IA-02's starting to look like a lean Democratic seat

After seven-term Democratic U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack announced plans to retire after his current term, I argued that the open-seat race in Iowa’s second Congressional district looked like a toss-up.

Bobby Schilling made his campaign official on July 8, setting up a likely general election match-up against Rita Hart. Although Democrats should take nothing for granted here, and the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball still rate IA-02 as a toss-up, I’m now considering this a lean Democratic seat for the following reasons.

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Iowa Democratic groups weigh doing business with Hy-Vee

News that Hy-Vee’s political action committee donated $25,000 to the Republican Party of Iowa shortly before a recent fundraiser featuring President Donald Trump is prompting some Iowa Democratic organizations to re-examine the business they give to the major grocery store chain.

Leaders of the West Des Moines Democrats decided to cancel a contract for Hy-Vee to cater an upcoming picnic that is one of the group’s biggest fundraisers.

Several members of the Polk County Democratic Central Committee raised concerns this week about plans for Hy-Vee to cater the group’s Steak Fry in September, which could attract thousands of caucus-goers.

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Anyone but Biden

Zach Simonson became chair of the Wapello County Democrats in April. He lives in Ottumwa and works as a building inspector. He can be found on Twitter at @zachsimonsonIA. -promoted by Laura Belin

Shortly after my election this spring, I received a missive from the Iowa Democratic Party requesting that county chairs refrain from making caucus endorsements. While it seems like that plea earned mixed results statewide, I intend to honor it. Mostly.

I’m not naive enough to think anyone truly cares about my endorsement. But if being a county chair provides a platform to speak on the caucus, then I have something to shout into the black hole of online caucus discourse: for God’s sake, don’t vote for Joe Biden!

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What candidates said about health care, reproductive rights at the Hall of Fame

Nineteen presidential candidates had five minutes each to make their case to more than 1,000 activists at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame event in Cedar Rapids on June 9. Most offered at least one really good applause line. Teams of reporters from the Des Moines Register and Iowa Starting Line pulled together some of the memorable parts of each speech here and here.

I decided to focus on how the candidates spoke about health care and women’s ability to access abortion for a couple of reasons. First, while the candidates highlighted a wide range of problems and proposals, almost all of them addressed those topics in some way.

Second, this post represents my gesture toward what media critic Jay Rosen has called the “citizens agenda” approach to covering campaigns. Although I lack survey data to know for sure what Iowa Democrats want the presidential contenders to be talking about, I believe health care and reproductive rights are among the most salient for caucus-goers, because:

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Pros and cons of Iowa Democratic Party's new "virtual caucus"

The Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee approved a new rules package for the 2020 caucuses and convention process by a unanimous vote on April 6. Committee members did not amend any aspect of the proposal, which the party unveiled in February. I’ve enclosed the whole document near the end of this post.

The most significant innovation will be allowing voters to register a preference in the presidential contest without being physically present at a precinct caucus on February 3, 2020. Iowa Democratic insiders have long resisted that kind of change and probably would not have developed this plan if not for pressure from the Democratic National Committee.

This “virtual caucus” will significantly reduce barriers to participation that have kept thousands of politically-engaged Iowans from having their voices heard in past cycles. However, the rules won’t give equal weight to those who are unable to attend in person or prefer to call in. That will create a new set of challenges and perhaps some unintended consequences.

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Republicans are worried about Iowa Senate district 30, with good reason

Voters in Cedar Falls, Hudson, and part of Waterloo will elect a new state senator on March 19. Three candidates are on the ballot for Iowa Senate district 30: Republican Walt Rogers, Democrat Eric Giddens, and Libertarian Fred Perryman.

Republicans took some advantages into this campaign, which is on a shortened timetable because Senator Jeff Danielson resigned during the legislative session. Rogers was better-known than Giddens, and Governor Kim Reynolds scheduled the vote during spring break for the University of Northern Iowa and Cedar Falls public schools, when many people in Democratic-leaning constituencies would likely be out of town.

But since Bleeding Heartland previewed this race in late February, Giddens has emerged as the favorite. Republicans tacitly acknowledged their weaknesses by launching a second over-the-top negative television commercial on March 15, rather than closing on what was supposed to be Rogers’ selling point: giving Black Hawk County and UNI a voice in the Iowa Senate majority caucus.

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