Reproductive rights in peril as another Iowa Supreme Court justice retires

In a landmark ruling five months ago, the Iowa Supreme Court held that a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions violates the rights to due process and equal protection under the Iowa Constitution.

This summer Governor Kim Reynolds replaced Bruce Zager, one of the justices who joined that 5-2 majority opinion. She will soon replace a second justice who concurred. Daryl Hecht announced today that he will resign from the Iowa Supreme Court in December in order “to commit all of his energy” to battling melanoma.

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IA-Gov: Notes on the final Hubbell-Reynolds debate

Governor Kim Reynolds and Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell debated for the third and last time today in Davenport. Too bad not many viewers are likely to tune in at 8:00 am on a Sunday morning, because the discussion was yet another study in contrasts. For those who prefer a written recap, I enclose below my detailed notes. Click here and here for Bleeding Heartland’s analysis of the first two Hubbell-Reynolds debates.

As during the second debate, journalists kept the candidates on topic and within the time limit, so kudos to moderator David Nelson of KWQC-TV6 and panelists Erin Murphy of Lee Enterprises, Forrest Saunders of KCRG-TV9, and Jenna Jackson of KWQC-TV6.

Both candidates recycled many talking points from their first two meetings. My impression was that Reynolds performed about equally well in all three debates, while Hubbell improved each time. For instance, after Reynolds noted that Iowa had moved up in mental health rankings three years in a row and was now rated sixth in the country for mental health, Hubbell pointed out that the study the governor cited covered the years 2013 through 2015. That was before the Branstad/Reynolds administration closed some mental health institutions and privatized Medicaid, which has led to worse care for thousands of Iowans.

For those who prefer to watch the replay, KCRG-TV posted the video in a single file, which is the most user-friendly option. You can also find the debate on KWQC-TV (with closed captioning) and WOWT-TV’s websites, but you will have to watch a series of clips, with advertisements before each segment.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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