# Paul McKinley

10 years of marriage equality in Iowa

Ten years ago today, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously held in Varnum v Brien that the state’s Defense of Marriage Act “violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.”

Justice Mark Cady wrote the opinion, which cost three of his colleagues (Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice David Baker, and Justice Michael Streit) their jobs in the 2010 judicial retention elections. Assigned the task of writing by random drawing, Cady “strongly believed the court should speak in one voice” on such a controversial matter, Tom Witosky and Marc Hansen wrote in their 2015 book Equal Before the Law: How Iowa Led Americans to Marriage Equality. In fact, Cady “was convinced there was no room for even a concurring opinion–an opinion in agreement with the court’s conclusion but not its reasoning.” (pp. 134-5)

Thousands of Iowans have enjoyed a better quality of life since our state became the third to give LGBTQ couples the right to marry. Lambda Legal, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of six Iowa couples, has posted a timeline of key events in the case. State Senator Zach Wahls wrote today about the Supreme Court decision’s impact on his family.

I wanted to mark this day by sharing highlights from Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of that historic event. My deepest condolences go out to the friends and relatives of former Supreme Court Justice Daryl Hecht. The Iowa Judicial Branch announced today that Hecht has died. He stepped down from the bench in December 2018 while battling melanoma. Of the seven justices who joined the Varnum opinion, only Cady, Brent Appel, and David Wiggins still serve on the high court.

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The 10 biggest Iowa political blunders of 2011

Let’s review the most boneheaded moves from the year in Iowa politics.

This thread is not about wrongheaded policy choices. It may be stupid to cut early childhood education programs, kneecap the state Environmental Protection Commission, or pass an “ag gag” bill that would never survive a court challenge. Yet all of those actions carry potential political benefits, since they appeal to well-funded interest groups or a large group of voters.

My top ten list of Iowa politicians’ mistakes is after the jump.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2012

The November special election in Iowa Senate district 18 confirmed that Democrats will maintain a 26 to 24 majority in the upper chamber during the legislature’s 2012 session, set to begin on January 9.

Senate Democrats and Republicans recently announced updated committee assignments. Majority and minority leadership teams are after the jump, along with all members of standing committees. I’ve also noted which senators are up for re-election in 2012 and which are retiring next year.

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McKinley resigning as Iowa Senate Republican leader, won't run in 2012

Iowa Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election in 2012 and will step down as leader of his party’s caucus when Senate Republicans meet in Des Moines on November 10. After the jump I’ve posted background on the drive to oust McKinley and thoughts about which Senate Republican will take his place next week.

McKinley’s retirement leaves Republicans without an obvious candidate in the new Senate district 14, which should be competitive in 2012. A map of this swing district is also below.

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Swati Dandekar resigning, forcing Iowa Senate district 18 special election

Democratic State Senator Swati Dandekar is stepping down from the legislature in order to accept an appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board, the Des Moines Register reported today. Her resignation forces a special election this fall in Iowa Senate district 18, which covers suburban and rural areas in Linn County.

Democrats currently hold a 26-24 Iowa Senate majority, so a Republican victory in the special election would deadlock the upper chamber for the 2012 legislative session. Follow me after the jump for a district map and first take on the race to replace Dandekar.

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Weekend open thread: Ups and downs

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

Yesterday’s employment report was so awful (1 on a scale of 1 to 10) that a double-dip recession seems more likely than ever. At the Naked Capitalism blog, Edward Harrison reposted a piece from November 2009 on why Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and economic adviser Larry Summers would be President Barack Obama’s Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. It’s worth a read. At the Bonddad blog, New Deal Democrat went over lots of weekly indicators and found more evidence of an economic “stall” than a contraction (so far).

I’m still surprised by some of the bills that didn’t get through the Iowa legislature during this year’s extra-long session. I learned this week that Iowa wasn’t the only state where pro-nuclear legislation faltered. The nuclear industry failed to persuade lawmakers in five other state legislatures to advance favored bills. After the jump I’ve posted a press release from Nuclear Bailout, a project of Physicians for Social Responsibility. The Iowa chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility lobbied hard against the bill written exclusively for the benefit of MidAmerican Energy.

In case you missed it, Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Minority Leader Paul McKinley reflected on the 2011 session during the July 1 edition of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program. Click the link to read the transcript or watch the video. Both of them expect some progress on property tax reform next year, though they may get a crack at that sooner if Governor Terry Branstad calls a special legislative session later this year.

I’ll post Bleeding Heartland’s final news roundup on what passed and didn’t pass during the 2011 session after Branstad signs or vetoes the bills that reached his desk during the last week of June.

This is an open thread.

UPDATE: Best slip of the tongue I’ve heard this year: while phone-banking for Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, State Senator Brad Zaun says he’s calling on behalf of “Congressman Boswell.” Democrat Leonard Boswell beat Zaun during the 2010 Congressional race in Iowa’s third district.

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GOP opposing alternate bill to block Council Bluffs abortion clinic

Yesterday the Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee advanced a bill that would restrict where abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy can be performed in Iowa. The bill is aimed at stopping Dr. Leroy Carhart from opening a new clinic in Council Bluffs without adding new restrictions on a woman’s right to have a late-term abortion. However, Republican leaders in both chambers of the state legislature spoke out against that approach yesterday. Details and next steps in this controversy are after the jump.

UPDATE: Added comments from anti-choice Democratic State Senator Tom Hancock below.

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No organized case against Iowa maps at public hearings (updated)

A pathetically small crowd of about a dozen people turned up for the final public hearings on the first redistricting plan for Iowa last night. As was the case at the previous hearings, few people stood up to criticize the plan, and the complaints raised were not cohesive.

The low turnout and lack of consistent talking points suggest that neither political party mobilized supporters to pack these hearings. That in turn suggests neither Democratic nor Republican leaders believe this map clearly puts them at a disadvantage. More details about the hearings and the next steps in the redistricting process are after the jump.  

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Drive-time host Deace quits leading Iowa talk radio station

Steve Deace has resigned from WHO-AM radio, and February 11 will be his last broadcast of “Deace in the Afternoon,” station manager Van Harden informed employees today.

Harden told employees of WHO-AM in Des Moines that Deace said he and his family had been talking about resigning for some time, and “finally felt lead to make a change.”

“While he does not have another position to which he is going, he has had the ear and interest of many politicians and political campaigns seeking his strategic advice, and he says there is a possibility he may be doing some consulting,” the e-mail said. “While this came as a surprise to us, we at WHO, and Steve, want all to know this is a very friendly parting, so much so that Steve says he may be  able to make himself available occasionally to do some fill-in work for us if needed.”

Des Moines Cityview weekly published a good feature on Deace last year, chronicling his competitive nature, the evolution of his Christian faith and his path from sports reporting to hosting a political talk show. Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican blog credits Deace with helping Mike Huckabee “crush” Mitt Romney in counties that make up the WHO listening area. Similarly, Deace’s loud and frequent support for Bob Vander Plaats boosted the candidate’s showing against Terry Branstad in central Iowa during last year’s GOP gubernatorial primary. (I have to believe Branstad will be relieved to hear Deace is going off the air.)

Two weeks ago, Deace decided at the last minute to seek the position of Polk County Republican chair. According to Robinson, Deace posted on Facebook yesterday “that his next campaign might be for Republican National Committeeman or the State Senate.” The talk show host has been and remains a vocal critic of Iowa Senate Minority leader Paul McKinley (for instance: “Introducing the Paul McKinley Award for gutless, dishonest, and ineffective leadership!”). Iowa’s current elected Republican National Committeeman is Steve Scheffler, the head of the Iowa Christian Alliance whom Deace has called the “least trustworthy & most gutless person in Iowa politics.”

I wonder whom WHO will put in the drive-time slot and whether the new host will rival morning host Jan Mickelson in the outrageous comments department. One thing is certain: whoever gets the job will be wooed relentlessly by Republican presidential hopefuls. WHO has a large conservative listening audience.

UPDATE: A press release announcing Deace’s departure is after the jump. He says he hopes to publish a book this year, and he isn’t ruling out politics or a return to broadcasting someday. He and his wife plan to stay in Iowa: “We look forward to seeing how we will have the privilege to fear God, tell the truth and make money in the future.”

The news release says Deace lives in West Des Moines, so if he runs for the state Senate he presumably would face Pat Ward in a GOP primary, depending on what the new map looks like.

SECOND UPDATE: Deace on Twitter: “Just in case you were wondering, almost nothing in the Iowa Republican.com piece about my departure is true, except the spelling of my name.”

THIRD UPDATE: In this video, Deace talks about his reasons for leaving WHO and emphasizes that his split with the radio station was amicable. He also says that although it wasn’t an easy decision, he knows it was the right one, and he has “slept like a Calvinist at night” since he and his wife decided to pursue new challenges. After saying he felt he needed to take a chance and try something different at this point in his life, Deace added (around the 5:45 mark of the video), “I think a lot of guys, regardless of whether or not you agree with my belief system, you know, if you pee standing up like I do, I think you probably understand what I’m talking about.”

