The 19 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2019

Chasing traffic never has been and never will be my primary goal for Bleeding Heartland. If it were, I’d publish weekly posts about puppies or Casey’s pizza instead of Iowa wildflowers.

And anyone who has worked on an online news source can vouch for me: a writer’s favorite projects are often not the ones that get the most clicks.

Still, people do ask me from time what posts tend to do well, and I find it fun at year-end to recap the pieces that were particularly popular with readers. Since I started this exercise a few years ago, I’ve always uncovered some surprises.

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Bleeding Heartland's coverage of U.S. Senate, House races in 2019

After the wipeout of 2016, I questioned whether Iowa’s top races of 2018 and 2020 would be foregone conclusions for the Republican incumbents. But amid unusually high turnout for a midterm election, Democratic challengers flipped two U.S. House seats and fell only a few points short against Governor Kim Reynolds and Representative Steve King.

One of my goals for 2019 was to provide in-depth reporting on Iowa’s federal and state legislative races. Thanks to our nonpartisan redistricting system, none of our four Congressional districts are considered safe for either party in 2020. While U.S. Senator Joni Ernst is still favored to win a second term, she is increasingly seen as a vulnerable GOP incumbent.

Follow me after the jump for a review of Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of the campaigns for U.S. Senate and House, with links to all relevant posts. A separate post will cover the year’s stories about battleground legislative districts.

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IA-Sen: Where things stand in the Democratic primary

Five Democrats are now competing for the chance to take on U.S. Senator Joni Ernst next November. After making low-key appearances at Democratic events around Iowa for about six months, Cal Woods made his candidacy official on December 17.

Assuming all five candidates file nominating petitions in March, the crowded field increases the chance that no one will win the nomination outright in the June 3 primary.

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AP pulls back curtain on coordination between Ernst aides, dark money

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst introduced a potential major donor to one of her campaign’s fundraisers, who later asked that person for a “an investment of $50,000” in a dark money group backing Ernst’s re-election, Brian Slodysko reported for the Associated Press on December 6.

Slodysko’s scoop uncovered what may be illegal coordination between the Ernst campaign and the Iowa Values group, which can accept unlimited contributions without disclosing donors.

It wasn’t the first time Ernst’s campaign ventured into a gray area.

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Hy-Vee PAC's latest Democratic donation raises questions

Bleeding Heartland was first to report in June that the Hy-Vee corporation’s political action committee gave $25,000 to the Republican Party of Iowa prior to a fundraiser headlined by President Donald Trump and held at the corporation’s West Des Moines corporate venue. It was the PAC’s largest single recorded contribution.

That story by Gwen Hope received significant public comment online and prompted a press release in which Hy-Vee PAC’s executive director Mary Beth Hart asserted that the donation was “an important opportunity for our CEO to directly provide information about pharmacy-related issues […] to the President and his staff while they were in town.” While the contribution could have been designed to seek political favors from high-ranking Republicans, it also covered most of the Iowa GOP’s rental cost to use Hy-Vee’s facility.

In light of that revelation, some local Democratic groups distanced themselves from the grocery store chain, while others asked the company for contributions to balance the corporation’s Republican-heavy donation history.

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