# Gay Marriage

Branstad names impeachment advocate to Judicial Nominating Commission

I knew that Governor Terry Branstad was trying to fill the State Judicial Nominating Commission with conservatives and big Republican donors.

I knew that Branstad liked naming former state legislators to prominent positions, sometimes without considering anyone else for the job, sometimes even when the former lawmaker hadn’t asked for the job.

But until yesterday, I never imagined that Branstad would consider a Judicial Nominating Commission an appropriate place for someone who tried to impeach Iowa Supreme Court justices over the Varnum v Brien ruling on marriage.  

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Cross Matt Strawn off the list of potential Iowa Republican candidates

Former Republican Party of Iowa Chair Matt Strawn’s name came up earlier this year as a possible candidate for U.S. Senate, but don’t expect him to be a serious contender for any statewide office in the foreseeable future. News broke yesterday that the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has hired the firm Strawn and two prominent Illinois Republicans founded earlier this year to to lobby GOP lawmakers in Illinois to support a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. This spring, Illinois appeared to be on the brink of adopting a marriage equality bill, but supporters never brought it up for a vote in the state House. They plan to try again when the legislature returns in November. Although Strawn’s partner Pat Brady, the former Illinois GOP chair, will do the heavy lifting on this job, social conservatives who dominate the Iowa GOP’s activist base will surely hold a grudge against Strawn.

I got a kick out of Craig Robinson’s rewriting of history yesterday, saying Strawn “abdicated” the Iowa GOP chairmanship, but that “some Iowa Republicans still consider him to have been a good chairman, especially in comparison to his successor.” Robinson was the loudest voice demanding Strawn’s resignation in the wake of the 2012 Iowa caucus vote-counting fiasco. Be careful what you wish for.

Iowa reaction to Supreme Court striking down DOMA (updated)

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The ruling means that legally married gay and lesbian couples in Iowa and elsewhere will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law. More than 200 Congressional Democrats, including Senator Tom Harkin and Representatives Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack, signed an amicus curiae brief urging justices to strike down the key provision of the DOMA, adopted in 1996 with overwhelming bipartisan support.  

In a separate case, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that backers of California’s Proposition 8 did not have standing to appeal a lower-court ruling striking down that ballot initiative. The decision means that LGBT couples will be allowed to marry in California. It does not affect other states’ statutory or constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. Braley and Loebsack were among scores of Congressional Democrats who recently posed for the “NoH8” campaign supporting marriage equality and opposing Prop 8.

Excerpts from the DOMA decision and Iowa reaction to today’s rulings are after the jump. I will update this post as needed. At this writing, most of the Congressional delegation has not publicly commented on the Supreme Court decisions.

I also enclose below Democratic State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad’s reaction to yesterday’s disgraceful 5-4 Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act.

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Five reasons Kraig Paulsen would struggle in an IA-01 GOP primary (updated)

Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen is thinking seriously about running for Congress in the open first district, covering 20 counties in northeast and central Iowa. He hasn’t given a timeline for making up his mind and has said he’s trying to figure out “what’s the best way to serve Iowans. What meets their needs?”

I would suggest that Paulsen consider this cold, hard reality: he is unlikely to serve Iowans as a member of Congress, because he would lose the GOP primary in IA-01.

UPDATE: Scroll to the end of this post for a sixth reason.

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Another Iowa Supreme Court ruling for equality (updated)

In a decision announced on Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for the Iowa Department of Public Health to refuse to list a non-birthing lesbian spouse on a child’s birth certificate. Details on this nearly unanimous ruling are after the jump. I was intrigued by how Governor Terry Branstad’s three appointees from 2011 handled this case.

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Supreme Court marriage linkfest: Federal DOMA doomed?

Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Windsor, a challenge to the constitutionality of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act. Unlike yesterday’s hearing on California’s same-sex marriage ban, this case will affect many Iowans directly. The court’s ruling on DOMA will determine whether thousands of married LGBT couples in Iowa are eligible for benefits granted to married citizens under federal law.

Lots of links are after the jump, but the enduring sound bite from the day will surely be Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comment: “You’re saying […] there are two kinds of marriages, the full marriage, and this sort of skim milk marriage.”

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Judge orders state agency to list same-sex spouse on child's birth certificate

A Polk County District Court Judge has ordered the Iowa Department of Public Health to list a birth mother’s same-sex spouse on the child’s birth certificate without requiring the non-birthing mother to go through the adoption process.

However, the ruling does not automatically apply to all Iowa same-sex couples seeking to have both parents listed on their children’s birth certificates.

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Iowa Senate district 18 election day news and discussion thread (updated)

Today’s forecast calls for rain and cold temperatures in Linn County as Iowa Senate district 18 voters determine whether the Senate will remain Democratic-controlled for the 2012 session or deadlocked at 25-25. The weather doesn’t seem bad enough to be a significant factor, but if it does keep some voters home, that’s probably good news for Democrat Liz Mathis. She continues to lead Republican Cindy Golding in early voting.

The latest absentee ballot numbers and other news clips from the special election campaign are after the jump.

UPDATE: New absentee numbers for Senate district 18 are below.

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Liz Mathis still has early vote edge in Iowa Senate district 18 (updated)

UPDATE: More recent absentee ballot numbers are here, and a precinct-level analysis of the early voting is here.

Absentee ballot requests and returns continue to favor Democrat Liz Mathis over Cindy Golding, her Republican opponent in the Iowa Senate district 18 special election.

The latest numbers from the Linn County Auditor’s Elections office are after the jump, along with recent comments about marriage equality by the Senate district 18 candidates.

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New poll finds net negative approval for Branstad

More Iowa voters disapprove than approve of Terry Branstad’s performance as governor, according to the latest statewide survey by Public Policy Polling. Of 1,109 Iowa voters polled between April 15 and April 17, just 41 percent approved of Branstad’s performance, while 45 percent disapproved and 14 percent were not sure. In a hypothetical rematch between Branstad and Governor Chet Culver, 48 percent of respondents said they would vote for Culver, while 46 percent would vote for Branstad. Full results and crosstabs are here (pdf). Branstad was in net positive territory with men (45 percent approve/43 percent disapprove), but women disapproved by a 48-37 margin. The sample doesn’t perfectly match the Iowa electorate; I noticed that 38 percent of respondents said they were Democrats, 33 percent said they were Republicans and 29 percent said they were independents. As of April 2011, Iowa has 1,955,217 active voters, of whom 647,060 are registered Democrats (33 percent), 610,006 are registered Republicans (31 percent), and 696,061 are no-party voters (36 percent).

PPP’s last Iowa poll, taken in January, found only 40 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of Branstad, while 44 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

The new survey suggests a plurality of Iowa voters accept marriage equality. Asked “which best describes your opinion on gay marriage,” 35 percent of respondents said “gay couples should be allowed to legally marry,” 29 percent said “gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not legally marry,” 33 percent said “there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship,” and 2 percent were unsure. PPP’s January survey of Iowa voters asked the question differently and found 41 percent said same-sex marriage should be legal, 52 percent said it should not be legal, and 8 percent were unsure.

PPP also recorded job approval numbers for Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin and favorable/unfavorable numbers for Iowa’s five U.S. House representatives, Christie Vilsack and Tom Vilsack. Grassley and Harkin were both in net positive territory, but Grassley’s ratings (57/30) were much stronger than Harkin’s (47/38). It’s hard to read anything into the favorability ratings of the House members, since the opinion of voters statewide won’t necessarily reflect representatives’ standing in their own districts.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that to my knowledge, Chet Culver’s approval ratings didn’t fall to the low 40s until the second half of 2009, when he was dealing with a recession, state budget crunch and the film tax credit fiasco.

Impeachment going nowhere and other Iowa Supreme Court news

Last week, a group of conservative Iowa House Republicans finally made good on their promise to introduce articles of impeachment against the four remaining Iowa Supreme Court justices who concurred in the 2009 Varnum v Brien decision on marriage. The impeachment bills won’t make it out of committee, let alone the Iowa House, but there may be some political fallout from the effort.

After the jump I examine the articles of impeachment, future prospects for their backers and recent news related to the 2012 judicial retention elections.

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Register poll on Obama, gay marriage and more

The Des Moines Register continues to release results from its latest statewide poll. Selzer and Co surveyed 800 Iowa adults between February 13 and 16. Bleeding Heartland discussed the Register’s poll numbers on Governor Terry Branstad here.

Follow me after the jump to discuss President Barack Obama’s approval inching up in Iowa, slight growth in support for same-sex marriage rights, views on ways to close the state budget gap, and more.

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Obama ditches DOMA and other marriage equality news

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday that the Department of Justice will no longer defend Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in court. Section 3 defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes. It has been challenged in court multiple times, and last July a federal judge ruled the provision unconstitutional. The DOJ appealed that ruling, but Holder announced yesterday that President Barack Obama

has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny.   The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional.   Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases.   I fully concur with the President’s determination.

Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit.   We will, however, remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation.   I have informed Members of Congress of this decision, so Members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option.   The Department will also work closely with the courts to ensure that Congress has a full and fair opportunity to participate in pending litigation.

I’ve posted Holder’s complete statement after the jump. It notes, “Much of the the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed DOMA.” While some conservative commentators were outraged by the announcement, it’s important to remember that the Obama administration hasn’t stopped enforcing the DOMA despite the president’s opinion of the law.

Linda Hirshman argues that Obama has laid a trap for Congressional Republicans, who will look foolish in federal court if and when they defend Section 3. I think she is way too optimistic that the federal appeals process will uphold last year’s district court opinion. Hirshman and I may find the legal arguments supporting the DOMA weak, but it would not surprise me to see a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the constitutionality of Section 3.

I was surprised to see so little Iowa reaction to Holder’s announcement. The outcome of this federal litigation will affect thousands of legally married Iowa same-sex spouses, who would be eligible for some federal benefits if the law is struck down. As far as I know, Senator Chuck Grassley is the only Iowan in Congress to issue a statement on yesterday’s news. He’s the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he criticized the Obama administration’s decision as “clearly based more on politics than the law.” He stopped short of promising to help with the DOMA legal defense, but presumably Congressional Republicans who are attorneys will handle that. I posted Grassley’s complete statement after the jump.

Republicans in the Iowa legislature continue to fight marriage equality. A constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman passed the Iowa House last month but will not reach the floor of the Iowa Senate. A short-lived legislative effort to legalize discrimination against married same-sex couples was backed by many Republicans and at least one Democrat, but House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rich Anderson tabled that bill before it received a subcommittee vote.

A new bill, House File 330, would prevent Iowa county recorders from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples “until such time as an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Iowa defining marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman is submitted to the electorate for ratification.” The same bill would block the Iowa Supreme Court from considering its constitutionality. There are some pretty big problems with that idea, though:

That outcome: Iowa families could appeal a recorder’s decision in trial courts but those decisions would not be able to be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

It would make the lower courts ruling final and it would also set up the likelihood that Iowa would have pockets of the state were the law was recognized and others were it was thrown out.

“I think the result is that you would have a hodgepodge of rulings across the state,” Bartrum said. “It would depend on whatever the local district judge thought because were would be no uniform appeal.”

FRIDAY UPDATE: According to Troy Price of One Iowa, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen has communicated by e-mail that House File 330 is going nowhere. KCRG reports,

Top Republicans on Thursday said they have no plans to debate the issue, viewing it a nod to the party’s social conservative wing. […]

Backers say introducing the measure is one more opportunity to voice their displeasure with how the marriage issue has been handled.

Republican Rep. Betty De Boef says the issue has been handled badly and that some lawmakers want to take every opportunity to make that point.

In related news, Maryland is likely to become the sixth state to grant full marriage rights to same-sex couples. A bill on marriage equality is advancing in the Maryland Senate and has substantial support in that state’s House of Delegates. Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Washington, DC has recognized same-sex marriages since December 2009. Some U.S. House Republicans are pushing a bill to reverse that policy. If a same-sex marriage ban for the nation’s capital cleared the House and the U.S. Senate, Obama would probably veto it given his decision to stop defending DOMA.

Hawaii’s new Democratic governor Neil Abercrombie signed a civil unions bill yesterday, bringing the number of states that recognize same-sex civil unions to seven. Republican Governor Linda Lingle vetoed a similar bill in Hawaii last year.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports,

Some opponents of same-sex marriage said the administration’s decision could end up helping to preserve the law in court.

“The previous efforts of the Obama administration and DOJ to defend the law were so inadequate as to raise the suspicion that the Justice Department was deliberately throwing the case,” said Robert George, a political science professor at Princeton University who opposes same-sex marriage. “Chances are the law will get a robust defense, and I suspect it will withstand constitutional scrutiny.” […]

In his letter to [House Speaker John] Boehner, Holder criticized portions of the congressional debate leading up to the law’s passage, saying they had undermined the prospects for defending the measure. “The record contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus that the Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against,” Holder wrote.

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Weekend open thread: Hot-button issues edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? Some news that caught my eye recently:

Tens of thousands of people in Wisconsin have protested against efforts by Republican Governor Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled legislature to impose big benefit cuts on public employees and curtail their collective bargaining rights. The 14 Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate left the state to deny Republicans a quorum for passing the anti-union bill. I’ve been following the day to day news on the Uppity Wisconsin blog.

Joel Northup, a wrestler for Linn-Mar high school, qualified for the state tournament but defaulted when his bracket paired him with Cassy Herkelman, a girl from Cedar Falls. Herkelman and Megan Black of Ottumwa made history this year by becoming the first girls to qualify for the Iowa high school state wrestling tournament.

Johnson County supervisors voted 5-0 on Thursday to ban firearms and dangerous weapons from buildings, lands and vehicles owned by the county. Some Republicans in the Iowa legislature are pushing a bill that would bar local governments from restricting guns in that manner.

State Senator Mark Chelgren’s stupid comments about Iowa’s voluntary preschool program for four-year-olds prompted Mr. desmoinesdem to look up information about pre-primary education in the Communist bloc. Contrary to Chelgren’s assertion that the Soviets started indoctrinating children early, when “they’re so malleable,” the USSR provided essentially day care rather than formal education for children under age 7.

The Internal Revenue Service declared this month that breast pumps are a tax-deductible expense, reversing a determination made last fall. A quality pump can cost hundreds of dollars. Pumping has its detractors but can be invaluable for working women who want to continue breastfeeding, or for women whose babies are unable to breastfeed.

Zach Wahls, whose testimony against the marriage amendment at an Iowa House public hearing went viral on YouTube, appeared on the Ellen show this week.

Governor Terry Branstad’s double-dipping (continuing to draw his $50,000 state pension while receiving a $130,000 salary as governor) made news in Iowa a few days ago. Branstad’s communications director, Tim Albrecht, said the governor “made a significant personal sacrifice” by resigning as president of Des Moines University. In that job he had received more than $350,000 per year.

One low-profile story that should be getting more attention is the wide-ranging spending cut bill under consideration in the House of Representatives. H.R. 1 would decimate funding for too many good programs to list in this post. For example, Iowa would lose $12 million in K-12 funding for various programs, $116 million in Pell grant funds, $1.4 million for vocational and adult education, $6.9 million for job training, $1 million for mental health and substance abuse treatment grants, $4.3 million for various low-income housing programs, $28 million in clean water-related funds, $28 million for Community Development Block Grants, and $1.3 million for justice assistance grants. Key transportation programs nationwide would also lose funding, including public transit and high-speed rail.

This is an open thread.

Open letter to Kim Pearson State Representative

(I hope not just Pearson, but other Iowa Republicans will read this letter. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Excerpt from the post.culture.shock blog

When I was in middle school, I earned spare money by babysitting for a lot of the neighborhood kids. One of the parents I was employed by was Kim Pearson, one of the sponsors of the bill in the Iowa House to amend the Constitution to ban not only gay marriage, but also civil unions and domestic partnerships. This is my letter to her. (edited somewhat with the recognition that this is now going to a lot of folks who don’t know me as well as Kim did, and who likely don’t care what I’ve been up to since I spent a summer taking care of her kids)

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Six Iowa Republicans who may live to regret marriage vote

After a crowded public hearing last night and about three hours of floor debate today, the Iowa House approved House Joint Resolution 6, a constitutional amendment that would ban all legal recognition for same-sex relationships in Iowa. All 59 Republicans present voted for the amendment, as did three House Democrats who represent rural districts: Kurt Swaim, Dan Muhlbauer and Brian Quirk. The bill now goes to the Iowa Senate, where Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has pledged to keep it from receiving a floor vote.

Many of the 37 House Democrats who voted no on the amendment took to the floor to speak out against the bill. You can read excerpts from their remarks here, here, here and here. (UPDATE: Several of the House Democrats’ speeches from the chamber are on YouTube as well.)

In contrast, only a few Republicans gave prepared remarks supporting the amendment, including lead sponsor Dwayne Alons (rarely afraid to say something ridiculous) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rich Anderson. Anderson justified the amendment as serving the state’s interest in promoting childbearing:

“We want to drive procreation into a stable relationship and procreation only happens between a male and a female. See a male and a female can do something that a homosexual couple cannot: They can create children accidently. That’s the issue. It’s not about love. It’s not about romance. It’s about driving state policy toward responsible procreation.”

The Iowa Supreme Court addressed and rejected that argument on pages 59 and 60 of the Varnum v Brien ruling. Anderson also raised the familiar “slippery slope” concern that legal same-sex marriage would lead to state recognition of incestuous and polygamous unions. No one’s tried to do that in the other four U.S. states that recognize same-sex marriages, or in Canada or any of the European countries that do the same.

