The Iowa court ruling that could stop a Republican gerrymander

Terror gripped many Iowa Democratic hearts when the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) announced it would release a second redistricting plan on October 21. Governor Kim Reynolds soon scheduled a legislative session to consider the plan for October 28, the earliest date state law allows.

Democrats had hoped the LSA would spend more time working on its next plan. Iowa Code gives the agency up to 35 days to present a second set of maps. If lawmakers received that proposal in mid-November, Republicans would not be able to consider a third set of maps before the Iowa Supreme Court’s December 1 deadline for finishing redistricting work.

By submitting Plan 2 only sixteen days after Iowa Senate Republicans rejected the first redistricting plan, the LSA ensured that GOP lawmakers could vote down the second proposal and receive a third plan well before December 1. So the third map gerrymander—a scenario Bleeding Heartland has warned about for years—is a live wire.

Nevertheless, I expect Republicans to approve the redistricting plan released last week. The maps give the GOP a shot at winning all four U.S. House districts and an excellent chance to maintain their legislative majorities.

Equally important, state law and a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court precedent constrain how aggressive Republicans could be in any partisan amendment to a third LSA proposal.

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Why Republican messaging rules

Jim Chrisinger is a retired public servant living in Ankeny. He served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, in Iowa and elsewhere.

Republicans now enjoy an inherent advantage in messaging, another asymmetry in our politics. Republicans present a mostly negative agenda: they want to reverse social progress and tear down government, media, and truth. To do that, they scare people.  

In contrast, mainstream Democrats want to build; they want to use public policy and resources to advance a broad, progress-based agenda. Republican arguments are simple, blunt, and visceral. Democratic arguments are complex, nuanced, and moral.  

For example:  

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Ethics complaint a hard lesson for Axne, warning for Miller-Meeks

The non-profit watchdog group Campaign Legal Center filed ethics complaints on September 22 against seven members of Congress, including U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03). The complaints ask the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate four U.S. House Democrats and three Republicans, who did not disclose stock trades within the time frame required by the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act. That 2012 law was designed to prevent members of Congress from turning inside knowledge into profit.

For Axne, it was the worst way to find out about a disclosure problem. The ethics complaint generated extensive Iowa media coverage, all of which included quotes from delighted Republicans. For U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), the episode was a heads up to get her own financial disclosures in order before she faces similar scrutiny next year.

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Iowa Republicans better never bash another "career politician"

Chuck Grassley hasn’t been acting like a senator who plans to retire. So it was no surprise when he confirmed at 4:00 am that he’s running for an eighth U.S. Senate term. In a tweet from his campaign account, Grassley said he and his wife Barbara made the decision because he has “a lot more to do, for Iowa.”

Grassley never lost an election hasn’t lost an election since 1956, and barring some cataclysmic event, he’s not going to lose next year. Everything stacks in his favor: name ID, fundraising capacity, a comfortable lead over his best-known Democratic challenger, Iowans’ tendency to re-elect incumbents, generally favorable trends for Iowa GOP candidates, and the reality that midterms are usually tough for the president’s party. (Though State Senator Jim Carlin is staying in the race, I don’t see any path for Grassley’s Republican primary opponent.)

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