IA-Gov: John Norris releases first batch of high-profile endorsers

Gubernatorial candidate John Norris announced a statewide steering committee yesterday with more than 90 “current and former state legislators, public officials, party activists and officers, farmers, educators, students, labor leaders and business owners.”

State Representatives Marti Anderson and Jo Oldson became the first two Iowa House Democrats to back Norris, joined by former State Representatives Brian Quirk, Andrew Wenthe, Mark Kuhn, Deo Koenigs, and Roger Thomas, and former State Senators Daryl Beall, Bill Hutchins, and Lowell Junkins (who was the 1986 Democratic nominee for governor).

Other notable endorsers include Brad Anderson, who managed Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign in Iowa and was the 2014 Democratic nominee for secretary of state, former Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, and Marcia Nichols, the longtime political director for the public employee union AFSCME. Candidates won’t release their fundraising reports until January, but I doubt these three would publicly back Norris unless they were confident that he would have the resources to compete on a statewide level before the primary. Anderson, Sterzenbach, and Nichols were part of State Representative Todd Prichard’s leadership team earlier this year. Prichard left the governor’s race in August and endorsed Fred Hubbell yesterday.

I’ve posted below the full Norris steering committee list, along with a November 20 e-mail blast from Brad Anderson and a Facebook post by Marti Anderson.

Bleeding Heartland readers may recognize the names of other Norris endorsers, such as Jess Vilsack (the former governor’s son), former Vilsack aide Dusky Terry, 2016 Iowa House candidate Heather Matson, and Kevin Techau, who was U.S. attorney for Iowa’s Northern District from 2014 until this March. Dave Swenson and Matt Russell have been occasional guest authors at this site. Emilene Leone is one of the newly-engaged Scott County activists profiled in this post. Bill Sueppel represented Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson during her impeachment hearings and later in her civil lawsuit, resolved last month in her favor.

Any comments about the governor’s race are welcome in this thread. Bleeding Heartland previously posted audio and transcripts of stump speeches by all seven contenders and a comprehensive list of current or former state lawmakers who have endorsed a gubernatorial candidate.

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IA-Gov: Leonard Boswell, 14 legislators endorse Jack Hatch (updated)

State Senator Jack Hatch’s campaign released a list of prominent Iowa endorsers today, including eight-term U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell, eight Iowa Senate Democrats (Dennis Black, Joe Bolkcom, Tom Courtney, Dick Dearden, Matt McCoy, Steve Sodders, Joe Seng, and Rich Taylor), and six Iowa House Democrats (Ako Abdul-Samad, Marti Anderson, John Forbes, Ruth Ann Gaines, Bruce Hunger, and Frank Wood). Several of those lawmakers stood with Hatch during his statewide tour last month to announce his candidacy. Others had not taken a public stand in the governor’s race before today, to my knowledge.

I’ve posted the Hatch campaign’s press release after the jump. Boswell and several of the endorsers cited Hatch’s experience and record of legislative accomplishments, themes I expect to hear repeatedly during the next eight months. Hatch’s main Democratic primary competition, State Representative Tyler Olson, has support from more than two dozen state lawmakers but doesn’t have nearly as much legislative experience. Nor is he known for doing the heavy lifting on many bills that have become law.

This comment from Senator Tom Courtney jumped out at me from today’s press release: “Anyone can floor manage a bill passed out of another chamber or sign on as a co-sponsor to an existing bill, but Jack has shown real leadership throughout his time in public service – creating new ideas, finding allies, drafting legislation, and fighting to see it succeed in the legislative process.” I read that as a subtle swipe at Olson, because his major legislative accomplishment was floor-managing the public smoking ban in 2008–a cause initially pushed by other legislators, including Janet Petersen and Staci Appel. Highlighting Hatch’s “new ideas” is also an implicit rebuttal to Olson’s promise to provide “fresh leadership” for the next 30 years.

Any comments about the governor’s race are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Added details below on the Hatch campaign’s steering committee.

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Eight Iowa dog breeders among country's worst 100 puppy mills

In 2010, the Iowa legislative approved and Governor Chet Culver signed a bill to curb abuses at so-called “puppy mills.” The lawmakers who worked hardest to pass this bill were Iowa House Democrats Jim Lykam and Mark Kuhn and Iowa Senate Democrats Matt McCoy and Joe Seng, a veterinarian.

Unfortunately, at least a few bad actors still lurk among the hundreds of Iowa dog breeders. A new report by the Humane Society of the U.S. named eight Iowa puppy mills among the country’s “Horrible Hundred.” You can read the list in this Radio Iowa story, but after the jump I’ve posted the revolting details from the report, along with advice on how to buy a dog without supporting puppy mills. Please spread the word among your friends and family.