Given how strongly the Republican base supports overturning same-sex marriage rights, I was surprised more Republicans weren’t eager to explain their votes on the House floor. Tea party favorites Kim Pearson and Glen Massie even declined to yield to a question from Democrat Nathan Willems on whether the equal protection clause applies to all Iowans. House Majority Whip Erik Helland “answered” Willems’ question, but in a non-responsive way.  

It got me wondering: deep down, are they not proud of what they’re doing? Perhaps some of them secretly agree with former Republican State Senator Jeff Angelo, who has changed his position on marriage equality and now views a constitutional amendment as “government intrusion in the lives of law-abiding citizens.” Rarely do legislators vote to change the constitution, and Iowa has never before approved an amendment to limit the rights of citizens. If House Republicans believe the public interest demands putting minority rights up for a majority vote, they owe us compelling arguments.

Politically, it was probably wise for House Republicans to keep quiet during today’s debate. Many must realize that they’re on the wrong side of history, as public opinion polls show increasing support for same-sex marriage rights. A “loud and proud” statement for the public record supporting this bill could be embarrassing 10 or 20 years from now.

Still, I wonder if voting for House Joint Resolution 6 will ever become a political liability for any of today’s Republican lawmakers. During the 1980s and 1990s, decades-old opposition to school desegregation or other policies of the civil rights era occasionally became a campaign issue. I remember many politicians apologizing for things they said or votes they took in the 1960s and 1970s. During the 2008 presidential race, Republican candidate John McCain felt compelled to admit he had been “wrong” to oppose a holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

After the jump I discuss a half-dozen members of the Iowa House Republican caucus who may one day wish they’d had the courage to be out in front accepting marriage equality.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

A busy week at the Iowa legislature kicks off Monday evening with what’s sure to be a packed Iowa House hearing on a constitutional amendment to ban legal recognition for same-sex relationships. Groups supporting conservation of Iowa’s natural resources have several rallies and lobby days planned during the next two weeks. Those and other event details are after the jump. Please post a comment or send me an e-mail if you know of an event that should be included on this calendar.

Yet another winter storm is heading for Iowa this week, but spring rains aren’t too far off. Gardeners and anyone who cares about conserving water and reducing runoff may be interested in a sale of rain barrels (all repurposed to keep waste out of landfills). Proceeds benefit the non-profit 1000 Friends of Iowa, specifically to “support the development of an educational exhibit which focuses on land use and water as it relates to run-off from non-porous surfaces as well as to bring attention to the many uses for collected rain water.” Those uses include watering gardens, washing cars and general housecleaning. Click here for more information about the rain barrels and here to order by February 11.

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Ten dishonest talking points on the marriage amendment in Iowa

A constitutional amendment to restrict marriage to couples of the opposite sex advanced on January 24 in both a subcommittee of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee and the full committee. House Joint Resolution 6 states, “Marriage between one man and one woman shall be the only legal union valid or recognized in this state.” Iowa Republicans have promised for months to approve a constitutional amendment overturning the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2009 decision striking down the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. This amendment goes further, barring any kind of legal union apart from marriage and therefore any legal recognition for same-sex relationships.  

After an emotionally charged subcommittee hearing with more than 200 observers present, Republicans Dwayne Alons and Chris Hagenow voted to advance the amendment, while Democrat Beth Wessel-Kroeschell voted no. Later in the day, the full House Judiciary Committee approved the bill on a 13 to 8 vote. Democrat Kurt Swaim joined all 12 Republicans in voting yes, while the other Democrats on the committee voted no. Click here for a list of House Judiciary Committee members.

Reading the news coverage of yesterday’s debate, I was struck by how many misleading talking points were used to justify denying rights and privileges to thousands of Iowans.  

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Iowa GOP would ban civil unions as well as same-sex marriage

Nearly the entire Iowa House Republican caucus is co-sponsoring House Joint Resolution 6, a constitutional amendment that would ban not only same-sex marriages, but also civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples in Iowa. The bill was introduced today, although the text of HJR 6 is not yet available on the legislature’s official website.

Fifty-six of the 60 Republicans in the Iowa House are listed as sponsors of the bill. No Democrats have signed onto the bill as a sponsor.

Rep. Dwayne Alons, R-Hull, is leading the resolution and said he offered it to all Republicans to sign as sponsors as well as some Democrats.   Democrats and the four Republicans declined to sign this version, he said.

The four Republicans who declined to sign are Reps Steve Lukan of New Vienna, Peter Cownie of West Des Moines, Scott Raecker of Urbandale and David Tjepkes of Gowrie.

Cownie told the Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth that he plans to vote for the bill on the House floor, and I assume Lukan, Raecker and Tjepkes will too.

Once upon a time, Republicans pretended they didn’t mean to write discrimination into the state constitution, they only wanted to protect a traditional definition of marriage. I’m “shocked, shocked” to learn that Republicans want not only to exclude some couples from civil marriage, but also to foreclose any legal recognition of or protection for same-sex relationships.

That position clearly does not reflect popular opinion in Iowa. Even before the Varnum v Brien ruling, a Hawkeye poll conducted in March 2009 found that 26 percent of Iowans supported same-sex marriage rights and another 28 percent supported civil unions, while just 37 percent opposed any legal recognition of same-sex relationships and 9 percent did not know. An Iowa poll this month by Public Policy Polling did not ask about civil unions but found that 41 percent of respondents supported same-sex marriage rights. In the same poll, 52 percent of respondents said same-sex marriage should not be legal, but presumably a significant portion of that group would back civil unions or some form of legal protection.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has said he will block any marriage amendment from coming to a vote in the upper chamber, so Iowa House approval is probably the end of the road for House Joint Resolution 6 this session. If the GOP wins an Iowa Senate majority in 2012, this kind of amendment would likely pass in 2013. Republicans would have to hold both chambers of the legislature and pass the bill again in 2015 or 2016 in order to get a marriage amendment on the November 2016 ballot. A simple majority of yes votes would be needed to approve the amendment.

One Iowa is urging supporters of marriage equality to contact their state representatives and senators immediately. It might be worth mentioning that New Hampshire Republicans, who control both chambers of the legislature, have decided not to try to repeal same-sex marriage rights this year. The GOP leader of the New Hampshire House, D.J. Bettencourt, has said “social issues must take a backseat” to legislation focused on jobs and the economy.

UPDATE: Alons showed the logical reasoning skills that make him one of Iowa’s most clueless legislators when speaking to the Des Moines Register yesterday:

“I think the biggest issue is that if that (a same-sex marriage ban) is carried forward, and then Iowa does civil unions and recognizes that as a substitute status, then, from what I’ve seen in other states,” people would come to consider same-sex civil unions as equal to marriage, Alons said.

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Justice Cady's state of the judiciary speech thread

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady addresses the Iowa legislature this morning in what will surely be the most-watched ever state of the judiciary speech. Iowa Public Television is carrying the live feed at 10 am, and I’ll liveblog after the jump. Cady is the senior justice remaining on the high court, having been appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in 1998. He is also the author of the 2009 Varnum v Brien ruling, which struck down Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act. That decision sparked a successful campaign against retaining Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices Michael Streit and David Baker in November. The four remaining justices chose Cady to serve as chief justice until replacements for Ternus, Streit and Baker have been appointed.

So far 61 people have applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court. The current list is here, but more applications may come in by the deadline (January 14). So far applicants include 10 women and 51 men from many different towns and cities of the state. Most are in their 40s or 50s. The few applicants in their 30s include both U.S. attorneys appointed by George W. Bush for Iowa (Matt Whitaker and Matt Dummermuth). One Republican state legislator, Iowa House Judiciary Committee Chair Rich Anderson, has applied as well. The Des Moines Register noted that one applicant, University of Iowa law professor Angela Onwuachi-Willig, submitted a brief in support of same-sex marriage when the Supreme Court was considering the Varnum v Brien case. Another applicant, Michael Keller, has praised that ruling, which allowed him to marry his partner.

State Court Administrator David Boyd told the Des Moines Register that “he was ‘very pleased, and maybe a little surprised’ with the quality and number of applicants, given the intense public scrutiny on the court since the election.” The state judicial nominating commission “welcomes written comments from the public about the qualifications of any of the applicants.” After interviewing the candidates, the judicial nominating commission will send a short list of nine names to Branstad, who will fill the three vacancies.

P.S. This week a report by the National Institute on Money in State Politics summarized the independent expenditures in last year’s retention campaign. Supporters of retaining Ternus, Streit and Baker were vastly outspent by groups seeking to oust the justices.

UPDATE: Liveblog starting now after the jump. Iowa Public TV will rebroadcast the speech at 9:30 pm on Wednesday.

THURSDAY UPDATE: House Judiciary Committee Chair Anderson seems to be closing the door on impeachment.

Rep. Rich Anderson, R-Clarinda, said he personally believes that the justices’ actions in issuing a ruling that in effect legalized same-sex marriage do not meet the standard for impeachment spelled out in the Iowa Constitution: “misdemeanor or malfeasance in office.” The court ruled that an Iowa law limiting marriage to a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

He said his gut reaction is that the yet-to-be-filed bill won’t make it out of his committee, one of the first steps in the legislative process.

“I don’t believe there’s any likelihood of impeachment,” Anderson said.

I’ve posted more reactions to Cady’s speech from state legislators below.  

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

This week is a big one in Iowa politics, with the state legislature’s 2011 session starting Monday and Terry Branstad’s inauguration for a fifth term as governor on Friday. Several non-profits are organizing members and supporters to lobby legislators as well. Event details are after the jump.

One of my new year’s resolutions is to post event calendars regularly at Bleeding Heartland. Activists and politicians can help by sending your event notices to me: desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com. Please post a comment if you know of something I’ve left out.

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Gronstal re-elected leader and other Iowa Senate news

The Iowa Senate Democratic caucus on November 14 re-elected Mike Gronstal as majority leader and Jack Kibbie as Senate president. Five senators will serve as assistant majority leaders: Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, Bill Dotzler of Waterloo, Wally Horn of Cedar Rapids, Amanda Ragan of Mason City, and Steve Sodders of State Center. Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson got Iowa Republicans excited on Saturday by tweeting that Horn would challenge Gronstal, but according to this Des Moines Register report by Jennifer Jacobs, “No one mounted a challenge for either leadership role, several senators said.”

More Iowa Senate news is after the jump.

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Is failure on gay marriage more valuable to Republicans than success?

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal promised this week to block an Iowa Senate vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, even if a majority of senators sign a petition asking for a vote. The Republican reaction to Gronstal’s comments makes me wonder whether gay marriage will be in the coming decade what the death penalty was to Iowa Republicans in the 1980s and 1990.

Reinstating the death penalty was a major theme in all of Terry Branstad’s previous election campaigns. But as governor he didn’t deploy his political capital to push that bill through the state legislature, even when Republicans controlled both chambers during his last two years in office. Many Iowa Democrats believed Branstad valued having the issue to run on more than he cared about the policy.

In light of Tuesday’s election results, Republicans sound surprisingly resigned to failure on passing a marriage amendment in the new legislature.

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Supreme Court justices pay price for upholding equality

The retention election results for Iowa Supreme Court justices were a particularly low point on a generally dismal night. Never before had Iowans failed to retain a Supreme Court justice. Thanks to one unpopular ruling, unofficial results show Chief Justice Marsha Ternus received 45.0 percent yes votes and 55.0 percent no votes. Justice David Baker received 45.75 percent yes and 54.25 percent no. Justice Michael Streit received 45.6 percent yes and 54.4 percent no. Ternus spent 17 years on the high court, four of them as chief justice. Streit served for nine years and Baker just two.

It was bad luck that so many justices came up for retention in the first year following the Varnum v Brien ruling. The Des Moines Register reported that only Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins is up for retention in 2012, and the other three current justices won’t face the voters until 2016. The last group includes Justice Mark Cady, who wrote the decision striking down Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act.

All lower-court Iowa judges appear to have been retained, including three who were targeted by some social conservatives. In Polk County, fifth circuit District Court Judge Robert Hanson received 66.34 percent yes votes, and District Court Judge Scott Rosenberg received 68.84 percent yes votes. Robocalls paid for by a conservative group urged Polk County residents to reject both judges. Hanson issued the lower-court ruling in Varnum v Brien in August 2007. Rosenberg signed a waiver allowing two men to marry after Hanson’s decision was announced, before an appeal put a stay on that decision.

In Sioux City, third circuit District Court Judge Jeffrey Neary received 58.5 percent yes votes. Conservatives tried and failed to oust him in 2004 and again this year, because in 2003 he granted a divorce to a lesbian couple who had a civil union from Vermont. At the time, Neary didn’t realize both parties seeking that divorce were women.

The judicial retention vote doesn’t affect same-sex couples’ marriage rights in Iowa. Voters rejected an initiative to call a constitutional convention, so the only way to overturn marriage equality would be to pass a constitutional amendment through the normal path. The new Republican majority in the Iowa House will approve a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal may or may not be able to keep that amendment from passing the Iowa Senate. If the legislature approves a marriage amendment in 2011 or 2012, a separately elected Iowa House and Senate would have to approve it again in 2013 or 2014 before it could appear on the 2014 general election ballot. At that point, the amendment would require a simple majority of yes votes statewide to be added to the Iowa Constitution.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

Judge rules part of federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional

In two cases that could affect married same-sex couples in Iowa, federal Judge Joseph Tauro ruled Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional today, Lisa Keen reported for Bay Windows. Regarding Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services,

Maura T. Healey, chief of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, told Judge Tauro that Section 3 of DOMA — the section that limits the definition of marriage for federal benefits to straight couples — violates the state’s right under the federal constitution to sovereign authority to define and regulate the marital status of its residents. Healey called DOMA an “animus-based national marriage law” that intrudes on core state authority and “forces the state to discriminate against its own citizens.”

Christopher Hall, representing HHS, said Congress should be able to control the meaning of terms, such as “marriage,” used in its own statutes, and should be able to control how federal money is allocated for federal benefits provided to persons based on their marital status. Tauro essentially replied that the government’s power is not unlimited.

The other case was Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD):

GLAD attorney Mary Bonauto told Tauro that DOMA constitutes a “classic equal protection” violation, by taking one class of married people in Massachusetts and dividing it into two. One class, she noted, gets federal benefits, the other does not. Just as the federal government cannot take the word “person” and say it means only Caucasians or only women, said Bonauto, it should not be able to take the word “marriage” and say it means only heterosexual couples. Bonauto said the government has no reason to withhold the more than 1,000 federal benefits of marriage from same-sex couples, and noted that a House Judiciary Committee report “explicitly stated the purpose of DOMA was to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.”

Keen notes that the plaintiffs in both cases asked the judge to apply a strict scrutiny standard, which “requires the government to come up with a fairly significant reason for treating gay couples differently under the law.” Judge Tauro found that Section 3 of DOMA fails even a “rational basis” standard, which is easier for the government to satisfy.

If today’s rulings are upheld by the First Circuit U.S. Appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court, hundreds of Iowa couples married since April 2009 may be able to receive federal benefits.

UPDATE: Andrew Cohen, CBS News Radio Chief Legal Analyst and Legal Editor, is going through the rulings. He notes Judge Tauro held that Congress has no interest in uniform definition of marriage rights and that the federal government should have left marriage policy to the states. In addition, the judge determined that “facts upon which DOMA was based [are] now obsolete or at least overshadowed by more recent science on same-sex marriage-childrearing.”

SECOND UPDATE: Speaking of marriage equality, NBC has opened up a wedding contest to same-sex couples. Initially only heterosexual couples were eligible to enter.

THIRD UPDATE: The Constitutional Law Prof blog summarized Judge Tauro’s legal reasoning and posted links to pdf files of both rulings.

FOURTH UPDATE: Adam Bink discusses the debate in LGBT circles on whether it would be better or worse for the U.S. Department of Justice to appeal this ruling.

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Kim Reynolds on the campaign trail

Republican gubernatorial nominee Terry Branstad announced last week that he would send his running mate, State Senator Kim Reynolds, to campaign in the 25 counties where Bob Vander Plaats received more votes than Branstad in last month’s primary. (You can download the official canvass by county here.) Branstad told reporters, “My plan is to send Kim Reynolds to every area where Bob Vander Plaats was strong so they get to see her and know her because I think to know her is to love her.”

Over the holiday weekend, Reynolds walked some of the state’s largest parades with Branstad in Urbandale and West Des Moines, but she also covered parades in Dallas County, where Vander Plaats almost matched Branstad’s vote, and in Humboldt and Jasper counties, where Vander Plaats racked up sizable margins on June 8.

Reynolds has made a point to meet with Vander Plaats supporters when visiting counties Branstad carried, such as Henry and Union. Reynolds’ political experience relates mostly to fiscal matters, and economic and budget issues are at the forefront in her stump speech, but she makes sure her activist audiences know that she’s “pro-life” and for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Yesterday Reynolds spoke to Republicans in Carroll, the only county carried by State Representative Rod Roberts in the GOP gubernatorial primary. After the event she told journalist Douglas Burns that she believes abortion is “equivalent to murder.” She then dodged several follow-up questions regarding what she views as an appropriate penalty for women who have abortions or doctors who perform them.

Interestingly, Reynolds told Burns that while she believes marriage should be for one man and one woman, she’s not necessarily against sother forms of legal recognition for same-sex couples:

“We could take a look at civil unions,” Reynolds said. “There are other options maybe that I would be in favor of looking at.”

