# Ruth Ann Gaines



Who's who in the Iowa House for 2024

Photo by Carl Olsen of the Iowa House chamber in 2020

Iowa House members return to Des Moines on January 8 for the opening day of the 2024 legislative session. Although the balance of power remains the same (64 Republicans, 36 Democrats), I’m publishing a new version of this post to note small changes in leadership or among the chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year’s session.

Thirty-eight House members (24 Republicans and fourteen Democrats) are serving their first term in the legislature. Two Republicans previously held other legislative offices: Craig Johnson served one and a half terms in the Iowa Senate, and David Young served two terms in Congress.

The House members include 71 men and 29 women (sixteen Democrats and thirteen Republicans), down from 31 women who served in 2021 and 2022. The record for women’s representation in the Iowa House was 34 female lawmakers in 2019.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2023

The Iowa House opened its 2023 session on January 9 with 64 Republicans and 36 Democrats, a four-seat gain for the GOP compared to last year.

Thirty-eight representatives (24 Republicans and fourteen Democrats) were just elected to the chamber for the first time in November. Two Republicans previously held other legislative offices: Craig Johnson served one and a half terms in the Iowa Senate, and David Young served two terms in Congress.

The House members include 71 men and 29 women (sixteen Democrats and thirteen Republicans), down from 31 women who served for the last two years. The record for women’s representation in the Iowa House was 34 female lawmakers in 2019.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Jerome Amos, Jr., Ruth Ann Gaines, Mary Madison, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. As Abdul-Samad began his seventeenth year at the capitol, he surpassed Helen Miller as Iowa’s longest-serving Black state legislator.

Republican Mark Cisneros was the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature in 2020, and Democrat Adam Zabner is now the second Latino serving in the chamber. Republican Henry Stone became only the second Asian American to serve in the House after the 2020 election, and Democrat Megan Srinivas was also elected in November. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Elinor Levin is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. She and Zabner are also the first Jews to serve in the chamber for more than three decades. Abdul-Samad is the only Muslim member of the House, and Srinivas is Hindu.

I’ve posted details below on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year’s session. The biggest change is that House Speaker Pat Grassley created an Education Reform Committee to consider the governor’s school voucher plan and other controversial education bills. The House also eliminated the Information Technology Committee.

Some non-political trivia: the 100 Iowa House members include two with the surname Meyer (a Democrat and a Republican) and two Thompsons and a Thomson (all Republicans). As for popular first names, there are four men named David or Dave, four named Thomas or Tom, three Roberts (a Robert, a Bob, and a Bobby), three Brians, three men named Michael (two go by Mike), a Jon and two Johns, two named Charles (a Chuck and a Charley), and two men each named Jeff, Ken, Steve, Matt, Austin, and Josh or Joshua. There are also two Elizabeths (one goes by Beth), an Ann and an Anne, and two women each named Heather, Megan, and Shannon. As recently as 2020, four women named Mary served in the Iowa House, but just one was sworn in this week.

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Iowa legislature may be more diverse after 2022 election

Iowans may elect more people from under-represented populations to the state legislature in 2022, Bleeding Heartland’s analysis of the primary and general election candidate filings indicates.

One barrier will certainly be broken: as the only candidate to file in House district 78, Democrat Sami Scheetz will become the first Arab American to serve in our state legislature.

The lawmakers who convene at the statehouse next January may also include Iowa’s first Jewish legislator in nearly three decades as well as more people of color, more LGBTQ people, and the first Paralympian.

A forthcoming post will discuss prospects for electing more women to the Iowa House and Senate.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2022

The Iowa House opened its 2022 session on January 10 with 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats, a one-seat gain for the GOP compared to last year, thanks to a special election last fall.

