IA-04: Steve King doesn't seem worried--or does he?

U.S. Representative Steve King’s clout has taken big hits lately. He won his ninth term in Congress by only a 3.3 percent margin in Iowa’s most conservative district (partisan voter index of R+11). Once-staunch allies like Governor Kim Reynolds sought to distance themselves from his toxic racism. The leader of his caucus stripped him of all House committee assignments.

Three other Republicans announced plans to seek the 2020 nomination in the fourth district, and campaign finance reports filed on April 15 confirmed that many heavy hitters are backing King’s best-known challenger, State Senator Randy Feenstra.

The incumbent’s recent fundraising and campaign spending would suggest that he’s not concerned about his re-election prospects.

But in other ways, King is working diligently to maintain support among the conservatives he needs to continue his political career. Fortunately for him, taxpayers are bankrolling much of that outreach.

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10 years of marriage equality in Iowa

Ten years ago today, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously held in Varnum v Brien that the state’s Defense of Marriage Act “violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.”

Justice Mark Cady wrote the opinion, which cost three of his colleagues (Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice David Baker, and Justice Michael Streit) their jobs in the 2010 judicial retention elections. Assigned the task of writing by random drawing, Cady “strongly believed the court should speak in one voice” on such a controversial matter, Tom Witosky and Marc Hansen wrote in their 2015 book Equal Before the Law: How Iowa Led Americans to Marriage Equality. In fact, Cady “was convinced there was no room for even a concurring opinion–an opinion in agreement with the court’s conclusion but not its reasoning.” (pp. 134-5)

Thousands of Iowans have enjoyed a better quality of life since our state became the third to give LGBTQ couples the right to marry. Lambda Legal, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of six Iowa couples, has posted a timeline of key events in the case. State Senator Zach Wahls wrote today about the Supreme Court decision’s impact on his family.

I wanted to mark this day by sharing highlights from Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of that historic event. My deepest condolences go out to the friends and relatives of former Supreme Court Justice Daryl Hecht. The Iowa Judicial Branch announced today that Hecht has died. He stepped down from the bench in December 2018 while battling melanoma. Of the seven justices who joined the Varnum opinion, only Cady, Brent Appel, and David Wiggins still serve on the high court.

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Kim Reynolds should have made one clean break from Terry Branstad

Governor Kim Reynolds made a strategic error by not distinguishing herself from her predecessor in any meaningful way, judging by the new Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom.

Changing course on even one high-profile policy could have demonstrated strong critical thinking and leadership skills. Instead, Reynolds is in effect running for a seventh Terry Branstad term. Unfortunately for her, Iowans are inclined to think it’s “time for someone new” in the governor’s office.

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How Kim Reynolds built her $1.1 million war chest

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will take many advantages into the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, by virtue of being the incumbent after Governor Terry Branstad leaves for China.

Though Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett is considering a bid for the Republican nomination next year, he may have second thoughts after looking at the Reynolds committee’s latest campaign finance reports. The lieutenant governor ramped up her fundraising during 2016 and has more than $1.1 million in the bank.

Contrary to the picture painted by spin doctors for Reynolds, most of the money came from major donors.

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Latest look at Iowa early vote numbers compared to 2012

Hillary Clinton urged her Iowa supporters to cast early ballots at a Des Moines rally yesterday, a short walk from the Polk County Elections Office. Her campaign needs to bank as many votes before November 8 as possible to counteract the traditional Republican advantage among election-day voters.

Republican strategist David Kochel has portrayed Iowa as a lost cause for Clinton, thanks to the large proportion of white, non-college-educated voters. Some Democratic activists felt demoralized last week after two opinion polls showed Donald Trump ahead by 8 percent and 7 percent. I’ve always expected a close presidential result here and think the next few Iowa polls will indicate a tight race, thanks to Trump’s disastrous performance in Monday’s debate.

But delivering this state for Clinton will require stronger early GOTV than what Iowa Democrats have produced so far, especially among women, who were more likely than men to vote early in the last presidential election.

Iowa Democratic early voting still lags well behind the party’s 2012 numbers. The big question is how much of the shortfall reflects deliberate tactical choices as opposed to a voter enthusiasm problem.

After the jump I’ve enclosed tables showing how many absentee ballots Iowa voters have requested and county auditors have received as of today and September 28, 2012 (the same number of days before the November 6 general election). Democrats have gained some ground since last week but are still more than 56,000 ballot requests (nearly 42 percent) behind the numbers from four years ago. Republicans were ahead of their 2012 early vote numbers last week; they are now slightly behind that pace. No-party voters have requested about 17,000 fewer absentee ballots this year than they had by this point in the last presidential campaign. That’s probably bad news for Democrats, because Barack Obama received more early votes than Mitt Romney did from Iowans affiliated with neither party.

You can view every day’s absentee ballot numbers here. I draw on figures released by the Secretary of State’s office but present the data in a different way.

P.S.- Ruline Steininger, the 103-year-old Des Moines woman who starred in a recent Clinton campaign video, stood with Clinton yesterday before casting her own early ballot. She told reporters, “I’m 103. That’s the reason I voted early. I’m not taking any chances.” Unfortunately, Iowa law would prohibit Steininger’s vote from being counted if (God forbid) she passes away before November 8. Some states, including Virginia and Hawaii, require early votes to be counted in the same circumstance.

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