David Young beats too-clever-by-half Zach Nunn to IA-03 starting gate

Former U.S. Representative David Young became the first declared Republican candidate in Iowa’s third Congressional district on May 6, telling the Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel he looks forward to campaigning against the Democrat who defeated him last November.

“I spent a lot of time with folks around the 3rd District, listening to their priorities and listening to their voices, and they are not being heard right now in the U.S. Congress,” Young said in an interview. “The policies that Cindy Axne is putting forward with Nancy Pelosi is not what Iowans are talking about or wanting.”

Young gave the exclusive to the Register about nine hours after State Senator Zach Nunn announced a “listening tour” of the district’s sixteen counties while he pretends to be merely considering a bid for the U.S. House.

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More women managing Iowa campaigns

Iowa hasn’t been the most friendly state for women in politics, to put it mildly. We didn’t elect a woman to Congress until 2014. We have not elected a woman governor. Just 22.7 percent of our state lawmakers are women, below the pitiful national average of 25.3 percent. Only two women have ever been Iowa Supreme Court justices, and we are currently the only state in the country to have no women serving on our highest court.

But Iowa has not escaped the national trend of more women becoming politically involved in the wake of the 2016 election. Not only will a record number of female candidates appear on Iowa ballots in 2018, more women than ever before are leading campaigns for high-level offices.

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Ken Rizer becomes first Iowa House Republican to abandon Trump

Republican State Representative Ken Rizer announced on Facebook Saturday evening that he “can’t in good conscience” vote for Donald Trump and will write in Mike Pence for president. Rizer, who supported Jeb Bush before the Iowa caucuses, said he had “aggressively prosecuted Airmen who sexually assaulted women” and is aware of “groping” and “lewd conduct” his college-aged daughters face. He concluded that Trump’s comments in a recently-released 2005 video “reveal an arrogant lack of character unfitting for a college undergrad, for an Airman, and most certainly for our Commander in Chief.”

Rizer represents House district 68, a swing seat in the Cedar Rapids suburbs. He defeated Democrat Daniel Lundby in 2014, but Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney here in the last presidential election cycle by 54.45 percent to 44.08 percent. The latest voter registration numbers show the district contains 6,596 active registered Democrats, 6,103 Republicans, and 7,384 no-party voters. As of October 7, Democrats in Rizer’s district lead Republicans in absentee ballots requested by 1,698 to 844 and lead in early votes cast by 672 to 221.

I enclose below more comments from Rizer this evening, a map of House district 68, and background on the incumbent and his Democratic challenger Molly Donahue. She’s on the web here and on Facebook here.

The precincts in House district 68 also lie in Iowa Senate district 34, where Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis faces Rene Gadelha in a race both parties are targeting.

I will update this post as needed if other sitting Iowa Republican lawmakers announce that they won’t support Trump. On the morning of October 8, State Senator Jack Whitver posted on Twitter, “The comments and actions by Donald Trump are inexcusable and despicable. He should step down.” However, Whitver did not clarify whether he will vote for Trump, assuming he stays in the race.

Also on October 8, State Senator David Johnson issued a statement calling on Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to “condemn Trump publicly” now that “Trump’s true anti-women sickness has been revealed.” Johnson is the only Iowa legislator affiliated with neither party, having left the GOP in June to protest Trump’s impending nomination for president.

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Former Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning joins #NeverTrump camp

Donald Trump is too ignorant to be president, according to former Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning, the most prominent Iowa Republican to disavow the GOP nominee.

Corning served six years in the Iowa Senate, then eight years as lieutenant governor during Terry Branstad’s third and fourth terms. Since unsuccessfully seeking the GOP nomination for governor in 1998, she has held leadership roles in numerous non-profit organizations. As a pro-choice moderate, she has been increasingly outnumbered within Iowa GOP ranks. Nevertheless, she supported every Republican presidential nominee from Dwight D. Eisenhower through John McCain, Corning told Bleeding Heartland yesterday in a telephone interview. Despite voting for President Barack Obama in 2012, she never left the Republican Party and endorsed Jeb Bush before this year’s Iowa caucuses.

Corning said she realized while watching the Republican debates that Trump was not a candidate she could ever support. As for why, she cited his “know-it-all demeanor when he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Had she ruled out voting for him by the time he locked up the GOP nomination? “Oh, yes. Yes.”

Like State Senator David Johnson, who came out against Trump this summer, Corning declined to state publicly for whom she will vote in November.