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Is Bill Dix the Iowa Senate Republicans' leader-in-waiting?

Civic Skinny’s latest column at the Des Moines weekly Cityview leads with a warning for Iowa Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley. Citing “top people in both parties,” Skinny speculates that “powerful party forces – and that’s code for Ed Failor Jr.’s Iowans for Tax Relief” want to replace McKinley with “one of their own – and that probably means Bill Dix […]”

Follow me after the jump for Skinny’s case as well as some additional supporting evidence and background on Dix, Iowans for Tax Relief, and longstanding Republican discontent with McKinley.

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Iowa Republicans afraid to speak out against impeaching Supreme Court justices

Before the November election, advocates for retaining the three Iowa Supreme Court justices on the ballot warned that throwing out the judges over one controversial decision would bring more politics into the judicial arena. The new debate over impeaching the four remaining Supreme Court justices shows that’s exactly what has happened.

In 2009, calls for impeaching the Supreme Court justices were a bridge too far even for Bob Vander Plaats, Iowa’s leading critic of the Varnum v Brien ruling. Now newly-elected Republican State Representatives Tom Shaw, Kim Pearson and Glen Massie are drafting articles of impeachment to introduce during the 2011 legislative session.

So far not one GOP official has spoken out against using a controversial ruling as grounds for criminal proceedings against four judges.

JANUARY 3 UPDATE: Governor-elect Terry Branstad finally spoke out against impeaching the remaining Supreme Court justices. Click the link or scroll to the bottom of this post to read his comments.

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News roundup on Iowa revenues, taxes and budgeting

Iowa’s three-member Revenue Estimating Conference again raised projections for state revenues during the current fiscal year and fiscal year 2012, following another month of growing state tax collections in November. The news hasn’t deterred Republican leaders from planning mid-year budget cuts, and legislators from both parties acknowledged the end of federal stimulus funds will make the next budget year difficult. Details and proposals are after the jump.

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Iowa House and Senate results nearly final

County auditors have been certifying election results this week, and the Iowa House is almost certain to be split 60-40 in favor of Republicans. Three seats were determined by extremely narrow margins. Democrat Donovan Olson does not plan to seek a recount in House district 48, where he trails Chip Baltimore by fewer than 30 votes. Republican Roger Arthur does not plan to seek a recount in House district 18, where he finished 36 votes behind Andrew Wenthe. Republican Lannie Miller has not decided whether to ask for a recount in House district 7, but John Wittneben’s margin of 32 votes is unlikely to be overturned in a recount.

The Iowa Senate is headed for a 26-24 Democratic majority. Certified election results put Democrat Keith Kreiman 12 votes behind Mark Chelgren in Senate district 47, while Democrat Tod Bowman is 71 votes ahead of Andrew Naeve in Senate district 13. If I were Kreiman, I would ask for a recount to be sure, but even a tiny margin of 12 votes (0.06 percent of the votes cast in that Senate race) probably wouldn’t be reversed.

Jennifer Jacobs reported in the Des Moines Register,

Election results show that voters angry about the Iowa Supreme Court’s gay-marriage ruling played a role in defeating Kreiman.

In 2006, Kreiman won 71 percent of the votes in his home county, Davis County. This year, 774 more Davis County residents voted on judicial retention than in 2006.

Davis County was one of seven counties where the anti-retention vote was above 70 percent.

I suspect Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ strong Congressional campaign played at least an equally important role in Chelgren’s win. Senate district 47 includes Miller-Meeks’ home base, the Ottumwa area, and she worked extremely hard all year.

Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley tried to psych out Democrats this week by saying he has “thought about” trying to convince state senators to switch to the GOP: “I think there are individuals that we know that clearly were put in tough situations over the past two or three years and might be more prone to that, but we thought about it. We’ll analyze where we are and proceed accordingly.”

Two Democrats flipping together could give Republicans a majority in the upper chamber, but I very much doubt that will happen. The moderate Democrats in the Senate caucus have more pull with Senate Majority leader Mike Gronstal than they would as junior members of a Republican majority. Also, it’s not as if McKinley could promise party-switchers a smooth ride to re-election. U.S. Representative Parker Griffith of Alabama got crushed in a GOP primary this year after deserting the Democratic Party. An incumbent in a vulnerable Iowa Senate seat would not survive a Republican primary after voting for I-JOBS and all four of Chet Culver’s budgets.

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Upmeyer to be first woman Iowa House majority leader

Today the Iowa House Republican caucus elected Kraig Paulsen to be incoming House speaker and Linda Upmeyer to be majority leader. The vote was no surprise, since Paulsen and Upmeyer were the top House Republicans during the previous two sessions. It’s still a historic achievement for Upmeyer; no other woman has ever served as Iowa House majority leader. James Q. Lynch wrote a nice profile of Upmeyer here. I didn’t know her late father was Del Stromer, who served in the Iowa House for 23 years, rising to the position of speaker. Upmeyer will be the “gatekeeper” who decides which bills come to a floor vote in the House.

The rest of the House GOP leadership team includes Jeff Kaufmann as speaker pro tem, Erik Helland as majority whip, and four majority assistant leaders: Matt Windschitl, Renee Schulte, Dave Deyoe and Steve Lukan. There was some speculation last year that Helland’s drunk driving arrest might cost him his leadership spot in the GOP caucus.

Republicans are likely to hold a 60-40 majority in the House next year, unless recounts change the outcome of one or more close races this week.

UPDATE: Iowa Senate Republicans re-elected Paul McKinley as their leader Monday. The Senate Republican whip will be Steve Kettering, and there will be five assistant minority leaders: Merlin Bartz, Brad Zaun, Pat Ward, David Johnson and Tim Kapucian. Johnson and Bartz have been the most visible Senate Republicans in the battle to overturn marriage equality in Iowa.

Republicans are likely to hold 24 of the 50 seats in the upper chamber, unless a recount overturns Mark Chelgren’s 13-vote lead over Democrat Keith Kreiman in district 47.  

Is failure on gay marriage more valuable to Republicans than success?

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal promised this week to block an Iowa Senate vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, even if a majority of senators sign a petition asking for a vote. The Republican reaction to Gronstal’s comments makes me wonder whether gay marriage will be in the coming decade what the death penalty was to Iowa Republicans in the 1980s and 1990.

Reinstating the death penalty was a major theme in all of Terry Branstad’s previous election campaigns. But as governor he didn’t deploy his political capital to push that bill through the state legislature, even when Republicans controlled both chambers during his last two years in office. Many Iowa Democrats believed Branstad valued having the issue to run on more than he cared about the policy.

In light of Tuesday’s election results, Republicans sound surprisingly resigned to failure on passing a marriage amendment in the new legislature.

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Exploring Paul McKinley's fantasy world (part 2, w/poll)

Last week I highlighted the half-truths and misleading arguments that underpin Iowa Senate minority leader Paul McKinley’s case against Democratic governance in Iowa. I wasn’t planning to revisit the Republican leader’s fantasy world until I read the July 16 edition of his weekly e-mail blast. McKinley claims to offer five “big ideas” to “make Iowa again a state where jobs and prosperity can flourish.”

His premise is absurd when you consider that CNBC just ranked Iowa in the top 10 states for doing business (again), and number one in terms of the cost of doing business. Many of McKinley’s specific claims don’t stand up to scrutiny either, so follow me after the jump. There’s also a poll at the end of this post.

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Exploring Paul McKinley's fantasy world

If Iowa Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley believes the spin he serves up to journalists and the Republican Party faithful, he must have an active imagination.

I don’t know which is most detached from reality: McKinley’s take on Iowa’s finances, his views on “state sovereignty” or his election predictions.

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Republican "family values" on display in Iowa House

The good news is, an important public safety bill went to Governor Chet Culver’s desk on March 11. Senate File 2357 was one of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s legislative priorities this year. The bill prohibits Iowans from owning guns and ammunition if they have been convicted of a domestic violence crime or are subject to a protective order. Since 1995, 205 Iowans have been killed in domestic violence incidents; that figure represents nearly one-third of all murders recorded in Iowa during that period. Miller has also pointed out that firearms caused 111 of the 205 Iowa deaths in domestic abuse murders since 1995. Moreover, firearms were involved in nearly two-thirds of Iowa’s domestic violence deaths in 2007 and 2008. Records show 46 of the 205 Iowans killed in domestic abuse murders since 1995 have been bystanders. It’s easier to kill a bystander with a gun than with a knife or other weapon.

Federal law already bans those convicted of domestic violence or subject to a protective order from owning a gun. However, the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence has noted,

We need additional state law so that local law enforcement officers have the legal authority help enforce the firearm ban. Without additional state law there are only two ATF agents in the entire state who can act to enforce the federal law […] Without local law enforcement involved abusers will not and are not abiding by the federal firearms ban.  

Various law enforcement entities backed SF 2357, but most Republicans in the Iowa legislature didn’t cooperate with this effort to address a major violent crime problem. While Republicans were unable to defeat the bill, their votes on the Senate and House floor showed more deference to extremist gun advocates than to the potential victims of domestic abusers.