She added, “They can do civil unions. I think they can get to some of the same place that they want to look at.”

I suspect that position is not popular with the social conservatives Reynolds is courting. A University of Iowa Hawkeye poll taken in the spring of 2009 found that about 37 percent of respondents statewide opposed any legal recognition for same-sex couples. Presumably that group includes the Republicans most energized against gay marriage.

Reynolds’ position might resonate with many moderates, because the same Hawkeye poll from 2009 indicated that about 28 percent of Iowans oppose gay marriage but support civil unions. (About 26 percent of respondents in that poll expressed support for same-sex marriage rights.) That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Branstad campaign walk back her comments on civil unions if they are widely reported. A few months ago, Branstad suggested that he was open to legal protections for gay couples as well as gay adoption. His campaign spokesman quickly backpedaled.

Share any thoughts about the governor’s race in this thread.

UPDATE: That didn’t take long. Conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart posted the Branstad campaign’s reaction to Reynolds’ comments on civil unions:

Sen. Reynolds’ position on civil unions mirrors that of Gov. Branstad’s. They do not favor state-sanctioned civil unions, but would not have the government step in to prevent private companies and entities from extending same-sex benefits if they so choose.

Vander Hart comments,

(Scratching my head)

That’s not what she said.  If she doesn’t favor state-sanctioned civil unions why would she say she is open to them?  There’s a disconnect there.

While on one hand I’m glad she believes that Iowans deserve to vote on the definition of marriage, when she said “the definition of marriage is between one man and one woman from a religious aspect” she failed to acknowledge that the definition of marriage has civil and not just religious implications.

She pretty much articulated what Governor Chet Culver believes in the matter, or at least says he believes regarding the definition of marriage.

SECOND UPDATE: Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican blog sees the Branstad/Reynolds campaign as unprepared to deal with social issues:

The clarification offered by the Branstad campaign does little to clean up the situation.  The question that Reynolds was asked had nothing to do with private companies that provide benefits to same sex couples. The question that she was asked was about the impact that gay marriages have had on Iowa, and her position on the matter.  She is the one who brought up the term “civil unions.”

When TheIowaRepublican.com reminded the Branstad campaign about Reynolds’ exact statement, a spokesman responded by saying, “Kim used the reporter’s phrase to describe what she was referring to, which is the ability of private entities to offer partnership benefits.  She does not support state-sanctioned civil unions.”

Reynolds’ answer and the Branstad campaign’s attempt to clarify the matter raise a number of questions about their understanding of the marriage issue in Iowa and the campaign’s ability to properly prepare Reynolds for the number of questions that she will face while on the campaign trail.

This is the second time since the June 8th primary that the Branstad campaign has stubbed its toe on social issues.  The first came when Planned Parenthood endorsed Governor Culver and the Branstad campaign failed to offer any comment to KCCI, central Iowa’s highest rated TV news station.

THIRD UPDATE: Jason Hancock reviews more Iowa conservative reaction to Reynolds’ comments.  

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Branstad sticking with Doug Gross playbook

Terry Branstad made it official this morning, picking State Senator Kim Reynolds to be the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. Reynolds is a former Clarke County treasurer and past president of the Iowa county treasurer’s association who was elected in 2008 to represent Senate district 48 in southern Iowa. The Des Moines Register’s Tom Beaumont published more background on Reynolds here. His piece depicts her as “solid on core GOP issues” and “focused on economic development.”

Looks like Branstad has picked precisely the kind of candidate his former chief of staff Doug Gross would want on the Republican ticket.

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Weekend open thread: Best places for families edition

This week Forbes released its 2010 list of “America’s Best Places to Raise a Family,” and the Des Moines/West Des Moines metro area ranked number one. Methodology:

To find the cities where families fare best, we ranked America’s 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas in seven categories. Using numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sperling’s Best Places and Moody’s Economy.com, we looked at the cost of living, prevalence of home ownership, median household income, housing costs, commute time, crime and the percentage of young adults that graduate high school.

The Des Moines metro topped the list because, “Its young population is more likely to graduate high school than in other cities, and life for most families is safe and affordable. Short average commute times save working parents precious minutes to spend with their families.”

Click here to view the rest of the Forbes report. I was surprised to see that six mid-sized cities on the east coast made the top 10 list.

Speaking of surprises, you may enjoy this One Iowa story about two men who decided to get married in Pella, where they live. Even in that famously conservative small town, they have found growing acceptance of their relationship and marriage.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend?

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More good news for marriage equality in Iowa

The result was overshadowed by other competitive races, but Democratic voters in Iowa House district 66 produced a big victory for marriage equality yesterday. Elder Clair Rudison, a socially conservative pastor, challenged two-term State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad. Rudison sent out at least five direct-mail pieces attacking Ako’s record, two of which mentioned gay marriage (I posted those here).

Most Iowa politics-watchers were confident Ako would win this primary, but in a low-turnout environment anything can happen, so I was relieved to see Ako won 75 percent of the vote yesterday. The result is important because the only Iowa House Democrat who has consistently worked with Republicans to bring a constitutional amendment on marriage to a vote is retiring this year. If Rudison had won the primary, Republicans would be able to continue to claim bipartisan support for their battle against equality and reproductive rights.

One Iowa released a statment on the House district 66 results. Excerpt:

Voters rejected the negative and divisive tactics he and the Iowa Family Policy Center used to try to smear his opponent. “We congratulate Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad on his decisive victory and welcome his continued leadership at the statehouse,” said Jenison.

Chuck Hurley and his followers at the Iowa Family Policy Center recruited Clair Rudison to run against long-time community activist and current state representative Ako Abdul-Samad in the Democratic primary simply because Abdul-Samad supports marriage equality for all Iowans.

“For more than a year, the Iowa Family Policy Center said repeatedly that the legislative elections in 2010 will be about one thing: gay marriage,” said One Iowa Executive Director Carolyn Jenison. “Tonight’s results prove them wrong. Iowans are not interested in writing discrimination into our constitution. They are concerned with creating jobs, improving our schools, and moving our state forward.”

The recent Research 2000 Iowa poll for KCCI-TV should be a warning to Republicans who think bashing gay marriage will be their winning ticket in November. About 53 percent of respondents said they favored marriage rights for same-sex couples, while only 41 percent opposed them. KCCI’s managing editor for internet broadcasting provided the cross-tabs for that part of the poll. They indicate that support for equality is stronger among women (57-36) than among men (49-46). The KCCI poll showed independents supporting same-sex marriage rights by 58-31, closer to the Democratic numbers of 81-17 than to the Republican respondents, who oppose marriage equality by 83-14.

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Attack mailers target Ako in Iowa House district 66

A critical Democratic primary contest is taking place in House district 66, where Clair Rudison is challenging two-term State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad. I discussed this race here. A Bleeding Heartland reader who lives in the district sent me images of direct-mail pieces Rudison’s campaign has sent out during the last week or so. I’ve posted the images after the jump. One says marriage is a “building block of our community,” noting that Clair Rudison wants to “let the people vote” while Ako Abdul-Samad “has consistently voted against allowing the Iowa House to bring this matter to the people.” Another points out that Ako voted for increasing vehicle registration fees. A third says Ako voted for creating the Iowa Film Office and therefore “opened the door for your tax money to be stolen by Hollywood producers.” The fourth piece draws a contrast between Ako and Rudison on all of the above issues (Iowa Film Office, vehicle fee increases, and allowing Iowans to vote on marriage).

Rudison implies that “a majority of Iowans” oppose Ako’s stance on marriage equality, but the latest KCCI poll suggests a majority favor same-sex marriage rights. House district 66 contains some of the most gay-friendly neighborhoods in Des Moines (Drake area, Sherman Hill, “East Village”), so it’s far-fetched to portray Ako as out of step with his constituents.

Rudison unfairly alleges on one mailer, “Instead of tax dollars being spent to fight crime, improve education or increase access to health care, Ako gave our money to Hollywood.” During Ako’s two terms in the Iowa House, Democrats have allocated lots of money to fighting crime, improving education and expanding access to health care, especially for children. I’m no fan of the film tax credit, but the money we wasted on that program didn’t stop Democrats from expanding children’s health care and voluntary preschool for four- and five-year-olds. I was amused to read that Rudison claims to have “opposed creation of the Film Office.” Is there a public record of that? Only one member of the Iowa House and two members of the Iowa Senate voted against creating the film tax credit. Rudison was a pastor in Fort Dodge at the time.

In an overview of this race at Iowa Independent, Jason Hancock noted that Rudison “has focused his campaign on issues like education and the state budget, pointing to the Forrest Avenue Library’s decision to close on Fridays and Saturdays due to budget cuts […].” Although Rudison hasn’t said much about gay marriage, the Iowa Family PAC (which is connected to the Iowa Family Policy Center) is supporting his campaign. Activists on the religious right have reason to support Rudison because no Republican has a prayer of winning House district 66. In addition, the only House Democrat who has consistently voted with Republicans on marriage issues (Dolores Mertz) is retiring. House Republicans would love to have Rudison join the Democratic caucus so they can continue to claim bipartisan support for their efforts to bring a constitutional amendment on marriage to a vote.

Ed Fallon represented House district 66 for 14 years and knows the area well. I share his assessment that Ako “should win this [primary] easily, but he’s not taking anything for granted, which is smart.” Ako has strong roots in the community, and he won a seat on the Des Moines School Board before running for the state legislature. He’s been making lots of voter contacts and has the endorsement of AFSCME. One Iowa’s political action committee, the Fairness Fund, has an organizer working in the district too. However, Rudison has been campaigning actively, and I don’t doubt there are many voters upset about budget cuts affecting their families, schools and local library. If you or any of your Democratic friends live in this district, please do what you can to get out the vote for Ako on Tuesday.

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New Register poll sees Branstad cruising in GOP primary

About 57 percent of likely Iowa Republican primary voters support Terry Branstad, according to a new poll by Selzer and Co. for The Des Moines Register. Just 29 percent plan to vote for Bob Vander Plaats, and 8 percent plan to vote for Rod Roberts. The Des Moines Register poll surveyed 1,793 Iowans at least 18 years old, and the sub-sample of Republican primary voters included 501 people. (That included independents who said they planned to vote in the GOP primary; Iowa allows people to change their party registration on primary election day.) The poll was in the field from June 1 through June 3, and results for the likely Republican voters have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

Two other recent Iowa polls by Public Policy Polling and Research 2000 for KCCI have found Branstad comfortably ahead of Vander Plaats and Roberts but below 50 percent. In the 2002 Republican primary, Vander Plaats did much better than his final poll numbers, but he benefited that year from a highly negative campaign between Steve Sukup and Doug Gross.

This primary might have played out differently had Vander Plaats had more resources to make his case. About 34 percent of likely Republican primary voters weren’t sure whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Vander Plaats, and 60 percent said the same about Roberts. Branstad not only is much better known, he also scored highest on attributes like “best ideas for bringing new jobs to Iowa” and “best able to curb government spending” (which is laughable when you consider Branstad’s record on fiscal issues).

I will never understand why the Club for Growth and other national right-wing organizations decided not to get involved in the Iowa governor’s race. Given the way the national conservative movement pushed Marco Rubio against Florida Governor Charlie Crist, you’d think they would have some issues with Branstad (who received a “D” grade from the Cato Institute when he was governor).

Selzer’s poll for the Des Moines Register also asked likely Republican primary voters several questions about gay marriage. While 77 percent of them agreed that “Iowans should have a chance to vote on changing the constitution to specifically ban gay marriage,” I was surprised to see that 20 percent of likely Republican voters disagreed with that statement.

Meanwhile, only 50 percent of likely GOP primary voters agreed that “Iowans should vote to remove current Supreme Court justices from their office because of their decision on gay marriage.” An amazing (to me) 45 percent disagreed with that statement. Regarding the statement, “Some Iowans have overreacted to this issue, and having gay marriage in Iowa is just not that big a deal,” 35 percent of likely Republican primary voters agreed, while 62 percent disagreed.

Share any thoughts about the Des Moines Register’s poll in this thread.

Poll shows majority of Iowans favor marriage equality

Research 2000’s latest Iowa poll for KCCI-TV contains good news for supporters of marriage equality. The survey asked, “Now that more than a year has gone by since the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, do you favor or oppose marriage rights for same-sex couples?” 53 percent respondents said they favor those rights, 41 percent opposed them and 6 percent were unsure.

I haven’t seen the full poll results, showing support for same-sex marriage rights among men, women, Democrats, Republicans and independents. I will update this post with a link to the cross-tabs when I find them. Bryan English of the Iowa Family Policy Center told KCCI he didn’t think the poll was representative of Iowans’ views, but several other statewide polls have shown that the majority of Iowans are not eager to overturn marriage equality. As time passes, public acceptance should increase if the experience of Vermont and Massachusetts are guides.

The KCCI poll also found that 62 percent of respondents support legalizing medical marijuana in Iowa, 33 percent oppose doing so and 5 percent are unsure.

Getting back to the same-sex marriage issue, I give huge credit to the Libertarian candidate for Iowa governor, Eric Cooper. On Thursday he made the case for tolerance while speaking to the Ames Conservative Breakfast Club.

Here’s my rough transcript of the first part of this clip:

You know who the Pilgrims were? The Pilgrims were a group of people in England, and everybody in England hated their guts. And you know what they did? They came to America to live here. And the reason–they came here because we were the land of the free. We started the land of the free. That is, even if everyone in surrounding society hates your guts, in America as long as you’re not hurting other people and their property, you can live the way that you want, as long as you’re being peaceful.

To me, that’s the most American story there is. If you’re a peaceful person who’s not hurting other people, you get to live your life according to your cultural traditions. OK, well, guess what? There are some homosexuals in America today, and to me, they’re the Pilgrims, ok? Surrounding society doesn’t like ’em very much, but you know what? What America is, is you get to live the way that you want to live. And if their cultural tradition is that they can get married, I think that’s America, to allow them to follow that cultural tradition. No, I don’t think that’s [unintelligible] surrounding society as a whole, and I think if we’re gonna restrict that, we’re not America anymore, we’re England, ok? And we’re better than England, we’re America.

Now people say, “Well shouldn’t we be allowed to vote on marriage and what marriage means in the state of Iowa?” Well, yeah, legally, there are mechanisms by which a sufficiently large supermajority can persecute any minority they want. Yes, legally, we could all vote to persecute the Pilgrims if we wanted to and yeah, legally, we could all vote to say, you know, gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry if we want to. But that’s not America anymore, ok?

Cooper’s a bit off on the history. The Pilgrims were far from laid-back and accepting of other people’s traditions. In fact, “New England Puritans, long viewed as a persecuted group in England, were the least tolerant of other faiths.” But I cut Cooper slack. He’s a neuroscientist, not a historian, and what he did took guts.

You’d expect a Libertarian addressing a Republican group to focus on likely areas of agreement: reducing taxes and the size of government. Instead of just preaching to the choir, Cooper challenged his audience to think about a charged issue differently. He had to know that most people at that breakfast club oppose what the Iowa Supreme Court did.

Post any thoughts on same-sex marriage in Iowa in this thread. The Des Moines Register reports that Iowa’s leading gay wedding planner may star in a television “docu-reality series” about his work. Beau Fodor created Gay Weddings With Panache soon after the Varnum v Brien decision was announced last year.

UPDATE: On Sunday the Des Moines Register published results from a Selzer and Co. Iowa poll of 501 likely Iowa Republican primary voters, which was in the field from June 1 through June 3. The survey included several questions about gay marriage. About 77 percent of likely GOP primary voters agreed that “Iowans should have a chance to vote on changing the constitution to specifically ban gay marriage,” but 20 percent disagreed with that statement. Meanwhile, only 50 percent of likely GOP primary voters agreed that “Iowans should vote to remove current Supreme Court justices from their office because of their decision on gay marriage.” About 45 percent disagreed with that statement. Regarding the statement, “Some Iowans have overreacted to this issue, and having gay marriage in Iowa is just not that big a deal,” 35 percent of likely Republican primary voters agreed, while 62 percent disagreed. I find those numbers encouraging.

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Culver with Biden in Cedar Rapids thread

Vice President Joe Biden headlines Governor Chet Culver’s re-election rally today in Cedar Rapids. If you are watching in person or online, please share your impressions in this thread. I will update the post later with more coverage of the event. Adam Sullivan is live-tweeting for Iowa Independent.

Yesterday the governor kicked off his campaign at Hoover High School in Des Moines, followed by stops in Ames, Marshalltown and Waterloo. Kathie Obradovich felt Culver’s speech “salvaged” the otherwise low-energy event in Des Moines. After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from Culver’s remarks, which his campaign released. He frames the race as a choice of going backwards “to policies that created this recession” or forward to continue the investments his administration has begun. Culver outlined some goals for the next five years, such as completing rebuilding efforts from the 2008 floods, “making quality pre-school available to every Iowa child whose parents want to take advantage of it,” pursuing stem cell research in Iowa, and “increasing the percentage of our energy production coming from alternative sources from 20% to at least 30%.” Culver chided Republicans who “just say no,” think corporate tax cuts are the answer for every problem and “continue to preach the failed doctrine of trickle down economics.”

In addition to the excerpts you’ll find below, the governor spoke up for protecting a woman’s right to make her own health-care decisions and against writing discrimination into the Iowa constitution. Later in Marshalltown, Culver noted that discrimination is “not the Iowa way […] We’ve always been at the front when it’s come to civil rights.”

