Interview: Christina Bohannan on running for Congress in IA-02

State Representative Christina Bohannan confirmed on August 24 that she’s running for Congress in Iowa’s second district. She’s the first declared Democratic candidate for the seat, where Republican U.S. Representative Miller-Meeks was certified the winner in 2020 by six votes out of nearly 400,000 cast.

Last year’s campaign in IA-02 was Iowa’s most expensive U.S. House race, with the candidates spending nearly $6 million and outside groups putting in more than $15.5 million over the cycle. Both parties are expected to target the district next year, and Miller-Meeks’ campaign had more than $1.1 million cash on hand as of June 30.

Speaking by phone a few hours after her campaign became official, Bohannan told Bleeding Heartland, “I’m having way more fun than I think you’re supposed to when you’re running for Congress.” She said she’s enjoyed the conversations she’s had today and is feeling “really good” about her early fundraising.

I had more questions for the new candidate.

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Mike Franken leans toward repeat U.S. Senate bid

Retired Admiral Mike Franken is strongly leaning toward seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2022, provided he gets “a clean bill of health” following an upcoming surgery at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland by phone on August 4, Franken confirmed he is putting pieces together for another campaign and thinks he could “add value” in the Senate. But first, he needs to ensure he is “entirely capable of running” and serving a six-year term.

Franken would enter the race with a strong base among Iowa Democrats, having received 68,851 votes (nearly 25 percent) in the four-way 2020 primary. Nominee Theresa Greenfield benefited from massive establishment support and some $7 million in outside spending before the June election.

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IA-01: Mathis set to clear Democratic field

Less than a week after launching her Congressional campaign, State Senator Liz Mathis has eliminated any chance of serious competition for the Democratic nomination in the first district.

Mathis announced support last week from more than 100 well-known Iowa Democrats, including all recent U.S. House representatives, every current statewide official, and 48 current state legislators. It’s not just the number of endorsements that will discourage others who may have considered running for Congress in northeast Iowa. Prominent voices representing all wings of the Democratic Party are behind Mathis.

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Liz Bennett, Breanna Oxley face off in open Iowa Senate primary (updated)

Catching up on some news from before the holiday weekend: a competitive Democratic primary is shaping up for an open Iowa Senate seat covering part of Cedar Rapids. Four-term State Representative Liz Bennett confirmed on June 30 that she will run for the district that State Senator Rob Hogg has represented since 2007. Hogg won’t seek re-election in 2022, he announced last month. Iowa has yet to adopt a new political map, but this district will cover some part of the city of Cedar Rapids.

Bennett is the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Economic Growth Committee and a member of the Human Resources, Natural Resources, and Information Technology committees, as well as the Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals Appropriations subcommittee. Having won four previous state legislative races, she will be the early favorite in the Iowa Senate primary.

Bennett is also the first out LGBTQ woman elected to the Iowa legislature and the only out LGBTQ person now serving at the statehouse. Only one out LGBTQ person has ever served in the Iowa Senate: Matt McCoy, who did not seek re-election in 2018.

Breanna Oxley, a public school teacher and education activist, was first to declare her candidacy for the Cedar Rapids Senate district on June 15. She told Bleeding Heartland last week she is staying in that race. Her endorsers include former U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack, former State Senator Swati Dandekar, and former Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston.

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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 delegation tries again to address military suicides (updated)

UPDATE: The U.S. Senate passed the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act of 2021 by unanimous consent on June 24, and President Joe Biden signed it into law on June 30. Original post follows.

From the earliest Memorial Day observances organized by freed slaves following the Civil War, this holiday has focused on remembering military service members who died in wars. More than 26,700 Iowans have died in wartime service, with the Civil War accounting for nearly half of the fatalities.

Far too many Americans with military backgrounds die by their own hands. Hundreds of active-duty troops and more than 6,000 veterans take their own lives every year. That death toll exceeds the total U.S. military fatalities in Iraq from 2003 to 2020.

Iowa’s members of Congress have tried again this spring to improve mental health services for veterans. Unlike in previous years, legislation named after Sergeant Brandon Ketchum made it through the U.S. House and now awaits action in the Senate.

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