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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Two Iowans opposed removing Confederate statues from Capitol

The U.S. House voted on June 29 to remove Confederate statues on public display at the Capitol and to replace a bust of Roger Taney with one of Thurgood Marshall. All 218 Democrats voted in favor, including Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03). Representative Ashley Hinson (IA-01) was among the 67 Republicans who also supported the bill. Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) and Randy Feenstra (IA-04) were among the 120 Republicans who voted against the legislation.

Feenstra’s predecessor Steve King opposed a similar bill in 2020; all three Democrats who represented Iowa in the House last year voted to replace the bust of Taney and Confederate statues.

As chief justice in 1857, Taney authored the Dred Scott decision, widely regarded as the worst ever U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Marshall litigated important civil rights cases and eventually became the first Black Supreme Court justice in 1967.

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House committee upholds Miller-Meeks' fine for going maskless

U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R, IA-02) did not appeal the $500 fine she received last month for going without a mask in the U.S. House chamber, the House Ethics Committee announced on June 25. A letter and accompanying statement from the committee’s chair and ranking member upheld the fine, noting that Miller-Meeks had not filed an appeal within the time allowed under House rules.

Two other Republicans fined for the same reason did appeal, saying they were vaccinated and in compliance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance. A majority of Ethics Committee members did not agree to those appeals. (Unlike most House committees, the ethics panel has equal representation for both parties.)

Under House rules adopted early this year, a second violation of the mask mandate would have incurred a $2,500 fine. However, Miller-Meeks won’t need to worry. Under guidance issued earlier this month, House members and staff who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are no longer subject to the mask mandate.

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Axne, Feenstra vote to repeal Iraq war authorization

Democratic Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03) and Republican Representative Randy Feenstra (IA-04) voted on June 17 to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force against Iraq. House members approved the legislation by 268 votes to 161, with 49 Republicans joining all but one Democrat to support the repeal.

Representatives Ashley Hinson (IA-01) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) were among the 160 Republicans to vote no.

None of Iowa’s representatives released a statement about this vote or mentioned it on their social media feeds. Bleeding Heartland sought comment from staff for all four members on the morning of June 18, but none replied. I will update this post as needed if anyone explains their reasons for voting yes or no on this effort to “rein in presidential war-making powers for the first time in a generation.” Jennifer Steinhauer reported for the New York Times,

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Iowa's delegation supported Juneteenth holiday

Juneteenth National Independence Day is now a federal holiday, under legislation President Joe Biden signed today. The bill commemorating the end of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865 moved through Congress at unusual speed so it could take effect in time for this weekend. Most federal government workers will have Friday the 18th off, since the new holiday falls on a Saturday.

The U.S. Senate approved the bill through unanimous consent on June 15. Iowa’s junior Senator Joni Ernst was one of the 60 co-sponsors (including eighteen Republicans) in the upper chamber. Senator Chuck Grassley didn’t co-sponsor the bill, but at least he didn’t object to its passage. He is one of only two currently serving senators who voted against establishing a holiday to honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1983. (The other is Richard Shelby of Alabama.)

U.S. House members approved the Juneteenth bill on June 16 by 415 votes to 14 (roll call). All four representatives from Iowa voted yes, which probably would not have been the case if Steve King had fended off Randy Feenstra’s primary challenge last year.

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IA-01: How Liz Mathis might match up against Ashley Hinson

Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis told Iowa news outlets on June 14 that she is “seriously considering” running for Congress next year and will announce her plans in late July.

Mathis won her first race in a 2011 special election for Iowa Senate district 34, covering much of the Cedar Rapids suburbs. She has since been re-elected three times. Republicans did not invest in Senate district 34 in 2012, made an unsuccessful play there in 2016, and opted not to field a candidate against Mathis in 2020.

My Democratic contacts in Linn County expect Mathis to run in the first Congressional district. I am inclined to agree. If she weren’t leaning toward running, she would probably not disclose her plans until after Iowa adopts new maps, which is unlikely to happen before September.

Mathis retired last month from Four Oaks, which provides services to children in the Cedar Rapids area. So she could devote full-time efforts to a Congressional campaign whenever the state legislature is not in session. Since her Iowa Senate term runs through 2024, she doesn’t need to give up her current office to compete for IA-01.

My Republican contacts expect U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson to run for U.S. Senate if Chuck Grassley retires. For the purposes of this post, I’m assuming Grassley will seek an eighth term, and Hinson will seek re-election in IA-01.

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