Johnson County has a more fitting namesake

Johnson County’s five supervisors voted unanimously on June 24 “to recognize Lulu Merle Johnson as the official eponym” of Iowa’s fourth-largest county. The previous namesake was Richard Mentor Johnson, who had no ties to the area but was U.S. vice president when the county was established in 1837.

Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan had floated the idea of choosing a different namesake four years ago, noting that Richard Mentor Johnson was a slave-owner who “killed Native Americans indiscriminately.” The idea picked up steam in the summer of 2020 after Ron McMullen published a guest column in the Iowa City Press-Citizen about the “particularly despicable” man for whom the county is named.

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Ten things Iowa Democrats should do

Rod Sullivan is a Johnson County supervisor. -promoted by Laura Belin

Democrats struggled through the 2016 postmortem. Why did Hillary Clinton lose? Was it an archaic, racist Electoral College? Yes. Racism? Yes. Sexism? Yes. Economic anxiety? Yes. Russia? Yes. Comey? Yes. Because she was deeply disliked? Yes. Because she ran a bad campaign? Yes. All are legitimate reasons for her loss.

The reason Democrats nationally have had such a difficult time with this is really pretty simple: We want a silver bullet. We want there to be one thing we need to fix. We refuse to recognize that multiple things can be true at once. Until we recognize this, we will not improve our performance.

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Lulu Merle Johnson would be a fitting namesake for Johnson County

UPDATE: The Johnson County supervisors moved forward with this plan in September 2020.

The first decision of Iowa’s territorial Supreme Court affirmed a former slave’s right to remain out of bondage. Iowa gained statehood as a “free” state and sent thousands of boys and men to fight and die for the Union during the Civil War.

Nevertheless, our state’s fourth-largest county is named after a “particularly despicable” slave-owner. That needs to change, and the Johnson County Board of Supervisors took a first step toward doing so this week.

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This primary challenger's big win should put Iowa lawmakers on notice

Running against a sitting office-holder from your own party is always an uphill battle. Many Iowa House or Senate members have faced primary challengers during the past decade, but only a handful have failed to win their party’s nomination.

Christina Bohannan beat the odds on June 2, taking 66 percent of the vote against 20-year State Representative Vicki Lensing in Iowa’s most Democratic House district.

No one can write off the outcome as a fluke of a low-turnout environment. Statewide turnout set a new record for an Iowa primary, and voter participation in Johnson County was sky-high as well. Unofficial results showed 6,687 residents of House district 85 cast ballots for either Bohannan or Lensing.

Bohannan’s win and in particular the margin of victory should put every Iowa legislator on notice: you have to keep earning your constituents’ support.

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Iowa governor ensuring buck stops with her on shelter-in-place

Governor Kim Reynolds continues to resist calls from local government leaders to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order. She confirmed on March 30 she doesn’t plan to give cities or counties the authority to restrict public movements in their own jurisdictions.

Her stance ensures Reynolds will be held responsible if novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections spiral out of control in any part of Iowa.

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Elizabeth Warren drawing support across Iowa Democratic spectrum

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s numbers have tapered somewhat in polls of the Democratic presidential race nationally and in Iowa over the past two months. But it would be a mistake to conclude she can’t win the Iowa caucuses.

A large share of caucus-goers have yet to commit to a candidate. Warren’s high-profile supporters, including the latest batch, point to factors that will keep her in contention as many Iowans decide over the next 40 days.

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