What's going on at the Iowa Department of Revenue?

Governor Kim Reynolds appointed former Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen as director of the Iowa Department of Revenue on February 22, only six weeks after she had named Adam Humes to lead the agency. A late Friday afternoon news release did not explain the reason for the change, saying only that Humes “has decided to pursue other opportunities.”* Paulsen will start work this coming Monday. Leadership transitions at state agencies typically are weeks or months in the making.

Humes’ predecessor, Courtney Kay-Decker, also left under odd circumstances. Appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in 2011, she sounded excited to continue to lead the department after the 2018 election. But in early December, Kay-Decker announced her resignation, effective at the start of the new year.

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Iowa Senate district 16: Nate Boulton's and Pam Dearden Conner's pitches to voters

UPDATE: Boulton won this race by just under 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent.

One of the most closely-watched state legislative primary results tonight will be the race to represent the open Iowa Senate district 16, covering the east side of Des Moines and Pleasant Hill in Polk County. No Republican has filed to run in this overwhelmingly Democratic district. The two contenders seeking to replace retiring Senator Dick Dearden are his daughter, Pam Dearden Conner, and Nate Boulton. Bleeding Heartland posted background on both candidates here. Each has substantial support from influential local Democrats.

I love three things about this primary:

1) It is happening. Dearden announced his plans to retire six months before the filing deadline, giving all local residents plenty of time to enter the Senate race. He could have pretended to be seeking another term, then pulled his nominating papers on the last day, leaving time for only his daughter to file. Too many Iowa lawmakers, including three House Democrats this year, have engineered their retirements so that only favored insiders had a chance to consider running for office.

2) Both sides are working hard. Although some Iowa Democrats have a bizarre fear of competitive primaries, I see no downside to two candidates and a small army of volunteers knocking doors and making phone calls, trying to identify supporters and get them to vote. As of May 24, more than 1,200 voters in Senate district 16 had requested absentee ballots. Both campaigns were out in force this past weekend, enjoying perfect weather for canvassing. Boulton has raised and spent more money, as you can see from his and Conner’s latest disclosure reports, but both sides have done substantial district-wide voter outreach.

3) As far as I can tell, the candidates have stayed positive. Months ago, I was worried the Senate district 16 primary might turn nasty like the 2013 Des Moines City Council race between Chris Diebel and Skip Moore, which lit up social media and strained friendships.

May the best Democrat win. I’ve posted below some examples of campaign literature and direct mail supporting each candidate. You can find more information on the websites for Conner and Boulton.

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Iowa Senate district 16: Nate Boulton raised more money in four months than Dick Dearden did in seven years

When Nate Boulton announced his Iowa Senate campaign in September, he subtly indicated he would be a different kind of legislator than State Senator Dick Dearden, the longtime Democratic incumbent who is retiring this year. Boulton promised to “be an active and engaged representative of district interests” and to “bring bold progressive ideas and a fresh, energetic style of leadership to the Iowa Senate.”

Just a few months into his primary race against Pam Dearden Conner, the retiring senator’s daughter, Boulton sent a strong signal that he will be a more “active and engaged” candidate as well. Campaign finance disclosure forms show that Boulton raised $75,383 during the last four months of the year, a phenomenal total for a non-incumbent, first-time state legislative candidate in Iowa. Not only did Boulton out-raise his primary rival, he raised more than Dearden (a 22-year incumbent) has brought in cumulatively since 2008.

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Iowa Senate district 16 primary preview: Pam Dearden Conner vs. Nate Boulton

A generational battle is shaping up in the Democratic primary to replace State Senator Dick Dearden, who has represented parts of Des Moines in the legislature since 1995. Dearden recently disclosed plans to retire in 2016. Like last year’s campaign to replace Jack Hatch in Iowa Senate district 17 on the south side of Des Moines, the June primary will determine Dearden’s successor.

