# Brenna Bird



Governor's plan would gut independence of Iowa Consumer Advocate

First in a series analyzing Governor Kim Reynolds’ plan to restructure state government.

Attorney General Brenna Bird would gain direct control over the office charged with representing Iowa consumers on issues related to utilities, under Governor Kim Reynolds’ proposed restructuring of state government.

House Study Bill 126, which lays out the governor’s plan over more than 1,500 pages, contains several provisions undermining the independence of the Office of Consumer Advocate. Iowa House State Government Committee chair Jane Bloomingdale introduced the legislation on February 1.

The Office of Consumer Advocate’s mission is to represent consumers on issues relating to gas and electric utilities and telecommunications services, “with the goal of maintaining safe, reliable, reasonably-priced, and nondiscriminatory utility services.” Much of the office’s work involves matters before the Iowa Utilities Board, which regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities, Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy.

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Did low turnout sink Iowa Democratic candidates?

Fourth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2022 state and federal elections.

Many people have asked why Iowa experienced the red wave that didn’t materialize across most of the country. While no one factor can account for the result, early signs point to turnout problems among groups that favor Democratic candidates.

Although this year’s turnout was the second-highest in absolute numbers for an Iowa midterm, participation was down about 8 percent compared to the 2018 general election. The number of Iowans who cast ballots this year (1,230,416) was closer to the 2014 level (1,142,311) than to the high-water mark of 1,334,279, reached four years ago.

My impression is that the decline in turnout was not evenly distributed, but was more pronounced among registered Democrats than among Republicans, who have long been more reliable midterm voters in Iowa.

That alone could account for the narrow defeats of U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (who lost to Zach Nunn in the third Congressional district by 2,145 votes, a margin of 50.3 percent to 49.6 percent), Attorney General Tom Miller (lost to Brenna Bird by 20,542 votes, 50.8 percent to 49.1 percent), and State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald (lost to Roby Smith by 30,922 votes, or 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent).

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This election is saturated with anger

Bruce Lear: Voters must stop reacting to red meat appeals and start voting like compromise isn’t a dirty word.

A few times during my career, a problem-solving meeting morphed into a scene from the Walking Dead

Adrenaline surged and the sides shifted into attack mode. Anger trumped reason. Both sides worked to score a knockout. By the end, no one remembered why we met. Everyone was hungover from anger and worn out from attacks. Nothing was solved.

What happened in those meetings reminds me of what our elections have become. Based on recent polling, it’s not a surprise. 

According to a recent NBC News nationwide poll, 80 percent of Democrats and Republicans “believe the political opposition poses a threat that, if not stopped, will destroy America as we know it.”

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Self-governance: It could be worse. It should be better

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

“It could be worse.”

At the start of 2022, friends may have uttered those four words to console or comfort us.

As the midterm elections approach, those four words may be prophetic.

Every election in a democracy —from township to presidency — is threatened by voters who are ill-informed, misinformed, and/or uninformed.

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Iowa GOP establishment abandons state auditor candidate

When Governor Kim Reynolds made news in May by pleading with supporters to help her get her “own” attorney general and a state auditor who wouldn’t scrutinize her actions, Republican Party of Iowa state chair Jeff Kaufmann defended the appeal. In a written statement, Kaufmann said the governor “should be promoting Republican candidates up and down the ticket,” because “Iowans know how worthless our current state auditor, state treasurer and attorney general have been.”

But since Mary Ann Hanusa (the insiders’ pick for state auditor) unexpectedly lost the GOP primary in June, top Iowa Republicans have done virtually nothing to support the party’s nominee Todd Halbur. He goes into the home stretch of the campaign with little money or media exposure. Meanwhile, the incumbent Rob Sand is on track to spend more than a million dollars on various forms of advertising.

Halbur did not respond to phone or email messages seeking comment on the lack of support from his party, and whether it’s related to the whistleblower lawsuit he filed, naming one of Reynolds’ appointees.

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