Control of Iowa House a 2020 priority for national Democratic tech group

Art Small is an economist and data scientist who grew up in Iowa and is currently based in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is volunteering through Tech for Campaigns on a state legislative race in Virginia. -promoted by Laura Belin

Knowledgeable observers increasingly see the Iowa House as a likely battleground in the 2020 election cycle. In yet another sign that control of the chamber will be in play next year, Tech for Campaigns, a national group that funnels volunteers with digital skills to support Democratic candidates, today announced that the effort to flip the Iowa House has made it on the group’s “priority list” for the 2020 election cycle.

Following gains last November and Andy McKean’s party switch in April, Democrats need a net pick-up of just four seats to flip the chamber blue.

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Urbandale's longtime Republican mayor now a Democrat

Urbandale Mayor Bob Andeweg recently changed his party registration and will manage Democratic State Representative John Forbes’ 2020 campaign in Iowa House district 40.

Speaking at a fundraiser for Forbes in Lions Park on September 7, Andeweg said he’s “been a Republican my whole life.” Because he believes in nonpartisan local government, he has rarely spoken publicly about his party affiliation as mayor since 2005 or on the city council prior to that. Regarding his party switch, Andeweg said, “I truly believe this is where I need to be at this point in time.”

He and Forbes have been friendly since the early 1990s, and Forbes managed Andeweg’s first campaign for city council in 1999. He fell short in that effort but was later appointed to fill a vacancy, then won his next city council race and subsequently four terms as mayor. The two men “worked well together” when Forbes served on the city council, and Andeweg praised Forbes’ ability to get things done in a Republican-controlled chamber.

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Newest Iowa House member Ross Wilburn on his work, inspiration

State Representative Ross Wilburn took the oath of office on September 6 to represent Iowa House district 46, covering part of Ames in Story County. Republicans did not field a candidate against him in the August 6 special election to fill the seat vacated by Story County Supervisor Lisa Heddens.

In a September 6 telephone interview, Wilburn said he hasn’t been assigned to committees yet and probably will not know those assignments until November. He’s interested in many aspects of the legislature’s work, including human services (he has a master’s degree in social work), local government or transportation (he’s a former Iowa City mayor and city council member), and veterans’ affairs (he served in the Army National Guard). Education is also a high priority for Wilburn and of great importance to his constituents. Iowa State University is the dominant employer and community presence in Ames. Wilburn is diversity officer and associate director for community economic development at ISU Extension and Outreach.

Wilburn told me he’s looking forward to returning to public service and getting to work for constituents. The issues that came up most often during his conversations with voters this summer were mental health care, Medicaid privatization, public employee collective bargaining rights, and adequate funding for K-12 as well as higher education.

During his swearing-in ceremony, Wilburn recalled that when he first decided to run for city council, he was visiting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC and was near the marker where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Reflecting today on the Iowa legislators who came before him, Wilburn recalled the example set by Willie Stevenson Glanton. The second African-American woman admitted to the Iowa bar, Glanton was the first woman to serve as assistant Polk County attorney and in 1964 (the year of Wilburn’s birth) became the first African-American woman elected to the Iowa House. Wilburn had the opportunity to meet Glanton during his time on Iowa City’s council and was inspired by her.

The Iowa House now has a full complement of 100 members again: 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats. Wilburn is one of five African Americans serving in the chamber, along with fellow Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, and Phyllis Thede. This year’s House Democratic caucus was the first in Iowa legislative history to have a majority of women, but Andy McKean’s party switch in April, Heddens’ retirement, and Wilburn’s election shifts the balance back to 24 men and 23 women. (Ten women and 43 men are part of the Iowa House Republican caucus.)

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Iowa House district 58 preview: Andy McKean vs. Steve Bradley

Republicans have recruited a strong candidate for what should be one of the top-targeted Iowa House races in 2020.

Before State Representative Andy McKean switched parties in April, he had served in the Iowa legislature for 27 sessions as a Republican. Now House district 58 is the reddest Iowa House seat currently represented by a Democrat.

GOP officials hope Dr. Steve Bradley, a dentist in the area, will prevail among Iowans who heavily favored Donald Trump and Governor Kim Reynolds in the last two elections. Next year’s race in House district 58 will be a fascinating test of whether voters’ growing affinity to Republicans matters more than their longtime support for McKean.

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Iowa Libertarians have strong case against early candidate deadline

The Libertarian Party of Iowa and its prospective candidate for U.S. Senate in 2020 have filed a federal lawsuit charging that a new law violates their “violates fundamental voting and associational rights,” as well as equal protection guarantees, by requiring candidates from minor political parties to file nominating papers in mid-March, when Democratic or Republican candidates could qualify for the general election ballot as late as August.

Previous court rulings indicate they have a strong case.

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Kim Reynolds thumbed her nose at ISU students for nothing

Democrat Ross Wilburn will be unopposed in the August 6 special election to represent Iowa House district 46. The deadline to file nominating papers was on July 12 at 5:00 pm, and Wilburn is the only name on the Iowa Secretary of State’s candidate list.

A spokesperson for the Republican Party of Iowa told the Des Moines Register’s Stephen Gruber-Miller that the GOP would not field a candidate for the special election, but did not indicate why. The Libertarian Party of Iowa also declined to compete for this district; Libertarians have occasionally nominated candidates in House district 45, covering other Ames neighborhoods.

In all likelihood, Wilburn would have won this election regardless of the timing or the competition, given the political layout of House district 46. The strongest potential GOP candidate, Ames City Council member Tim Gartin, took himself out of the running early, and several Democratic presidential candidates have either headlined events for Wilburn or had their staff help knock doors for him.

If Republicans weren’t planning to play for this seat, it was exceptionally foolish for Governor Kim Reynolds to set the election on the first Tuesday allowed under state law. She could have scheduled the vote for late August or September, when most Iowa State University students would be back in Ames.

All Reynolds accomplished by picking August 6 was reinforcing the narrative that she doesn’t care about constituents who don’t politically align with her. She could have shown her commitment to fair play by picking a day that would give more House district 46 residents a voice. Instead, she used the levers of power to depress Democratic turnout–for nothing.

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