Senate district 16 covers heavily Democratic neighborhoods on the east side of Des Moines, and also the growing suburb of Pleasant Hill. A detailed map is after the jump. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office indicate that the district contains 14,624 active registered Democrats, 6,978 Republicans, and 10,106 no-party voters. Dearden was unopposed in 2004 and defeated his Republican challengers by wide margins in 2008 and in 2012.

More candidates may enter the race later, but for now the primary will pit the incumbent’s daughter Pam Dearden Conner against labor attorney Nate Boulton. Iowa Labor Commissioner and former Secretary of State Michael Mauro endorsed Conner on Facebook this past weekend. She is his administrative assistant and also worked for him in the Polk County Election Office and the Secretary of State’s Office. Many other longtime friends and backers of Senator Dearden have expressed their support for Conner’s campaign on social media.

Nate Boulton is a partner in a law firm that has represented Iowa’s largest pubic employee union (AFSCME) in several high-profile cases against Governor Terry Branstad’s administration. Since last Friday, many Democratic activists in their 20s and 30s have promoted his candidacy on social media. Bouton’s on Twitter here, and his campaign is on Facebook here.

I enclose below press releases from each candidate, containing short biographies and statements of values. Both Conner and Boulton have strong pro-labor credentials and are pledging to support consensus Democratic priorities like education. Boulton’s statement hints at the case he will make in the primary, promising to “be an active and engaged representative of district interests” and to “bring bold progressive ideas and a fresh, energetic style of leadership to the Iowa Senate.” Such phrases allude to the fact that Dearden, while a solid vote in the legislature, has never been at the forefront of progressive fights. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a cause he has led on, besides bringing back dove hunting, which isn’t a partisan issue. Dearden didn’t accomplish that longstanding goal until Governor Terry Branstad was back in office.

Two (or perhaps more) committed candidates working hard to identify and turn out supporters next June can only help Democratic GOTV in the general election. Here’s hoping for a competitive race that doesn’t turn bitter and negative, as happened in Senate district 17 last spring.

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Matt Schultz running in IA-03; Paul Pate running for Secretary of State

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz confirmed today that he will run for Congress in the open third district. He announced his decision at a press conference in Council Bluffs, where he served on the city council before winning the 2010 election for secretary of state. Council Bluffs is the second-largest city in IA-03. Schultz for Congress is on the web here and on Facebook here. The candidate’s Twitter handle is VoteMattSchultz. So far the website doesn’t contain detailed issue positions, just five section headings: “Protect against government overreach,” “Enact term limits for elected officials,” “Repeal Obamacare,” “Balance the federal government’s budget,” and “Protect our 2nd Amendment rights.”

I’ve posted background on Schultz after the jump, along with an excerpt from today’s official press release announcing his candidacy. It doesn’t mention what I suspect are the real reasons he is running for Congress instead of for re-election.

Meanwhile, Paul Pate announced today that he will seek the Republican nomination for secretary of state. He was elected to that statewide position in 1994 but left after one term to run for governor. Speaking to the Des Moines Register today, Pate said his experience gives him “a pretty good grasp of the office’s responsibilities,” allowing him to “hit the ground running.” He added that he can win the secretary of state’s race.

Pate said he already has strong name-ID with voters around Iowa, and a proven record of fundraising. The successful GOP candidate will need to raise at least $250,000, he said.

“Candidates need to recognize they won’t be able to run this on a shoestring budget,” he said.

Pate, who said he has “great respect” for Schultz, wants to make some changes to the secretary of state position.

“One key thing is my desire to bring more a nonpartisan approach to the office,” he said. “I think that’s something that Iowans and Americans have been clamoring for with all the gridlock going on in Washington.”

Pate flirted with running for Congress in IA-01 last year before opting out, citing family reasons. I’m curious to see whether he can clear the Republican field. My hunch is that he will be unopposed in the primary. I am seeking comment from State Representative Mary Ann Hanusa, who was the 2006 GOP nominee for secretary of state.

Brad Anderson is the likely Democratic nominee for this office, although former Secretary of State Michael Mauro has not ruled out running again in 2014. Mauro is currently Iowa’s labor commissioner.

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