Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature

Forty men and ten women currently serve in the Iowa Senate. No senators are African-American, Latino, or Asian-American.

Seventy-five men and 25 women currently serve in the Iowa House. Five state representatives are African-American and none are Latino or Asian-American.

Time for a look at how those numbers might change after the November election, now that primaries have determined the major-party nominees in all state legislative districts. Click here for the June 3 unofficial election results and here for the full list of candidates who filed to run in the primaries.

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Labor union endorsements in contested 2014 Iowa Democratic primaries

With less than two weeks remaining before June 3, interest groups with a preference in competitive primaries have presumably made their views known by now. On the Democratic side, labor unions are most likely to get involved in primaries, so I wanted to compile in one place the full list of candidates in competitive Democratic races who have been endorsed by one or more organized labor group. None of the Democrats seeking statewide office in Iowa this year has a primary opponent, and I’ve omitted county-level races. The list below includes candidates running for Congress in the first district and seeking various Iowa House and Senate seats.

I will update this post as needed if I learn of other labor union endorsements. Note that many other Democratic candidates already have or will have organized labor’s official support for the general election campaign. Blog for Iowa posted all of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO’s endorsements for 2014 here. A complete list of candidates who will appear on primary ballots is on this page of the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.

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IA-Gov: Tyler Olson drops out

State Representative Tyler Olson announced today that he is ending his campaign for governor.

While focused on supporting my children through the transition in my personal life it is clear they need my full attention. It is time to end my campaign for Governor.

I will continue to focus on my family, finish my term as state representative, rejoin Paulson Electric and look for opportunities to serve my community as time allows.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, Olson revealed that he and his wife are divorcing. At that time, he signaled that he planned to resume campaigning for governor in the new year. I think ending his candidacy is the right decision, and I assume he heard similar feedback from many of his supporters. Olson is young and will have opportunities to run for public office again.  

To my knowledge, only one candidate is already running to succeed Olson in Iowa House district 65: Democratic activist Liz Bennett.

UPDATE: Here’s the list of state legislators who had endorsed Olson. Here’s the list of those who had already endorsed State Senator Jack Hatch.

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IA-Gov: Tyler Olson scaling back campaign temporarily

State Representative Tyler Olson just announced that because he and Sarah Olson are separating after seven years of marriage, he is “scaling back campaign events for the remainder of the year to focus on my family and helping them through this transition.” He said he and his wife took this step “only after significant discussion and professional support to deal with the issues facing our marriage,” and that he is “deeply committed” to continuing the race for governor after the holiday season.

Many prominent Iowa Democrats, including more than two dozen state legislators, have endorsed Olson for governor, as did the state’s largest labor union. I will update this post as needed with political reaction.

UPDATE: Added Olson’s e-mail about the situation after the jump.

Olson has until March 14, 2014 to decide whether to stay in the race. Democrat Liz Bennett is already running in Iowa House district 65, which Olson is vacating.

State Senator Jack Hatch, another Democratic candidate for governor, said in a statement, “This is a private matter and we should all respect the family’s privacy. These matters are always very hard and unpleasant for everyone involved. I wish Rep. Olson, Sarah, and their family the best as they work through this difficult time. I will not have any further comment.”

State Senators Janet Petersen and Jeff Danielson, who both endorsed Olson earlier this year, told the Des Moines Register that they still support his gubernatorial campaign.

SECOND UPDATE: No surprise, Governor Terry Branstad has no comment about Olson’s family situation.

THIRD UPDATE: In another signal Olson is serious about staying in the governor’s race, on December 4 his campaign urged supporters to help collect signatures for his ballot petitions.  

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Liz Bennett has head start in Iowa House district 65

When State Representative Tyler Olson launched his campaign for governor this summer, I expected several Democrats to jump at the chance to represent Iowa House district 65. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State, the Cedar Rapids seat Olson will vacate at the end of next year contains 9,510 registered Democrats, 4,859 Republicans, and 7,369 no-party voters. In other words, the winner of the Democratic primary is almost certain to succeed Olson in the Iowa House.

To my knowledge, only Liz Bennett is actively running for House district 65. A volunteer for many Democratic candidates and various progressive causes in Linn County, Bennett now works for the internet company Go Daddy. She created a campaign Facebook page in July and formally kicked off her bid for the Iowa House at a Cedar Rapids event this past Saturday. So far there’s not much detail on Bennett’s campaign website. Her Facebook page includes a brief statement of priorities: “I believe that education, a strong middle class, diverse communities, and common-sense environmental policy are the keys to economic growth for Iowa.” After the jump I’ve posted more background, provided by the candidate.

I would not be surprised to see other Democrats declare before the filing deadline in March 2014. On the other hand, Bennett may be able to clear the field in House district 65. Not only has she served on the Linn County Democratic Central Committee and chaired her precinct caucus, she was chosen to be a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.  

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