Nate Boulton won't quit Iowa Senate, discloses past "binge drinking" problem

State Senator Nate Boulton made clear this afternoon he will not resign from the legislature over the sexual misconduct allegations that ended his Democratic campaign for governor in May.

In a written statement posted in full below, he attributed some of his past actions to “binge drinking,” which “has no doubt led me to misread appropriate social boundaries and make choices that I would never tolerate while sober.” Boulton said he began working on his alcohol consumption last November and has not had a drink in months despite the “humiliating public debate” over his behavior. He further resolved to “make my example one of hope for anyone struggling through a personal crisis” and continue serving out his Iowa Senate term, which runs through 2020.

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The 17 Bleeding Heartland posts I worked hardest on in 2017

Since I started writing for this website a decade ago, I’ve never worked harder than I did in 2017. This momentous year in Iowa politics provided an overwhelming amount of source material: new laws affecting hundreds of thousands of people, our first new governor since 2011, and a record number of Democrats seeking federal or statewide offices.

In addition, my focus has shifted toward more topics that require time-consuming research or scrutiny of public records. As I looked over the roughly 420 Bleeding Heartland posts I wrote this year, I realized that dozens of pieces were as labor-intensive as some of those I worked hardest on in 2015 or 2016.

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The 17 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2017

I had mixed feelings about compiling last year’s review of highest-traffic posts. Being hyper-aware of clicks and views can be demoralizing, because the most labor-intensive stories rarely attract the most attention.

On the other hand, it’s fascinating to see what strikes a chord with readers. A preview of stores coming to an outlet mall in Altoona was the fourth most-read Des Moines Register article of 2017. The second most popular New York Times story contained highlights from a boxing match. And this year’s highest-traffic piece at USA Today was about the “kiss cam” at the NFL Pro Bowl.

During an unusually eventful year in Iowa politics, some hot topics at Bleeding Heartland were predictable. But surprises were lurking in the traffic numbers on posts published during 2017 (418 written by me, 164 by other authors).

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David Johnson to seek re-election as independent in Iowa Senate district 1

Declaring the two-party system “badly broken,” State Senator David Johnson announced this morning that he will seek re-election as an independent in Iowa Senate district 1 next year. The former Republican won his first state House race in 1998 and was a successful candidate for the state Senate four times, serving for a decade as an assistant leader of the GOP caucus. He left the party in June 2016 to protest the nomination of Donald Trump as president.

In a statement enclosed in full below, Johnson said, “Politics in Des Moines has reached a bitterly partisan tipping point. Principle must come before party.” He added that “constituents of all political stripes have encouraged him to run again,” and that the “storied history of the House and Senate includes legislators who have not been affiliated with major parties.” According to Johnson, the last candidate to win an Iowa Senate race as an independent was William Schmedika in 1923.

Johnson didn’t face an opponent in his last two Senate races, but next year’s campaign is sure to be a hard-fought battle.

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Independent David Johnson fighting to serve on Iowa Senate committees

Independent State Senator David Johnson has asked Secretary of the Iowa Senate Charlie Smithson, the chamber’s chief parliamentarian, to instruct Republican leaders to grant him full committee assignments during the upcoming legislative session. Johnson argued that current rules and 95-year-old precedent support giving his 60,000 constituents “their rightful place at the committee table as well as the Senate floor.”

Johnson faces long odds, because while Smithson is a non-partisan official, he serves at the pleasure of Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix. And Dix has every incentive to keep his former Republican colleague from fully participating in legislative business.

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Sexual harassment investigator had warned Iowa senators about clerks' attire

Secretary of the Iowa Senate Charlie Smithson has sometimes encouraged senators to “tell your clerk to wear something different” if a female clerk’s short skirt or top was attracting attention from older male lawmakers, he told an audience earlier this year.

Smithson’s handling of concerns about clerks’ attire raises further questions about whether he was the right person to investigate alleged sexual harassment within the Senate Republican caucus.

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