Throwback Thursday: When Greg Forristall fought against putting commerce ahead of education

Republican State Representative Greg Forristall passed away yesterday at the age of 67. First elected to the Iowa House in 2006, he was most recently vice chair of the Education Committee and also served on the Human Resources, Labor, and Ways and Means committees. He had been battling cancer for some time and was too ill to participate in the last few weeks of this year’s legislative session.

In a written statement, Republican Party of Iowa chair Jeff Kaufmann described Forristall as a “friend to conservatives across our state” and a “happy warrior” in the Ronald Reagan tradition. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said Forristall “was a dedicated public servant to the people he represented and an advocate for the arts and education, two issues that he was incredibly passionate for.”

I never met Forristall, but one episode stands out for me as I think about his legislative career. The first two years after Republicans regained their Iowa House majority, Forristall chaired the Education Committee. House leaders reassigned him to lead the Labor Committee in 2013, a position he retained through the 2016 legislative session.

Why did then House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Majority Leader Upmeyer take the Education Committee away from Forristall, knowing how much he cared about that issue? I never saw any public confirmation, but the Iowa political rumor mill pointed to Forristall’s stance on one controversial bill.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2017

The Iowa House opens its 2017 session today with 59 Republicans, 40 Democrats, and one vacancy, since Jim Lykam resigned after winning the recent special election in Iowa Senate district 45. The 99 state representatives include 27 women (18 Democrats and nine Republicans) and 72 men. Five African-Americans (all Democrats) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 95 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the Iowa Senate following the 2008 election.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year.

Under the Ethics Committee subheading, you’ll see a remarkable example of Republican hypocrisy.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Taylors (one from each party) and two Smiths (both Democrats). As for first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Roberts (two Robs, one Bob, and a Bobby), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), and three men each named Gary, John, and Charles (two Chucks and a Charlie). There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Brian, Bruce, Chris, Greg, Michael, and Todd.

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Former Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning joins #NeverTrump camp

Donald Trump is too ignorant to be president, according to former Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning, the most prominent Iowa Republican to disavow the GOP nominee.

Corning served six years in the Iowa Senate, then eight years as lieutenant governor during Terry Branstad’s third and fourth terms. Since unsuccessfully seeking the GOP nomination for governor in 1998, she has held leadership roles in numerous non-profit organizations. As a pro-choice moderate, she has been increasingly outnumbered within Iowa GOP ranks. Nevertheless, she supported every Republican presidential nominee from Dwight D. Eisenhower through John McCain, Corning told Bleeding Heartland yesterday in a telephone interview. Despite voting for President Barack Obama in 2012, she never left the Republican Party and endorsed Jeb Bush before this year’s Iowa caucuses.

Corning said she realized while watching the Republican debates that Trump was not a candidate she could ever support. As for why, she cited his “know-it-all demeanor when he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Had she ruled out voting for him by the time he locked up the GOP nomination? “Oh, yes. Yes.”

Like State Senator David Johnson, who came out against Trump this summer, Corning declined to state publicly for whom she will vote in November.

After Jeb Bush announced in May that he would not support Trump, I sought comment from State Senator Charles Schneider and the six Iowa House Republicans who had endorsed the former Florida governor before the caucuses. Schneider said, “I intend to vote for Trump assuming he is the nominee,” while State Representative Greg Forristall likewise confirmed he “will vote for the Republican nominee.” State Representative Dave Heaton commented at that time, “It’s pretty hard for us to turn our back on the party’s selection, so I probably would support [Trump].” State Representatives Zach Nunn, Linda Miller, and Ron Jorgensen did not respond to my inquiries.

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It's hard to beat an Iowa legislative incumbent in a primary

Yesterday’s primary elections demonstrated again that Iowans like to re-elect their incumbents, barring extraordinary circumstances.

The exception proving the rule: three-term State Representative Dan Kelley lost his Democratic primary in House district 29 (covering Newton and most of Jasper County) to Wes Breckinridge by 65 percent to 35 percent. As Pat Rynard explained here, that race was notable because prominent local officials and Iowa’s two largest labor organizations, AFSCME and the Iowa Federation of Labor, opposed the incumbent.

I’ll be sorry to see Kelley go. Of all the state legislators, he was the most vocal opponent of the Bakken pipeline, despite knowing that unions–a powerful interest group in Iowa Democratic politics–had bought into the oil company’s greatly exaggerated job estimates for that project (see also here). Kelley wasn’t always popular in the House Democratic caucus. I didn’t agree with all of his votes, but I admired his independent thinking.

No one challenged a sitting Iowa senator in a primary this year. The other eight state representatives who faced competitive primaries all won easily yesterday. Among the Democrats, Jo Oldson took about 67 percent of the vote against a hard-working opponent in House district 41, Brian Meyer won 69.5 percent in House district 33, and Mary Gaskill 59 percent in House district 81. Among the Republicans, Greg Forristall won just under 80 percent of the vote in House district 22, Stan Gustafson 67 percent in House district 25, Kevin Koester more than 86 percent in House district 38, Jake Highfill 58.5 percent in House district 39, and Jarad Klein 67 percent in House district 78.

No Iowa lawmaker failed to win his or her party’s nomination in 2014. Highfill had the closest call, taking a 43 percent plurality against two Republican opponents. Highfill was the only successful primary challenger to an Iowa legislative incumbent in 2012. The college student’s victory over then House Majority Whip Erik Helland was shocking, but an OWI arrest and other examples of poor judgment worked against Helland. Though inexperienced, Highfill had the backing of former State Representative Walt Tomenga and the “Liberty PAC” of Ron Paul supporters in that 2012 race.

Any comments about Iowa legislative elections are welcome in this thread.

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Iowa primary election results thread

Polls closed at 9 pm across Iowa. Any comments about today’s primary elections are welcome in this thread. Anecdotally, I heard reports of low turnout from various parts of the state all day long. I will be updating this post throughout the evening. For statewide results, check the Iowa Secretary of State’s results page. The Polk County Elections Office is posting results here.

Follow me after the jump for updates. The Des Moines Register posted the video of Patty Judge’s victory speech, because our local CBS affiliate cut away from it, and the NBC and ABC affiliates had ended their election coverage before then.

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Never let it be said that the 2016 Iowa legislature accomplished nothing

In four months of work this year, Iowa lawmakers made no progress on improving water quality or expanding conservation programs, funded K-12 schools and higher education below levels needed to keep up with inflation, failed to increase the minimum wage or address wage theft, let most criminal justice reform proposals die in committee, didn’t approve adequate oversight for the newly-privatized Medicaid program, opted against making medical cannabis more available to sick and suffering Iowans, and left unaddressed several other issues that affect thousands of constituents.

But let the record reflect that bipartisan majorities in the Iowa House and Senate acted decisively to solve a non-existent problem. At a bill-signing ceremony yesterday, Governor Terry Branstad and supporters celebrated preventing something that probably never would have happened.

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