While there are many responsible breeders, I urge everyone who wants a dog to consider adopting a shelter animal. Nine years ago today, a friend driving through Cass County found a friendly stray along a country road. She took him round to a few farms in the area, but no one recognized the dog. (Most likely, someone who could no longer take care of him dumped him in the country after removing his collar.) My friend took him home, bathed and fed him, and brought him to the Animal Rescue League, because she already owned three dogs. Having found him near Noble Methodist Church, she named him Noble. His temperament was a perfect match for our family, and as an adult, he was house-trained and not prone to chew up everything in sight.

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Republicans fail to bring marriage amendment to Iowa House or Senate floor

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate failed this morning to force floor votes on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. In the Senate, minority leader Paul McKinley asked colleagues “to sign a petition that would allow Senate Joint Resolution 2001, which would begin the process of amending the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage, to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote despite not being approved by a committee.” Only one of the 32 Iowa Senate Democrats (Tom Hancock) joined the 18 Republicans in signing this petition.

Later this morning, House Republicans tried a procedural maneuver that could have allowed a floor vote on House Joint Resolution 6 (a constitutional amendment on marriage) despite the fact that no House committee has approved it. The procedural motion needed 51 votes to pass, but only one Democrat, Dolores Mertz, voted with the 44 House Republicans. Mertz is a co-sponsor of the marriage amendment and votes consistently with Republicans on social issues.

Last April, two Democrats (Mertz and Geri Huser) joined with House Republicans on a similar procedural vote. Good for Huser for voting with the majority this time around. One House Democrat was absent today: Mark Kuhn, who also missed yesterday’s proceedings in the chamber. It seems likely that he is either sick or was unable to get to Des Moines from his home in rural Floyd County. North-central Iowa just got hit with another major winter storm.

House Republican leader Kraig Paulsen acknowledged today that opponents of marriage equality don’t have the 51 votes needed to force a vote this session in the Iowa House.

McKinley warned in a statement, “the voters this November will have an opportunity to decide if they are content with the continued Democrat obstruction and inaction.” Republicans keep saying they want to “let the people vote” on marriage. As it happens, this November Iowans will have an opportunity to pass a ballot initiative on convening a constitutional convention. Some Republicans want to take that route, but most are afraid to back a constitutional assembly. It seems like they want a campaign issue to use against Democrats more than they want to amend the constitution by the quickest means possible.

Unfortunately for Republicans, recent polling data suggests gay marriage is not a high priority for most Iowans. Every statehouse Democrat should be echoing the words from House Speaker Pat Murphy’s official statement today:

“In these tough economic times, Iowans want the Legislature to keep focused on help for middle class families and small businesses.  In this shortened session, my goal is to keep the House focused on key priorities — balancing the state budget without raising taxes while creating good-paying jobs for Iowans and making sure every child receives a quality education and affordable health care.”

Murphy and Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal strongly supported the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien ruling, and they deserve a lot of credit for holding their caucuses together today. As Gronstal has promised, Republicans will not succeed in writing discrimination into our state’s constitution.

In related good news, the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee voted down two bills today that were aimed at repealing same-sex marriage rights in that state.

UPDATE: Jason Clayworth has more details and reaction at the Des Moines Register’s blog.

The House spent almost 30 minutes on a rarely used “call-of-the-House” in which each of the 100 members were ordered into the chambers to vote unless they were previously excused.  

Hancock explained why he joined the Senate Republicans as follows: “I live in a highly Catholic area and I think that’s what the folks wanted me to do […] I never received that many contacts to say not to.”

Pat Murphy said Republicans “can go ahead and use” the House vote in the upcoming campaign, but added, “I would advise Republicans that ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’”  

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Update on Iowa House district 14 race

In October, State Representative Mark Kuhn announced plans to retire from the Iowa House, where he has represented district 14 since 1999. District 14 (map in pdf file) contains all of Floyd and Mitchell Counties, plus a small part of Cerro Gordo County.

Democrat Kurt Meyer announced plans to run for this House seat in December, but I missed the story at the time. Bleeding Heartland readers may remember Meyer from the 2008 Democratic primary campaign in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district. He finished second in that race, behind Becky Greenwald. Meyer has spent most of his career as a consultant for non-profit organizations. His family has lived in rural Mitchell County for five generations. His name recognition in the area should be strong, and I doubt he will have any trouble raising enough money to run a good campaign.

The Republican candidate in House district 14 is Josh Byrnes, the agricultural and industrial technology division chairman at North Iowa Area Community College.

Kuhn will run for the Floyd County Board of Supervisors in 2010. He served on that board before being elected to the Iowa House in 1998.

Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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