Eleven of the 18 Iowa Senate Republicans voted against SF 2357 when the upper chamber approved it on February 25, and a twelfth Republican joined them when the Senate considered an amended version on March 11. Roll calls can be found in pdf files for the Senate Journal on those dates. Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley and third-district Congressional candidate Brad Zaun were among the Republicans who voted no.

The March 10 Iowa House debate on SF 2357 exposed even more disturbing aspects of Republican “family values.” House Republicans voted unanimously to inject the same-sex marriage debate into this unrelated bill.

Then they voted unanimously to add a provision that might deter victims from seeking a protective order.

Then all but one of them voted to help domestic abusers get their guns back more quickly.

Then they unanimously supported language to give abuse victims access to self-defense courses, as if that’s the real solution to the domestic violence problem.

Then more than half the Republican caucus voted against the final bill.

The gory details can be found here; highlights are after the jump.

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Iowa Republicans in Congress co-hosting Gibbons event (corrected)

Jim Gibbons has emerged as the Republican insiders’ choice against seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell in Iowa’s third district. Nine members of Congress are hosting a fundraiser for Gibbons in Washington on February 24, the Gibbons campaign announced today. The hosts are Senator Chuck Grassley, House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (VA-07), and Representatives Jason Chaffetz (UT-03), Dean Heller (NV-02), Jim Jordan (OH-04), Steve King (IA-05), Tom Latham (IA-04), Kevin McCarthy (CA-22), and Peter Roskam (IA-06).

I cannot recall whether Grassley or Latham endorsed a candidate in the four-way GOP primary to represent IA-05 in 2002, which King won at a district convention. I also don’t remember Grassley, Latham or King getting involved in the three-way GOP primary in IA-01 in 2006, or the three-way primary in IA-02 in 2008. If any Bleeding Heartland reader remembers endorsements by members of Congress in those races, please post a comment here or e-mail me at desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

CORRECTION: Not all of the co-hosts at this event are endorsing Gibbons in the Republican primary. Bleeding Heartland user mirage notes in the comments that Iowa Republicans in Congress also co-hosted an event for Dave Funk in Washington. Grassley’s spokeswoman e-mailed the following comment to me today: “Senator Grassley has not endorsed anybody in the 3rd District race. It is correct that Senator Grassley was also listed as a co-host of an event for Dave Funk.  If the other Republican candidates asked, he would do the same thing for them.”

Gibbons was recruited by key Iowa Republican donors, and has since been anointed by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

State Senator Brad Zaun, probably the strongest rival to Gibbons in the five-way Republican primary, has the backing of several Republican state legislators, including Iowa Senate Minority leader Paul McKinley. An internal poll for Zaun showed he begins the campaign with more name recognition and support in the district. However, Gibbons raised far more money in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Tea Party favorite Dave Funk recently attacked Gibbons for supposedly saying in an interview, “It[‘]s fine for me where the Constitution says that the federal government should be in charge of education.” Today Gibbons advocate Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican blog declared Funk’s attack “sloppy and untrue.” After listening to a recording of the interview, Robinson concludes that Gibbons actually said, “Find for me where in the Constitution does it say that the federal government is in charge of education.”

Robinson transcribed part of the interview in question and posted it here. Gibbons doesn’t come across as someone who knows what he’s talking about. But that’s not surprising, given his ignorance about Congressional procedures and idiotic federal income tax holiday proposal.

What does surprise me is that according to Robinson, no one at the Gibbons campaign “set the record straight” after Funk issued his press release. Maybe it’s a strategy for Gibbons to not acknowledge his primary opponents, but I think his press shop needs to stay on top of what the other candidates are saying about him.

UPDATE: In this comment thread Funk stands by his press release about what Gibbons said, and several commenters write that they heard Gibbons’ remarks as Funk did.

LATE UPDATE: Latham assured moderate Republican Mark Rees that he will not be endorsing a candidate before the primary.

Republicans fail to bring marriage amendment to Iowa House or Senate floor

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate failed this morning to force floor votes on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. In the Senate, minority leader Paul McKinley asked colleagues “to sign a petition that would allow Senate Joint Resolution 2001, which would begin the process of amending the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage, to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote despite not being approved by a committee.” Only one of the 32 Iowa Senate Democrats (Tom Hancock) joined the 18 Republicans in signing this petition.

Later this morning, House Republicans tried a procedural maneuver that could have allowed a floor vote on House Joint Resolution 6 (a constitutional amendment on marriage) despite the fact that no House committee has approved it. The procedural motion needed 51 votes to pass, but only one Democrat, Dolores Mertz, voted with the 44 House Republicans. Mertz is a co-sponsor of the marriage amendment and votes consistently with Republicans on social issues.

Last April, two Democrats (Mertz and Geri Huser) joined with House Republicans on a similar procedural vote. Good for Huser for voting with the majority this time around. One House Democrat was absent today: Mark Kuhn, who also missed yesterday’s proceedings in the chamber. It seems likely that he is either sick or was unable to get to Des Moines from his home in rural Floyd County. North-central Iowa just got hit with another major winter storm.

House Republican leader Kraig Paulsen acknowledged today that opponents of marriage equality don’t have the 51 votes needed to force a vote this session in the Iowa House.

McKinley warned in a statement, “the voters this November will have an opportunity to decide if they are content with the continued Democrat obstruction and inaction.” Republicans keep saying they want to “let the people vote” on marriage. As it happens, this November Iowans will have an opportunity to pass a ballot initiative on convening a constitutional convention. Some Republicans want to take that route, but most are afraid to back a constitutional assembly. It seems like they want a campaign issue to use against Democrats more than they want to amend the constitution by the quickest means possible.

Unfortunately for Republicans, recent polling data suggests gay marriage is not a high priority for most Iowans. Every statehouse Democrat should be echoing the words from House Speaker Pat Murphy’s official statement today:

“In these tough economic times, Iowans want the Legislature to keep focused on help for middle class families and small businesses.  In this shortened session, my goal is to keep the House focused on key priorities — balancing the state budget without raising taxes while creating good-paying jobs for Iowans and making sure every child receives a quality education and affordable health care.”

Murphy and Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal strongly supported the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien ruling, and they deserve a lot of credit for holding their caucuses together today. As Gronstal has promised, Republicans will not succeed in writing discrimination into our state’s constitution.

In related good news, the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee voted down two bills today that were aimed at repealing same-sex marriage rights in that state.

UPDATE: Jason Clayworth has more details and reaction at the Des Moines Register’s blog.

The House spent almost 30 minutes on a rarely used “call-of-the-House” in which each of the 100 members were ordered into the chambers to vote unless they were previously excused.  

Hancock explained why he joined the Senate Republicans as follows: “I live in a highly Catholic area and I think that’s what the folks wanted me to do […] I never received that many contacts to say not to.”

Pat Murphy said Republicans “can go ahead and use” the House vote in the upcoming campaign, but added, “I would advise Republicans that ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’”  

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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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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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He'll have to do better than that

Brad Zaun made the news yesterday when he officially entered the race against Leonard Boswell in Iowa’s third Congressional district, and rival Republican candidate Jim Gibbons apparently wanted a little attention too. So Gibbons put out a press release accusing Boswell of not working hard enough.

After the jump I have more on that lame accusation, as well as speculation about who’s backing Gibbons against Zaun.  

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

There aren’t many political events during the second half of December, but there’s plenty going on during the next couple of weeks. Event details are after the jump. Post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of something I’ve left out.

If I can shake this cold I plan to attend the Culver-Judge holiday party this Saturday. Any other Bleeding Heartland readers going?

State Representative Chris Rants and Jonathan Narcisse have already started their debate series. You can view the schedule and download mp3s of the debates here.

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Zaun kicks off campaign against Boswell

State Senator Brad Zaun formally announced today that he is running against Representative Leonard Boswell in Iowa’s third Congressional distirct. Charlotte Eby was there:

Zaun, 47, highlighted his experience as a legislator, small business owner and former mayor in his announcement speech.

Zaun cited a growing national deficit as one of his reasons for running and called what is going on in Washington dysfunctional.

“We need to fix this because what’s going to happen is these young people here and all of us in this room are going to be paying for this irresponsibility that’s going on in Washington, D.C.,” Zaun said. “I truly believe that I can make a difference.” […]

Zaun said incumbents are vulnerable next year, something he said is evident the “tea party” movement and town hall meetings this summer.

“I think people are just saying they’ve had enough with the insiders and what’s going on,” Zaun said.

Speaking of insiders, Iowa Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley praised Zaun at today’s event. I’ll be interested to see who in the GOP establishment sides with Jim Gibbons in the primary to run against Boswell.

UPDATE: Kathie Obradovich published Zaun’s press release at the Des Moines Register blog.

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McKinley stops pretending to run for governor

Paul McKinley dropped out of the governor’s race today to focus on next year’s Iowa Senate elections. His move made sense, because the Iowa Senate Republican caucus has never been smaller than the current 18 members. With 19 Senate Democrats and only 6 Republicans up for re-election in 2010, the GOP is almost bound to make some gains.

