Farewell, Vern Johnson

Ed Fallon remembers an Iowa farmer who fought “to the end” to stop his land from being taken for a pipeline. -promoted by Laura Belin

Sadly, those of us fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) lost one of our strongest allies this week. LaVerne Johnson died suddenly and unexpectedly on Sunday, April 7. My heart goes out to his wife, family, and closest friends — though he will be missed by more people than he would have imagined.

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Kurt Friese walked the talk and sucked the marrow out of life

Mike Carberry remembers his friend and fellow Johnson County supervisor Kurt Friese, who was also an occasional guest author at Bleeding Heartland. -promoted by desmoinesdem

“Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.” –Paul Wellstone

A friend posted this on Twitter last Thursday evening and I reposted it. Friday afternoon our world was rocked by the news of the death of Kurt Friese. I immediately thought that quote was perfect for my first post about my dear friend, colleague, and comrade in arms.

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Iowans remember Donna Red Wing

Iowa progressives have been mourning the loss of a longtime advocate for justice and LGBTQ equality this week. Since Donna Red Wing passed away on April 16, Iowans who knew her well have shared their reflections and stories. With permission, I’ve posted some of those comments below.

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Jonathan Narcisse, Remembered

State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad’s tribute to his friend Jonathan Narcisse. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Jonathan Narcisse, advocate, media presence, and publisher of several newspapers, including “The Bystander,” Iowa’s most enduring publication geared towards an African American audience, died last Saturday, February 17. He was 54–young, but not unusual for a black man in America.

He was also my former campaign manager, business associate, peer, and friend. So I write this with sadness in my heart for the loss Iowa experiences as a result of his death, and with joy in my soul that he is no longer in pain.

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Rest in peace, Scott Galindez

“Private insurance has failed me all of my life,” wrote Scott Galindez in his final commentary, a passionate call for single-payer health care. Two days later, the longtime progressive activist and journalist passed away, having ceased dialysis treatments for complications from diabetes. His insurance carrier, Aetna, had refused to cover kidney transplant surgery at a local hospital.

Galindez had lived in Des Moines since 2015, when he moved here to cover the Iowa caucuses. Though he and I occasionally interacted on Facebook, I didn’t know him personally and had no idea he was gravely ill. He landed on my radar through his writing for Reader Supported News, where he worked as political director. He wrote on his bio page for that website,

Over the years I have worked with many Heroes in the fight for Peace and Justice. Phillip Berrigan and Mitch Snyder taught me that it wasn’t about what I could do alone, but what we could do together. Phil was more patient than Mitch, he knew that victory was a long way off, and that each changed mind put us one step closer to a peaceful, just world. That is one of the reasons I am at Reader Supported News, because I can reach more people than I could by organizing a protest. I am committed to fighting for a world without war, poverty and injustice.

Many of my acquaintances knew Galindez well through Bernie Sanders supporter circles and Our Revolution–Iowa, for which he was an early and active organizer. Despite chronic health problems, he continued to write and advocate and cover events, like this health care rally last winter.

I admired his commitment and encourage Bleeding Heartland readers to join me in donating to Reader Supported News in his memory. Friends can attend a visitation for Galindez on October 9, starting at 1:00 pm at Dunn’s Funeral Home, 2121 Grand Avenue in Des Moines. A memorial service will follow at Glendale Cemetery, 4909 University Ave.

Excerpts from Galindez’s final post and obituary are after the jump, but please click through to read both pieces in full.

UPDATE: Added below more details about the planned memorial service and call to action. Many activists will be there, along with at least two Democratic candidates: gubernatorial contender Cathy Glasson and Pete D’Alessandro, who’s running in the third Congressional district. LATER UPDATE: Jon Neiderbach, another candidate for governor and supporter of single-payer health care, will attend the memorial.

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Throwback Thursday: When Greg Forristall fought against putting commerce ahead of education

Republican State Representative Greg Forristall passed away yesterday at the age of 67. First elected to the Iowa House in 2006, he was most recently vice chair of the Education Committee and also served on the Human Resources, Labor, and Ways and Means committees. He had been battling cancer for some time and was too ill to participate in the last few weeks of this year’s legislative session.

In a written statement, Republican Party of Iowa chair Jeff Kaufmann described Forristall as a “friend to conservatives across our state” and a “happy warrior” in the Ronald Reagan tradition. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said Forristall “was a dedicated public servant to the people he represented and an advocate for the arts and education, two issues that he was incredibly passionate for.”

I never met Forristall, but one episode stands out for me as I think about his legislative career. The first two years after Republicans regained their Iowa House majority, Forristall chaired the Education Committee. House leaders reassigned him to lead the Labor Committee in 2013, a position he retained through the 2016 legislative session.

Why did then House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Majority Leader Upmeyer take the Education Committee away from Forristall, knowing how much he cared about that issue? I never saw any public confirmation, but the Iowa political rumor mill pointed to Forristall’s stance on one controversial bill.

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