Any comments about the governor’s race are welcome in this thread. Speaking of Republicans who want to take us backwards, Terry Branstad’s campaign started running a new ad today, which portrays the former governor as “the change we need now.” I’ll have more to say about Branstad’s campaign message in a different post, but for now I wonder whether he will get away with repeating his lie about Iowa running a “billion-dollar deficit.”

UPDATE: Um, what the heck? Someone get the governor a driver who won’t try to chase another driver down for a stupid reason.

John Deeth liveblogged the Biden event here. Kathie Obradovich tweeted here. Key points of Biden’s message: he’s known Chet Culver since he was seven years old and knows he has “the gumption to handle the job at this time.” Also, with Culver in charge “Iowa is better off than almost every other state in the nation … Iowa is still moving forward.” Biden praised Culver for being ahead of the curve in establishing the Power Fund in 2007:

“Government is not the answer but it can prime the pump and encourage the private sector.”

“45 out of [50] governors, Democrat and Republican, are sitting on their hands. Because of Chet’s leadership Iowa is better prepared.” […]

“What are Republicans FOR? Not a joke. Tell me one affirmative thing the Republican Party is for.”

Good question, Mr. Vice President. Biden also noted that the stimulus bill brought $3.3 billion to Iowa, and said Culver had used $4 billion in federal and state flood recovery money well. Biden said Iowa is on the upswing and has an unemployment rate well below the national average, which is “no accident, it’s because of Governor Chet Culver.”

SECOND UPDATE: Todd Dorman found Biden’s praise for Culver a bit over-the-top. Tom Beaumont’s story for the Des Moines Register is here. Kay Henderson’s liveblog for Radio Iowa is here. She’s captured more quotes from the vice president.

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Iowa Department of Public Health having trouble with marriage equality

When some Republicans tried to convince county recorders not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples last April, Iowa Department of Public Health officials made clear that ignoring the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien ruling was not an option. Unfortunately, the IDPH has determined that marriage equality does not require equal treatment for married gay couples who become parents. Now IDPH Director Tom Newton has foolishly decided to fight a lawsuit brought by a married lesbian couple seeking to have the non-birthing spouse listed on their child’s birth certificate. Heather and Melissa Gartner sued senior IDPH officials on behalf of their daughter this week, having tried and failed to resolve the matter through administrative channels.

Based on advice from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, the IDPH contends that the non-birthing spouse must complete the adoption process in order to be listed as the second parent on a child’s birth certificate, even if the child was born after the parents were legally married. I’m a big fan of Attorney General Tom Miller, but his office blew it on this one.  

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One simple question, three non-answers on marriage

Everyone who moderates a debate this year could learn from the journalists who guided the May 1 Iowa Republican gubernatorial candidates’ debate: Todd Dorman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Paul Yeager of Iowa Public Television, and Jeneane Beck of Iowa Public Radio. Too many journalists ask long-winded questions that are easy to evade, or ask about hot topics of no lasting importance, or ask about policies outside the scope of the office the candidates are seeking.

In contrast, almost every question the panelists asked during Saturday’s debate was direct and addressed an issue the next governor of Iowa will face. Here are a few examples:

“Can you name one service government provides today that it should stop providing in the interest of saving the budget?”

“If elected, will you continue to support the Iowa Values Fund, the business grant and loan program created during the Vilsack administration, and also the renewable energy grant program established by Governor Culver known as the Iowa Power Fund?”

“Is there a role that government should play in limiting premium increases by Iowa insurance companies?”

“Do you believe that obesity is a problem that should be addressed through government action such as limiting unhealthy ingredients in food?”

Mind you, asking a direct, unambiguous question doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a straight answer from a politician. Look what happened when Dorman asked the Republicans, “Can you identify one tangible way Iowa has been harmed during a full year of legal same-sex marriage?”

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Marriage equality anniversary thread

One year ago today, the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien ruling went into effect. From April 27, 2009 through the end of last year, at least 1,783 same-sex couples received marriage licenses in Iowa. The real number is probably higher, because about 900 marriage licenses did not specify the gender of the couple involved. Despite a petition drive led by some Iowa Republicans and the Iowa Family Policy Center, not a single county recorder denied a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

Although all three Republican candidates for governor say they want to overturn the Varnum v Brien ruling, marriage equality is probably here to stay. Conservative groups are not urging voters to pass a ballot initiative calling for a constitutional convention, which would be the quickest path to amend the Iowa constitution. Bob Vander Plaats probably won’t win the Republican nomination for governor, much less the November election, and even if he did, his plan to halt gay marriage by executive order is a non-starter.

That leaves the self-styled defenders of traditional marriage one path: approving an amendment restricting marriage rights in two separately elected Iowa legislatures, then convincing a majority of Iowans to vote for that amendment (in November 2014 at the earliest).

Republicans have an outside shot at winning a majority in the Iowa House in 2010, but they have virtually no chance of taking back the Iowa Senate this year. Democrats currently hold a 32-18 majority in the upper chamber. A net gain of four or five seats is the best-case scenario for the GOP, and I consider a net gain of two or three seats much more likely. That leaves Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal in a position to block all efforts to bring a constitutional amendment on marriage to a floor vote during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions.

Gubernatorial candidate Rod Roberts claims he could force Democrats to allow a marriage vote. His plan is to veto all legislation, including the state budget, until the Iowa House and Senate have voted on a marriage amendment. I doubt a Republican could win that game of chicken even if Governor Chet Culver is defeated this November. Polling indicates that most Iowans are not eager to ban gay marriage and think the state legislature has more important things to do. Anyway, the most likely Republican nominee, Terry Branstad, has an incoherent position on gay marriage and probably would make only a token effort to get a constitutional amendment passed.

Share any thoughts about same-sex marriage in Iowa in this thread.

Speaking of civil rights, some reports indicate that the House of Representatives will vote this year to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which has ended far too many military careers. Click here to read a moving open letter to President Obama from an Air Force major who was discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Varnum v Brien anniversary thread and linkfest

One year ago today, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that our state’s Defense of Marriage Act violated the equal protection provision of the Iowa Constitution. From the day that ruling went into effect through the end of 2009, at least 1,783 same-sex couples received marriage licenses in Iowa. The real number is probably higher, because about 900 marriage licenses did not specify the gender of the couple involved.

Follow me after the jump for a review of news about marriage equality in Iowa, stories featuring happy couples, and thoughts about the future politics of this issue.  

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Iowa Republicans, make up your minds about "activist judges"

Next week will mark the first anniversary of the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum v Brien. Seven justices unanimously concluded that the section of the Iowa Code enacted through our state’s Defense of Marriage Act violates the equal protection provision of the Iowa Constitution. Since the day that decision was announced, many Iowa Republicans have called for overturning the court’s ruling. Some have denied that county recorders were obliged to implement the ruling, or insisted that government officials may ignore a court’s opinion about the constitutionality of a law. Others have called on Iowans to vote against retaining justices who supposedly overreached their authority. For example, gubernatorial candidate Rod Roberts said last November,

“We need to send a message to the Iowa Supreme Court that they are accountable to the people of Iowa,” said Roberts, who has made restoring the role of the people in state government a centerpiece of his campaign. “The problem with judicial activism is that it thwarts the will of the legislature and of the people of Iowa.”

Now that Congress has approved a health insurance reform bill Republicans don’t like, some GOP politicians have decided judicial activism isn’t so bad after all. Gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats pledged to “invoke the Constitution’s 10th Amendment to protect Iowans from new federal mandates” on health care. Rod Roberts followed Vander Plaats’ lead:

Roberts said that if the federal government passes a nationalized health care plan that conflicts with the Roberts Amendment, as governor he will file a lawsuit in federal court against President Obama to have the plan struck down as a violation of Iowans’ Tenth Amendment rights. The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that powers not delegated to the federal government (such as the regulation of health insurance) are reserved for the states.

Gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad also supported the idea of using the courts to nullify the will of Congress: “Given the massive scope and effect of this [health insurance reform] bill, it is likely that various provisions will be challenged in the courts. Those challenges are both timely and appropriate.”

Any constitutional lawyer can tell you that the U.S. Supreme Court has long affirmed the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. Law professor Mark Hall explains in detail here why constitutional arguments against an individual mandate to purchase health insurance are wrong. As for the broader 10th amendment claim that the constitution doesn’t empower the federal government to regulate health insurance, Hall notes, “Congress has ample power and precedent through the Constitution’s ‘Commerce Clause’ to regulate just about any aspect of the national economy.”

Conservative legal scholar Eugene Volokh likewise does not find the constitutional arguments against health insurance reform convincing:

While I agree that the recent commerce clause cases hold that Congress may not regulate noneconomic activity, as such, they also state that Congress may reach otherwise unregulable conduct as part of an overarching regulatory scheme, where the regulation of such conduct is necessary and proper to the success of such scheme. In this case, the overall scheme would involve the regulation of “commerce” as the Supreme Court has defined it for several decades, as it would involve the regulation of health care markets. And the success of such a regulatory scheme would depend upon requiring all to participate. (Among other things, if health care reform requires insurers to issue insurance to all comers, and prohibits refusals for pre-existing conditions, then a mandate is necessary to prevent opportunistic behavior by individuals who simply wait to purchase insurance until they get sick.)

The U.S. Supreme Court could overrule the will of Congress on health insurance reform only by reversing several decades of precedent about the definition of commerce. That’s textbook “judicial activism,” but it’s ok with some Iowa Republicans if it achieves the political end they are seeking.

By the way, Vander Plaats claims that as governor, he could issue an executive order halting same-sex marriages in Iowa. I wonder if he also thinks President Barack Obama could issue an executive order overturning a possible Supreme Court ruling against health insurance reform.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum considers prospects for a lawsuit challenging the individual mandate to buy health insurance. He makes the same point about Congressional authority to regulate interstate commerce and adds,

What’s more, the penalties for not buying insurance are tax penalties, and if anything, Congress has even wider scope in the tax area than in the commerce area. The Supreme Court has frequently ruled that Congress can pass tax laws that essentially force people to do things that Congress doesn’t have the direct power to require.

[…]here’s the thing: if the Supreme Court decided to overturn decades of precedent and strike down the mandate even though Kevin Drum says they shouldn’t (hard to imagine, I know), the insurance industry will go ballistic. If they’re required to cover all comers, even those with expensive pre-existing conditions, then they have to have a mandate in order to get all the healthy people into the insurance pool too. So they would argue very persuasively that unless Congress figures out a fix, they’ll drive private insurers out of business in short order. And that, in turn, will almost certainly be enough incentive for both Democrats and Republicans to find a way to enforce a mandate by other means. If necessary, there are ways to rewrite the rules so that people aren’t literally required to get insurance, but are incentivized so strongly that nearly everyone will do it. As an example, Congress might pass a law making state Medicaid funding dependent on states passing laws requiring residents to buy insurance. Dependent funding is something Congress does routinely, and states don’t have any constitutional issues when it comes to requiring residents to buy insurance. They all do it with auto insurance and Massachusetts does it with health insurance.

Like Drum, I view these proposed legal challenges as Republican posturing rather than a serious threat to nullify the law Obama signed this morning.

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Rematch coming in Iowa House district 90

Jefferson County supervisor Stephen Burgmeier filed yesterday to be the Republican candidate in Iowa House district 90, setting up a rematch with Democrat Curt Hanson. The district covers all of Van Buren County, most of Jefferson County (including Fairfield) and a small portion of Wapello County (map here).

Last summer Hanson narrowly defeated Burgmeier in a special election, even though Iowa-based conservative interest groups went all-in for Burgmeier and the National Organization for Marriage spent nearly $90,000 on advertising to support him.

Notably, Hanson built up a strong advantage in early voting and beat Burgmeier in Jefferson County by about 600 votes. In addition, two social conservatives ran as third-party candidates, and the 282 combined votes they received was greater than Hanson’s 127-vote margin over Burgmeier. The spoiler candidates were unhappy that Burgmeier didn’t talk much about abortion and gay marriage during the campaign.

Iowa Republicans tried to put a good face on the special election result, but the outcome was disappointing for them on several levels.

House district 90 is likely to be one of the most competitive races in the state. If you living within striking distance of the area, please consider volunteering for Hanson’s campaign this summer and fall. That said, I like Hanson’s chances of holding the seat this November. Burgmeier couldn’t win a low-turnout special election during a severe recession when the GOP base was all fired up about the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage. Despite having been elected three times as a supervisor, Burgmeier lost his own county by a sizable margin.

This week Hanson, a retired driving instructor, co-chaired a conference committee to resolve differences between the Iowa House and Senate bills to restrict texting while driving.

Caution: Now entering a fact- and logic-free zone

I’ve heard some strange arguments against marriage equality, but the latest from Iowa Family Policy Center President Chuck Hurley is a doozy. Reacting to a new report on HIV and syphilis rates among gay and bisexual men, Hurley asserted,

“The Iowa Legislature outlawed smoking [in some public places] in an effort to improve health and reduce the medical costs that are often passed on to the state,” Hurley said. “The secondhand impacts of certain homosexual acts are arguably more destructive, and potentially more costly to society than smoking.” […]

“Iowa lawmakers need to pay attention to hard facts and not be persuaded by emotion laden half-truths,” he said. “Because of their unwillingness to correct the error of last April’s Iowa Supreme Court opinion, the Iowa Legislature is responsible for sanctioning activities that will lead to dramatically higher rates of HIV and syphilis in Iowa.”

Where to begin? Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and various respiratory ailments, causing an estimated 438,000 preventable deaths every year nationwide. In Iowa, smoking directly causes an estimated 4,400 deaths each year, and secondhand smoke claims another 440 lives. Smoking causes about $1 billion in health care costs every year in Iowa, of which about $301 million is covered by Medicaid.

AIDS is a serious health threat in the U.S., but not on the same scale as smoking. AIDS has caused fewer than 20,000 deaths nationwide per year in the past decade. The total number of AIDS deaths in this country since the epidemic began is estimated at just under 600,000. I was unable to find statistics showing how many Iowans have died of AIDS, but according to this report for the Iowa Department of Public Health, 114 Iowans were diagnosed with HIV in 2005, and 79 Iowans were diagnosed with AIDS the same year. The numbers may have increased somewhat since then, but AIDS is nowhere near as “destructive” and “costly” to Iowans as smoking. Iowa’s syphilis rate is far below the national average, and none of the states with the highest syphilis rates permit same-sex marriages. If Iowa legislators want to influence the syphilis rate, they should focus on providing adequate funding levels for STD testing and ensuring that young people have access to medically accurate sex education.

Hurley’s argument is not only fact-free, but also illogical on several levels. He seems to think that allowing same-gender couples to get married is going to encourage many more Iowans to experiment with gay sex. Do you know anyone who decided to become gay because they knew they’d be able to get married? Has homosexual activity diminished in New York and New Jersey since those states’ legislatures declined to legalize same-sex marriage? Did California’s Proposition 8 reduce the number of gays and lesbians having sex there?

If Hurley is worried about promiscuity and sexually-transmitted diseases, he should be happy to see gay couples settle down and get married.

Contrary to the strange fantasies of the Iowa Family Policy Center crowd, the Iowa Supreme Court didn’t make the sky fall last April. Fortunately, most Iowans understand that our state legislators have more important things to do than overturn same-sex marriage rights. They also sense that giving legal recognition to the relationships of committed same-sex couples does no harm to other people. More than 90 percent of respondents in a statewide poll conducted last September said gay marriage had caused “no real change” in their lives.

Hurley’s position on gay marriage is more coherent than, say, Terry Branstad’s, but it’s also more detached from reality. Maybe his latest comments aren’t the worst argument ever against gay marriage, but they are certainly a contender.

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Many happy couples, one unhappy Steve King

Congratulations to the same-sex couples who received marriage licenses in Washington, DC today, the first day same-sex marriage became legal in the capital. The city council had approved same-sex marriage rights last fall, but “because Washington is a federal district, the law had to undergo a congressional review period that expired Tuesday.” The weddings will begin on March 9 because of a mandatory waiting period.

One person who wasn’t celebrating today was Representative Steve King. He complained yesterday that Republican leaders in Congress didn’t push “hard enough” to overturn the D.C. city council’s decision on marriage equality.

Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), have introduced a resolution in Congress to overturn the city council’s ruling, which Congress can do because Washington is a federal district, and not a state.

King took Democrats to task, also, for not allowing a vote on that measure.

“There’s a certain level of understanding that this pro-same sex marriage agenda is a Pelosi agenda; it’s a leftist, liberal agenda,” King said. “There are a lot of items we need to be fighting, and this is a big one.”

Look on the bright side, congressman. Maybe Iowa will become less of a gay marriage “Mecca” now that same-sex couples can get married in DC (as well as Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire).

Seriously, I find it encouraging that Democratic leaders in Congress didn’t feel political pressure to overturn DC’s decision on marriage equality. This issue is losing its potency for the Republicans, and their House and Senate leaders seem to recognize that, even if Steve King doesn’t.

Although King has little sympathy for gays and lesbians who want the same civil marriage rights he enjoys, he did find in in his heart last week to stand up for Washington lobbyists:

[Y]es lobbyists do a very effective and useful job on this Hill. […] Somebody needs to stand up for the lobby, it is a matter of providing a lot of valuable information.

Click over to Think Progress for a more detailed transcript and video of that moment.

This thread is for any comments related to King’s messed-up priorities. The scariest thing is that when it comes to gay marriage, he’s not even on the super-crazy end of the GOP spectrum.