My question is, why did McKinley wait so long to make this announcement? Although he promised in July to “aggressively explore” a gubernatorial campaign, McKinley failed to turn up in most places you’d expect to find potential Republican candidates. In fact, Craig Robinson wrote last month,

McKinley’s indecisiveness since announcing his gubernatorial campaign hasn’t just sunk any aspirations he may have for higher office in the future, but it might also have impacted his effectiveness as the Senate Republicans’ chief fundraiser, recruiter, and strategist. With McKinley not devoting his full attention to his gubernatorial campaign and not having communicated his progress in advancing the Republican cause in his current position, one might question if he is the right person to lead Republicans in the State Senate.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Will some other Senate Republican (say, Merlin Bartz) challenge McKinley’s position in the upper chamber? Or will meaningless gestures like McKinley’s “state sovereignty resolution” pacify his GOP critics?

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Early Republican reaction to Branstad's move

Terry Branstad shook up the Iowa governor’s race yesterday when he formed an exploratory committee headed by Mary Andringa, the CEO of Pella’s Vermeer Corporation. (Republican power-brokers tried and failed to recruit Andringa to run for governor earlier this year.)

Election-watchers like the Swing State Project and Campaign Diaries bloggers immediately recognized that Branstad is the toughest potential challenger for Governor Chet Culver. But some Iowa Republicans have doubts about going back to the future:

Drew Ivers, a longtime social conservative Republican leader, said some party activists object to the growth in the state budget during Branstad’s tenure. The budget Branstad approved in 1983, his first year in office, included $2.05 billion in general fund spending. In 1998, his last year in office, he approved general fund spending of $4.5 billion.

“The party needs to get back to the Goldwater definition of conservative: that which governs least governs best,” said Ivers, of Webster City, who is uncommitted in the race. […]

Branstad brings many assets, but not a fresh face, noted Roger Hughes, a longtime Iowa Republican strategist.

“I would be hard-pressed to vote against my friend Terry Branstad, but I think we need some new folks,” said Hughes. “I’m not sure him running is good for the party.”

The Republican primary field will narrow if and when Branstad formally becomes a candidate, but no one dropped out in response to yesterday’s news. Updates on the other Republican gubernatorial candidates are after the jump.

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Looks more like a lieutenant governor candidate to me

State Senator Jerry Behn of Boone is officially launching his gubernatorial campaign today, after appearing at numerous Republican events around the state this summer. Radio Iowa posted Behn’s news release here. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before: he wants to rein in “excessive spending” and let Iowans vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (as if we subject minority rights to a majority vote in this country).

Behn also touts his experience as a farmer growing corn and soybeans: “Common Sense is an integral part of farming. You also learn firsthand lessons in freedom, individual responsibility and self reliance.” I’ll wager that Behn’s business model depends on getting subsidy checks from the federal government every year. Most small business owners have to do without those.

Getting back to the news of the day, I see no promising niche for Behn in the Republican field. Whether or not Terry Branstad decides to run for governor, Behn looks to me like he’s fishing to be someone’s running mate. He has nothing to lose by staying in the race, since he was just re-elected to represent Senate district 24 in 2008.

Speaking of gubernatorial candidates with no hope of getting the nomination, Senate minority leader Paul McKinley was a no-show at the Black Hawk County Republican dinner on Sunday. He is not even pretending to run a real campaign.

As for serious contenders, Bob Vander Plaats will officially launch his campaign on Labor Day. Christian Fong was the first candidate to go up on radio statewide. State Representatives Chris Rants and Rod Roberts are still in the exploratory phase but have actively campaigned this summer. Branstad has said he will decide by October whether to run for governor again.

UPDATE: What a joke. After claiming his main issue is balancing the budget, Behn tells Kathie Obradovich and Jason Clayworth of the Des Moines Register that he would have the goal of eliminating Iowa’s state income tax to increase Iowa’s population:

He looks to no-tax states like Texas, Nevada and Florida as models. (And notes that South Dakota also has no income tax.)

But, he said, he doesn’t have a plan for replacing the revenue needed to run the state.

Raise your hand if you want Iowa’s schools and other public services to sink to the levels found in those no-income-tax states. I didn’t think so.

Radio Iowa’s Kay Henderson comments,

Unfortunately, Behn forgot to mention his get-rid-of-state-income-taxes idea during his half-hour discussion with reporters from Radio Iowa and The Cedar Rapids Gazette. Nor did Behn bring that up during his interview with WHO-TV or during his interview with IowaPolitics.com.

Not ready for prime time.

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McKinley's campaign may end before it began

On July 7 Iowa Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley announced plans to “aggressively explore” running for governor next year. His dictionary must have a different definition of “aggressive” than mine, because McKinley’s gubernatorial campaign hasn’t been sending out any press releases, and the would-be candidate has skipped various opportunities to introduce himself to Republican voters. For instance, McKinley didn’t attend the IowaPolitics.com forum for gubernatorial candidates or the Dallas County GOP Family Picnic. He’s also conspicuously absent from the list of Republicans scheduled to hang out at the GOP’s Iowa State Fair booth. (UPDATE: I went to the fair on August 19, and though McKinley wasn’t on the schedule, I think I saw him at the GOP booth.)

The official McKinley for Iowa website makes no mention of a possible gubernatorial bid. One of the few things McKinley has done in the last six weeks is advocate passing a meaningless “state sovereignty” resolution. Republican blogger Al Swearengen claims McKinley will formally withdraw from the race soon, having raised almost no money.

Meanwhile, even the Republicans who are actively running for governor are struggling to raise money and support now that former Governor Terry Branstad has said he’s seriously thinking about running again. Branstad told a Republican gathering last week that he will decide by October whether to challenge Governor Chet Culver.

Post any comments about the governor’s race or the Republican Party in this thread.

LATE UPDATE: McKinley was also a no-show at the Black Hawk County Republican dinner on August 23.

Paul McKinley demands to waste our time

Iowa Senate minority leader Paul McKinley has been on a Twitter tear this week complaining about Democrats “obstructing” his “state sovereignty resolution.” According to the Omaha World-Herald, McKinley

offered a resolution this year calling on the federal government to “cease and desist” in issuing mandates that go beyond what the 10th Amendment allows. The [Iowa Senate]’s Democratic majority has kept the resolution alive but bottled up in committee.

The article goes on to quote two constitutional scholars saying such resolutions carry a political message but no legal weight.

Not only is McKinley’s resolution an empty political gesture, it contradicts volumes of case law supporting the federal government’s authority to put strings on money it appropriates. Mr. desmoinesdem reminded me that conservatives love this case law when it suits their purposes–for instance, when federal courts have said universities accepting federal grants must allow military recruiters and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) on campus.

I’m glad Senate Democrats are not spending the public’s time and money to advance McKinley’s “state sovereignty” campaign. It isn’t the first time McKinley has wasted the Senate’s time on matters settled by courts. During the closing weeks of the session, McKinley pleaded with Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal to co-sponsor a leadership bill to ban same-sex marriage. Gronstal refused.

McKinley seems to be using the “state sovereignty” resolution to set himself apart from other Republicans as he “aggressively” explores a run for governor. I’m guessing that will be a waste of his own time. He has few relationships with heavy-hitting Republican donors, and social conservatives blame him for not making sure a marriage bill was filed in time to reach the floor during this year’s legislative session (see also here). He doesn’t have a lot of legislative achievements to run on, unless you count holding his caucus together to vote down three of Governor Chet Culver’s nominees on specious grounds.

McKinley’s campaign website and recent media interviews have highlighted his experience as a business owner. I give full credit to McKinley for managing and growing a company during the 1980s. But his ideology on economic policy looks like it’s stuck in the 1920s. Central Iowa business Republicans don’t seem sold on him yet, though it’s possible that McKinley is among the potential candidates the Iowa First Foundation is focus-grouping.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread. Are McKinley’s gubernatorial ambitions for real, or is Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08 right to suspect that he is a stalking horse for Christian Fong?

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Iowa Republicans still wrong on the economy and I-JOBS

The business network CNBC threw a wrench in the Republican sound bite machine yesterday by ranking Iowa the fourth best state in the country for doing business. Click the link to read Iowa’s scores for 2008 and 2009 in the ten different categories CNBC considered in compiling these rankings. (Iowa ranked ninth overall in 2008.) You can also watch the CNBC segment here.

Iowa improved in almost all of CNBC’s categories from 2008 to 2009. The biggest improvement was in the “economy” category, where Iowa went from 29th in 2008 to 4th in 2009, even as the national recession deepened. While the recession is hurting Iowa along with every other state, we are doing reasonably well under the circumstances. CNBC also moved Iowa up quite a few notches under “technology and innovation” and “transportation and infrastructure.” We have a ways to go to reach the top-ranked states in those areas, which is why the Culver administration is smart to be investing heavily in our infrastructure with the I-JOBS bonding program.

Speaking of I-JOBS, now that most of the bonds have been sold, money is starting to be awarded:

Every city and county in Iowa will receive a portion of $45 million in additional funding under I-JOBS for local street and road projects. These funds will begin being distributed to cities and counties starting next Tuesday.

