Five thoughts about Linda Upmeyer's tenure as Iowa House speaker

Iowa House Republicans meet in Des Moines this morning to elect new leaders for the 2020 legislative session. Linda Upmeyer announced on September 30 that she will step down as House speaker when the legislature reconvenes in January and will not seek re-election next November. She said in a written statement that she wants to spend more time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

Speaking to WHO Radio’s Jeff Angelo on October 1, Upmeyer said she was also influenced by her predecessor Kraig Paulsen’s decision to leave the post long before an election. A new speaker is “well-served” by having a session under their belt, which helps them with fundraising and recruiting candidates, she explained. “I wanted to make sure that whoever was going to be leading the caucus in the future had those tools at their disposal going into this next election.”

Sources close to the legislature indicate that current House Appropriations Committee chair Pat Grassley is likely to become the next speaker, with Matt Windschitl moving up from House speaker pro-tem to majority leader. Current Majority Leader Chris Hagenow may not be part of the new leadership team, for reasons that remain unclear. UPDATE: The caucus selected Grassley as speaker, Windschitl as majority leader, and State Representative John Wills as speaker pro tem.

I’ve been thinking about Upmeyer’s legacy and how she influenced the chamber.

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Highlights: How Iowa's Pete Brownell helped NRA become Russian asset

Pete Brownell, the CEO of the Grinnell-based firearms retailer Brownells, was a key target in a scheme by foreign agents who used the National Rifle Association “to gain access to American conservative organizations on behalf of the Russian Federation,” an eighteen-month investigation revealed. The report by Democratic staff on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee determined that while representing the NRA, Brownell met with sanctioned individuals in Russia in December 2015. That trip helped demonstrate to the Kremlin that Russian government official Alexander Torshin had strong American connections.

In addition, investigators found evidence Brownell went to Moscow “primarily or solely for the purpose of advancing personal business interests, rather than advancing the NRA’s tax-exempt purpose.” Maria Butina (who worked closely with Torshin and was later charged in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation) set up meetings for Brownell with Russian arms manufacturers and retailers and traveled with the Iowan for three days before the rest of the NRA group arrived.

By using the so-called social welfare organization’s resources in this way, the NRA and Brownell may have violated portions of the federal tax code relating to private inurement and excess benefit transactions.

Bleeding Heartland’s efforts to reach Brownell for comment on September 27 were unsuccessful. The media contact for the Brownells company did not return phone calls.

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Iowa governor's already denied ten AG requests to join national cases

Less than four months after persuading Attorney General Tom Miller to cede some of his power to her, Governor Kim Reynolds has already denied ten requests to sign Iowa on to multi-state legal actions related to federal or state policies on gun safety, immigration, environmental regulation, and reproductive or LGBTQ rights.

During the same time frame, Reynolds has approved five requests to join multi-state efforts on consumer protection, drug policy, or to help Iowa obtain a share of negotiated settlements.

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Jack Hatch running for Des Moines mayor

Former State Senator Jack Hatch will run for Des Moines mayor, he announced on WHO-TV on September 19, the last day for local candidates in Iowa to file nominating papers. A few minutes later, his campaign released a statement and a video, both enclosed below, and launched a website at JackHatchforMayor.com.

Key issues for Hatch will include fixing roads and neighborhood infrastructure, addressing “the urgent mental health care crisis that has been ignored,” protecting drinking water, improving area schools, and public safety measures including steps to reduce gun violence. All of those topics were mentioned in a telephone poll Hatch commissioned earlier this month, which Bleeding Heartland summarized here.

Defeating sixteen-year incumbent Mayor Frank Cownie will not be easy, and Hatch will have only six and a half weeks to build his case with voters. However, unlike most challengers, he already has very high name recognition. Hatch represented parts of Des Moines in the Iowa House or Senate for more than 20 years, was the 2014 Democratic nominee for governor, and is a well-known property developer.