UPDATE: I know it doesn’t pay to go looking for logic in comments by Steve King, but even by his standards, this is bizarre. King argues that since House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank is gay, and Frank doesn’t want the federal government interfering in a consensual relationship between two adults, then Frank should oppose prevailing wage requirements for federal contractors. King’s idea is that contractors and their employees are “consenting adults” who should be able to agree on a wage of their choice. (By that reasoning, King would want to do away with the minimum wage and other labor laws.)

Media Matters Action has the video clip and transcript here. Other King video “highlights” are here.  

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Yet another poll shows Iowans not eager to ban gay marriage

This week’s Research 2000 poll of 600 likely Iowa voters for KCCI-TV included a couple of questions related to the rights of same-sex couples:

QUESTION: As you may know, same-sex marriages have been legal in Iowa for over a year. Would you favor or oppose a constitutional amendment which would over turn current law allowing same sex marriages in Iowa?


ALL 39% 42% 19%

MEN 43% 40% 17%

WOMEN 35% 44% 21%

DEMOCRATS 22% 64% 14%

REPUBLICANS 66% 13% 21%

INDEPENDENTS 33% 45% 22%

QUESTION: Regardless of how you feel about same-sex marriages, do you favor or oppose allowing same-sex couples the same benefits allowed to heterosexual couples, known as civil unions?


ALL 51% 40% 9%

MEN 47% 44% 9%

WOMEN 55% 36% 9%

DEMOCRATS 77% 21% 2%

REPUBLICANS 16% 68% 16%

INDEPENDENTS 55% 35% 10%

Less than a year after the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien ruling, a slight plurality of Iowans would not support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Among independents, a plurality oppose a constitutional amendment and a strong majority would support equal rights for same-sex couples in the form of civil unions. Even among Republican respondents, just two-thirds supported banning gay marriage.

Research 2000’s results are similar to the findings of a statewide poll Selzer and Co. conducted for the Des Moines Register last September. In that survey, 41 percent of respondents said they would vote for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, while 40 percent would vote against such an amendment. In addition, 92 percent of respondents said marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples had led to “no real change” in their own lives.

In the most recent Des Moines Register poll, conducted less than a month ago, more than 60 percent of respondents said gay marriage “does not deserve the [Iowa] Legislature’s limited time” this session.

Iowa conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart has complained that the Des Moines Register asked the wrong question two polls in a row. He thinks pollsters ought to ask Iowans whether citizens should be able to vote on a definition of marriage. The Iowa Republican blog commissioned a poll asking that question last summer and found that 67 percent of respondents said yes. However, that Republican poll conveniently failed to ask respondents whether they would support or oppose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Last week Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate defeated Republican efforts to force a floor vote on a marriage amendment. Although GOP candidates and interest groups will push their “let us vote” campaign this fall, I am less and less worried about the marriage issue hurting Democrats in the 2010 statehouse elections. Economic issues will be far more important to voters.

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Massive Iowa Legislature linkfest (post-funnel edition)

The Iowa Legislature has been moving at an unusually fast pace during the shortened 2010 session. It’s time to catch up on what’s happened at the statehouse over the past three weeks. From here on out I will try to post a legislative roundup at the end of every week.

February 12 was the first “funnel” deadline. In order to have a chance of moving forward in 2010, all legislation except for tax and appropriations bills must have cleared at least one Iowa House or Senate committee by the end of last Friday.

After the jump I’ve included links on lots of bills that have passed or are still under consideration, as well as bills I took an interest in that failed to clear the funnel. I have grouped bills by subject area. This post is not an exhaustive list; way too many bills are under consideration for me to discuss them all. I recommend this funnel day roundup by Rod Boshart for the Mason City Globe-Gazette.

Note: the Iowa legislature’s second funnel deadline is coming up on March 5. To remain alive after that point, all bills except tax and appropriations bills must have been approved by either the full House or Senate and by a committee in the opposite chamber. Many bills that cleared the first funnel week will die in the second.  

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Iowa Chief Justice: retention elections will test commitment to impartial judiciary

Shortly after the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously cleared the way for same-sex marriage rights in April 2009, prominent social conservatives in Iowa vowed to vote out three Supreme Court justices who face retention elections in November 2010. Those are Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices Michael Streit and David Baker.

Judges do not campaign actively for retention, but today Ternus commented on the upcoming elections during an Iowa Public Radio appearance. (continues after the jump)

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Open thread with events coming up this week

I didn’t have time to pull this together yesterday, but here’s a late weekend open thread. Share whatever’s on your mind.

(UPDATE: If you think you know American history, see how well you do on Charles Lemos’ Presidents’ Day trivia quiz. Each president is the correct answer to only one question.)

After the jump I’ve posted details on many events coming up this week. I hope to attend the screening of the “Big River” documentary in Des Moines on February 18. It’s a sequel to the must-watch “King Corn,” and the screening is a joint benefit for the Iowa Environmental Council and Practical Farmers of Iowa.

If you are a Democratic candidate in Iowa, please e-mail me your list of upcoming events so I can include them in these threads. (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com)

Oxfam America “is seeking Des Moines area volunteers to lend 5-8 hours of time per week to help them raise awareness of the impacts of climate change on global communities and encourage action to alleviate it.” If you’re interested, you need to contact them by February 15 (information below).

Have a laugh at this from the Onion: New law would ban marriages between people who don’t love each other.

New Law Would Ban Marriages Between People Who Don’t Love Each Other

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Republicans fail to bring marriage amendment to Iowa House or Senate floor

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate failed this morning to force floor votes on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. In the Senate, minority leader Paul McKinley asked colleagues “to sign a petition that would allow Senate Joint Resolution 2001, which would begin the process of amending the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage, to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote despite not being approved by a committee.” Only one of the 32 Iowa Senate Democrats (Tom Hancock) joined the 18 Republicans in signing this petition.

Later this morning, House Republicans tried a procedural maneuver that could have allowed a floor vote on House Joint Resolution 6 (a constitutional amendment on marriage) despite the fact that no House committee has approved it. The procedural motion needed 51 votes to pass, but only one Democrat, Dolores Mertz, voted with the 44 House Republicans. Mertz is a co-sponsor of the marriage amendment and votes consistently with Republicans on social issues.

Last April, two Democrats (Mertz and Geri Huser) joined with House Republicans on a similar procedural vote. Good for Huser for voting with the majority this time around. One House Democrat was absent today: Mark Kuhn, who also missed yesterday’s proceedings in the chamber. It seems likely that he is either sick or was unable to get to Des Moines from his home in rural Floyd County. North-central Iowa just got hit with another major winter storm.

House Republican leader Kraig Paulsen acknowledged today that opponents of marriage equality don’t have the 51 votes needed to force a vote this session in the Iowa House.

McKinley warned in a statement, “the voters this November will have an opportunity to decide if they are content with the continued Democrat obstruction and inaction.” Republicans keep saying they want to “let the people vote” on marriage. As it happens, this November Iowans will have an opportunity to pass a ballot initiative on convening a constitutional convention. Some Republicans want to take that route, but most are afraid to back a constitutional assembly. It seems like they want a campaign issue to use against Democrats more than they want to amend the constitution by the quickest means possible.

Unfortunately for Republicans, recent polling data suggests gay marriage is not a high priority for most Iowans. Every statehouse Democrat should be echoing the words from House Speaker Pat Murphy’s official statement today:

“In these tough economic times, Iowans want the Legislature to keep focused on help for middle class families and small businesses.  In this shortened session, my goal is to keep the House focused on key priorities — balancing the state budget without raising taxes while creating good-paying jobs for Iowans and making sure every child receives a quality education and affordable health care.”

Murphy and Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal strongly supported the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien ruling, and they deserve a lot of credit for holding their caucuses together today. As Gronstal has promised, Republicans will not succeed in writing discrimination into our state’s constitution.

In related good news, the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee voted down two bills today that were aimed at repealing same-sex marriage rights in that state.

UPDATE: Jason Clayworth has more details and reaction at the Des Moines Register’s blog.

The House spent almost 30 minutes on a rarely used “call-of-the-House” in which each of the 100 members were ordered into the chambers to vote unless they were previously excused.  

Hancock explained why he joined the Senate Republicans as follows: “I live in a highly Catholic area and I think that’s what the folks wanted me to do […] I never received that many contacts to say not to.”

Pat Murphy said Republicans “can go ahead and use” the House vote in the upcoming campaign, but added, “I would advise Republicans that ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’”  

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New poll: Iowans think gay marriage not worth legislature's time

More than 60 percent of Iowans think gay marriage “does not deserve the Legislature’s limited time” this session, according to the latest poll conducted by Selzer and Associates for the Des Moines Register. The poll surveyed 805 Iowa adults from January 31 to Feburary 3, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

The question named six issues on which legislation has been introduced during the 2010 session, which has been shortened by 20 days due to budget constraints:

The state Legislature can address large and small issues during the course of the session. For the following issues, please tell me if you think the issue does or does not deserve the Legislature’s limited time. Puppy mills. Gay marriage. Driving and texting. Gun control. Gambling. Payday loans.

62 percent of respondents said gay marriage does not deserve the legislature’s time, while only 36 percent said it does.

Here’s hoping this poll will bolster the spine of any wavering statehouse Democrats. Iowa House Republicans are expected to use procedural maneuvers this week to try to force a vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. When they tried that last April, two of the 56 House Democrats joined Republicans on a procedural vote. House Minority leader Kraig Paulsen wasn’t deterred by the latest poll, telling the Des Moines Register,

“The majority party has successfully convinced people that that’s something that takes a lengthy period of time,” Paulsen said. “There’s no reason it should have to take more than 30 minutes.”

Poll respondents presumably know little about how much committee and floor time a marriage vote would consume, but I think Paulsen is missing the point here. Selzer in effect asked Iowans what’s important for the legislature to handle. More than three-fifths of respondents said gay marriage doesn’t rise to that level this session.

Notably, a recent poll commissioned by Republicans also suggests that gay marriage is a low priority for most Iowans. Voter Consumer Research conducted that poll in late January for The Iowa Republican blog and the Concordia Group (a political consulting firm run by Nick Ryan, with ties to the American Future Fund). Respondents were asked which three issues are most important to them: “Forty-one percent said jobs and unemployment, thirty-three said the economy, and twenty-eight percent said education.” Way down the priority list was “moral values” with just 14 percent, Craig Robinson indicated in this comment thread.

Last September, a Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register asked several questions about same-sex marriage. About 41 percent of respondents said they would vote for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, while 40 percent would vote against such an amendment. In addition, 92 percent of respondents said marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples had led to “no real change” in their own lives.

The conservative GOP base expects Republican legislators to try every trick in the book to bring a marriage vote to the floor. Iowa Democrats should make sure the public knows that while they were focusing on more important issues, Republicans kept trying to waste time on a marriage vote. Based on this polling as well as the results from last year’s special election in Iowa House district 90, I doubt gay marriage will be a winning issue for Republican candidates this November.

Later today I’ll discuss some other findings from the latest Des Moines Register poll. I was surprised to see that of the six issues Selzer asked about, only driving while texting had a majority (72 percent) say it was worth the legislature’s time to tackle this session.

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Weekend open thread with events coming up this week

The coming week will be busy at the state capitol, because February 12 is the first “funnel” date. All bills excluding appropriations bills that have not been approved by at least one committee by February 12 will be dead for the 2010 session, unless something extraordinary happens.

Also, Iowa House Republicans are expected to try to suspend the rules this week to force consideration of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. If last April’s events are any guide, they can expect help from two Iowa House Democrats: Geri Huser and Dolores Mertz. Meanwhile, Mertz is working with a group of Republicans on a constitutional amendment that would “recognize human eggs as persons worthy of legal protection.” Such an amendment would outlaw abortion and probably some forms of birth control as well.

With the compressed legislative calendar and severe budget restraints, there may be fewer bills passed in 2010 than in previous sessions. If you’re keeping your eye on any bill, let us know in this thread. I hope the Iowa Senate Labor and Business Relations Committee will pass Senate File 2112, introduced by Senator Pam Jochum, on “workplace accommodations for employees who express breast milk.” It’s already cleared the subcommittee. Last hear State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad introduced a similar measure in the Iowa House, and I think there’s a decent chance of getting this bill through the House Labor Committee. Employers also benefit from practices that make it easier for their employees to continue breastfeeding.

Jochum is an all-around outstanding legislator. If I lived in the first district, she would definitely have my vote for Congress whenever Bruce Braley decides to run for U.S. Senate.

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend. Am I the only one out there who doesn’t care who wins the Superbowl?

After the jump I’ve posted details on other Iowa political events scheduled for this week.

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Terry Branstad's family values

Anyone following the Iowa governor’s race must read Todd Dorman’s recent interview with Republican front-runner Terry Branstad. The Branstad so many Iowans remember from his four terms as governor shines through.

Branstad is at his most incoherent when speaking about gay marriage, but his answer to an open-ended question about the state budget was also revealing. The whole interview is worth your time. I discuss a few of my favorite excerpts after the jump.

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We're number 32! We're number 32!

On Oprah Magazine’s new list of “100 Things That Are Getting Better”:

Legalizing gay marriage in 2009 + producing artisanal charcuterie (try La Quercia’s organic prosciutto) + University of Iowa football landing among the top 25 college teams for the fifth time this decade + ranking second on MainStreet.com‘s Happiness Index = one seriously happening Hawkeye State.

That’s an odd set of data points, but then, the whole list is rather eclectic. Iowa ranks just behind “Our reputation around the world,” “The Beatles” and “Undersea exploration” and just ahead of “Surgery,” “Wind power” and “Dental visits.”

I didn’t realize Oprah was on record supporting marriage equality, but good for her. I don’t eat prosciutto, but I’ve heard good things about La Quercia. (Oprah neglected to acknowledge Iowa’s outstanding artisan cheeses.)

Iowa ranked second on MainStreet.com’s Happiness Index because of the 50 states plus Washington, DC, we had the fourth-lowest rate of non-mortgage debt as a percentage of annual income, the fifth-lowest unemployment rate, and the sixteenth-lowest foreclosure rate. Only Nebraska scored better overall.

Now, nobody tell Oprah about our lousy water quality.  

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Terry Branstad's balancing act on gay marriage

In a private meeting last October, Terry Branstad warned social conservatives that gay marriage was “not going to be a central issue” in the gubernatorial campaign, and that Republicans “have to use finesse, and not overplay our hand.”

Since Branstad officially launched his candidacy last week, we’re starting to see how he intends to “finesse” the marriage issue before the Republican primary in June.

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Silver linings of a Branstad candidacy

Terry Branstad is kicking off his “official” candidacy for governor today, launching a tour around the state. His campaign announced fairly strong fundraising numbers last week and just leaked an internal Republican primary poll showing Branstad leading Bob Vander Plaats by 63 percent to 18 percent.

It’s conceivable that Vander Plaats’ campaign could take off in the coming months. Right-winger Marco Rubio is now considered likely to defeat Florida Governor Charlie Crist in that state’s U.S. Senate primary, despite commanding leads Crist had in polls a few months ago. However, I assume Branstad will lock up the Republican nomination with little trouble.

Branstad will undoubtedly be a tough general-election opponent for Governor Chet Culver. The biggest hurdles for a challenger are usually name recognition, fundraising, and getting voters to imagine the challenger doing the job he’s seeking. Branstad is well-known, has done the job before, and has wealthy donors behind him. Frankly, I’d rather not have him in this race.

But my mother taught me not to focus too much on the negative. After the jump I offer some silver linings of a Branstad candidacy.  

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Could Vander Plaats pull off an upset?

I’ve been assuming for the past few months that there’s no way Bob Vander Plaats can defeat Terry Branstad in this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary. Branstad’s statewide connections from his four terms as governor and his support from major donors should give him an insurmountable edge, especially in the eastern Iowa counties. While Vander Plaats would have a great shot at winning a caucus or a statewide convention, I didn’t see any way he could keep Branstad below 50 percent in the primary, especially with Branstad likely to raise far more money.

I’ve started to rethink my assumptions as conservative Republicans have spoken out against Branstad.

Everyone knew the Iowa Family Policy Center’s political action committee would endorse Vander Plaats at some point, but their statement yesterday went far beyond expressing a preference for Vander Plaats. The IFPC made clear that they will not support Branstad in the general election if he wins the GOP nomination.

Follow me after the jump for more on the IFPC’s endorsement and how Vander Plaats could win the primary.

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Broad coalition stands up for marriage equality

About 200 people attended One Iowa’s Equality Red Blue Purple event on Sunday in Des Moines. A coalition of more than two dozen statewide organizations, including major labor unions, oppose a constitutional amendment to rescind same-sex marriage rights in Iowa. Republicans as well as Democrats have signed on as co-chairs of Equality Red Blue Purple, and dozens of local organizations have joined the coalition too. After the jump I’ve posted the full list of co-chairs and coalition members.

On Tuesday, supporters of marriage equality plan to deliver “over 15,000 postcard petitions to legislators in every district in the state,” according to One Iowa’s Justin Uebelhor. Opponents of same-sex marriage plan a large rally at the capitol on Tuesday as well.

This week One Iowa’s television ad, “This Place,” will run in the Des Moines market. The ad was created soon after the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling last April. It depicts marriage equality as consistent with Iowa traditions of fairness and protecting our freedoms under the state constitution.

Click here to donate to keep this ad on the air for an extra week.