In addition, $50 million in I-JOBS funds will improve 55 state highway system bridges in 29 counties across the state. Projects in the metro Des Moines area include two I-35 bridges over the Iowa Interstate Railroad, the Iowa 17 bridge over the Des Moines River, and U.S. 69 bridge over Scott Avenue.

Scroll to the bottom of this page to find links to pdf files containing a “list of I-JOBS road funding amounts for all Iowa cities and counties, as well as bridge projects.”

Meanwhile, Iowa Republicans continue to proudly oppose the I-JOBS program. Today Senate minority leader Paul McKinley and others are triumphantly Twittering about an article in the Des Moines Register: Economists question impact of I-JOBS plan. My response is after the jump.

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Republican field for governor becomes more crowded (updated)

Today State Representative Rod Roberts of Carroll formally announced the creation of an exploratory committee for a possible gubernatorial campaign. The Des Moines Register’s political columnist Kathie Obradovich covered the press conference on Twitter. (May I suggest the hashtag #iagov instead of #iaguv?)

It seems Roberts plans to run as a likeable version of fellow State Representative Chris Rants of Sioux City: Iowa needs a change, he’s for “rights of unborn” and “traditional marriage,” he’ll be “careful with your money,” he wants to amend constitution to ban gay marriage, and he thinks the Bob Vander Plaats approach of ending gay marriage by executive order won’t resolve the problem.

Douglas Burns knows Roberts and made the case for him as a strong candidate here. I have a hard time seeing his path to the Republican nomination. As an ordained minister, Roberts must have better people skills than Rants. As a veteran of the Iowa legislature, he has more political experience than Christian Fong. His stance on gay marriage shows that he is more pragmatic than Vander Plaats. Still, I don’t see how he distinguishes himself from the Republican pack on any issues. Maybe someone will ask him about this at tomorrow’s Iowa Politics forum for gubernatorial candidates. Does he have an answer other than saying that being relatively unknown is his advantage?

According to Obradovich, the Roberts committee includes Steve Siemens (who I assume is this motivational speaker), State Representative Jeff Kaufmann, and former Lieutenant Governor Art Neu. Frank Severino, an experienced lobbyist at the Iowa statehouse, will manage the Roberts campaign.

Other prominent Iowa Republicans attended Roberts’ press conference: onetime gubernatorial candidate David Oman (who worked for Governors Robert Ray and Terry Branstad), former RNC committeeman Steve Roberts, RNC committeewoman Kim Lehman, and Iowa Family Policy Center head Chuck Hurley. It’s not yet clear whether any of those people were endorsing Rod Roberts.

Steve Roberts is one of the “moderates, old-money and business Republicans” thought to be shopping around for an alternative to Vander Plaats and Rants. Unless Rod Roberts has lined up some major backers in central and eastern Iowa, I can’t see how he can raise enough money to be competitive in the Republican primary.

In related news, Paul McKinley told Mike Glover of the Associated Press that he will step down as Iowa Senate minority leader if he decides to run for governor. McKinley formed an exploratory committee a few weeks ago and is constructing a campaign narrative based on his experience as a 1980s small business owner. My prediction: McKinley won’t raise the money for a serious gubernatorial campaign and will decide to stay where he is in the Iowa Senate.

UPDATE: Fong’s campaign manager Marlys Popma stepped on Roberts’ big day by announcing that Fong has raised $100,000 in the past three weeks (checks in hand, not pledges). It appears that GOP donors are buying the non-threatening conservative package Fong is selling, with its strong echoes of Obama-like post-partisan, empowering rhetoric.

SECOND UPDATE: This piece at Iowa Independent reminded me that Rants has suggested Roberts should stay out of the governor’s race to deprive Democrats of a chance at winning his Iowa House seat (district 51). Democrats have not fielded a candidate against Roberts for several election cycles, even though they are competitive with the GOP in terms of party registration in House district 51.

Poll confirms Vander Plaats is GOP front-runner (updated)

The Iowa Republican blog continues to release results from the poll it commissioned on the 2010 governor’s race. Last week we learned about Governor Chet Culver’s approval, favorability and re-elect numbers. This week we’ve seen some numbers about same-sex marriage and a hypothetical rerun of the 2006 race. I’ll have more to say about the wording of this poll’s questions in a future post. (Todd Dorman identified a glaring problem with the marriage question here.)

In today’s installment, Craig Robinson highlights results from a straightforward question:

Question: If the Republican primary for Governor was held today, who would you vote for between Chris Rants, Bob Vander Plaats, Paul McKinley, Rod Roberts, Jerry Behn, and Christian Fong?

   Republican Primary Voters

   Bob Vander Plaats: 46%

   Don’t Know: 27%

   Chris Rants: 14%

   Neither/Other: 5%

   Paul McKinley: 3%

   Christian Fong: 3%

   Rod Roberts: 1%

   Refused: 1%

   Jerry Behn: 0.2%

   (Republican Primary Voters N=394 – Margin of Error ±5.0%)

Join me after the jump for some early thoughts about Bob Vander Plaats’ front-runner status.

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Early Odds on the Republican Race for Governor

(Thanks to American007 for this analysis. Be sure to click "there's more" to read the whole piece. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Today, the right-leaning news aggregator The Bean Walker ran a headline: THE CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF TODAY. The link and reference refer to a GOP fundraiser in Sac County this morning that brought together four likely candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Those men are Rep. (and former Speaker of the House) Chris Rants of Sioux City; 2006 Lt. Governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats of Sioux City;Rep. Rob Roberts of Carroll; and Sen. Jerry Behn of Boone.

While the Republican primary is still months away, this unofficial first step on the long road to the nomination seems a good place to start with some early odds on the eventual winner.

Rep. Chris Rants (R-Sioux City)     3:1

Rants is the Hillary Clinton of this race. He's been a figurehead and a lightning rod within the party for almost a decade. He served as Speaker of the House during the Vilsack years, from 2002 until his party's ouster in 2007. In fact, many within the party still blame him for that defeat–even though 2006 was such a realignment that it would have been hard for the party do much better than it did under any circumstances. Much like Ms. Clinton, Rants is highly polarizing figure who has a reputation for having a “bulldozer” style of leadership, with little time or tact for those who stand in his way. Also, like Hillary, he is going to have to learn to deal with media and pundits who are less than cordial.

(The best analysis of his candidacy comes from this piece in Cityview's Civic Skinny column. It is a must read.)

Rants 2010 candidacy seems based on what Craig Robinson at the Iowa Republican calls “a kinder, gentler Chris Rants”.  According to O. Kay Henderson's liveblog of the Sac County event, Rants primary focus in the campaign is going to be economic and business issues; somewhat of a departure from his rivals. 

Analysis:  Rants is well positioned in the race to become the choice of Republicans who are turned off by Bob Vander Plaats but are hesitant to embrace a less-conservative choice. He also has a fat rolodex of fundraising contacts and a long list of favors to call in. He's in it to win it.



Bob Vander Plaats     3:1

Vander Plaats, the 2006 Lt. Governor candidate and primary candidate in his own right in 2002 and 2006, has been to the political wilderness and back several rimes. His supporters believe, however, that the third time around is the charm.

Borne aloft by the twin archangels of Iowa conservativism Steve Deace and Mike Huckabee, Vander Plaats' “plaatform” is straight-line social conservative. His primary issue thus far is putting an end to same-sex marriage rights as granted by Varnum v. Brien.  However, reactions to his plan to do so by issuing an executive order have been extremely negative outside of his core group of supporters. Many believe that his plan is patently unconstitutional. 

Analysis: Vander Plaats appeals to the basest parts of the Republican base. However, among that segment of the party he enjoys fervent, dedicated support. Unless the more moderate elements of the Republican Party can grasp the reins, Vander Plaats remains a strong contender.



Unknown Moderate     3:1

It's an open secret that there is a sizable contingent of the Republican Party that isn't happy with the current crop of candidates. This shadowy group of mostly moderates, old-money and business Republicans has been candidate shopping lately. Headed by favorite so-con punching bag (and 2002 candidate for Governor) Doug Gross, this faction has been talking to some unconventional potential candidates. Among the names being talked about: Vermeer CEO Mary Andringa, Dubuque University president Jeff Bullock, Generation Iowa Commission vice-chair Christian Fong, Farm Bureau president Craig Lang, Jeff Lamberti, Marianette Miller-Meeks and even Fmr. Gov. Terry Branstad.

The platform for such a candidate is seen through a glass darkly, but is sure to run to to the left of Rants and far to the left of Vander Plaats–a center-right agenda, with an emphasis on economic/budget/tax issues over traditional so-con fare.

Analysis: It remains to be seen who will emerge as the center-right option in this race, although Gross has promised to find a candidate by Septmber. What is certain, however, is that that candidate will enjoy significant financial and institutional support from the faction of the party that doesn't want to see the race wasted on a quixotic Vander Plaats run. In the absence of more information, I give Rants, Vander Plaats and the moderate candidate the same chances.

