Three ways Mark Smith can restore faith in the Iowa Democratic Party

The Iowa Democratic Party released revised Iowa caucus results on the evening of February 18, following a recanvass of 79 precincts. Recanvass administrators changed delegate allocations in 26 precincts where the precinct chair did not properly apply the party’s rules on February 3, and revised results in three precincts after spotting data entry errors.

The adjustments shrank Pete Buttigieg’s delegate lead over Bernie Sanders to “almost nothing,” a Sanders news release declared: 563.207 state delegate equivalents to 563.127, to be precise. The Sanders campaign will request a recount in several precincts where results were not adjusted during the recanvass.

While the work of tabulating the Iowa caucus numbers nears its end, the work of restoring confidence in the process is just beginning. Events of the past few weeks exposed serious flaws in the party’s operations.

After being chosen to succeed Troy Price as state party chair on February 15, State Representative Mark Smith told reporters, “Priority number one is to get out across the state and to talk to everyday Iowans and restore the faith in the Iowa Democratic Party.” A few places he could start:

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U.S. Attorney Nick Klinefeldt stepping down, not running in IA-03

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After six years as U.S. attorney for Iowa’s Southern District, Nick Klinefeldt will leave that position next month to go back to private law practice. I enclose below the full press release on his departure. Among other things, the former defense attorney highlighted his work on national committees “to update and expand discovery policies to ensure defendants [in federal courts] receive all of the information they need to adequately defend themselves, and revamp sentencing practices to ensure the end result of a prosecution is fair.” He also

developed a comprehensive discovery policy for the Southern District of Iowa that ensures criminal defendants receive even more information about the case against them than is required by the rules and that they receive it quickly. This policy included the development of a Stipulated Discovery and Protective Order that is now universally used in all criminal cases across the district. United States Attorney Klinefeldt also changed the way the office utilized mandatory minimum sentences, to ensure that they were only used when absolutely necessary.

U.S. House race-watchers had their eye on Klinefeldt earlier this year as a possible Democratic candidate in Iowa’s third Congressional district, but I have never heard of Klinefeldt signaling any intention to run. In recent weeks, the local Democratic establishment has been consolidating around Jim Mowrer, one of two declared challengers to first-term Representative David Young. Today Klinefeldt confirmed that he is not planning to run for Congress, Grant Rodgers reported for the Des Moines Register.

UPDATE: Michael Gartner wrote an excellent commentary on Klinefeldt’s record for the Des Moines-based weekly Cityview. Scroll to the end of this post for excerpts.

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Jim Mowrer joins Democratic primary in IA-03

Iraq War veteran Jim Mowrer, the 2014 Democratic challenger to Representative Steve King in Iowa’s fourth district, announced this morning that he is running for Congress in Iowa’s third district. Earlier this year, Mowrer moved his family from Boone to Des Moines. I’ve enclosed his campaign’s statement after the jump, which lists 19 endorsers. Five are state legislators (two representing districts in IA-03), and five lead Democratic Party committees in IA-03 counties.

Speaking to Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register, Mowrer said he started thinking about running for Congress again a few months ago, when “a good friend” (Beau Biden) died: “That was another reminder of how fleeting life can be and we need to take action to change our world while we have the opportunity to do so.” Mowrer has known the Biden family for a long time; he chaired the Iowa veterans committee backing Joe Biden for president before the 2008 caucuses.

Earlier this year, Mowrer ran for Iowa Democratic Party state chair and was elected first vice chair. He confirmed to Bleeding Heartland that he resigned from that position this morning.

At this writing, Mowrer’s campaign website Jim for Iowa consists of a landing page, a volunteer sign-up form, a contribution button, and a link to the candidate’s biography. I assume issue positions and other information will be added soon. Mowrer is on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

Mowrer raised an impressive amount of money for his 2014 campaign against King, more than $2.1 million. So he starts this effort with an unusually large e-mail list of supporters and contributors. He may not match his 2014 fundraising levels, since IA-03 GOP incumbent David Young is neither as well-known as King, nor hated by Democrats across the country. But Mowrer will surely raise enough money to run a competitive district-wide race.

Mowrer will have at least one rival in the Democratic primary: Desmund Adams. State Senator Matt McCoy took himself out of the running last week. Simone Pathe reported for Roll Call on August 14 that some Democrats are recruiting U.S. Attorney Nick Klinefeldt to run in IA-03, and that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee included both Klinefelt and Mowrer in a recent poll. According to Pathe, that poll did not test former Governor Chet Culver, who said earlier this year that he was thinking about running for Congress. I don’t know any local Democrats who expect Culver to get in to this race at this point.

The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicate that the sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 150,997 active registered Democrats, 163,107 Republicans, and 163,172 no-party voters.

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IA-03: Two questions for Democrats seeking alternatives to Matt McCoy

Iowa’s first U.S. House district will be the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s top pickup opportunity in Iowa next year, but the third district will be on the DCCC’s target list as well. Recognizing the competitive nature of IA-03, the National Republican Congressional Committee has put first-term Representative David Young in its incumbent protection program. However, Washington insiders are not keen on State Senator Matt McCoy, one of several Democrats who may challenge Young.

I’m not sold on any candidate for this race and won’t make up my mind until after the Democratic field has been set. That said, Democrats could do a lot worse than McCoy. I challenge those who would dismiss him as a credible challenger to answer two questions.

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Harkin recommends O'Brien, Romano, Klinefeldt for federal judgeships

Two federal judges in Iowa plan to retire next year, and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin has recommended that President Barack Obama choose among three possible replacements. Cedar Rapids-based attorney Dave O’Brien is Harkin’s choice to replace U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett, who presides in Sioux City. O’Brien finished fifth in the Democratic primary to represent Iowa’s first Congressional district. I’ve posted background on his legal credentials after the jump.

Harkin suggested two possible nominees for the position to be vacated by James Gritzner, chief district judge for Iowa’s Southern District: Polk County District Court Judge Karen Romano and Nick Klinefeldt, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District. A former prosecutor in Polk County, Romano became an Iowa District Associate judge in 1996 and a District Court judge in 2001. She has been on Harkin’s short list before, and I’ve posted more background on her after the jump.

I hope Obama chooses Romano to fill this vacancy, as she has much more relevant experience than Klinefeldt. On Harkin’s recommendation, Obama appointed Klinefeldt to be U.S. attorney in 2009. The Senate confirmed him to that position about four and a half years ago. His official bio is below as well.

Romano was in the news last November after her ruling put a temporary stay on the Iowa Board of Medicine’s rule banning the use of telemedicine to provide abortion drugs to Iowa women. Social conservatives including Bob Vander Plaats’ FAMiLY Leader organization threw a fit, but I have little doubt that the state board’s rule will not stand up in court when Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit is heard on the merits.

Ryan Foley of the Associated Press observed, “It is unusual for Iowa, a state that only has five active district judges, to have two pending vacancies for the lifetime judicial positions at the same time.”

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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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