IA-04: Don't be so sure the latest uproar will hurt Steve King

When U.S. Representative Steve King thinks out loud, national headlines often follow.

The Des Moines Register’s Robin Opsahl was first to report on King’s musings at the August 14 Westside Conservative Club breakfast in Urbandale.

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” […]

“Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages taken place and whatever happened to culture after society? I know I can’t certify that I’m not a part of a product of that.”

To many, the comments seem indefensible. But I suspect many conservative Republicans in Iowa approve of King’s uncompromising stance on abortion, even if they don’t like how he talked about the issue.

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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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