Democratic legislative leaders have vowed not to allow floor votes on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage during the 2010 legislative session. However, Republicans will try various procedural tricks to force a vote on the issue. I expect Democratic lawmakers to stand firm against a marriage amendment, and I hope that they won’t cop out when confronted by constituents who want to ban gay marriage.

On a related note, a lawsuit against California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages, goes forward this week in federal court. The lead attorneys are David Boies and Ted Olson, who were on opposite sides during the Bush v Gore case that decided the 2000 presidential election. Writing in Newsweek, Olson laid out “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage,” which is worth a read.

However, not all advocates of marriage equality support the strategy of appealing Prop 8 in federal court. At Daily Kos, SoCalLiberal laid out the argument against pursuing this lawsuit, favoring an effort to repeal Prop 8 at the ballot box in 2012.

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Weekend open thread: Legislative preview edition

The legislative session begins this week, and budget issues are likely to dominate the proceedings.

Some state tax credits will be scrapped and others curtailed if lawmakers enact recommendations released on Friday by a commission Governor Chet Culver appointed. State Senator Joe Bolkcom, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee in the upper chamber, has vowed to pass as many of the recommendations as possible. I expect major pushback from corporate lobbyists against many of the proposals, however.

House Speaker Pat Murphy is not ruling out significant layoffs of state workers. It really is unfair to balance the budget mostly on the backs of state workers, especially since demand for state services increases during a recession.

I was surprised to see Culver’s chief of staff, John Frew, suggest a scaled-back version of “fair share” legislation could pass this session. If Democrats don’t have the votes for a prevailing wage bill, I can’t imagine they’ll get 51 votes for fair share, but I hope I’m wrong.

Kathie Obradovich previews other issues that are likely to come up during the legislative session.

Democratic leaders insist a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is off the table, but Republicans will use every trick in the book to try to bring the issue to the floor.

Roxanne Conlin plans to visit all 99 counties in her Senate campaign, just like Senator Chuck Grassley has been doing every year for the past three decades.

In other news, Iowa may be on the verge of coming out of the deep freeze. I read today that the highest temperature recorded anywhere in Iowa since January 1 was 20 degrees Fahrenheit one day in Keokuk (southeast corner of the state). How are you surviving the cold? I’ve been wearing slippers, wool sweaters and extra layers. My kids still insist they are comfortable running around the house in pajamas and bare feet. Our dog could walk for miles, even on the days when it’s been below zero F when I’m out with him.

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend.

Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Conservative manufactured outrage FAIL

The religious right is gearing up for a big demonstration against marriage equality on January 12, the day Governor Chet Culver delivers his Condition of the State address to the Iowa House and Senate. Although conservatives know they won’t be able to get a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage through the legislature this session, they are determined to keep pressuring Democrats on the issue.

Against that backdrop, the Iowa Family Policy Center issued a press release Monday promoting next week’s rally. The “news hook” for the release was a proclamation Culver signed two months ago declaring November 20th, 2009 to be “Transgender Day of Remembrance.”

IFPC Action President Chuck Hurley commented on the document by saying, “Governor Culver not only failed to keep his promise to the people of Iowa concerning the defense of marriage, but now is using the power of his office and the dignity of the state of Iowa to promote sexual confusion and deviant behavior.”

The IFPC slammed Culver for not publicizing the proclamation, saying the group had obtained it only through a Freedom of Information Act request. Troy Price, a spokesman for Culver’s office, told the Des Moines Register,

“The Governor believed this proclamation was an appropriate way to honor the memory of transgendered individuals who have lost their lives because they lived their lives. He believes that all Iowans should be protected from discrimination and abuse. Mr. Hurley used this proclamation to advertise a political rally and score cheap political points. We would hope that all Iowans would join us in remembering those who have lost their lives because of discrimination.”

Price says the governor signs about 300 proclamations a year and it’s office policy to leave it up to the requesting organization to publicize it.

I checked with the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa, and they posted this link containing the full text of Culver’s proclamation in a November blog post about events on the Transgender Day of Remembrance. So it’s misleading for the IFPC to suggest that the governor’s office tried to keep this document secret.

Speaking of right-wingers talking up a scandal where none exists, Steve Benen reports on conservatives hyperventilating because President Obama appointed a transgender individual as senior technical advisor to the Commerce Department.

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UPDATED: Branstad is robocalling Democrats

An alert Bleeding Heartland reader got a recorded phone call around dinnertime today (Monday), featuring former Governor Terry Branstad.

Apparently there were a couple of questions about how Governor Chet Culver is doing and his handling of spending and the budget. Branstad’s recorded voice touted his own record on economic policy.

The call also asked if the listener would support a constitutional ammendment limiting marriage to between one man and one woman, and if the listener would vote for Branstad in the upcoming Republican primary.

According to my e-mail tipster, the call said it was paid for by the Branstad for Governor comittee, and gave a phone number as well as the address for Branstad’s campaign website.

This particular household has two registered Democrats and no registered Republicans, and the homeowner has had the same phone number for more than 15 years. Either the calling firm was using a bad list, or Branstad’s campaign is reaching out to find Democrats who aren’t happy with Culver.

Have any other Bleeding Heartland readers received this call? If so, please post a comment with details, or send me an e-mail at desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

Remember, it’s helpful not to hang up on political robocalls or surveys. Stay on the line and take notes, if possible, about the content of the call, who paid for the message, and so on.

UPDATE: Another reader tells me he got the call but hung up on it, and there are two registered Democrats in his household as well.

SECOND UPDATE: If Branstad’s campaign is trying to identify Democrats willing to cross over to vote for him in the Republican primary, it makes me wonder what their internal polling says about Branstad’s prospects against Bob Vander Plaats.

THIRD UPDATE: State Representative Tyler Olson of Cedar Rapids got the call too.

The shrinking Republican tent (part 3)

The New York State Senate voted down a bill to legalize same-sex marriage last week, with all 30 Republicans in the chamber voting no. Five GOP senators had been expected to vote for the measure, and one of them looked dejected as he cast his “no” vote.

I don’t know whether the moderate New York Republicans broke promises to support the bill (as the lead sponsor claimed), faced unexpected pressure from caucus leaders to vote no, or were spooked by what happened during the special election campaign in New York’s 23rd Congressional district:

You surely remember that in the eyes of conservative activists [Republican nominee] Dede Scozzafava’s primary sin was to have voted to legalize same-sex marriage in the state Assembly; that helped fuel the fire against her and it contributed to organized national groups’ decision to move into the district. That must have frightened some senators into thinking a primary challenger could gain a lot of traction if they vote “yes;” […]

All I know is that in New York state, which produced legendary liberal Republicans like Senator Jacob Javits and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, there is no political space for a Republican elected official to support same-sex marriage rights.

Here in Iowa, Republicans would be committing political suicide if they left any doubt about their views same-sex marriage. Our conservatives can’t tolerate even a retired Republican who speaks out for marriage equality. Former Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning taught us that lesson last month.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

There aren’t many political events during the second half of December, but there’s plenty going on during the next couple of weeks. Event details are after the jump. Post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of something I’ve left out.

If I can shake this cold I plan to attend the Culver-Judge holiday party this Saturday. Any other Bleeding Heartland readers going?

State Representative Chris Rants and Jonathan Narcisse have already started their debate series. You can view the schedule and download mp3s of the debates here.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

I’m looking forward to the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner this weekend. It will be live-streamed for those who can’t be there in person. The Iowa branch of Organizing for America is having a grand opening on Saturday as well, right before the JJ dinner.

Details for those and other events are after the jump. Post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know if something I’ve left out.

Linn County Dems: Don’t forget that November 24 is the special election in Iowa House district 33.

One more “save the date”: the Culver-Judge campaign’s holiday party will be on Saturday, December 5 at the Val-Air Ballroom in West Des Moines from 7:30 pm to 11:00 pm. Tickets are just $35 for an individual, $10 for students and $50 for a family. Call 515-244-5151 or go to www.chetculver.com for more information.

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Well-meaning bigotry, Midwest-style

Jason Clayworth published a big feature on Christian Fong in Wednesday’s Des Moines Register. I recommend clicking over to read the whole thing before it disappears into the Register’s pay-to-download archive. Fong’s campaign strategy has always interested me, especially his efforts to sound inclusive while remaining faithful to conservative Republican views on social issues.

I was tempted to write a post here making fun of Fong’s balancing act on gay rights. He told Clayworth that after passing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage,

Iowa lawmakers need to make sure such rights as hospital visitation and estate planning are equal for same-sex couples, he said.

“If a constitutional amendment were passed, it would be irresponsible to throw up our hands and say, ‘We’re done.’ ” Fong said. “There are going to have to be steps that are taken to make sure we treat all Iowans fairly and compassionately. Gay people, too.”

So I’m thinking about how “fair” and “compassionate” it is to let conservatives’ religious views override a minority group’s civil marriage rights, and I’m laughing at Fong’s continuing attempts to advocate for discrimination very respectfully.

And then a sidebar (available only in the print version) stopped me in my tracks:

Christian Fong says he feels a special responsibility as a racial minority candidate.

Growing up, Fong used his middle name, Shun-Bok, given to him by his Chinese father.

When he was considering medical school at the University of Iowa, he was told he should consider going by something other than Shun-Bok because the industry did not need more Asians in medicine.

He’s gone by Christian–his first name–ever since.

That kick in the gut (dressed up as a helpful hint) got me thinking about the mixed messages minorities get from nice, polite Midwesterners.

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

If you want to get an early start on holiday shopping, there’s a Green Gifts Fair this Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm in Des Moines. I’ll try to swing by, because I know a bunch of the vendors, and there will be several no-clutter gift options for those trying not to buy people “stuff” they don’t need.

If you live within striking distance of Waterloo, you can catch Tom Vilsack at Representative Bruce Braley’s fifth annual “Bruce, Blues and BBQ” party on Sunday (details below).

Anyone else planning to see Vice President Joe Biden at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner next weekend? I’d like to meet other members of the Bleeding Heartland community. You can buy tickets online at the Iowa Democratic Party’s site.

Follow me after the jump for many more event details, and post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of something I’ve left out.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

Last month was so busy that I didn’t manage to post any event calendars here, but I am back on duty now. The highlight of this month for Democrats is the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Saturday, November 21, featuring Vice President Joe Biden. You can buy tickets online.

Please note that November 10 is the deadline for public comments to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources about protecting our Outstanding Iowa Waters. The Farm Bureau is mobilizing public comments against these regulations. The DNR needs to hear from Iowans committed to preserving our highest-quality waterways. Click here for background and an easy to use comment form.

State Senator Staci Appel will officially announce her re-election campaign on November 12, and I’ve posted details about a fundraiser for her campaign below the fold. Appel’s Republican opponent, State Representative Kent Sorenson, is already gearing up for next year’s election. He spent the weekend in Texas attending the WallBuilders ProFamily Legislators Conference. Here’s some background on David Barton’s vision for America, chock full of Biblical interpretations supporting right-wing public policies. Barton spoke to the Iowa Christian Alliance not long ago (click that link to watch videos). Former presidential candidate Ron Paul is headlining a fundraiser for Sorenson on November 14, by the way.

Many more event details are after the jump. As always, please post a comment about anything I’ve left out, or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com).

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Election day open thread

This thread is for any comments or predictions about any election happening today. I expect turnout in Windsor Heights to be relatively high for a local election; this is the most competitive race for mayor and city council that I can remember. I’ve received GOTV calls on behalf of several candidates.

The Virginia governor’s race looks like a blowout for Republican Bob McDonnell. The conservative Creigh Deeds won the primary on an electability argument, but we might have been better off with a candidate who excited the Democratic base more. Probably we would have lost the governor’s race, but with less damage done down-ticket.

The New Jersey governor’s race is a dead heat according to the Pollster.com polling average, but my hunch is that Republican Chris Christie is going to pull out a narrow win. The independent candidate, Chris Daggett, will be buried way down the ballot with a bunch of no-hopers, and I feel that a lot of his leaners will land with Christie when the ballot is in front of them. Given where the race stood in the summer, it’s a miracle that Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine has any prayer of pulling this out in the middle of a severe recession.

Mark “mystery pollster Blumenthal and Chris Bowers also give a slight edge to Christie in this race.

I am cautiously optimistic about no winning the Prop 1 battle in Maine, although the most recent poll of that race showed the yes position ahead. A “yes” vote would overturn same-sex marriage rights, which the Maine legislature approved and the governor signed into law earlier this year. The No on 1 forces have a strong ground game and appear to have banked a lot of early votes there. The main problem is that younger voters are less likely to turn out for an off-year election, and older voters are less likely to support marriage equality. Adam Bink reports from the ground:

The field team is firing on all cylinders. Biggest concern is youth turnout in off-year. In 2005, an anti-discrimination ballot initiative went our way and we had one campus field organizer for the whole state. This year we have nine. But the numbers are tight as hell, and if turnout is like a normal election year, we’ll lose. Everyone is saying we have to execute a flawless [GOTV] program.

New York’s 23rd district will be an easy win for conservative candidate Doug Hoffman, who forced moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava out of the race over the weekend. Although Scozzafava endorsed Democrat Bill Owens and recorded a robocall on his behalf, this district just has too strong a Republican lean for a Democrat to win, in my opinion.

Looking on the bright side, the parade of national Republican politicians and commentators behind Hoffman will crush future GOP recruiting efforts in districts where they need moderates to win. There could be no clearer sign that moderates are unwelcome in the Republican Party. I expect the fallout to affect recruiting for state-level races as well as Congressional ones.

What do you think about any of these races, or local elections in your community?

UPDATE: Unusually heavy turnout (for a local election) in Windsor Heights today. I voted around 3:15 and was voter number 241. An election worker told me there are 1,211 registered voters in my precinct, so even before the after-work rush, turnout was above 20 percent.  

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Iowans, please support equality in Maine, Michigan and Washington

A public vote on marriage equality is years away in Iowa, but next Tuesday, Maine residents will vote on Proposition 1, an effort to overturn civil marriage rights for gays and lesbians. Several polls have shown narrow leads for the No on 1 campaign, which is trying to protect marriage equality. However, Stand for Marriage Maine has been well-funded and is running a pretty good closing television ad for the “yes” position.

Meanwhile, Washington state voters are considering Referendum 71, which would “retain the domestic partnership laws that were passed during this year’s legislative session, including using sick leave to care for a partner, adoption rights, insurance rights, and more.”

In addition, next Tuesday voters in Kalamazoo, Michigan will decide next Tuesday whether to overturn a local ordinance for housing, employment, and public accommodation protections for gay and transgender residents.

Phone-bankers are needed in Maine and Washington, and on-the-ground volunteers are needed in Kalamazoo.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to volunteer, please consider donating to any or all of these efforts at this ActBlue page.

After the jump I’ve cross-posted information from the Courage Campaign with more details on the ballot initiatives in Maine, Washington and Kalamazoo.

Iowans who support equality should step up during the next five days. We may need help from groups like the Courage Campaign if Republicans are able to push a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage through the Iowa Legislature.

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Democrats, don't cop out when asked about marriage

Between now and the end of the 2010 legislative session, self-styled “defenders of marriage” will urge Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate to approve a constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying. Bryan English, director of public relations and outreach for the Iowa Family Policy Center, wrote a guest post for The Iowa Republican blog about his recent efforts to convince Democratic State Senator Dennis Black (district 21).

English and I disagree on most political issues, including the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum v Brien, but in this piece he shines a light on talking points Democrats should avoid when confronted by opponents of marriage equality.

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Previewing the Vander Plaats case against Branstad

Bob Vander Plaats was the clear front-runner in the Republican field of gubernatorial candidates a few months ago. He’s been campaigning for the job longer and more actively than anyone else. He had contacts statewide from his 2006 campaign for lieutenant governor, and from Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign. He also had several endorsements from state legislators and a big lead in a Republican poll taken in July.

During the past six months, various potential Republican candidates have ruled out a campaign for governor, including Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and State Auditor David Vaudt. Efforts to recruit a business leader (like Mary Andringa) failed too. Some Iowa politicos believe that these people backed off not because they thought Governor Chet Culver was unbeatable, but because they couldn’t see a way to defeat Vander Plaats in the Republican primary.

Most people would now agree that Vander Plaats is an underdog. Branstad will have more money, more media coverage and more support from Republican power-brokers. He’ll be able to cite last week’s Research 2000 poll, showing Branstad narrowly ahead of Culver, but Vander Plaats way behind the incumbent.

Vander Plaats won’t give up without a fight, though. He has promised to stay in this race through the June primary, and he has some strong cards to play, as I’ll discuss after the jump.  

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Iowa NAACP head needs a history lesson

Sioux City businessman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats got a surprising endorsement on Monday from Keith Ratliff, pastor of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines and president of the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP.

Vander Plaats was the front-runner in the Republican field until former Governor Terry Branstad entered the race. Ratliff said Vander Plaats’ position on same-sex marriage rights was “an important factor” in his endorsement.

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Oh please

Representative Steve “10 Worst” King hasn’t lost his touch for grabbing attention with outlandish statements. Speaking to a conservative radio program, King asserted,

If there’s a push for a socialist society where the foundations of individual rights and liberties are undermined and everybody is thrown together living collectively off one pot of resources earned by everyone, this is one of the goals they have to go to, same sex marriage, because it has to plow through marriage in order to get to their goal. They want public affirmation, they want access to public funds and resources.