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Iowa Republicans more like "Party of Hoover" than party of future

The Republican Party of Iowa is celebrating its “rising stars” tonight at an event featuring Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. Judging by what we’ve heard lately from Iowa GOP leaders, they’re gonna party like it’s 1929.

Case in point: Iowa Senate Minority leader Paul McKinley. The possible gubernatorial candidate’s weekly memos continue to whine about spending and borrowing by Democrats (see also here). Republicans would rather slash government programs and provide “targeted” one-year tax credits.

The lessons of Herbert Hoover’s presidency are still lost on these people. I apologize for repeating myself, but excessive government spending cuts can turn an economic recession into a depression. Since state governments cannot run budget deficits, it makes sense for the federal government to help the states “backfill” their budgets. That was the express purpose of the state transfer funds in the stimulus package.

In addition, it is prudent to spend federal funds on projects with long-term benefits. Energy Secretary Steven Chu was in Des Moines on June 23 to highlight the first installment of what will be $41 million in stimulus funds for renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects in Iowa. Energy efficiency programs in particular will have huge collateral benefits, saving consumers money while helping the environment.

No matter how many times Republicans repeat their misleading talking points about the I-JOBS state bonding initiative Democrats passed this year, it is prudent to borrow money for worthwhile projects when interest rates are low. I don’t hear McKinley or other Republican leaders telling businesses not to borrow money to make capital improvements.

Share any thoughts about Republican ideas, rhetoric, or career lobbyist Haley Barbour in this thread.

Fallons blast "sham" hearing on ethics complaint

Last week the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously to dismiss Ed and Lynn Fallon’s complaint against State Senator Merlin Bartz, who used his official  website to promote this petition last month. The petition sought to pressure Iowa’s county recorders to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Fallons contended that Bartz failed to comply with the Senate Code of Ethics, which requires legislators to “encourage respect for the law.” They also questioned whether taxpayer money was used to support the website where Bartz promoted the petition drive and urged volunteers to send copies of their signature lists to the Iowa Family Policy Center.

The Senate Ethics Committee concluded after a few minutes’ discussion that Bartz was exercising his free speech rights.

On May 18, I’M for Iowa released a statement depicting the hearing as a “sham.” Contrary to the Iowa Senate Code of Ethics, the Senate Ethics Committee failed to inform the Fallons of the date and time of the hearing in advance. The committee also did not consider the specific questions raised in the Fallons’ complaint. I’ve posted I’M for Iowa’s statement after the jump.

It seems clear that two political realities derailed any serious inquiry into the complaint against Bartz. First, Bartz is an insider, and the complainants are outsiders. (Heck, Ed Fallon was an outsider even when he was serving in the state legislature.) Earlier this year, the Iowa House Ethics Committee dismissed with prejudice a complaint Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement filed against State Representative Dolores Mertz without seriously considering many of the issues raised by the group.

I would put very low odds on any ethics complaint filed by any citizen action group leading to disciplinary action against a state representative or senator. (Please correct me if you know of any counter-examples.)

Second, I suspect that Senate Democrats have no interest in making a martyr out of Bartz. Opponents of marriage equality are desperate to show that their rights are threatened by same-sex marriages. We don’t need Bartz to be purportedly “punished for speaking his mind” (even though that wasn’t the point of the Fallons’ complaint). Look what the National Organization for Marriage has done to make Miss California USA seem like a victim of “gay marriage activists”.

Bartz hasn’t prevented any same-sex marriages from taking place, but he has secured a reputation as the most aggressive defender of “traditional marriage” in the Iowa Senate Republican caucus. He has also helped the Iowa Family Policy Center generate lots of new leads for their next membership drive.

I’ll be interested to see whether Senate Republicans seek to replace their current leader, Paul McKinley, with Bartz next year. McKinley’s actions on the marriage front have been found wanting by some Iowa conservatives and anti-gay activists.

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Cleaner water: tangible benefit of stimulus and bonding bills

Water quality has long been one of Iowa’s biggest environmental problems. Fortunately, the state plans to spend some $455 million cleaning up Iowa rivers and lakes, according to an excellent piece by Perry Beeman in the May 10 edition of the Des Moines Register:

After decades of struggling to address serious pollution problems, the state now has an unprecedented pool of state and federal money to solve some of its worst water-quality problems, said Charles Corell, the water chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

One of the biggest impacts: improved sewage treatment and septic systems in the 500 towns and rural subdivisions that don’t have any. […]

Much of the new money for water quality was approved last month by the Iowa Legislature as part of a huge bond package pushed by Gov. Chet Culver. Other money was awarded as part of flood recovery efforts.

Money for lake restorations – including popular spots like Clear Lake in Cerro Gordo County and Carter Lake in Pottawattamie County – will more than quadruple. Many predict the much larger pool will fuel recreation opportunities and improve local economies. […]

“You essentially have untreated or under-treated sewage getting into waterways,” said Corell, who visited Truesdale and Greenville on Thursday to discuss proposed sewer projects. “And it’s all the time, not just when it rains.”

After the jump I have posted details Beeman compiled about the new money that will be used to improve water quality in Iowa. A large sum came from the federal economic stimulus bill, which didn’t get a single Republican vote in the House of Representatives. Another major source is the I-JOBS bonding initiative, which passed the Iowa House and Senate last month with no Republican votes.

Republicans keep bashing the federal stimulus spending and the state-level borrowing, as if no Iowans will benefit from these policies (aside from the few thousand people who will work on the projects). One typical example was the e-mail blast Iowa Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley sent out last week. You won’t find it on the comically awful Iowa Senate Republicans website, which appears not to have been updated since April 16. However, I receive “McKinley’s Memos” via e-mail, and I’ve posted the May 15 edition after the jump to give you a flavor of current Republican ideology.

I addressed most of the points McKinley raises in this post. The Party of No’s indiscriminate stance against borrowing fails to recognize that when interest rates are relatively low, bonding to pay for worthwhile projects is a wise investment. It may be hard to assign a dollar value to reducing water pollution in Iowa, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important for human health, biodiversity and local economies.

Hundreds of thousands of Iowans will benefit from the clean water projects discussed in Beeman’s article. If Republicans had their way, the sewer improvements and lake cleanups wouldn’t happen for years, if ever.

Please share your own thoughts about penny-wise and pound-foolish conservative dogma in this thread.

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Attack of the misleading talking points (updated)

UPDATE: The governor signed the bonding plan into law on May 14.

It’s only been a few weeks since the Iowa legislature’s 2009 session ended, and I’m already tired of hearing Republican attacks on the $830 million infrastructure borrowing program (I-JOBS).

The bonding proposal was among the most important bills passed this year. However, to the Party of No it was a terrible idea because paying back $830 million in bonds will cost a total of $1.7 billion.

Iowa Republicans “support funding infrastructure projects on a pay-as-you-go basis.” In other words, while the economic recession is bringing down state revenues, we should sit tight and only improve our infrastructure when the state has the cash to pay the full cost up front.

I cover a few problems with this argument after the jump.

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Republican moderates don't stand a chance

UPDATE: I had no idea while I was writing this post that Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania had decided to switch to the Democratic Party–yet another sign that moderates have no place in the GOP.

The day the Iowa Supreme Court announced its unanimous decision in Varnum v Brien, noneed4thneed wrote on his Twitter feed,

All chances for moderate Republicans to get elected in Iowa were dashed today. Social conservatives run Republican Party of Iowa now.

Now that the 2009 legislative session has ended with no action to overturn the Iowa Supreme Court, and same-sex marriages are a reality, I am even more convinced that noneed4thneed is right.

A few thoughts on the Republican Party’s internal conflicts are after the jump.

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Anti-gay marriage group targets Iowa Republican Senate leader

While visiting a friend in Pella today, I found an orange piece of paper lying on her doorstep. I picked it up, expecting to see publicity for some local event like next month’s Tulip Time festival.

Instead, I found a flier comparing Iowa Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley to a “chicken,” because he “refuses to do what it takes to get a vote on the Iowa Marriage Amendment.” McKinley asked Senate Majority leader Mike Gronstal to co-sponsor a leadership bill with him so that the Senate could debate a constitutional amendment on marriage, but Gronstal refused.

Public Advocate of the US, a right-wing group based in Falls Church, Virginia, paid for this flier, according to text at the bottom. That group’s president, Eugene Delgaudio, has been using direct mail and “conservative political street theater” to advance anti-gay views for years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him show up in Iowa on Monday, when same-sex marriages become legal.

The stated goal of the flier is to generate phone calls urging McKinley to take bolder action on the Iowa Marriage Amendment, but I wonder whether the real purpose is to support different leadership for the Senate Republican caucus. McKinley was elected Senate Republican leader last November on a pledge “to rebuild this party from the ground up,” but according to the Iowa Republican blog, some conservatives,

including WHO Radio talk show host Steve Deace, don’t think that the Republicans in the Senate have done all they can since they have not made a motion to suspend the Senate rules and force the Democrats’ hand.