The House members include 69 men and 31 women (21 Democrats and ten Republicans), down from a record 34 women in 2019 and 33 women in 2020.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. Republican Mark Cisneros is the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature, and Republican Henry Stone is only the second Asian American to serve in the House. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

I’ve posted details below on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year’s session. The most significant: Republican Mike Bousselot won a September special election following the death of Republican John Landon, and Republican Jon Dunwell won an October special election after Democrat Wes Breckenridge left the legislature for another job.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House has two members with the surname Meyer (a Democrat and a Republican). As for popular first names, there are six Davids (three go by Dave), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Tom or Thomas, three named Steve or Steven, three named Charles (a Chuck and two Charlies), three Brians, three men named Michael (two go by Mike), three Jons and two Johns, and two men each named Gary, Dennis, and Ross. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz), two Shannons, an Ann and an Anne, and two women named Mary (down from four in 2020).

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Srinivas, Bagniewski running for Iowa House seats in Des Moines

The Iowa House Democratic caucus is poised to have more turnover than usual after the 2022 election, as the new legislative map created open seats in some solid blue areas, and several sitting lawmakers have confirmed they won’t seek re-election.

In Des Moines, Megan Srinivas and Sean Bagniewski are the first Democrats to begin campaigning in two House districts where the winner of the June primary is virtually guaranteed to be elected next November.

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Why did so many Democrats vote for Iowa's COVID-19 vaccine law?

Governor Kim Reynolds was “proud” to sign a bill designed to make it easier for Iowans to get around COVID-19 vaccination mandates in the workplace. State Representative Henry Stone, who floor managed the bill in the House, said Republicans worked on this legislation for months, seeking ways to lessen the impact of the Biden administration’s expected rules requiring large employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations or frequent testing of employees.

Democrats had no input on the proposal and did not see the bill text until hours before lawmakers debated House File 902 on October 28. Nevertheless, both chambers approved the bill by surprisingly large margins: 68 votes to 27 in the House and 45 votes to 4 in the Senate.

Why did so many Democrats vote for a bill that one supporter described as “a joke” during debate?

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First look at Iowa's new House, Senate maps in cities, suburbs

Now that Iowa’s political maps for the next decade have been finalized, it’s time to look more closely at the district lines in and near larger metro areas. Although most districts anchored in cities are safe for Democrats, these metros will include quite a few battleground Iowa House and Senate races over the next two election cycles. Several “micropolitan” districts containing mid-sized cities remain competitive as well, and a forthcoming post will cover those maps.

I’ll write more about the political landscape of individual House or Senate districts once lawmakers and other contenders have confirmed their plans for next year. Several incumbent match-ups have already been worked out, and I’m continuing to update this post. (Please send tips on candidate announcements.)

I’ve grouped each Iowa Senate district with the two state House districts it wholly contains.

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House Ethics panel deadlocks over Heritage Action complaints

Voting along party lines, the Iowa House Ethics Committee failed to take action October 5 on two complaints relating to possible undisclosed lobbying by the national conservative group Heritage Action.

Democratic State Representative Todd Prichard filed the complaints in May after a leaked video showed Heritage Action’s executive director Jessica Anderson boasting that the group had worked “quickly” and “quietly” with Iowa lawmakers to help draft and pass a new election bill. In the complaints, Prichard asserted that Anderson and Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Reform Initiative, violated the Iowa legislature’s lobbying rules by not registering as lobbyists.

Key Republican lawmakers have denied that Heritage Action influenced the new election law’s provisions.

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Iowa Republicans have abandoned executive branch oversight

Governor Kim Reynolds has been lucky at key points in her political career. Terry Branstad passed over more experienced contenders to select her as his 2010 running mate, allowing a little-known first-term state senator to become a statewide elected official. Six years later, Donald Trump won the presidency and named Branstad as an ambassador, setting Reynolds up to become governor without having to win a GOP primary first.

Most important, Reynolds has enjoyed a Republican trifecta her entire four years as governor. Not only has she been able to sign much of her wish list into law, she has not needed to worry that state lawmakers would closely scrutinize her administration’s work or handling of public funds.

