Tricia Gavin challenging Charles Schneider in Iowa Senate district 22

Republican State Senator Charles Schneider coasted to re-election in 2016. He defeated his Senate district 22 challenger Andrew Barnes by more than 4,000 votes after spending only a token amount on the race. In fact, Schneider gave most of his own campaign funds ($133,000) to the Iowa GOP for use in more competitive state Senate districts.

Schneider drew his first declared challenger for this cycle on June 11, when Tricia Gavin announced her candidacy. At least one other Democrat is seriously considering this race, so Schneider’s general election opponent will not be known until after the June 2020 primary.

Given recent political trends in the western suburbs of Des Moines, it’s already obvious that Senate district 22 will be a top Democratic target next year.

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What candidates said about health care, reproductive rights at the Hall of Fame

Nineteen presidential candidates had five minutes each to make their case to more than 1,000 activists at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame event in Cedar Rapids on June 9. Most offered at least one really good applause line. Teams of reporters from the Des Moines Register and Iowa Starting Line pulled together some of the memorable parts of each speech here and here.

I decided to focus on how the candidates spoke about health care and women’s ability to access abortion for a couple of reasons. First, while the candidates highlighted a wide range of problems and proposals, almost all of them addressed those topics in some way.

Second, this post represents my gesture toward what media critic Jay Rosen has called the “citizens agenda” approach to covering campaigns. Although I lack survey data to know for sure what Iowa Democrats want the presidential contenders to be talking about, I believe health care and reproductive rights are among the most salient for caucus-goers, because:

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Law denying Planned Parenthood sex ed funding on hold for now

A new state law denying sex education funding to Planned Parenthood will likely be found unconstitutional, a Polk County District Court has determined.

Judge Joseph Seidlin issued a temporary injunction to block new statutory restrictions on Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s access to government sex education grants. His order, enclosed in full below, found Planned Parenthood would suffer “irreparable harm” if the law took effect. State agencies are due to announce fiscal year 2020 recipients for the Community Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Services Program (CAPP) and the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) on May 31.

In addition, the court’s order stated Planned Parenthood was “likely to succeed on the merits of its equal protection claim” under the Iowa Constitution, since the law contains an exemption for a “nonprofit health care delivery system” that provides abortions in some locations.

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2019 Iowa legislative recap: Constitutional amendments

Bleeding Heartland continues to catch up on the legislature’s significant actions during the session that ended on April 27. Previous posts related to the work of the Iowa House or Senate can be found here.

Republicans showed little interest in amending the Iowa Constitution during the 2019 session. Only one amendment passed both chambers. If and when that proposal appears on a statewide ballot, it will spark a costly and divisive campaign about gun rights and regulations.

The Senate and House debate over the pro-gun amendment is the focus of the first half of this post. Arguments raised on both sides will surely return in future television commercials and mass mailings.

The rest of the post reviews this year’s unsuccessful attempts to change the constitution. One amendment (backed by Governor Kim Reynolds) made it through the Iowa House, and four others advanced from a House or Senate committee but did not come up for a floor vote. The rest did not get through a committee, even though some of the same ideas went further last year.

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Republican's stunt holds up flood relief funding (updated)

Iowans awaiting federal flood relief money will have to wait a little longer.

Congressional leaders thought they had a deal to approve $19.1 billion in disaster aid before the Memorial Day recess. The U.S. Senate passed the bill on May 23 by 85 votes to 8. (Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both supported the measure and said they’d worked to secure “specific relief for farmers whose grain bins busted because of flooding.”) President Donald Trump was willing to sign the legislation. House passage seemed assured, so most representatives left town for the holiday weekend.

Then a first-term Republican from Texas used a procedural move to hold up the bill on May 24. While most of the blame lies with U.S. Representative Chip Roy and the GOP leaders who failed to dissuade him, top House Democrats should not have put themselves at the mercy of any member of the minority.

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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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