Iowa House district 37 preview: Mike Bousselot vs. Andrea Phillips

Republicans nominated Iowa Department of Management Director Michael Bousselot this weekend to be their candidate in the September 14 special election to represent Iowa House district 37. Bousselot received about 75 percent of the vote on the first ballot; one of his two rivals for the nomination withdrew his candidacy before convention delegates voted.

Bousselot did not respond to phone or email messages on August 13 asking whether he would take a leave of absence from his day job, assuming he won the GOP nomination for the special election. But he and Democratic candidate Andrea Phillips are clearly ready to devote substantial time and energy to the abbreviated campaign.

House district 37 was among the most expensive state legislative races in 2020; Democrats spent nearly $800,000 on behalf of Phillips, while Republicans spent about $575,000 defending State Representative John Landon, who passed away in late July.

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Iowans in Congress report big 2Q fundraising numbers

Candidates for federal offices are raising more money than ever, and that trend was noticeable in the second-quarter Federal Election Commission filings for Iowa’s four U.S. House incumbents. Most of them reported fundraising numbers that would have attracted national attention just a few cycles ago. Many large donors live outside Iowa, a sign that national committees are driving contributions to candidates perceived to be in competitive districts.

The cash on hand totals may seem daunting for challengers who recently launched their campaigns or are still considering it. On the other hand, war chests are less important than they used to be, given the massive growth in outside spending on battleground U.S. House races. A fundraising advantage for an incumbent in 2021 may not be a major factor by next summer.

With that caveat, let’s review where things stand for the three Republicans and one Democrat who represent Iowa in the lower chamber of Congress.

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New Iowa carbon task force looks like greenwashing

“If someone tasked you with making an exhaustive list of who could profit from carbon sequestration, this is what you would come up with,” tweeted Chris Jones, a research engineer at the University of Iowa who has written extensively about agriculture and water quality.

He was referring to the Carbon Sequestration Task Force, which Governor Kim Reynolds established through a June 22 executive order. In a written statement touting the initiative, Reynolds said Iowa “is in a strong position to capitalize on the growing nationwide demand for a more carbon free economy.” She will chair the task force, and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig will co-chair.

The task force looks like a textbook greenwashing effort: deploying concern about about “sustainability” and “low carbon solutions” as cover for policies that will direct public money to large corporations in the energy and agriculture sectors.

One tell: Reynolds did not involve any of Iowa’s leading environmental organizations, which have long worked to reduce carbon emissions.

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Iowa concealed COVID-19 testing help for well-connected firms

State officials deployed “strike teams” involving the Iowa National Guard to more businesses last year than previously acknowledged.

Records the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) released on April 26 show seventeen workplaces received COVID-19 testing assistance through a strike team. The agency had stated in January that only ten workplaces (operated by nine companies) had strike team visits. Several newly-disclosed events benefited businesses linked to Governor Kim Reynolds’ major campaign donors.

Iowa used the strike teams mostly during the spring of 2020, when COVID-19 testing supplies were scarce. However, a strike team was sent to Iowa Select Farms administrative headquarters in mid-July, more than five weeks after the state had stopped providing testing help to other business. That company’s owners are Reynolds’ largest campaign contributors.

The governor asserted at a January news conference that the state had facilitated coronavirus testing for more than 60 companies, saying no firm was denied assistance. The newly-released records show nineteen businesses received testing kits from the state, and another nineteen were directed to a nearby Test Iowa site where their employees could schedule appointments.

The public health department’s spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand has not explained why she provided incomplete information about the strike team program in January. Nor has she clarified what criteria state officials used to determine which companies received which kind of testing assistance.

The governor’s spokesperson Pat Garrett did not respond to any of Bleeding Heartland’s emails on this subject. Reynolds walked away when I tried to ask her about the strike team decisions at a media gaggle on April 28.

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As GOP lawmakers threaten free inquiry, governor emphasizes "bottom line"

Herb Strentz: Republican bills to ban tenure at Iowa’s state universities have moved forward in both chambers. Governor Kim Reynolds isn’t concerned. -promoted by Laura Belin

When one surveys the efforts of the Iowa legislature and Governor Kim Reynolds this legislative session, the words “striving for equality” may not come to mind — what with efforts to undercut public education, sabotage access to abortion, punish the LGBTQ community and enact other vindictive measures, as noted by Kathie Obradovich in Iowa Capital Dispatch.

“Equality” does come to mind, however, albeit in an oddball way — the efforts of some legislators to bring Iowans down to their level of what Iowa should be about.

That may be a harsh way to look at Iowa law-making, but it is merited by House File 49 and Senate File 41, proposals to make Iowa the first state in the nation to outlaw tenure at its public universities, in our case Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa.

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Governor names Michael Bousselot to lead Iowa's budget agency

Governor Kim Reynolds announced on February 1 that she had selected Michael Bousselot to serve as director of the Iowa Department of Management, effective February 8. That agency handles state budget planning as well as disbursements from Iowa’s general fund and various other funds, such as the Coronavirus Relief Fund and other federal money flows related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The appointment means that loyalists who formerly worked in the governor’s office will head Iowa’s budget and homeland security departments, provided that state senators confirm Reynolds’ nominees.

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