Republican State Representative Chris Rants tried to attach a marriage amendment to unrelated legislation in the House and forced a vote on suspending House rules. Only two House Democrats, Geri Huser and Dolores Mertz, voted with Republicans on the procedural motion. Presumably Republican candidates and interest groups will attack the other 54 House Democrats next fall for not backing up Rants.

Alternatively, the flier could be nothing more than an opportunistic attempt to raise the profile (and mailing list) of Delgaudio’s group in Iowa. Does any Bleeding Heartland reader know whether Public Advocate of the US has ties to any rival of McKinley’s within the Republican Party of Iowa?

I don’t know whether this piece is being circulated in conservative neighborhoods across Iowa, or mainly in heavily Republican Pella. If you’ve seen it in your town or county, please post a comment in this thread or send an e-mail to desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

The full text of the one-sided, 8 1/2 by 11-inch flier is after the jump.

UPDATE: McKinley criticized the Iowa Senate’s failure to take up the marriage amendment in his closing remarks on the final day of the 2009 session.

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Gronstal dares conservatives to push for Constitutional Convention

Iowa Senate Majority leader Mike Gronstal is on a tear this week. On Monday he rejected Republican efforts to bring a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to the Senate floor. Read his remarks here (scroll to the bottom) or watch the video:

On Tuesday Gronstal in effect dared conservatives to push for a Constitutional Convention, which might consider adopting an amendment to ban gay marriage. From the Des Moines Register:

“I’m inclined to hope they succeed, if that’s their strategy,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, who has saluted Friday’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. “There’s a lot of good, progressive issues that we could pursue: a woman’s right to choose, guaranteed health care for all Iowa citizens, workers’ rights – so if there are people that want to help us get to a constitutional convention, that’s kind of my dream world.”

If Iowa voters approve a ballot initiative next November on calling a Constitutional Convention, the Iowa legislature will draw up rules for selecting delegates to that body. If the convention approves proposed constitutional amendments, a special election will be scheduled, and voters will consider each amendment separately, not as a bloc.

Some Iowa Republicans don’t sound eager to roll the dice on this procedure:

Sen. Ron Wieck, R-Sioux City, said he will likely vote against holding a convention. “We have bumps in the road but we’re operating pretty well without going in and messing with the Constitution,” Wieck said.

Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley said he will continue to push for a second route toward a constitutional amendment on gay marriage: votes by the Iowa House and Iowa Senate in two consecutive general assemblies followed by a vote of the people.

But McKinley understands why some might have an interest in a constitutional convention.

“I think the reason there is some appeal at least on the surface is citizens feel very disenfranchised from their government,” McKinley said. “Democracies are crazy things. Sometimes the people want to do things that maybe the elites don’t agree with.”

Although I’m confident that over time a large majority of Iowans will come to support marriage equality, I confess that I am a bit nervous about the issue coming to a statewide vote in 2010 or 2011. At the same time, like Gronstal, I can imagine lots of good amendments that might come out of a Constitutional Convention.

Share any relevant thoughts or speculation in this thread.

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Early reaction from Iowa Republicans to the Varnum v Brien ruling

Oliver Willis concisely summarized the religious right’s reaction to the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling in Varnum v Brien:

People getting married: clearly the worst thing in the world. If they’re gay.

I laughed, but in truth it’s not that simple. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza sees the case as “one of those critical moments in the making of the next Republican presidential nominee.” He quotes likely repeat candidates Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee reacting negatively to the ruling.

I’m more interested in how the battle over marriage equality will affect the balance of forces within the Republican Party of Iowa as its leaders attempt to climb out of the very deep hole they’re in.

Join me after the jump for more on the conservative Republican response to Friday’s events. I didn’t see any Republican moderates speaking out in support of the unanimous ruling. Please correct me if I am wrong, because I would like to give credit to such brave souls if they are out there. It’s worth noting that Republican Governor Terry Branstad appointed two of the seven current Supreme Court justices, including the author of the Varnum v Brien decision, Mark Cady.

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Selling the lottery is still a dumb idea (updated)

The state budget is complicated. There are all kinds of ways to make the numbers add up, and you’ll never find consensus on the right approach. Increased expenditures on infrastructure look like overspending to some and a wise long-term investment to others. Tax cuts for business look like economic stimulus to some and unjustified corporate giveaways to others. Inevitably, most strategies for balancing the budget have their pluses and minuses.

Once in a while, though, a plan for plugging a budget hole emerges that is just bad on every level. Selling the Iowa Lottery is that kind of plan.

It’s bad policy because Iowa would be drastically reducing future revenue streams from the lottery in exchange for one lump-sum payment on the order of $200 million.

It’s plus-bad politics in the short term because the public will have no trouble understanding that this is a raw deal for taxpayers.

It’s double-plus-bad politics in the long term because it would play right into Republican talking points about Democrats being unable to manage public money and beholden to special interests. In fact, State Auditor David Vaudt (a likely GOP candidate for governor in 2010) has already spoken out against the idea.

Yet if a recent Des Moines Register column by David Yepsen is accurate, selling the Iowa Lottery to private investors is a done deal. Here’s an excerpt from his column:

So we need to start calling this for what it is: It’s a sweetheart, giveaway deal. It goes to a bunch of wealthy Democratic campaign contributors. It’s done to make a quick repair to a budget screw-up.

Democratic legislative leaders, who’ve taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from these gambling interests over the years, are now being asked by those donors and supporters for a return on that investment.

Organizers of the move say they’ll pay the state at least $200 million, plus give the state 22 percent of the gross receipts, in return for running the lottery for 49 years.

However, big investors aren’t going to plunk down $200 million, plus give up a fourth of the gross receipts each year, without expecting a profit. The only way to find that profit is to find ways to get Iowans to gamble more.

That could mean a return to TouchPlay. It also could mean that Iowa pioneers cell-phone or BlackBerry gambling. The promoters say we won’t do those things. Fair enough, then expect a blizzard of gambling advertising to get us all to scratch more lottery tickets or buy more numbers games.

This idea is just flat-out poor public policy. Iowa netted $57 million a year last year from lottery profits. Assuming that figure stays the same for the next 49 years, Iowa will give up $2.8 billion during that time to pocket $200 million now. If the gamblers pay a 22 percent gross-receipts tax to the state on top of their $200 million payment, Iowa’s lost revenue would be $2 billion, give or take a few million.

Don’t two generations of Iowa schoolkids need that $2 billion more than a bunch of gambling businesses and the out-of-state hedge-fund operators who’ll bankroll this thing?

If the lottery sale goes forward, expect to see variants of those points in Republican-funded attack ads against Governor Chet Culver and our incumbent legislators in 2010.

Culver and statehouse leaders can say political contributions from gambling interests and their advocates had nothing to do with this decision, but don’t expect that story to stick. Not when people in the gambling business are among Culver’s largest individual donors and have given generously to the Democratic House and Senate campaign funds.

Speaking of GOP talking points, Iowa Republicans haven’t been known for their brilliant political strategy lately, but I give credit to them for the very clever proposal they floated at a press conference on Thursday: sell the Iowa Lottery to the state public employee pension system.

Responding to a column published this morning by The Des Moines Register’s David Yepsen, Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, said it appears some backroom deals have been made and Gov. Chet Culver and Democratic leaders are intent on selling the lottery to private investors.  Instead, the state should consider selling it to the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System, known as IPERS, McKinley said.

“This is only a scheme to get some very short-term financial gain for some long-term budget pain,” McKinley said. “There are other options that we should pursue, and one of those options that we’re pursuing is that the IPERS board look into buying the lottery.” […]

House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said Republicans don’t think the lottery should be sold, but if it is, the deal should not be limited to big Democratic donors. Dan Kehl, an Iowa casino operator who is heading a consortium that hopes to lease the Lottery, donated $25,000 to Culver in 2007.

“If we are looking at that, we need to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to bid on it, and if the rate of return is 17 percent, that sounds like a good deal for IPERS and they need to look at that,” Paulsen said. […]

IPERS manages a multibillion-dollar investment portfolio that finances the retirement benefits more than 300,000 Iowans. Since July it has lost more than $4 billion in the stock market.

Republican legislators have set themselves up very well now. They are on record opposing the sale of the Iowa Lottery, but they are also reminding people that the state budget could reap short-term proceeds from selling the lottery without rewarding a handful of large Democratic donors. Think about how many Iowans have a family member in the IPERS system.

If Democratic leaders are smart, they will announce that selling the Iowa Lottery is off the table.

UPDATE: I’m pleased to report that on January 24 Culver’s chief of staff Charlie Krogmeier said, “There is no plan to sell or lease the lottery. Period.”

SECOND UPDATE: The Cedar Rapids Gazette has more from Krogmeier:

“The idea that the Iowa Lottery might be leased is getting more attention from pundits and partisans than it deserves. There is no plan to sell or lease the lottery – period,” he said. […]

Krogmeier said he was concerned the lottery issue was erroneously being cast as the governor’s plan when the extent of Culver’s involvement has been agreeing to one meeting with a private group that pitched a lottery lease proposal.

