If Rod Blum tanks, how many Iowa House Republicans will he take with him?

A New York Times poll of Iowa’s first Congressional district this week found Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer leading two-term Representative Rod Blum by 51.5 percent to 37 percent. Finkenauer led by double digits in every turnout model the pollsters applied to the raw data. Blum’s favorability of 35 percent was even lower than President Donald Trump’s 39 percent approval rating among respondents.

As national Republican strategists and GOP-aligned advocacy groups write off Blum and election forecasters increasingly view IA-01 as a probable Democratic pickup, I’ve been thinking about how a Blum implosion could affect down-ballot Republicans. With no straight-ticket option for Iowa voters this year, coat-tails may be less important than they were in the past. Nevertheless, it can’t be good for GOP legislative candidates that Finkenauer’s campaign has had field organizers working across the district for at least six months to identify and turn out supporters.

Democrats need a net gain of ten Iowa House seats to win a majority in the lower chamber (currently split 59 R/41 D). At least eight potentially competitive GOP-held state House districts are located within the first Congressional district.

Continue Reading...

Exclusive: How Kim Reynolds got away with violating Iowa's constitution

Governor Kim Reynolds swore an oath to “support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the State of Iowa.” But when she missed a deadline for filling a district court vacancy in June, she did not follow the process outlined in Iowa’s constitution.

Public records obtained by Bleeding Heartland indicate that Reynolds did not convey her choice for Judicial District 6 to anyone until four days after her authority to make the appointment had lapsed. Nevertheless, staff assured the news media and Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady that the governor had named Judge Jason Besler on time.

Reynolds and Secretary of State Paul Pate later signed an appointment and commission certificate that was backdated, creating the impression the governor had acted within the constitutionally-mandated window.

Continue Reading...

Rest in peace, Leonard Boswell

Former U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell passed away on August 17 at the age of 84. He had long battled a rare cancer called pseudomyxoma peritonei. Boswell publicly speculated in 2015 that exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War could have caused his abdominal tumors. According to a former staff member, a link to the powerful herbicide was later confirmed. In a recorded message to Iowa Democrats last year, Boswell said his doctors agreed that his disease stemmed from getting “pretty well soaked” while flying a crop-duster mission.

Surviving two tours of duty as an assault helicopter pilot in Vietnam was itself beating the odds. Boswell received numerous honors for his actions in that extremely dangerous role.

Following 20 years of military service, Boswell became a cattle farmer in southern Iowa. First elected to the Iowa Senate in 1984, he served three terms in the legislature, the last as Senate president. He was well-liked in Democratic circles. When I met him briefly during the 1994 campaign (he was the lieutenant governor nominee on a ticket with Bonnie Campbell), he seemed to have a larger-than-life personality.

After winning an open U.S. House seat in 1996, Boswell represented parts of central and southern Iowa in Congress for sixteen years. His proudest legislative accomplishment was sponsoring the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, which President George W. Bush signed in 2007. Though he belonged to the conservative “Blue Dog” caucus, Boswell voted for the major legislation of President Barack Obama’s first term, including the economic stimulus bill and the Affordable Care Act.

Continue Reading...

Why did Kim Reynolds dodge questions about her Iowa Supreme Court choice?

Governor Kim Reynolds will hold less frequent press conferences for the duration of this year’s campaign, her staff acknowledged this week after persistent questioning by political reporter Barbara Rodriguez. The governor’s spokesperson downplayed the significance of abandoning the weekly presser, an Iowa tradition Governor Bob Ray established and Terry Branstad and Tom Vilsack maintained. All public events on Reynolds’ schedule would provide opportunities for journalists to ask questions, Rodriguez was told on July 31.

That promise didn’t hold up well. The very next day, Reynolds read carefully from written remarks when announcing District Court Judge Susan Christensen as her choice for the Iowa Supreme Court. Christensen briefly thanked her family, friends, and colleagues, and promised to support the constitution. End scene, with no question time for the assembled media. The governor’s staff also ignored my written inquiry related to the Supreme Court appointment.

It’s not hard to guess why Reynolds would block journalists from asking her or Christensen about the process for selecting the first new justice to join Iowa’s high court in seven and a half years.

Continue Reading...

How Iowa's 20-week abortion ban could be overturned

Pro-choice advocates were jubilant about the Iowa Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down a major section of a 2017 anti-abortion law.

However, the other major piece of that law remains in effect: a near-total ban on abortions beyond 20 weeks “post-fertilization.” Speaking to reporters on June 29, American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis asserted the 20-week ban is “clearly unconstitutional and a violation of women’s fundamental rights.” She declined to say whether the ACLU will challenge that provision: “We don’t forecast our litigation strategy.”

Although I am not an attorney, I am a third-generation supporter of reproductive rights in Iowa. So I’ve been thinking about how a case could get the 20-week ban before the Iowa Supreme Court.

Continue Reading...

Iowa Supreme Court holds state constitution protects right to abortion

Five Iowa Supreme Court justices ruled today that a mandatory 72-hour waiting period for all women seeking abortion violates due process rights and equal protection guaranteed under the state constitution. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa had challenged that provision, part of a law Republican legislators and Governor Terry Branstad enacted in 2017.

Today’s decision guarantees that the 2018 law banning almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected will be struck down. A lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood, the ACLU of Iowa, and the Emma Goldman Clinic is pending in Polk County District Court.

In addition, the ruling indicates that even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in the coming years, Republicans will be unable to ban or severely restrict abortion rights in our state.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Mark Cady rejected the “undue burden” standard for evaluating abortion restrictions, set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1992 Casey decision. I enclose below the full text of the majority opinion and the dissent by Justice Edward Mansfield, whom President Donald Trump has named as a possible U.S. Supreme Court pick. I’ve excerpted some of the most important passages.

A separate section of the 2017 law, banning almost all abortions after 20 weeks gestation, was not challenged in this case and remains in effect.

Some Iowa judicial trivia: today marks the second time the Iowa Supreme Court has overturned an abortion-related ruling by Polk County District Court Judge Jeffrey Farrell. He had also upheld the administrative rule banning the use of telemedicine for abortion. The Supreme Court unanimously struck down that rule in 2015.

Continue Reading...
View More...