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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Linda Upmeyer will be first woman Iowa House speaker; Chris Hagenow to be majority leader

Iowa House Republicans chose Linda Upmeyer to replace Kraig Paulsen as House speaker today. First elected to the legislature in 2002, Upmeyer has served as majority leader since 2011. House leaders did not release details on today’s vote. State Representative Josh Byrnes was the only other candidate to seek the speaker’s post, despite rumors that one or more other Republicans were sounding out colleagues about the race. All credit to Byrnes for putting himself out there against the party establishment favorite. That takes guts.

O.Kay Henderson posted highlights from Upmeyer’s remarks to reporters today, as well as the audio clip. Not known for showing a lot of emotions in public, Upmeyer’s voice broke as she talked about her late father, Del Stromer, who served as House speaker during the 1980s. She doesn’t sound inclined to change much about how Paulsen was running the lower chamber, but joked, “I use more words than Speaker Paulsen, and I will try to curb that temptation going forward.”

Chris Hagenow will move up from majority whip to replace Upmeyer as majority leader, and Joel Fry will move from an assistant majority leader position to majority whip. Matt Windschitl will continue to serve as House speaker pro-tem. Hagenow told reporters that no one else sought the majority leader post. Bobby Kaufmann ran for majority whip.

Henderson quoted Byrnes as saying,

“I feel like I’m in that movie, Groundhog Day….It’s the same leadership in the House, the same leadership in the Senate. It’s the same governor and the parameters just feel like they’re just set and we can’t move from them. We need new ideas. We need new energy, we need to be able to accept other people’s concepts and infuse those in and I hope that, you know, she can do that.”

According to Byrnes, rank-and-file legislators are upset with missed deadlines, as the legislature has failed to set state school aid levels on time and met for weeks past its scheduled adjournment date. Byrnes also said Iowans are soured by the hyper-partisanship they see from statehouse politicians. […]

Upmeyer told reporters she’ll address the concerns Brynes raised.

“We never should be comfortable with where we’re at,” Upmeyer said. “We always should be striving for innovation and to do things smarter and better and so I absolutely applaud that.”

No need for a lot of innovation here, Madam Speaker: just accept reasonable compromises instead of refusing to budge from your initial negotiating position, and approve school funding bills on time, as happened for a decade and a half before Iowa House Republicans decided to stop following state law a few years back.

After the jump I’ve enclosed official comments on the House leadership election from the Republican Party of Iowa and House Minority Leader Mark Smith, as well as a Facebook status update Byrnes posted after today’s vote.

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Central City is Iowa's 2013 River Town of the Year

The non-profit organization Iowa Rivers Revival announced yesterday that its 2013 River Town of the Year award goes to Central City, a Linn County town on the Wapsipinicon River. Five Iowa towns have previously won the award: Webster City (Hamilton County), Elkader (Clayton County), Coon Rapids (Carroll County), Cedar Falls (Black Hawk County), and Charles City (Floyd County).

Details on Central City’s award are below. At the end of January, a larger city in Iowa will be named River City of the Year.  

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Huge day for marriage equality in Iowa

Supporters of LGBT equality are celebrating yesterday’s votes for same-sex marriage rights in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, as well as Minnesotans rejecting a constitutional amendment designed to restrict marriage rights to heterosexuals.

The election also slammed the door on any prospect of overturning marriage equality in Iowa.

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Iowa Senate district 18 election day news and discussion thread (updated)

Today’s forecast calls for rain and cold temperatures in Linn County as Iowa Senate district 18 voters determine whether the Senate will remain Democratic-controlled for the 2012 session or deadlocked at 25-25. The weather doesn’t seem bad enough to be a significant factor, but if it does keep some voters home, that’s probably good news for Democrat Liz Mathis. She continues to lead Republican Cindy Golding in early voting.

The latest absentee ballot numbers and other news clips from the special election campaign are after the jump.

UPDATE: New absentee numbers for Senate district 18 are below.

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Daniel Lundby will run for Iowa House district 68

The son of one of Linn County’s most influential Republicans during the past three decades will run for the Iowa House as a Democrat in 2012. Daniel Lundby on July 5 launched his campaign in the new Iowa House district 68. This swing district covers most of Marion (a suburb of Cedar Rapids) and some rural areas of Linn County, including the small towns of Ely and Bertram. As of April 2011, the new House district 68 contained 6,834 registered Democrats, 6,290 Republicans and 7,871 no-party voters.

Lundby’s Republican opponent will be Iowa House Local Government Committee Chairman Nick Wagner. He has represented current district 36, covering suburban and rural parts of Linn County, since winning an open-seat race in 2008.

Lundby’s first campaign press release refers repeatedly to his late mother, Mary Lundby. She was co-chair of the Linn County Republican Party before being elected to the Iowa House in 1986. After four terms as a state representative, she won several terms in the Iowa Senate, where she was among the more moderate Republicans. During the final weeks of the 2006 legislative session, she surprised most Iowa politics-watchers by ousting Stew Iverson as Senate Republican leader. She stepped down from the Senate in order to run for Linn County supervisor, but she dropped out of that race for health reasons. She died of cancer in early 2009.

Daniel Lundby’s message to Linn County voters will be that today’s Republican Party no longer shares his mother’s values. From yesterday’s campaign press release:

“My mother believed in a common sense approach to solving problems through partisan politics.  I want to bring that common sense back to the Iowa House.  My mother also strongly cared about children in Iowa and wanted them to get the best education possible.  Unfortunately, the needs of our young people now seem less important with the Republicans insisting on zero percent growth for local schools and education cuts to state universities.  None of which my mother would approve of.  Nor would she support cutting programs that protect our natural resources and our environment.  She would definitely not support attempts to deny equal rights to any Iowan.  Being my mother’s son, I want the chance to continue her work for a better Iowa.”

The comment about “equal rights” alludes to the fact that Mary Lundby was one of four Iowa Senate Republicans to vote against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004. That amendment failed by a single vote in the upper chamber. Had it passed, the Varnum v Brien lawsuit challenging Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act probably would never have been filed.

I’ve posted a detailed map of the new House district 68 after the jump, along with the full text of Lundby’s campaign announcement.

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