The 2007 votes that made 2019 a historic year for transgender Iowans

Only three months in, 2019 is already the most significant year for transgender equality in Iowa since 2007, when state lawmakers and Governor Chet Culver added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the Iowa Civil Rights Act. That 1965 law hadn’t been significantly amended in decades.

The crucial Iowa House and Senate votes on the civil rights law happened during the first year since the 1960s that Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. Support for LGBTQ equality is often taken for granted now in Democratic circles, but the issue was seen as more politically volatile twelve years ago. The bill amending the civil rights act came late in the 2007 legislative session and could not have passed without some Republican votes.

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Convincing win for Eric Giddens in Iowa Senate district 30

Democrat Eric Giddens won today’s special election in Iowa Senate district 30 by a double-digit margin. According to Thomas Nelson of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier, unofficial results show Giddens received 7,610 votes (56.9 percent), Republican Walt Rogers 5,631 votes (42.1 percent), and Libertarian Fred Perryman 143 votes (1.1 percent).

Democratic enthusiasm, fueled by numerous presidential candidate visits, overcame Rogers’ advantage in name ID and the fact that Governor Kim Reynolds scheduled the election at the worst possible time for Democrats.

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Annette Sweeney wins Iowa Senate district 25 special election

Republican Annette Sweeney will represent Iowa Senate district 25 for the remainder of the year after winning today’s special election by 4,742 votes to 3,726 for Tracy Freese (56.0 percent to 44.0 percent), according to unofficial results. Although that may not sound like a close race, Freese’s vote share was impressive in a district with nearly twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats.

Hillary Clinton received about 33.6 percent of the vote in Senate district 25 in November 2016. Two years earlier, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley received just under 34.8 percent here. Democrats did not field a candidate in Senate district 25 during the 2014 cycle.

In addition, Freese was a first-time candidate, whereas Sweeney represented parts of this district for four years in the Iowa House. The Iowa GOP also spent far more promoting Sweeney during the brief special election campaign (truncated because Majority Leader Bill Dix resigned during the legislative session) than the Iowa Democratic Party did on behalf of Freese. Unlike the December special election in Senate district 3, Republicans had quite a few canvassers and ballot chasers out during the last several days.

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Republicans running scared in Iowa House district 6 (updated)

The Republican Party of Iowa is spending heavily to defend Iowa House district 6, where voters will choose a successor to State Representative Jim Carlin on January 16. The Iowa GOP did not intervene to support Carlin before last month’s special election for Senate district 3, considered safe Republican territory. Carlin won that race by a little less than 10 percent. Amazingly, the Democratic candidate gained more votes in the half of the district that Carlin has represented in the Iowa House.

Campaign finance reports (here and here) show the state GOP has spent more than $118,000, mostly on television and radio commercials in the Sioux City market and direct mail to residents of House district 6. I enclose below the positive television commercial about Republican candidate Jacob Bossman and several direct mail pieces attacking Democratic nominee Rita DeJong.

The tv spot relies heavily on an image of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley with his longtime staffer. Grassley headlined a rally to support Bossman on January 13, but the party didn’t have to pay his travel expenses. The senator is passing through western Iowa on the federal government’s dime as part of his annual 99-county tour. UPDATE: A reader notes the “rally” was moved from a room that would hold 250 people to the lobby, so the few dozen attendees would appear to fill up the venue.

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