One more glass ceiling broken at the Iowa capitol

Iowa House Democrats elected State Representative Jennifer Konfrst as the new minority leader on June 14. She is the first woman to lead the House Democratic caucus, which now has 21 women and 20 men. (That’s down from the record number of 24 Democratic women among the 47 Iowa House Democrats who served in 2019.)

Konfrst had served as House minority whip since late last year and appeared to be the only contender to succeed Todd Prichard, who announced early this month that he would soon step down as caucus leader.

Women have now held the top positions in each party’s caucus in each Iowa legislative chamber. Mary Lundby became the top Iowa Senate Republican in 2006 and served as co-majority leader in the chamber, evenly split 25-25 at the time. She also served as Senate minority leader in 2007.

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Eight lessons of election week 2020 in Iowa

Bill Brauch is a former Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee member and Third District Central Committee chair. -promoted by Laura Belin

Election week 2020 felt like an anti-gravity bungee jump for Iowa Democrats. We went from the depths of despair on election night, suffering losses we never expected, to huge relief — euphoria even — on Saturday when it was clear Joe Biden had won the presidency. That our next vice president will be a woman of African and Indian descent added to the joy of knowing that Donald Trump’s occupation of the White House will soon come to an end.

But there is no question Iowa Democrats are hurting. We lost statehouse seats we should have won. We did poorly in the U.S. Senate and presidential races. We lost one — maybe two — U.S. House seats. (We were not alone in this. Democrats even lost seats in states Biden won!)

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Path to Iowa caucus victory hidden in plain sight

Aaron Belkin is director of Take Back the Court and a political science professor at San Francisco State University who spent 20 years working to end “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and the military’s transgender ban. -promoted by Laura Belin

With so much at stake in this year’s Iowa caucuses, the latest survey data indicate that the race is wide open, with any of the four leading candidates potentially able to win. As they seek to distinguish themselves from the pack, however, the candidates are constrained by the fact that their policy goals on health care, the economy, and the environment share many similarities. Given that they largely agree on policy, it has been difficult for candidates to distinguish themselves on the basis of distinct visions of what they would do once elected. 

Despite the similarity of their policy positions, however, there is one critical and high stakes issue—Supreme Court expansion—on which the candidates have expressed widely divergent views. Based on new polling data and new research, there is an opportunity during the waning days of the Iowa campaign for one of the candidates to break away from the pack by expressing strong support for court expansion and explaining that key Iowan priorities—in particular rural revitalization—depend on it.

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IA-02 primary: Hart gaining strength, Croken considering, Russell's out

More than six dozen prominent Democrats endorsed former State Senator Rita Hart’s campaign for U.S. House on May 22. The list enclosed in full below includes activists from each of the 24 counties in Iowa’s second Congressional district. The best-known endorsers are former Iowa Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge, former Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky, and twenty current or former state lawmakers.

Hart was already the clear favorite to win the nomination. She appears increasingly unlikely to face serious competition from the left in the Democratic primary. Iowa City business owner Veronica Tessler ruled out the race earlier this month. Former Bernie Sanders national delegate Daniel Clark, who ran in IA-02 as an independent last year, is now backing Hart. Johnson County progressives on the new list of Hart endorsers include State Senators Joe Bolkcom and Zach Wahls and State Representatives Mary Mascher and Amy Nielsen.

Scott County Supervisor Ken Croken is still considering a Congressional bid, he told Bleeding Heartland in a May 23 telephone interview. Croken said he and his team are collecting information about potential Republican candidates with a view to deciding who would be the best person to keep IA-02 in Democratic hands. He said the long list of Hart endorsers won’t affect his decision, which he will announce sometime after Memorial Day.

Hart’s news release mentioned eleven high-profile Scott County Democrats, including State Representatives Monica Kurth and Phyllis Thede, State Senator Jim Lykam, former Davenport Mayors Bill Gluba and Thom Hart, and former state lawmaker Frank Wood. Croken’s past contributions to some local Republican candidates would also be a problem in a primary race.

Speaking of Democrats in the Quad Cities area, Davenport attorney Ian Russell has ruled out running for Congress next year, he told Bleeding Heartland by phone on May 22. Russell said he talked to Hart about a week ago and “told her she’s going to be a very good candidate for the second district and that I’d support her.”

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The case for each Democrat running for Congress in IA-03

With less than three weeks remaining before the June 5 primary, many Democrats (including myself) are still undecided in the primary to represent Iowa’s third Congressional district. All three candidates left standing in the once-crowded field have raised enough money to run strong, district-wide campaigns.

This post focuses on how Cindy Axne, Pete D’Alessandro, and Eddie Mauro have presented themselves in stump speeches, direct mail, and television commercials aimed at Democratic voters.

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More women managing Iowa campaigns

Iowa hasn’t been the most friendly state for women in politics, to put it mildly. We didn’t elect a woman to Congress until 2014. We have not elected a woman governor. Just 22.7 percent of our state lawmakers are women, below the pitiful national average of 25.3 percent. Only two women have ever been Iowa Supreme Court justices, and we are currently the only state in the country to have no women serving on our highest court.

But Iowa has not escaped the national trend of more women becoming politically involved in the wake of the 2016 election. Not only will a record number of female candidates appear on Iowa ballots in 2018, more women than ever before are leading campaigns for high-level offices.

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