The story of the Safe at School Sit-In

Julie Russell-Steuart is a printmaker and activist who chairs the Iowa Democratic Party’s Disability Caucus. -promoted by Laura Belin

The Urgency

On August 11, a Wednesday morning, four moms of school-aged kids arrived at the Iowa State Capitol to put on an event called the Safe at School Sit-In. Two of them had met the previous day, but this was the first time everyone had met each other in person. The fifth member was anxiously keeping an eye on her Facebook Messenger and waiting for the live feed from the Iowans for Public Education Facebook page.

Twelve days earlier, Erin Dahl and Julie Russell-Steuart, both disability advocates, had discussed wanting to do something about the failure of virtually every state institution to protect vulnerable kids and Iowans in general from COVID-19. The next day, Erin saw a post by Brook Easton on Educators for a Safe Return to School Facebook group, saying how it was incredible no one had organized a protest yet, and tagged Julie.

The post turned up more moms wanting to take action. A group was quickly formed and the first of many Zoom meetings and probably hundreds of Facebook Messages started.

Continue Reading...

Can Governor Reynolds put Iowa kids' well-being ahead of politics?

Concerned parent Tanya Keith reached out to Governor Kim Reynolds’ staff and interviewed infectious disease Dr. Megan Srinivas. -promoted by Laura Belin

Less than a month before school starts, Governor Kim Reynolds is putting politics ahead of my daughter’s life and well-being. I am one of the thousands of Iowa parents bearing the burden of having a child under 12, who is too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Anyone following pandemic science updates has been fed a daily diet of rising concern. First, the World Health Organization recommended that all individuals mask inside, even if they are vaccinated. Then the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all K-12 students be masked, regardless of vaccination status. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control just echoed that guidance.

As an Iowa parent, I know that it is currently against the law for masks to be required at school. If you’re reading this from another state, that may sound bizarre, but I assure you it’s true. In May, Reynolds signed a bill in the middle of the night to ban mask mandates, so schools were left scrambling to come up with new policy days from the finish line of a grueling academic year.

Continue Reading...

State will count antigen tests toward COVID-19 case totals

Iowa’s official COVID-19 website will begin including positive and negative results from antigen tests in published statistics on cases and positivity rates, Governor Kim Reynolds announced at an August 27 news conference. Previously, the Iowa Department of Public Health had included antigen tests in the total testing numbers but considered all results from such tests “inconclusive.”

The governor and State Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati said the reporting change reflects new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and more widespread availability of antigen tests across the state.

Physicians and public health experts had expressed concern that omitting the antigen positives from case counts was skewing the data and obscuring the spread of the virus.

Continue Reading...

Iowa's COVID-19 website has backdated some cases for months

The Iowa Department of Public Health has erroneously recorded thousands of positive COVID-19 test results, distorting reported case numbers and positivity rates.

Rob Ramaekers, the lead epidemiologist for the department’s Surveillance Unit, acknowledged in an August 14 email that Iowa’s coronavirus website has recorded some recent cases as occurring weeks or months in the past. According to Ramaekers, state officials are aware of the problem and working on a fix.

The backdating means that publicly available numbers underestimate the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests conducted over the past two weeks, a key metric for measuring community spread.

Continue Reading...

New look at the 2020 Iowa House landscape (post-filing edition)

Now that the deadline for candidates to qualify for the June primary ballot has passed, it’s time to revisit the 2020 Iowa House landscape. (A separate overview of state Senate races is in progress.)

Republicans now hold a 53-47 majority in the lower chamber, meaning Democrats need a net gain of four seats for control. Thanks to our state’s nonpartisan redistricting system, more than a dozen House districts should be highly competitive. This post covers 22 House districts that could fall into that category. One or both parties spent significant funds on twenty Iowa House races in 2018, not counting House districts 82 or 16, where Republican candidates ended up winning by small margins.

Since Bleeding Heartland first reviewed the House landscape last May, both parties have had some recruiting successes, while other districts still lack a top-tier challenger. The Secretary of State published the full list of Democratic and GOP primary candidates here. In some races that are currently uncontested, major parties may get candidates on the ballot later by holding a special nominating convention.

Continue Reading...

First look at the Iowa House landscape for 2020

Republicans used their control over state government to inflict tremendous damage on Iowa during the 2019 legislative session: underfunding education, blocking steps that would improve Medicaid services, dismantling effective sex education programs, further undermining workers’ rights, targeting health care for transgender Iowans, and giving Governor Kim Reynolds the ability to pack our highest courts with conservative ideologues.

The disastrous outcomes underscored the urgent need for Democrats to break the Republican trifecta in 2020. The Iowa House is the only realistic path for doing so, since Reynolds won’t be up for re-election next year, and the 32-18 GOP majority in the Iowa Senate will take several cycles to undo. State Representative Andy McKean’s recent party switch improved Democratic prospects, shrinking the Republican majority in the chamber from 54-46 to 53-47. Nevertheless, a net gain of four House seats will be no easy task for Democrats.

The Daily Kos Elections team calculated the 2018 election results for governor and state auditor in every Iowa House district. Jeff Singer discussed their key findings in a May 2 post: Reynolds carried 60 state House districts, Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell just 39. The “median seat backed Reynolds 51.0-46.3, a margin of 4.7 points. That’s about 2 points to the right of her statewide margin of 2.8 points.” Eight Democrats represent districts Reynolds carried, and one (Dave Williams) represents a district where Reynolds and Hubbell tied, while “only one Republican is in a Hubbell district.”

I’d encourage all Iowa politics watchers to bookmark the DK Elections number-crunching, as well as the team’s spreadsheet on 2016 presidential results by House district.

The Daily Kos team also looked at the 2018 voting for state auditor, seeking clues on which House seats might be within reach for Democrats. I don’t find that angle as useful. Previous State Auditor Mary Mosiman ran a terrible campaign. Not only did Rob Sand outwork Mosiman on the trail, he ran unanswered television commercials for six weeks, allowing him to go into election day with higher name ID than the incumbent, which is almost unheard of. Sad to say, Democrats won’t be outspending incompetent, little-known GOP candidates in the 2020 state legislative races.

Here’s my first take on both parties’ best pickup opportunities. What appear to be competitive state House seats may shift over the coming year, depending on candidate recruitment and incumbent retirements, so Bleeding Heartland will periodically return to this topic.

Continue Reading...
View More...