The Hill has more ridiculous assertions from the interview, including King’s opinion that “Not only is [same-sex marriage] a radical social idea, it is a purely socialist concept in the final analysis.” Matt Corley at Think Progress posted the full transcript, with an audio clip.

King’s logic eludes me. Perhaps someone can explain how individual rights are supposedly undermined when same-sex couples gain legal rights already available to heterosexual couples. Maybe King just wants to show that he really is as wingnutty as any Iowa Republican on the subject of gay marriage.

Having spent a fair amount of time in the former Communist bloc, I can assure King that the socialist world was extremely homophobic. Same-sex relationships had no legal status in any communist country, and homosexuality was a crime for decades in many of them.

Jed Lewison and John Deeth have further comments on King’s absurdity. Please add your own thoughts in this thread.  

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High-profile showdown coming in Senate district 37

Next year’s campaign in Iowa Senate district 37 will be closely watched statewide and may draw some national attention. Republican State Representative Kent Sorenson has decided to challenge first-term Senator Staci Appel instead of seeking re-election to Iowa House district 74. The socially conservative Sorenson made a splash this summer with his open letter imploring Senator Chuck Grassley to provide “principled and bold leadership” to advance the Republican Party platform. Appel is assistant Senate majority leader and chairs the State Government Committee. Her husband is one of the seven Iowa Supreme Court justices who unanimously struck down our Defense of Marriage Act in April.

Republican blogger Craig Robinson is upbeat about Sorenson’s chances.

My opinion on this matchup hasn’t changed since Robinson first discussed the prospect in May: Bring it on.

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Iowans not eager to overturn marriage equality

Marriage equality is here to stay in Iowa, if the latest statewide poll for the Des Moines Register is any guide:

Forty-one percent say they would vote for a [constitutional amendment to] ban [same-sex marriage], and 40 percent say they would vote to continue gay marriage. The rest either would not vote or say they are not sure. […]

The overwhelming majority of Iowans – 92 percent – say gay marriage has brought no real change to their lives. […]

The poll shows that 26 percent of Iowans favor April’s unanimous court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, 43 percent oppose it and 31 percent don’t care much or are not sure.

Despite the 43 percent opposition to the ruling, 61 percent of Iowans say other issues will influence their decision on whether to vote to retain Iowa Supreme Court justices in the 2010 elections.

Selzer and Co. surveyed 803 Iowans between September 14 and 16, and the poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

I recommend clicking through to view the chart showing the breakdown by party affiliation on this issue. Among independents, only 44 percent either oppose or strongly oppose the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision that cleared the way for marriage equality, while 32 percent “don’t care much” and 22 percent either favor or strongly favor it.

Many Iowa Republicans are convinced that they can gain traction in next year’s legislative elections by bashing statehouse Democrats who oppose a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. However, the Republican candidate fell just short in the recent special election in Iowa House district 90, even though the National Organization for Marriage poured nearly $90,000 into ads supporting the Republican because of the marriage issue. (The NOM plans to be involved in next year’s Iowa elections as well.)

A poll commissioned by The Iowa Republican blog in July indicated that two-thirds of Iowans wanted a public vote on same-sex marriage, but that poll framed the question as follows: “The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled gay marriages can legally be conducted in the state. Whether you agree or disagree with the decision, do you think Iowa voters should have the chance to vote on a traditional marriage amendment to the constitution or is the issue best decided by the Supreme Court?” Todd Dorman was right to point out that it would have been more enlightening to ask respondents how they would vote on a marriage amendment.

The Register’s poll could strengthen the hand of Republicans like Doug Gross, who have been saying all year that the GOP should downplay divisive social issues and focus on the economy in next year’s elections. On the other hand, 51 percent of Republicans surveyed by Selzer and Co strongly oppose the Supreme Court decision, while 11 percent just oppose the decision, 27 percent don’t care much and only 10 percent either favor or strongly favor it. Gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats promises to issue an executive order on day one halting same-sex marriages if elected, and he will find plenty of support among the Republican rank and file.

I’ve been telling my friends, “Don’t worry, be happy,” since the Iowa Supreme Court announced its Varnum v Brien decision in April. I figured that with each passing year, more Iowans would understand that no one is harmed and thousands are helped by granting gays and lesbians civil marriage rights. I also felt that Republicans would not be able to win many races on this issue in 2010, let alone in subsequent years. Still, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a poll this year showing majority support for overturning the Supreme Court ruling. Learning that a constitutional amendment on marriage lacks majority support even now makes me that much more optimistic. (UPDATE: Forgot to add that Iowa has a lengthy constitutional amendment process.)

Now it’s imperative to defeat Proposition 1 in Maine this November. Please help if you can.

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

This weekend is packed with good events for Iowa progressives. If you love books, make your way to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale in the 4-H building at the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. Admission is free; the sale is open from 9-9 Friday and Saturday and from 9-6 Sunday and Monday. The sale offers great deals on books, DVDs, prints, comics, and music, especially on Sunday, when everything is half-price, and on Monday, when everything left is 25 cents.

Proceeds support Planned Parenthood’s education programs, which you can learn more about here.

Incidentally, Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa recently merged with Planned Parenthood of Nebraska/Council Bluffs to form a new affiliate called Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

The Iowa Renewable Energy Association‘s annual Energy and Sustainability Expo takes place in Norway Saturday and Sunday. There’s so much to learn at the I-RENEW expos.

On Sunday, Senator Al Franken (cartographer extraordinaire) will headline Senator Tom Harkin’s 32nd Annual Steak Fry. The event will be at the Warren County Fairgrounds from 1 pm to 4 pm. Click here for more info and to buy tickets.

Follow me after the jump for details on many other events coming up soon.

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Department of unconvincing spin

This article by Jason Clayworth in Thursday’s Des Moines Register was good for a few laughs:

A group opposed to same-sex marriages failed to secure victory for Republicans in Iowa this week, but the massive injection of out-of-state money on the issue foreshadows what’s to come in next year’s elections, political scholars said Wednesday.

Despite the loss, the National Organization for Marriage succeeded in making gay marriage an issue, the head of the group said Wednesday. He vowed that its “Reclaim Iowa Project” will remain active in the 2010 state elections.

I’m sure “making gay marriage an issue” was just the kind of success the NOM’s generous donors (whoever they are) were looking for. Why, Iowans in House district 90 might never have realized same-sex couples could marry if not for the NOM’s major ad campaign.

Back to that Register article:

Jeff Boeyink, executive director of the Iowa Republican Party, said many no-party voters Tuesday supported [Stephen] Burgmeier. That was a victory itself, he said.

Voters want the opportunity to vote on the gay marriage issue, he said.

“We moved the needle a lot,” Boeyink said. “We didn’t get the victory, but we take away some real positives out of this.”

Sure, Mr. Boeyink, you “moved the needle a lot.” Your candidate, elected three times as a Jefferson County supervisor, lost his own county by more than 600 votes.

The marriage group did not lose the race for Burgmeier, said Chuck Hurley, a former Republican legislator and now president of the Iowa Family Policy Center, a group against gay marriage. He said the issue will be a major topic in the 2010 elections.

“Marriage won the day,” Hurley said of the election. “I think it was a huge issue in the campaign.”

Yes, Republicans tried to make marriage a huge issue in the campaign while Curt Hanson talked about jobs, economic development and renewable energy. The National Organization for Marriage’s television ad used the same kind of rhetoric as the Iowa Family Policy Center’s “Let Us Vote” campaign: instead of advocating discrimination against same-sex couples, the ads supported Burgmeier as someone who would “let voters have a say.” Well, voters in House district 90 had their say.

I don’t want to get too cocky. Tuesday’s election could have gone the other way if not for the outstanding GOTV effort by organizers supporting Hanson. But the fact is, a special election a few months after the Iowa Supreme Court ruling went into effect is exactly the kind of race likely to be disproportionately influenced by same-sex marriage. In Vermont and Massachusetts, the electoral backlash against supporters of marriage equality was short-lived. If the Iowa Family Policy Center (which designated a staffer to work on Burgmeier’s campaign) and nearly $90,000 worth of NOM tv ads couldn’t leverage this issue into a victory on Tuesday, I don’t think Republicans will get far running against gay marriage 14 months from now.

For a more honest Republican assessment of Tuesday’s special election results, read this post by Craig Robinson at The Iowa Republican.

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Anti-gay group goes all-in for Republican in special election

Neither Republican Stephen Burgmeier nor Democrat Curt Hanson has highlighted same-sex marriage rights during the campaign for the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90. However, a group opposing marriage equality is funding an intense advertising campaign in the district.

Chase Martyn of Iowa Independent noticed that the “National Organization for Marriage has purchased $86,060 worth of television and radio ads” to help Burgmeier. That is a major ad buy for an Iowa legislative election. Martyn uploaded an independent expenditure report (pdf file) that the group filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, but that didn’t include information about the content or placement of the ads.

If you have seen or heard any advertising paid for by National Organization for Marriage, please post a comment in this thread or e-mail me at desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com with as much detail as possible about the message. How many different versions of the ads are running? Do the commercials mention any issues besides overturning the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage? Do they mainly support Burgmeier, who is under attack from a right-wing candidate? Or do they also attack Hanson, and if so, using what kind of language?

I hope the National Organization for Marriage’s ads are as laughable as the group’s “Gathering Storm” commercial from April, which spawned many parodies on YouTube and a brilliant response from Stephen Colbert.

Civil Rights Commission supports marriage equality

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission voted unanimously yesterday

to formally support the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision allowing gay marriage, and to formally oppose any constitutional amendment that would overturn the decision.

The commission’s seven members, appointed by the governor to staggered terms, include four Democrats (Alicia Claypool of West Des Moines, Debbie Gitchell of Ames, Constance Gronstal of Council Bluffs and Nancy Witt of Reinbeck), two Republicans (Rich Eychaner of Des Moines and Rick Morain of Jefferson) and one independent (Timothy Tutt of Des Moines). It can’t be easy to be a marriage equality supporter in today’s Republican Party of Iowa. The Des Moines Register quoted a strong statement from Morain:

“My personal feeling is that if that kind of amendment [banning same-sex marriage] were adopted, it would clash with Article 1 of the constitution, which is the Iowa Bill of Rights.”

Morain said: “To me, it would not be consistent with Iowa’s long-standing tradition of equality and the right to happiness to pass that amendment.”

Click here for more information on the work of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Incidentally, in November Maine citizens will vote on an amendment to overturn marriage equality, which that state’s legislature approved in May. Here’s the first television ad supporters of same-sex marriage rights are running.  

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Weekend open thread: 100 days of marriage equality in Iowa

Technically, 103 days, but who’s counting?

So far my marriage has not collapsed under the strain of sharing rights with gays and lesbians. The worst thing that’s happened to me because of marriage equality was making a faux pas when I ran into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a long time. She’s been living with another woman for at least 15 years, so I asked if they had gotten married. She looked surprised, then said, “Oh, we’re not…that way. I mean, I know everyone thinks we are, but we’re not.” Oops!

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend.

I thought the American Psychological Association struck a good balance this week in adopting a resolution that rejects “reparative therapy” to change someone’s sexual orientation, but “urged therapists to consider multiple options – that could range from celibacy to switching churches – for helping clients whose sexual orientation and religious faith conflict.”

UPDATE: Congratulations to former Republican Congressman Jim Leach (IA-02), whom the Senate confirmed  by unanimous consent to head the National Endowment for the Humanities. That job is a perfect fit for Leach.

Radio Iowa’s Kay Henderson posted a detailed write-up with audio of Senator Tom Harkin’s Saturday town-hall meeting on health care reform.

Iowa GOP outsourcing special election to special interests

When your party suffers a net loss of seats in the state House and Senate for four elections in a row, it’s time to try something different. In the case of the Republican Party of Iowa, that apparently means outsourcing operations for the September 1 special election in Iowa House district 90.

In a July 31 e-mail blast, Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn encouraged activists to contact “Matt Gronewald, our Legislative Majority Fund Director,” if they would like to volunteer for Stephen Burgmeier, the Republican candidate in district 90. However, Burgmeier’s campaign website tells the real story:

 To volunteer please contact:

   * Katie Koberg, katiekoberg@gmail.com, 515-971-4571

   * Mary Earnhardt, mkearnhardt@gmail.com, 515-778-5229

   * Mark Doland, luviowa10@aol.com, 641-295-0135

Koberg and Earnhardt serve as vice president and policy director, respectively, for the conservative group Iowans for Tax Relief. The Iowa Republican blog’s Al Swearengen was partly right when he wrote,

Ed Failor Jr. and Iowans for Tax Relief are running the entire campaign effort in the special election…

Word is that Failor has committeed big dollars to the race and already has his ITR staff embedded in the district and running the race […]

Anybody that questions the power and influence of Failor and ITR need to look no further than this race…they are running this race…and are in charge of all House and Senate elections…

I say Swearengen was partly right because Burgmeier’s site also lists Mark Doland, who is on the Iowa Family Policy Center’s payroll as chief candidate recruiter.

You may remember the Iowa Family Policy Center, which organized a petition drive in April to pressure county recorders not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The “views” page on Burgmeier’s campaign website doesn’t talk about same-sex marriage, but Burgmeier is on record supporting legislative action to overturn the Iowa Supreme Court ruling, which matches the agenda of Iowa Family Policy Center Action (the group’s political wing).

The special election in district 90 won’t change the balance of power in the Iowa House, but it is the first high-profile race since Republicans selected Strawn to be state chairman in January. Strawn can’t be too confident about the party’s ability to fund and manage a statehouse campaign if he is giving outside interest groups control over this race.

Democrats within striking distance of district 90 can sign up here to volunteer for Curt Hanson.

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I dodged a teachable moment last week

I’ve been taking my children to political rallies, receptions, and house parties since they were babies. Many Iowa Democrats have claimed not to recognize me without a small child riding on my front, hip or back.

At the same time, I’ve avoided exposing my kids to political scenes likely to turn confrontational, such as anti-war demonstrations. An article I read years ago in Mothering magazine persuasively argued that because young children cannot understand abstract political concepts, they are likely to be disturbed by the anger they encounter at a protest rally. (Sorry, no link–they don’t put most of their content online.)

I’ve also been influenced by my mother-in-law. In her 30 years as a preschool teacher, she learned that young children are easily confused by upsetting images. After 9/11, some of the kids in her class did not understand that television networks kept showing replays of the same scenes. They thought that another plane was crashing into another building every time they saw tragic footage from that day.

Living in the Des Moines suburbs, it’s usually no challenge to keep my little ones from volatile political scenes. They get that not everyone votes the same way, but politics to them means coming with Mommy or Daddy to hear a candidate speak, help deliver yard signs or vote on election day.

When Fred Phelps and his clan from the Westboro Baptist Church planned a trip to central Iowa this month, it occurred to me that sheltering my children from their hatred might not be an option.

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Candidates selected for House district 90 special election

On Wednesday Democrats in Iowa House district 90 nominated Curt Hanson for the special election set for September 1:

Born and raised on an Iowa family farm, Hanson has been living and teaching in Fairfield for over 43 years. He attended the University of Northern Iowa and received his masters from the University of Iowa.  He and his wife, Diane, have two grown children. They are members of First United Methodist Church and Curt is also a member of the Fairfield Kiwanis Club.

“My parents taught me the importance of hard work, helping neighbors, and service to community.  Those Iowa values will guide my work as the next State Representative for District 90,” said Hanson.  “My priorities are simple: balance the state budget, create good-paying jobs in key industries like renewable energy, make health care more affordable for middle class families, and ensure our kids have the education and skills they need to get a job in these tough economic times.”

Hanson is a retired teacher and driver education instructor in Fairfield. He has been selected by his community as Fairfield Teacher of the Year and has been selected by his peers to serve those in the teaching profession at both the local and state levels. He was also runner-up National Driver Education Teacher of the Year and has served as President and Business Manager of the Iowa Association of Safety Education.

“As State Representative, I can promise the people of Jefferson, Van Buren, and Wapello Counties two things – I’ll work hard and I’ll always listen to you,” concluded Hanson.

For more information, go to www.curthanson.org.

Sounds like Hanson wants to build on the strengths that prompted CNBC to name Iowa the fourth-best state for doing business in 2009.

Today Republicans in district 90 formally selected Jefferson County supervisor Steve Burgmeier to be their candidate for the special election. Here’s his press release from Monday announcing his campaign. He’s clearly planning to run hard against same-sex marriage, which is not surprising given the way he made a show of posturing on April 27, the day the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien ruling went into effect.

Republicans would like to win this special election for many reasons, not least to fire up their base about the potential to demagogue against committed same-sex Iowa couples next year.

If you live in House district 90 or volunteer during this campaign, please consider posting diaries about your view from the ground. Scanning or transcribing campaign ads and fliers would be great material for a post. It only takes a minute to register for a Bleeding Heartland account. Or, you can e-mail me confidentially about what you’re seeing (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com). I’m curious to know whether The Iowa Republican’s Al Swearengen was correct about Ed Failor’s staffers from Iowans for Tax Relief running Burgmeier’s campaign operation.

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Fong advocates discrimination very respectfully

Christian Fong is in “reassure the base” mode as he introduces himself to Iowa Republicans. He chose not to confront Steve Deace during his first appearance on the right-winger’s WHO radio show. Then he hired Marlys Popma to run his gubernatorial campaign. A former head of Iowa Right to Life, Popma is well-known to social conservatives.