After Jeb Bush announced in May that he would not support Trump, I sought comment from State Senator Charles Schneider and the six Iowa House Republicans who had endorsed the former Florida governor before the caucuses. Schneider said, “I intend to vote for Trump assuming he is the nominee,” while State Representative Greg Forristall likewise confirmed he “will vote for the Republican nominee.” State Representative Dave Heaton commented at that time, “It’s pretty hard for us to turn our back on the party’s selection, so I probably would support [Trump].” State Representatives Zach Nunn, Linda Miller, and Ron Jorgensen did not respond to my inquiries.

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Terry Branstad all in for Donald Trump, pushing Joni Ernst for VP

Governor Terry Branstad told reporters this morning that he is fully behind Donald Trump for president and has asked the presumptive Republican nominee for a meeting, with the hope of encouraging Trump to choose Iowa’s junior U.S. Senator Joni Ernst as his running mate. Branstad didn’t endorse a candidate before the Iowa caucuses but urged Republicans to defeat Ted Cruz. At the time, Trump and Cruz were far ahead of the rest of the field in Iowa polls, prompting U.S. Representative Steve King, a leading Cruz surrogate in Iowa, to characterize the governor’s statements as a “de facto endorsement” of Trump.

Many people in the governor’s circle actively supported New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s presidential campaign before the caucuses. Notably, Branstad described Christie’s endorsement of Trump in late February as a “brilliant move.”

I see Ernst as a highly unlikely running mate for Trump. He needs to pick someone with more policy knowledge and government experience than Ernst has, and I don’t see her bringing a lot to the Republican ticket nationally or even guaranteeing that Trump would pick up Iowa’s six electoral votes. I am seeking comment on whether Ernst would welcome consideration for the vice presidential nomination. Speaking to WHO-TV’s Dave Price last month, Ernst said she would be “comfortable” with Trump if he is the nominee, but also criticized the “name-calling” that was dominating the Republican presidential race and acknowledged that Trump’s “nonsense” would alienate some women.

UPDATE: Brook Hougesen responded to my query, “While that is very nice of the Governor, Senator Ernst’s focus is on serving Iowans. She is continuing her 99 county tour across the state to hear Iowans’ concerns and ideas firsthand, and is working to turn that feedback into action in Washington.” I infer that Ernst is neither actively seeking nor ruling out accepting a spot on the Republican ticket.

On a related note, since former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced on May 6 that he will not vote for either Trump or Hillary Clinton, I have sought comment from state lawmakers and other Iowa elected officials who endorsed Jeb Bush for president, asking whether they would describe themselves as “Never Trump,” “might vote for Trump,” or “definitely will vote for Trump if he’s the Republican nominee.” So far only two have responded. State Representative Greg Forristall confirmed he “will vote for the Republican nominee,” and State Senator Charles Schneider similarly commented, “I intend to vote for Trump assuming he is the nominee.”

UPDATE: Jennifer Jacobs reports that Christie will lead Trump’s transition team. I’ve considered the New Jersey governor among the more probable running mate picks for Trump, but today’s news suggests Christie will not be considered for the vice presidential nomination. On the other hand, Dick Cheney originally led George W. Bush’s team searching for a VP before he became the choice himself.

SECOND UPDATE: O.Kay Henderson posted the audio of Branstad’s remarks at Radio Iowa. I enclose excerpts below.

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Mid-week open thread: Mind-blowing presidential campaign developments

The last few months have been such a busy time in Iowa politics, I’ve slacked off on posting mid-week open threads. All topics are welcome here, but I’m especially interested in takes on what Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post observed today:

Of all the unlikely things that have happened in this election year, the most is @tedcruz becoming the last hope of the GOP establishment.

No question, for Donald Trump-induced panic to reach the stage of Jeb Bush endorsing Ted Cruz must be among the most surprising aspects of this presidential race. Yet two developments strike me as even more unexpected:

• Trump winning almost the whole Bible belt, due to his strength among evangelicals;

• Bernie Sanders raising enough money to outspend Hillary Clinton in many of the states.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

P.S. Iowa wildflower Wednesday will return soon. Please get in touch if you’d like to contribute a guest post for that series, especially if you have pictures of early spring bloomers like skunk cabbage or pasque flower. Lately I’ve been enjoying other people’s nature photography in the Iowa Wildflower Report and Raccoon River Watershed Facebook groups.

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