last decade than any other seat in the Iowa legislature. Democrat Elesha Gayman defeated Republican incumbent Jim Van Fossen in 2006, when the district was number 84. She held that seat against Republican Ross Paustian in 2008, then retired rather than seeking a third term in 2010. Paustian won the open-seat race by a comfortable margin, with a GOP landslide putting the wind at his back. However, he lost his first re-election bid in the slightly reconfigured House district 92 to former State Senator Frank Wood. Undeterred, Paustian sought a rematch and defeated Wood with some help from another Republican wave in 2014.

Four party switches in the last five elections guarantees that both parties will target this district in the fall.

Paustian is a relatively obscure back-bencher. The vice chair of the House committees on agriculture and environmental protection rarely makes news, except for that time the Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel snapped a photo of him reading the book Sex After Sixty during a long debate over a collective bargaining bill. That story went viral nationally and even made it into a British newspaper.

As of last week, Paustian has a Democratic challenger in Ken Krumwiede. Like Wood, Krumwiede is a career educator, and his campaign announcement signals that school funding will be a central issue in this race. Every Democratic candidate for the legislature should do the same. Last July, Governor Terry Branstad vetoed supplemental spending for K-12 schools and higher education, blowing up a bipartisan budget compromise and blowing a hole in school district budgets. Paustian and most of his fellow statehouse Republicans failed to take up the call to override those vetoes.

I enclose below a district map and background on Paustian and Krumwiede. House district 92 is relatively balanced politically, with 5,686 active registered Democrats, 5,799 Republicans, and 8,820 no-party voters according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. (Those numbers do not include voters who changed party affiliation on February 1 to participate in the Iowa caucuses.) President Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney among voters in this district by 53.94 percent to 45.0 percent in 2012. But Joni Ernst prevailed over Bruce Braley here in the 2014 U.S. Senate race by a similar margin of 53.26 percent to 43.45 percent.

Any comments related to the House district 92 campaign or candidates are welcome in this thread. The presidential-year electorate may favor Krumwiede, although incumbents have a natural advantage, and Scott County Republicans have been better-organized lately than local Democrats. The Iowa Farm Bureau will surely get involved on Paustian’s behalf, while organized labor including the Iowa State Education Association will likely assist Krumwiede.

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Weekend open thread: Ross Paustian "Sex After Sixty" edition

What’s on your mind this weekend? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The most important Iowa political story of the week was state Republican leaders hounding consultant Liz Mair out of a job with Scott Walker’s PAC. Colin Campbell compiled Mair’s tweets about the episode for Business Insider, and they are well worth reading. I’m still annoyed by the collective Republican temper tantrum and the Des Moines Register’s pandering.

A different Iowa political event drew even more attention, though, including a segment on ABC’s Good Morning America show. The fateful photo of Republican State Representative Ross Paustian might have been a footnote to a long Iowa House debate on a collective bargaining bill. But because the lawmaker was apparently reading a book called Sex After Sixty, the photo went viral and could easily become what Paustian is most remembered for when his political career is over. I enclose below background, Paustian’s explanation and a few thoughts on the sometimes cruel nature of politics.

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