“This has become nothing more than a silly political game that some in the Republican Party want to play, and at a time when Iowans want a balanced budget and deserve bipartisan results,” he said. “This much is certain: when the governor releases his budget proposal in a few days, it will not include a line item reflecting a lease of the lottery.”

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Borrow money for infrastructure, but fix what we have first

The highlight of Governor Chet Culver’s “condition of the state” address yesterday (video here and prepared text here) was a proposal to issue state bonds to borrow up to $700 million over the next few years:

Thousands of new jobs will be created, Culver said. Every $100 million spent on highway construction alone means more than 4,000 new jobs, he said.

“We’re cutting back on the day-to-day expenditures of state government,” Culver said in his Condition of the State speech this morning. “But, at the same time, we will be investing in bricks and mortar – to create jobs and keep our economy going.”

Culver said Iowa won’t need to raise taxes to pay for the plan. The state is in the position to issue bonds, which is essentially borrowing money. Existing gaming revenue would repay the bonds, he said.

Predictably, road industry lobbyists like the spending plans while expressing some doubts about the borrowing plans.

Republicans also don’t seem to like the bonding proposal, while statehouse Democrats think it’s a good idea. State Auditor David Vaudt, who may be a Republican candidate for governor in 2010, said he needed to study the details before expressing an opinion, but noted, “What we’ve got to remember is we’ve got to dedicate and set aside a piece of revenue stream to pay that principal and interest.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal made a great point:

Gronstal deflected Republican criticism by pointing out that [Senate Minority leader Paul] McKinley, in his opening day speech, talked about a business he once owned.

“He borrowed every nickel he could and leveraged himself as far as he could because he believed in his future. I believe in Iowa’s future. I believe it makes sense now to borrow money and move this state forward,” Gronstal said.

He added: “This is probably one of the best times in our history to go out and borrow money with a dedicated repayment stream. Do you own a home? Did it make sense for you to borrow money? Or did you just pay cash?”

Gronstal is absolutely right. Iowa has a triple-A bond rating, interest rates are fairly low, and creating jobs is essential to bringing the economy back. Two-thirds of our economy depends on consumer spending, and good jobs generate the money people then spend at businesses in their communities. Construction jobs tend to be good jobs too.

Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen, who is usually a deficit hawk, also likes the infrastructure bonding idea:

The money will be borrowed over the next few years, supervised by an oversight board and repaid with gambling profits, so no tax increases will be necessary. (If we have to have all this gambling in Iowa, wouldn’t it be nice to see something tangible in return?)

It will be the modern-day equivalent of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, which built infrastructure we still use today, such as dams, sewers, parks and shelters. Previous American generations left us wonderful systems of interstates, canals, railroads, river locks and dams. What are we leaving our kids? Potholes, bridge collapses and sewers that pollute river ways.

Iowans are a frugal people. Perhaps we are too frugal. According to state Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald’s office, Moody’s Investors Service says Iowa’s per-capita level of public debt ranked 48th in the country last year. Iowa has $98 of state public debt per person. The national average of state debt is $1,158. You could double Iowa’s $98 of per-capita state debt to $200, and we would then rank 46th.

Culver should have told us that. Clearly, most other states saddle their citizens with more debt than is proposed here. And many are more attractive places to live, too, as our children attest when they leave for the better jobs and brighter lights elsewhere.

It’s funny to watch all these Republican legislators, who borrow all sorts of money to buy, expand or repair homes, businesses and farms, now turn prune-faced when Culver suggests doing the exact same thing in state government.

The Des Moines Register explained how Culver’s plan would work:

* Borrow $700 million in 20-year tax-exempt state revenue bonds

* Secure the bonds with about $56 million a year in gaming tax revenues

* Create a Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Authority to issue the bonds. It will be overseen by a five-member board.

* The authority would be administered and staffed by the Iowa Finance Authority.

How money will be spent:






mass transit



water quality and wastewater treatment improvements

flood control improvements

energy infrastructure

disaster-relief infrastructure

public buildings

Projects will be judged on:

Whether they are ready to proceed

How quickly the project can be started and completed

Number of jobs to be created by the project

Contribution to sustainability

On the whole, I support the idea. My main concern is that infrastructure money be spent on fixing what we already have, not on building every new road on developers’ wish lists. In the past, our legislators and state officials have focused too much on funding new roads instead of a balanced transportation policy.

The housing slump is likely to continue for at least two more years, and there is no reason to spend large sums to build new highway interchanges and major new roads through undeveloped farmland now. We should spend the money to fix stretches of existing major roads and highways and crumbling bridges, as well as on modes of transit that allow alternatives to driving. These projects will improve the quality of life for large numbers of Iowans while also creating jobs.

As for airports, I would only support spending money on needed repairs and improvements to existing airports. This is not the time to start building a bunch of small regional airports that would benefit a handful of corporate executives.

Culver emphasized that he did not plan to raise taxes, but Gronstal indicated that raising the state gas tax is still on the table.

I would like to hear more lawmakers talk about closing various tax loopholes that mainly benefit wealthy Iowans. The Iowa Policy Project has documented this and various other flaws in our current tax policies.

If you’ve got the time and the inclination, the governor’s official website has a video Culver showed during his address, called “In Deep Water: The Flood of 2008.” Iowa Public Television has House Minority leader Kraig Paulsen’s response to Culver’s address.

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Watch Iowa statehouse leaders discuss the upcoming session

I saw in the Sunday Des Moines Register that the newspaper’s editorial board will interview both parties’ statehouse leaders this week to talk about their priorities for the upcoming legislative session. People will be able to watch the interviews live at the Register’s website.

Monday, January 5:

At 10 am the Register’s editorial board will interview top Iowa Republicans in the legislature: Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, and House Minority Whip Linda Upmeyer.

Tuesday, January 6:

At 9:30 am the Register’s editorial board will interview top Iowa Democrats in the legislature: Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, House Speaker Pat Murphy, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

I am adding these to the list of events coming up this week, which I posted on Friday.

The session begins on January 12. Please feel free to post diaries about important bills under consideration, lobby days planned by grassroots organizations, or other related topics. Also, please send me tips or notices about upcoming events (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com).

Update on new leadership for Iowa Republicans

Iowa Senate Republicans voted out Ron Wieck as minority leader on Tuesday. New leader Paul McKinley of Chariton promised “to rebuild this party from the ground up.”

Wieck, of Sioux City, was selected for the job by Senate Republicans in 2007 after Sen. Mary Lundby of Marion chose to step down from the leadership role. He will continue to serve in his District 27 seat.

McKinley, former owner of the textile company Neely Manufacturing, stressed that all Republicans will continue to work together. Senate Republicans will focus on being a spending watchdog for the state, retaining Iowa’s pro-business economy, providing tax relief and advocating for smaller government, he said.

Last week Iowa House Republicans picked Kraig Paulsen to replace Chris Rants as minority leader.

No consensus candidate seems to be emerging to take on the unenviable job of rebuilding the divided Republican Party of Iowa.

The Des Moines Register’s David Yepsen wrote in his latest column,

Republicans are looking for a new state party chairman. The challenge for the party is to find a chair who is acceptable to social conservatives but who can raise money from more moderate business types. The new leader must look good on TV and execute a management turnaround, all while working for a board of directors that too often squabbles and micromanages.

Good luck. Polk County chairman Ted Sporer is running, but he may be too hot and scrappy for some. His critics say the Polk County GOP organization he heads isn’t impressive. He says it’s better than when he started.

Former state Rep. Danny Carroll of Grinnell is also mentioned. He’s a smart, well-liked guy but may be too much of a social conservative for a party that needs to broaden its appeal. Carroll’s also lost two consecutive legislative races.

Another former state representative, Bill Dix of Shell Rock, gets mentioned but may be more interested in another run for office someday.

If you’re wondering why anyone would consider Sporer “too hot and scrappy,” read his take on the Tom Harkin/Christopher Reed debate.

Appearing on Iowa Public Television the weekend after the election, Republican moderate and former gubernatorial candidate Doug Gross described his dream candidate:

Gross: Well, I can think of 1964 we had a debacle, the Goldwater debacle and Johnson won in a landslide.  The democrats took over the governorship in both houses of the legislature.  And then we brought in a young Des Moines attorney by the name of Bob Ray to run the party as a guy that understood the importance of communication, appealing to all factions of the party and worked his tail off to help rebuild the organization.  That’s the kind of person we need as party chair again.  What we don’t need is someone whose is ideologically pure on one side or the other, that’s not what we should have.

Yepsen: Have you got some names?

Gross: Do I have some names?  I’m looking for Bob Ray’s sons but he only has daughters but the daughters would be alright too.

Feel that inclusion, Republican ladies?

Even if Bob Ray had a son, I doubt a pro-choice moderate who welcomed increased foreign immigration to this state would have a prayer of winning a leadership contest in today’s GOP.

Here’s a tip for conservatives, though: Governor Ray was just about the only Republican my mother ever voted for.

For more speculation on a possible new leader for the Iowa GOP, read this post or this post at the Krusty Konservative blog. Check out the comments too. The conservatives sure are angry.

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