Iowa Senate district 20 preview: Brad Zaun vs. Rhonda Martin

What a difference a few years makes.

Democrats did not field a candidate against State Senator Brad Zaun in 2008 or 2012. The party provided no financial assistance to Senate district 20 nominee Miyoko Hikiji in 2016. That year, the Senate Majority Fund spent almost nothing on offense, as six-figure sums went toward trying to save Democratic-held seats around the state. Zaun won a fourth term by more than a 7,000 vote margin.

With central Iowa’s suburban voters trending toward Democrats, Zaun has emerged as one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans for the 2020 cycle. As of May 15, he has a top-tier challenger: Johnston City Council member Rhonda Martin.

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A tale of two personhood amendments

Two years ago, State Senator Jake Chapman’s Republican colleagues slapped down his efforts to force a Senate vote on language declaring that life begins at conception, with every fertilized egg “accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons.”

This week, Republicans helped Chapman accomplish what he failed to do then: sneak “personhood” language into a bill during Senate floor debate.

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Republicans are worried about Iowa Senate district 30, with good reason

Voters in Cedar Falls, Hudson, and part of Waterloo will elect a new state senator on March 19. Three candidates are on the ballot for Iowa Senate district 30: Republican Walt Rogers, Democrat Eric Giddens, and Libertarian Fred Perryman.

Republicans took some advantages into this campaign, which is on a shortened timetable because Senator Jeff Danielson resigned during the legislative session. Rogers was better-known than Giddens, and Governor Kim Reynolds scheduled the vote during spring break for the University of Northern Iowa and Cedar Falls public schools, when many people in Democratic-leaning constituencies would likely be out of town.

But since Bleeding Heartland previewed this race in late February, Giddens has emerged as the favorite. Republicans tacitly acknowledged their weaknesses by launching a second over-the-top negative television commercial on March 15, rather than closing on what was supposed to be Rogers’ selling point: giving Black Hawk County and UNI a voice in the Iowa Senate majority caucus.

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How to create activist judges

September Lau and Kimberly Graham make the case against a Republican effort to pack Iowa courts with conservatives. -promoted by Laura Belin

Ever since the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, conservative groups and legislators have attempted to reign in what they describe as an “activist” court. Never mind that that opinion, Varnum v. Brien, was a deliberate and thoughtful walk through equal protection analysis. Conservatives simply didn’t like the decision because it wasn’t the result they wanted.

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Protecting Iowa's courts

Connie Ryan on the current Republican effort to pack the courts: “Iowans understand this legislation is intended to advance the specific political agenda of a small group with a loud voice, placing our courts in harm’s way.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Interfaith Alliance of Iowa jumped into the business of protecting Iowa’s fair and impartial courts upon the announcement by the religious right in the summer of 2010 that they intended to unseat three highly qualified Supreme Court justices. They were politicizing the retention elections simply because they were mad the court ruled for the marriage rights of same-sex couples based on equal protections under our constitution.

The thought of a special interest group seeking revenge on our courts for a constitutionally-based and unanimous decision was unprecedented and frightening. Iowans wondered if this was where the division in our country was really taking us? Would extremist, special interest groups actually go after highly qualified justices committed to the constitution and the rule of law as retribution? The answer was yes.

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