Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Patrick Dillon will be the White House Deputy Director of Political Affairs

President-elect Barack Obama has appointed Patrick Dillon to be the White House Deputy Director of Political Affairs, according to an Iowa Democratic Party press release on January 16.

The news completes Dillon’s transition from one-half of an Iowa power couple to one-half of a Washington power couple. Dillon managed Chet Culver’s gubernatorial campaign in 2006 and served as the governor’s chief of staff until a few days ago.

Dillon’s wife, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, directed John Edwards’ presidential campaign in Iowa and then served as battleground states director for Barack Obama’s campaign before Obama chose her to be the new executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

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Culver appoints new chief of staff

Governor Chet Culver named a new chief of staff today: Charles Krogmeier, up to now the director of the Department of Management.

The move was expected, as Culver’s outgoing chief of staff Patrick Dillon resigned to move to Washington. His wife, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, will be the new executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

In a statement, Culver said

I’m sorry to see him leave Iowa for now, but Patrick and I have always said that we married up, and I fully understand he needs to be in the same city as his better half.

Radio Iowa has some background on Krogmeier:

Krogmeier was appointed by the Governor to the position of Director of the Department of Management in December 2006, and confirmed by the Senate in March 2007.  The Department of Management is the executive branch’s planning and budget agency and serves as the Governor’s principal financial advisor.

Previously, Krogmeier directed the gubernatorial transition in 2006, and served as First Deputy Secretary of State from June of 2004 to November 2006. Prior to that he was a partner in the Des Moines law firm of Brown, Winick, Graves, Gross, Baskerville and Schoenebaum for 7 years. Krogmeier began his career in public service as a Lee County Supervisor (1979-86) followed by service as General Counsel to the Iowa Department of Transportation (1986-89) and as a Deputy Attorney General (1989-1997).

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Jennifer O'Malley Dillon will be the DNC's executive director

Congratulations to Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, who according to the Washington Post is President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to be the new executive director of the Democratic National Committee. She will be “running the party’s day-to-day operations, including fundraising.”

The job is particularly important because Obama’s pick for DNC chairman, Tim Kaine, still has a year to serve as governor of Virginia and presumably won’t be a hands-on manager at the DNC.

Many Iowans know O’Malley Dillon from her work on John Edwards’ presidential campaigns. She worked in field before the 2004 caucuses and was Edwards’ Iowa campaign director before the 2008 caucuses. After Edwards left the presidential race, she became the director of battleground states strategy for Obama’s campaign.

O’Malley Dillon is married to Patrick Dillon, whom she met while both worked on Edwards’ first presidential campaign here. Patrick Dillon later managed Chet Culver’s gubernatorial campaign and became the governor’s chief of staff.

Anyone have any idea who’s likely to replace Dillon at Terrace Hill?

Here’s O’Malley Dillon’s Facebook page, for those who are into that kind of thing.

Regarding the news that Obama wants Kaine as DNC chairman, Bob Brigham made some persuasive arguments against the choice, while Jonathan Singer was “more than content with the pick.” Singer noted,

in recent years the DNC Chairmanship has been split into two posts while the Democrats have controlled the White House, with a dignitary serving as General Chairman and a strategist running the day-to-day operations of the committee. Under Bill Clinton, this strategy predominated, with Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, Colorado Governor Roy Romer and then-former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell serving as General Chairmen — the spokesmen of the party — while others were left to handle the details. Indeed, this appears to be the thinking of Obama in tapping Kaine, also choosing the director of his battleground state strategy, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, to run the committee’s operations.

Kaine wouldn’t be my first, second or third choice to run the DNC, but if Obama wants him there no one is going to stop him. The Virginia Democratic bloggers who know his record are not fans (a few links are in this post). I’d much rather have Kaine at the DNC than as vice president, though. I’m relieved Obama passed him over for that job.

O’Malley Dillon is highly capable and makes me feel better about the future management of the DNC.

My main concern is that the committee not abandon the 50-state strategy after Howard Dean leaves. Washington insiders attacked Dean for sending organizers to red states in 2005, but that strategy contributed significantly to Democratic gains in Congress in 2006 and 2008.

UPDATE: At Century of the Common Iowan, noneed4thneed observes that O’Malley Dillon’s appointment “probably solidifies the Iowa Cacuses’s first in the nation status.”

SECOND UPDATE: Marc Ambinder’s take on what this means:

O’Malley-Dillon is seen by the team as a manager with an organizational background that appeals to Obama.  She is large measure responsible for Sen. John Edwards’s solid caucus performances in 2004 and 2008.  She was recruited by Steve Hilderband to join Obama’s campaign as battleground states director and spent the general election overseeing state field budgets and figuring out where to send the principals.

The DNC will retain traditional responsibilities, like planning the convention and political research. But it will significantly expand its campaign organizing capacity and probably its staff; think of it as current DNC chairman Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy on steroids.

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