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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How did this Iowa state senator escape a primary challenge?

State legislative incumbents typically are unchallenged for their party’s nomination, but every election cycle, some hopefuls take on sitting members of the Iowa House or Senate in a primary election. This year, nine Iowa House members (four Democrats, five Republicans) will face competitive primaries. Sometimes these long-shot candidates just want to serve in the legislature, like State Representative Kevin Koester’s GOP opponent in House district 38. Brett Nelson has run for the Iowa House more than half a dozen times.

Other primary challengers are motivated by ideology, like the Liberty-oriented former Congressional candidate Bryan Jack Holder. Wearing an 18th-century style tri-corner hat, he filed this year against State Representative Greg Forristall in House district 22.

Some challengers have a specific bone to pick with the incumbent. Conservative Dave Hartsuch ousted State Senator Maggie Tinsman, one of the last pro-choice Republicans to serve in the Iowa legislature, in a 2006 GOP primary. Hartsuch proved too extreme for his district and fell to Roby Smith in a primary four years later.

Occasionally, an incumbent who appears destined to fight for his party’s nomination ends up in an uncontested primary. In what I deemed a St. Patrick’s Day miracle two years ago, State Representative Josh Byrnes drew no GOP challenger despite having publicly supported marriage equality, Medicaid expansion, and a gasoline tax increase.

This year’s escape artist serves in the Iowa Senate, where no incumbents have any competition on the primary ballot. How he managed to avoid a battle with the far right is completely beyond me.

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Themes from the Iowa legislature's opening day in 2013

The Iowa House and Senate began their 2013 session yesterday with the usual welcoming speeches from legislative leaders and the ritual of choosing desks for each lawmaker in the chambers. Judging from this photo, returning legislators get first dibs.

As was the case in 2012, social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage were absent from the opening-day speeches. Republican leaders emphasized the need to cut both property and income taxes. Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen also claimed credit on behalf of Republicans for Iowa’s improving fiscal condition. House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer spent a fair amount of time criticizing Congress before calling for state action to improve education and cut taxes. House Speaker Pro Tem Steve Olson repeated some themes of last year’s election campaign and quoted U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Similarly, Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix concentrated on tax reforms.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal focused on education and workforce training programs to address “Iowa’s skill shortage.” Senate President Pam Jochum focused on health-related issues: improve mental health services, helping elderly people stay in their own homes, and expanding Medicaid, which she described as “the biggest opportunity for this session to make a positive difference for Iowans.” Iowa House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy emphasized the need for bipartisan work on a range of issues: education, mental health care delivery, the transition to a new maximum security prison, and protecting natural resources.

Follow me after the jump for excerpts from the opening-day speeches by legislative leaders (as prepared for delivery). I included the full text of Jochum’s remarks, because her personal journey says a lot about who she is. Jochum also paid a lovely tribute to former Republican State Senator Pat Ward, who died last year.  

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Iowa Senate district 22 election day news roundup

Voters in Clive, Windsor Heights, Waukee, and about half of West Des Moines will elect a successor to State Senator Pat Ward today in Iowa Senate district 22. Ward’s untimely death in October forced this special election between Republican Charles Schneider and Democrat Desmund Adams. Follow me after the jump for early vote numbers and news from the campaign trail.

UPDATE: Unofficial results from Polk County show Schneider won 2865 votes and Adams 2712 votes. The Dallas County precincts have not reported yet, but they are more Republican-leaning, so it’s safe to say Schneider won this special election.

SECOND UPDATE: Schneider won by 5,371 votes to 4,117 (56.56 percent to 43.36 percent). Huge opportunity for Iowa Democrats lost here.  

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Charles Schneider is the GOP candidate in Iowa Senate district 22

West Des Moines City Council member Charles Schneider will face Democrat Desmund Adams in the December 11 special election to fill Iowa Senate district 22. Six Republicans sought the nomination at a special district convention last night: Schneider, former West Des Moines School Board president John Ward (the widower of Senator Pat Ward), Clive Mayor Scott Cirksena, longtime GOP activist Connie Schmett, high school teacher Greg Hudson, and former Waukee City Council member Isaiah McGee, who now works for the Iowa Department of Education. About 60 Republican delegates from the district elected Schneider on the second ballot using a convoluted procedure for allocating votes to each candidate. McGee placed second, Ward third.

Senate district 22 covers the Des Moines suburbs of Clive, Windsor Heights, Waukee, and parts of West Des Moines. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicate that 12,633 registered Democrats, 17,184 Republicans, and 15,097 no-party voters live in the district. Those totals do not include any voters who registered on election day.

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Iowa Senate district 22 update: John Ward announces candidacy

Attorney John Ward, the widower of State Senator Pat Ward, has confirmed that he is running to succeed his wife in Iowa Senate district 22. A special election will be held on December 11 to fill the seat. The Democratic candidate will be Desmund Adams. Republicans will choose their candidate at a district nominating convention on November 8.

Earlier this week, the Iowa Republican blog listed eight potential Republican candidates, but not Ward. I suspect most of those named would not compete against Ward. One exception is Windsor Heights Pastor Terry Amman, who could fill the hard-core social conservative niche Jeff Mullen occupied during his primary challenge against Ward.

After the jump I’ve posted the latest voter registration totals in this district and a map showing the area it covers in Clive, Windsor Heights, Waukee, and West Des Moines.

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