# Jack Whitver



Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2023

The Iowa Senate began its 2023 session on January 9 with 34 Republicans and sixteen Democrats, the largest majority seen in the chamber for about five decades. Five of the last seven Iowa general elections have been Republican waves.

Fourteen senators (nine Republicans, five Democrats) were just elected to the chamber for the first time in November. Seven of them (four Republicans and three Democrats) previously served in the Iowa House.

Fifteen senators are women (eight Democrats and seven Republicans), up from twelve women in the chamber prior to the 2022 election and more than double the six women senators who served prior to the 2018 election.

Democrat Izaah Knox is the second Black state senator in Iowa history. The first was Tom Mann, a Democrat elected to two terms during the 1980s. The other 49 senators are white. No Latino has ever served in the chamber, and Iowa’s only Asian-American senator was Swati Dandekar, who resigned in 2011.

Democrat Janice Weiner became the first Jewish person to serve in the Iowa Senate since Ralph Rosenberg left the legislature after 1994. Democrat Liz Bennett became the first out LGBTQ state senator since Matt McCoy retired in 2018.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. The Senate has added a new Technology Committee and renamed what used to be “Labor and Business Relations” as the Workforce Committee.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Taylors, a Democrat and a Republican. As for first names, there are three Jeffs and two men each named Mark, Mike, and Dan.

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Unlike Whitver, Miller-Meeks put herself in legal jeopardy

During the first election cycle after redistricting, it’s typical for many Iowa politicians to move, seeking more favorable territory or to avoid a match-up against another incumbent. What set this year apart from a normal campaign under a new map: major controversies related to those address changes.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver faced a formal challenge to his voter registration, after a resident of his new district claimed he didn’t meet the constitutional requirement to be on the November ballot.

And this week, Iowa Starting Line’s Pat Rynard was first to report that U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks declared herself to be living at a friend’s house, on the last day she could change her voter registration without showing proof of address.

While Whitver played it close to the line, he successfully laid the groundwork for his voter registration change. Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald determined last week that Whitver’s declared residency at a condo in Grimes was valid. The top Iowa Senate Republican also avoided any voter fraud allegations by not casting a ballot in the 2022 primary or general elections.

In contrast, the circumstances surrounding Miller-Meeks’ address change raise legitimate questions about whether she committed election misconduct or perjury, which are both class “D” felonies in Iowa.

Staff for Miller-Meeks did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about her voter registration. Nor did State Senator Chris Cournoyer, whose Scott County home the member of Congress now claims as a residence.

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Fourteen Iowa Senate races to watch on election night 2022

Editor’s note: This analysis has been updated with unofficial results from all the races. Original post follows.

The major parties have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the most competitive 2022 Iowa House and Senate races.

This post highlights seven state Senate districts where one or both parties have spent large sums, and another seven where even without a big investment by Democrats or Republicans, the results could shed light on political trends.

All voter registration totals listed below come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, as reported on November 1. All absentee ballot figures come from the Secretary of State’s office, as reported on November 7. All past election results come from the map Josh Hughes created in Dave’s Redistricting App.

All figures for in-kind spending by the Iowa Democratic Party or Republican Party of Iowa come from filings with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. I focus on in-kind spending, because candidates in battleground Iowa legislative races typically give most of their funds to the state party. The party then covers the bulk of the large expenditures for direct mail and/or television, radio, and digital advertising.

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How far can Iowa Republicans go to ban abortion? (updated)

The worst-case scenario for bodily autonomy in Iowa played out over the past ten days. First, the Iowa Supreme Court on June 17 overturned its own 2018 precedent that established a fundamental right to abortion, protected by the state constitution. Then, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision that established a federal constitutional right to an abortion, and the related Casey decision of 1992.

Top Iowa Republicans immediately promised further action to restrict abortion, which is now legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s not yet clear when they will try to pass a new law, which exceptions (if any) may be on the table, or whether a ban modeled on other state laws could survive an Iowa court challenge.

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Iowa Supreme Court's abortion reversal may cast long shadow

Five Iowa Supreme Court justices allowed a 24-hour waiting period for all abortions to go into effect and opened the door to more sweeping restrictions on June 17, when justices overturned the court’s 2018 precedent that had found the Iowa Constitution protects a fundamental right to seek an abortion.

The outcome is precisely what Republican legislators were seeking two years ago, when (buoyed by unusually rapid turnover on Iowa’s highest court) they passed a law nearly identical to the one struck down in the 2018 case.

Two dissenting justices warned that the latest decision injects “instability” and “confusion” into Iowa’s legal landscape, because the court’s majority did not establish a new standard for evaluating the constitutionality of abortion restrictions. Two justices signaled they would allow almost any limits on the procedure. Three justices indicated they might be open to a similar approach, or might strike a different balance that recognizes some bodily autonomy for Iowans wanting to terminate a pregnancy.

In the words of Justice Brent Appel, the majority set forth “a jurisprudence of doubt about a liberty interest of the highest possible importance to every Iowa woman of reproductive age.”

The ruling may also undermine public confidence that Iowa Supreme Court rulings are grounded in legal analysis, rather than politics.

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School "transparency" is a cruel hoax

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher, and for 30 years he was a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

The Kansas City Star’s editorial board warned its readers on June 2 that “the arch conservative Liberty Alliance has created a Woke Heat Map.” The website is an interactive map of Missouri with dots representing “hot spots” where, as the Alliance claims, “the Woke Agenda … is permeating.” 

The Alliance is a faction of ultra-right zealots who use a website to undermine democracy—and raise money from an easily duped clientele. The Springfield (MO) News-Leader reports one hotspot in its area, and six in St. Louis, three in Kansas City, and one in Columbia with alleged “woke agendas” — “where toddlers are groomed with sexually explicit books.” This was in the first week.

It’s fraud. In nearly all cases, the New-Leader says, the documentation used to designate a “woke” hotspot is based on a tweet, column, or article from a conservative leader or platform.

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