Hatch told WHO-TV’s Dave Price he started thinking about running for mayor after Cownie “decided not to protect our drinking water when he had a chance to,” adding that Cownie “was silent” as Republican legislators tried to break up the Des Moines Water Works in 2017. Hatch acknowledged he was starting his campaign late, saying others had considered running against Cownie but backed off. He’s in the race because sees the future of Des Moines “being blurred” without strong leadership.

Turnout on November 5 may be higher than usual for a city election, because Des Moines has multiple competitive city council races, and this is the first year school board elections will be held concurrently with elections for municipal offices. Early voting begins on October 7.

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Amy Klobuchar: A leader for everyone

State Representative Molly Donahue: “Amy Klobuchar is running to be the president of all the people, not half the people.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Amy Klobuchar isn’t just a smart, funny, gritty, senator from Minnesota who gets things done. She is someone who studies and weighs the pros and cons of policy. She not only knows her own policies in and out, but she also knows the policies of her fellow presidential candidates.

Amy’s one-liners are filled with a wealth of knowledge about how the system works and how to get to where we want to be, while uniting those around her. She has proven her strength is uniting by getting people to work together towards a common cause as a senator, and she has shown time and again that she can stand up to Trump and his policies.

Amy has fought to expand affordable health care options, building on and improving the Affordable Care Act, and working across the aisle to reduce prescription drug prices while allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. She wants to end the stigma of mental illness in this country, and to make sure that services are available and affordable for the people in need.

She believes in providing a pathway for citizenship for undocumented workers, and that we must begin to reduce carbon emissions with a plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 while embracing natural gas as a “transition” fuel to help the U.S. move away from foreign oil. She has experience working with agriculture and knows that our farmers and rural communities are at risk because of President Donald Trump’s tariffs. She has a plan to put our rural areas back to work and help farmers be sustainable into the future while protecting the environment.

Amy doesn’t look at things and say they can’t be done. Instead, she asks, how do we get there with everyone, not just part of the country? She is running to be the president of all the people, not half the people.

She is the daughter of a public school teacher, and knows the importance of a public education for a successful future. Amy stands for the people, the workers of America and stresses the importance of the unions to strengthen our work force and continue to build a strong middle class with good jobs, wages, benefits, and safety in the workplace. She supports expanding access to vocational training and other post-secondary education in an affordable way, so students aren’t burdened with insurmountable debt.

Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action have praised Amy for her strong stance on gun violence prevention. She jokes she isn’t looking to hurt her uncle, who’s a big hunter. Rather, she supports instituting universal background checks, banning assault rifles, and Extreme Risk Orders, also known as “red flag” laws – which allow law enforcement to remove guns from people they determine to be a threat.

Amy speaks about our allies around the world, and how she will bring them back to the table to stabilize the damage done by the Trump administration. She is a fighter for LGBTQ and women’s rights.

From campaign finance reform to foreign policy, Amy Klobuchar is a great candidate who can win.

I am very happy to announce that I have endorsed Amy Klobuchar for president. She is the person we need to unite this country and to move the country forward. Amy will work across the aisle to pass progressive policy and has what it takes to not only stand up to Trump, but to beat Trump.

She has the work ethic and values that the country wants in a leader, and she will put the people first when she implements the policies and changes for her administration.

Plain and simply, Amy Klobuchar will provide a great future for our kids as president of the United States.

Editor’s note: Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts related to the Iowa caucuses, including but not limited to candidate endorsements. Please read these guidelines and contact Laura Belin if you are interested in writing.

Top image: Senator Amy Klobuchar (left) and State Representative Molly Donahue in Cedar Rapids at a September 1 “climate conversation” event organized by State Senator Rob Hogg. Photo provided by the author and published with permission.

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Twelve quick takes on the third Democratic debate

First disclaimer: I don’t agree with the Democratic National Committee’s debate criteria and encourage Iowans to keep listening to all the presidential candidates.

Second disclaimer: I doubt anything that happens more than four months before anyone votes will significantly affect the battle for the Democratic nomination. As Dan Guild has shown, history tells us more than half of Iowa Democrats who participated in the 2004 and 2008 caucuses decided in the final month.

That said, here are my thoughts on last night’s three-hour debate at Texas Southern University in Houston.

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