Where are the freedom fighters? A plea for help from a beleaguered Black man

Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker: “Until a renewed season of action on the hard issues springs forth from the Iowa Democratic Party, my people will continue to freeze in the long winters of apathy, and die during the hot summers of violence.” -promoted by Laura Belin

During a recent Facebook Live conversation with Kimberly Graham where we discussed issues facing the African-American community, I recounted a high-profile officer-involved shooting that happened in my neighborhood shortly after I was elected. It was during this very conversation, in real-time, that I realized this officer-involved shooting fundamentally changed who I was as a public servant.

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Liz Bennett facing fake Democrat in Iowa House district 65 primary

UPDATE: Bennett received about 94 percent of the vote in the June 2 primary.

A Republican would have no prayer of winning Iowa House district 65. Two-thirds of the voters in this part of Cedar Rapids (map enclosed below) supported President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012, and more than 61 percent backed Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election.

State Representative Liz Bennett defeated her last two Republican opponents, Harry Foster in 2016 and George Olmstead in 2018, by two to one margins. Fred Hubbell likewise more than doubled the vote for Governor Kim Reynolds in the House district 65 precincts. The area contains 9,265 active registered Democrats, 3,711 Republicans, and 5,848 no-party voters, according to the latest official figures.

No one is seeking the GOP nomination in House district 65 this year. Instead, lifelong conservative Foster is trying to sneak into the seat by masquerading as a Democrat.

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State Patrol must respect civil rights at Iowa Capitol

Iowa lawmakers have never enacted a “bathroom ban” targeting transgender people, but some State Patrol officers took it upon themselves to enforce that non-existent policy at the Capitol on March 12.

Security guards forced a large group of students to leave the building because some of the teens had used restrooms conforming to their gender identity.

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Iowa House unanimously votes to outlaw "gay/trans panic" defense

Iowa House members voted 95 to 0 on March 5 to prohibit criminal defendants from claiming any violent crime was justified because of emotions related to discovering the victim’s “sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

House Judiciary Committee chair Steven Holt introduced the bill later renamed House File 2503. The initial draft applied to those charged with causing the death of another person. An amendment drafted by Republican State Representative Bobby Kaufmann and Democratic State Representative Liz Bennett broadened the scope to cover anyone accused of a violent crime.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2020

The Iowa House opened its 2020 session on January 13 with 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, a change from last year’s 54-46 split due to State Representative Andy McKean’s party switch shortly before lawmakers adjourned last year.

The House members include 67 men and 33 women (23 Democrats and ten Republicans). Although 34 women were elected to the chamber in 2018 (a record number), State Representative Lisa Heddens stepped down last summer, and Ross Wilburn won the special election to serve out her term in House district 46.

Five African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Wilburn) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 95 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the state Senate following the 2008 election. Democratic State Representative Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the lower chamber. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted significant changes since last year.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Smiths (both Democrats), while the other 98 members have different surnames. As for popular first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Thomas (two go by Tom), three Johns and two Jons, and three men each named Gary and Brian. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Bruce, Chris, Jeff, Michael (one goes by Mike), Ross, and Charles (a Chuck and a Charlie).

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Elizabeth Warren drawing support across Iowa Democratic spectrum

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s numbers have tapered somewhat in polls of the Democratic presidential race nationally and in Iowa over the past two months. But it would be a mistake to conclude she can’t win the Iowa caucuses.

A large share of caucus-goers have yet to commit to a candidate. Warren’s high-profile supporters, including the latest batch, point to factors that will keep her in contention as many Iowans decide over the next 40 days.

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