I’ve seen some bloggers describe Fong as the “moderate” among Republicans running for governor, but it would be more accurate to say he is campaigning as a non-threatening conservative. He promises to expand the Republican Party’s appeal without changing what the party stands for. He’ll do it by talking about the issues in a way that won’t alienate voters outside the GOP base. So, he embraces diversity and a “welcoming environment.” He uses inclusive, empowering language with echoes of Barack Obama. He wants a “pro-family agenda” to go beyond social issues.

We saw this strategy in action during Fong’s first major televised interview, especially in the way he handled the question about same-sex marriage rights.  

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This is no time to debate the drinking age

A bunch of 19-year-olds drinking beer at a party wouldn’t normally be newsworthy, but that changes when the police get involved and the party happened at a public figure’s house:

The general counsel for Iowa’s largest hospital system was charged with interference with official acts after Polk County sheriff’s deputies broke up an alcohol party involving seven 19-year-olds at the executive’s Grimes home early Sunday.

Dennis Drake, 57, is the husband of Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus. […]

The misdemeanor charge accuses him of failing to obey a deputy’s commands.

It’s not clear who purchased the beer for the 19-year-olds or whether Ternus was home during the party.

John Deeth thinks the drinking age should be 18 and Drake is getting a bum rap:

[Drake] was positioned near the driveway at 1:30 AM to make sure no one drove home. Assuming that Her Honor was also in the parental loop (police reports don’t indicate if she was home or not), that means two high-end lawyers looked at the situation and felt that the best thing to do was to let these young ADULTS have a drink or six at home and make sure they didn’t drive.

Looks like the only thing anyone did that was WRONG was to be loud and obnoxious and annoy the neighbors–a temporary injury of lost sleep that’s far less than would could have happened if Ternus and Drake had been less responsible.

This event is an opportunity Ternus should take to offer her opinion on the law. Not on the constitutionality of the law, but on the efficacy, the justice, the effectiveness of the law. Now, I’m just a dumb blogger, not a smart lawyer or nuthin’, so I don’t know what the guidelines are. But from my perspective I’d love to hear Ternus say, “My son and husband broke the law, but it’s a really bad law.”

It’s good that Drake was preventing intoxicated 19-year-olds from driving, but I couldn’t disagree more with Deeth’s advice for Ternus.

My inner wonk would love to hear a policy debate between public-health experts, who might cite benefits of keeping the drinking age where it is, and people like Deeth who figure, kids can vote, get married and go off to fight in a war at 18–why not let them have a beer?

But the last thing we need is for the Chief Justice to start questioning the drinking age because her husband and son got in trouble. Ever since the Iowa Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, social conservatives have been plotting their campaign against Ternus and her two colleagues up for retention in November 2010. They will be looking for any excuse to claim Ternus disrespects Iowa laws. Drake should get this matter behind the family and not let it happen again.

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Branstad for governor? Not so fast

Like Cityview’s Civic Skinny, I’ve been hearing some chatter about former Governor Terry Branstad considering another gubernatorial bid. Branstad ruled out running for governor in May but has made ambiguous comments more recently. He may be encouraged by The Iowa Republican poll’s finding that he leads Governor Chet Culver 53 percent to 37 percent in a hypothetical matchup. In a hypothetical Republican primary, Branstad has 35 percent support to 31 percent for Bob Vander Plaats, with 19 percent of respondents unsure and all other candidates in single digits.

I’m skeptical about a Branstad resurgence. First, I doubt he would give up his prominent, lucrative job as president of Des Moines University. Second, the Iowa electorate has become much more Democratic than it was in Branstad’s day.

Third, I don’t think the Republican field would clear for him. I am not convinced the evangelical conservatives who were his base of support in the 1980s and 1990s will remain loyal. Branstad appointed two of the seven Iowa Supreme Court justices who cleared the way for same-sex marriage rights, including Mark Cady, who wrote the Varnum v Brien decision. Moreover, he declined to condemn those justices after the ruling.

Most important, Branstad nearly lost his own party’s primary as a three-term incumbent in 1994. There’s a reason so many elected Republicans, like then State Auditor Richard Johnson, backed Congressman Fred Grandy in that race. The phrases “two sets of books” and “cooking the books” may ring a bell with Bleeding Heartland readers of a certain age.

I don’t expect Branstad to run for governor again, but if he does he should expect his management of state finances to come under a lot more scrutiny. Likely candidate Chris Rants told The Iowa Republican blog this month,

I am worried that we are backsliding to those days in the late 80’s when the governor and legislature fudged the numbers to look good for an election. They didn’t abide by generally acceptable accounting principles. That led to bigger problems and late payments to local school districts.

It’s frankly a joke to portray Branstad as more fiscally responsible than Culver. Branstad managed this state during tough times by keeping two sets of books and digging us into a hole. Under Culver, Iowa still has a healthy reserve fund and a AAA bond rating. He has made budget cuts when necessary and is ready to do so again if need be after final revenue figures come in.

Share any thoughts about the governor’s race in this thread.

UPDATE: Fascinating comment thread under Craig Robinson’s post at The Iowa Republican. It didn’t take long for someone to post news clippings from 1994 about Branstad “cooking the books” and Johnson endorsing Grandy. Also, I noticed a few social conservatives predicting that people would not abandon Vander Plaats for Branstad.  

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New thread on Sotomayor confirmation hearings

Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings ended today. I hardly watched any of it on tv, but I got the highlights from David Waldman’s liveblogging at Congress Matters: Wednesday morning session, Wednesday afternoon session, Thursday morning session, and Thursday afternoon session.

On Wednesday Senator Chuck Grassley had a contentious exchange with Judge Sotomayor regarding a 1972 case on same-sex marriage. Tom Beaumont posted the transcript at the Des Moines Register site. Sotomayor read the case last night and answered more questions from Grassley about it today. I posted an excerpt from the transcript after the jump.

According to MSNBC reporter Norah O’Donnell, Grassley told her today that his constituents are “pretty unanimous against her,” referring to Sotomayor. On what basis can he make that claim? I don’t doubt that wingnuts have been working his phone lines, but I hope he doesn’t expect anyone to believe that Iowans overwhelmingly oppose the confirmation of this extremely intelligent and qualified judge.

Questioning of Sotomayor concluded this morning, and outside witnesses testified this afternoon. Republicans brought in New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci. His story has become a focal point for opponents of Sotomayor, because the Supreme Court recently found in his favor in a 5-4 decision that overruled a 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decision involving Sotomayor. (Of course, Sotomayor’s critics don’t acknowledge the bigger picture of her rulings in race-related cases.)

It turns out that Ricci’s quite the veteran of employment lawsuits. He sued the city of New Haven in 1995, claiming that he was discriminated against because of his dyslexia, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ricci also went to court to fight his 1998 dismissal from Middletown’s South Fire District. TPM-DC’s Brian Beutler observed,

[Ricci’s] views on jurisprudence seem to begin and end with the proposition that legal protections against discrimination are great when they work in his favor, and unconscionable when they don’t.

I don’t have a problem with people defending their rights in court, but Ricci was hardly the reluctant litigant some conservatives have made him out to be. Also, it’s worth noting that whether or not Ricci was treated unfairly, the position Sotomayor took in the Ricci case

is an act of judicial restraint. The Second Circuit panel, which included Judge Sonia Sotomayor, deferred to a decision of the elected officials of the City of New Haven. Whether the decision was correct or incorrect, it was decidedly the opposite of judicial activism.

In fact, the five conservative Supreme Court judges who overturned the lower court ruling in Ricci were engaging in judicial activism.

Share any thoughts about the confirmation process in this thread. How many Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to confirm Sotomayor?

UPDATE: MyDD user bruh3 has a good response to Grassley’s line of questioning on that 1972 decision. and it’s just a guess, is that Grassley has been hearing from a lot of evangelicals about gay marriage in recent months. They were already mad at him last year for questioning the tax-exempt status of some televangelists. Then Grassley’s reaction to the Varnum v Brien decision was found wanting by many Iowa social conservatives. I suspect he wanted to make a show of grilling Judge Sotomayor on this issue.

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Don't make gay spouses adopt their own children

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has advised the Iowa Department of Public Health that a married lesbian who gives birth cannot list her spouse on the child’s birth certificate, according to Michael Gartner’s must-read scathing commentary in this week’s Cityview. Excerpt:

[Attorney General Tom] Miller’s lawyers based their advice on the fact that the decision made no direct reference to the Iowa Code section on birth certificates, which refers to “husband.” “The Supreme Court ruling “does not authorize an interpretation of chapter 144 (vital statistics, including birth certificates) in a manner that would allow for a same-sex spouse to be automatically listed as the parent on birth certificates,” they said. And, insultingly and gratuitously, they added: “Using the adoption process is the best way to protect the interests and rights of all parties involved.”

How shameful.

For more than 125 years, the Iowa Supreme Court has consistently ruled that a child born in wedlock is presumed to be the legitimate child of the woman and her spouse – even if the woman was pregnant by another man at the time of the wedding, even if the woman was impregnated by another man during her marriage. “The law presumes that a child born in wedlock is legitimate,” the court said in 1882. More than 100 years later, in 1995, the court ruled in a similar case that “the state’s interests involve preserving the integrity of the family [and] the best interests of the child….” Yes, “the best interests of the child.”

The Iowa Code couldn’t be clearer. Section 252 says: “A child or children born of parents who, at any time prior or subsequent to the birth of such child, have entered into a civil or religious marriage ceremony, shall be deemed the legitimate child or children of both parents, regardless of the validity of such marriage.” And the Supreme Court says gays can marry one another.

Go read Gartner’s whole piece, which highlights key passages from the Iowa Supreme Court ruling in Varnum v Brien. He also points out that adopting a child involves significant time and expense.

I’m surprised that the Attorney General’s Office would give the Iowa Department of Public Health bad advice on this matter. Tom Miller strongly praised the court’s “clear and well-reasoned opinion” the day Varnum v Brien was announced. Miller’s advice helped persuade Governor Chet Culver not to seek to overturn the ruling. Assistant Attorney General Heather Adams wrote a memo reminding all Iowa county recorders that they must comply with the decision and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Iowa Department of Public Health should give married spouses equal protection under the law.

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Early Odds on the Republican Race for Governor

(Thanks to American007 for this analysis. Be sure to click "there's more" to read the whole piece. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Today, the right-leaning news aggregator The Bean Walker ran a headline: THE CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF TODAY. The link and reference refer to a GOP fundraiser in Sac County this morning that brought together four likely candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Those men are Rep. (and former Speaker of the House) Chris Rants of Sioux City; 2006 Lt. Governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats of Sioux City;Rep. Rob Roberts of Carroll; and Sen. Jerry Behn of Boone.

While the Republican primary is still months away, this unofficial first step on the long road to the nomination seems a good place to start with some early odds on the eventual winner.

Rep. Chris Rants (R-Sioux City)     3:1

Rants is the Hillary Clinton of this race. He's been a figurehead and a lightning rod within the party for almost a decade. He served as Speaker of the House during the Vilsack years, from 2002 until his party's ouster in 2007. In fact, many within the party still blame him for that defeat–even though 2006 was such a realignment that it would have been hard for the party do much better than it did under any circumstances. Much like Ms. Clinton, Rants is highly polarizing figure who has a reputation for having a “bulldozer” style of leadership, with little time or tact for those who stand in his way. Also, like Hillary, he is going to have to learn to deal with media and pundits who are less than cordial.

(The best analysis of his candidacy comes from this piece in Cityview's Civic Skinny column. It is a must read.)

Rants 2010 candidacy seems based on what Craig Robinson at the Iowa Republican calls “a kinder, gentler Chris Rants”.  According to O. Kay Henderson's liveblog of the Sac County event, Rants primary focus in the campaign is going to be economic and business issues; somewhat of a departure from his rivals. 

Analysis:  Rants is well positioned in the race to become the choice of Republicans who are turned off by Bob Vander Plaats but are hesitant to embrace a less-conservative choice. He also has a fat rolodex of fundraising contacts and a long list of favors to call in. He's in it to win it.



Bob Vander Plaats     3:1

Vander Plaats, the 2006 Lt. Governor candidate and primary candidate in his own right in 2002 and 2006, has been to the political wilderness and back several rimes. His supporters believe, however, that the third time around is the charm.

Borne aloft by the twin archangels of Iowa conservativism Steve Deace and Mike Huckabee, Vander Plaats' “plaatform” is straight-line social conservative. His primary issue thus far is putting an end to same-sex marriage rights as granted by Varnum v. Brien.  However, reactions to his plan to do so by issuing an executive order have been extremely negative outside of his core group of supporters. Many believe that his plan is patently unconstitutional. 

Analysis: Vander Plaats appeals to the basest parts of the Republican base. However, among that segment of the party he enjoys fervent, dedicated support. Unless the more moderate elements of the Republican Party can grasp the reins, Vander Plaats remains a strong contender.



Unknown Moderate     3:1

It's an open secret that there is a sizable contingent of the Republican Party that isn't happy with the current crop of candidates. This shadowy group of mostly moderates, old-money and business Republicans has been candidate shopping lately. Headed by favorite so-con punching bag (and 2002 candidate for Governor) Doug Gross, this faction has been talking to some unconventional potential candidates. Among the names being talked about: Vermeer CEO Mary Andringa, Dubuque University president Jeff Bullock, Generation Iowa Commission vice-chair Christian Fong, Farm Bureau president Craig Lang, Jeff Lamberti, Marianette Miller-Meeks and even Fmr. Gov. Terry Branstad.

The platform for such a candidate is seen through a glass darkly, but is sure to run to to the left of Rants and far to the left of Vander Plaats–a center-right agenda, with an emphasis on economic/budget/tax issues over traditional so-con fare.

Analysis: It remains to be seen who will emerge as the center-right option in this race, although Gross has promised to find a candidate by Septmber. What is certain, however, is that that candidate will enjoy significant financial and institutional support from the faction of the party that doesn't want to see the race wasted on a quixotic Vander Plaats run. In the absence of more information, I give Rants, Vander Plaats and the moderate candidate the same chances.

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Sign the Faithful Voices Pledge for marriage equality

Columnist Clarence Page is speaking about civil marriage equality tonight, June 11, at 7 pm in the State Historical Museum Auditorium, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. Unfortunately, I’m unable to attend the lecture, but I encourage anyone who hears Page speak to post a comment in this thread or your own diary about the event.

Those who can’t see Page tonight can still express their support for same-sex marriage rights. The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa has created an online petition for “Iowans of faith and goodwill who support marriage equality.” Excerpt:

As Iowans of faith and goodwill, clergy and lay, we support marriage equality.  From our deepest beliefs, we are compelled to stand for fairness in our common civic life. We oppose the use of sacred texts and religious traditions to deny equal protection and responsibility under the law for gay and lesbian couples.

From a religious perspective, marriage is about a couple entering into a holy covenant with their God and making a long-term commitment to share life’s joys and sorrows. Moreover, as many faith traditions affirm, where there is love, the sacred is in our midst.  This belief is the same for couples comprised of a man and a woman, two women, or two men.  As such, a marriage based in love and commitment must be honored and supported. […]

We affirm freedom of conscience in this matter. Marriage equality honors the religious convictions of those communities and clergy who officiate at, and bless, same-sex marriages. We recognize the state must not require clergy or religious traditions who disagree with same-sex marriage to officiate at, or bless, the ceremonies of gay and lesbian couples. The state must respect the convictions of all religious groups and individuals, while also allowing the fundamental right of marriage to be granted fairly to all people.

Click here to sign the Faithful Voices Pledge. Then pass the link along to like-minded friends.

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Iowa GOP building new machine to sell old ideas

Thomas Beaumont wrote about the Republican Party of Iowa’s revamped outreach strategy in Monday’s Des Moines Register. GOP chairman Matt Strawn is working on several fronts to bring the party back to power after three consecutive losses in Iowa gubernatorial elections and four consecutive elections in which Republicans lost seats in the Iowa House and Senate.

Strawn’s strategy consists of:

1) meeting with activists in numerous cities and towns

2) using social networking tools to spread the Republican message

3) building an organization with a more accurate database

After the jump I’ll discuss the strengths of this approach as well as its glaring flaw.

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Now we are six

Iowa is now one of six states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Congratulations to everyone who worked to bring marriage equality to New Hampshire. Today the state House passed a revised bill legalizing same-sex marriage, and Governor John Lynch signed it immediately. More details are all over the web, including at Pam’s House Blend and Blue Hampshire.

Share your thoughts in this thread, and remember, Iowa got there first! Actually, “first” in the sense of third, after Massachusetts and Connecticut–but the important thing is, before New Hampshire!

When wingnuts collide

I’m grateful that the Iowa Independent bloggers listen to our local Rush Limbaugh clones so I don’t have to. If anything newsworthy comes out of some right-wing radio show, I can read about it online.  

I learned recently that no matter how crazy Congressman Steve King seems, there are some conservatives who think he should be further outside the mainstream.

After the jump I have a few thoughts on the spat between King and wingnut Bill Salier, best known for almost beating establishment favorite Greg Ganske in the 2002 Republican Senate primary.

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Steve King is robocalling Iowans again on gay marriage

Several Bleeding Heartland readers living in different Iowa counties have received robocalls in the past few days featuring Congressman Steve “10 Worst” King. Like the calls King recorded in early April, these calls are paid for by the National Organization for Marriage.

I have not heard the call, but from what others have told me, it sounds like this fake survey is designed to raise money, identify and mobilize supporters. (In contrast, a “push-poll” usually seeks to spread information that would change people’s minds about an issue or candidate.) The details are after the jump.

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