During the legislative session that wrapped up last month, the GOP-controlled House and Senate rejected every attempt to make the governor’s spending decisions more transparent. They declined to hold even one hearing about questionable uses of federal COVID-19 relief funds or practices at state agencies that disadvantaged thousands of Iowans.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2021

The Iowa House opened its 2021 session on January 11 with 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats, a big improvement for the GOP from last year’s 53-47 split.

The House members include 69 men and 31 women (21 Democrats and ten Republicans), down from a record 34 women in 2019 and 33 women last year.

Six African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Ross Wilburn, and Republican Eddie Andrews) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber. Republican Mark Cisneros is the first Latino elected to the Iowa legislature, and Republican Henry Stone is only the second Asian American to serve in the House. The other 92 state representatives are white.

Democrat Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the Iowa House. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

I’ve posted details below on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year.

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How many Iowa candidates "won" under rules Republicans forced on unions?

Sixth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2020 state and federal elections.

Republican lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad set out to cripple public sector unions in 2017 by enacting a law that eviscerated bargaining rights and established new barriers to union representation. Under that law, public employees must vote to recertify their union in each contract period (in most cases, every two or three years). Anyone not participating in the election is considered to have voted against the union. So a successful recertification requires yes votes from a majority of all employees in the bargaining unit.

The law hasn’t accomplished its goal of destroying large unions that typically support Democratic candidates. The vast majority of bargaining units have voted to recertify in each of the past four years. This fall, all 64 locals affiliated with the Iowa State Education Association voted to keep having that union negotiate their contracts. AFSCME Council 61, which represents most Iowa state and local government workers, was nearly as successful, with 64 out of 67 units voting to recertify.

I decided to return to a question Bleeding Heartland first pondered in 2017: how many candidates for other Iowa offices could declare victory under the system Republicans forced on labor unions?

I found that even after Iowa’s highest-turnout election in decades, our state would have no representation in Congress if contenders needed a majority vote among all constituents. “Winners” could be declared in about a third of state legislative races.

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Barriers broken as Iowans elect more people of color to state House

Fourth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2020 state and federal elections.

More people of color than ever ran for the Iowa House in 2020. As a result, a more diverse group of state representatives will be sworn in next year.

Not only will the state House have a record number of members who are not white, people of color serving in the Iowa legislature will include some Republicans for the first time since the 1960s.

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Record number of women will serve in Iowa Senate; fewer elected to House

Second in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2020 state and federal elections.

The non-profit 50-50 in 2020 dissolved early this year after working for a decade to increase women’s representation in Iowa politics. Although our state has elected a woman governor, a woman to the U.S. Senate (twice), and will have women representing three of the the four Congressional districts for the next two years, we have a long way to go toward parity in the Iowa legislature.

When lawmakers convene in Des Moines in January, women will make up one-quarter of the Iowa Senate for the first time. However, the number of women serving in the House will drop below one-third of the chamber.

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Iowa's first Black woman presidential candidate doesn't want your vote

At least six minor party or unaffiliated presidential candidates have qualified for Iowa’s general election ballot, according to the official list published on August 14. (Petitions for a seventh, Kanye West, are still under review in the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.)

One of the little-known presidential contenders, Ricki Sue King, set out to make history with her candidacy and succeeded. But she doesn’t want Iowans to vote for her.

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Six inspiring speeches on Iowa's "first step" to address police violence

Most bills lawmakers introduced this year to address Iowa’s notorious racial disparities didn’t get far before the Iowa House and Senate suspended their work in mid-March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By the time the legislature got back to work on June 3, large protests were underway daily in Iowa and across the country, in response to the horrific killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Democratic lawmakers unveiled a “More Perfect Union plan” designed to prevent “violent conflicts between law enforcement and Iowa residents” on June 4. A bill incorporating their proposals sailed through both chambers unanimously a week later, with a group of Black Lives Matter protesters watching from the public gallery.

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More people of color running for Iowa legislature in 2020 (updated)

UPDATE: As of August, people of color who will appear on the general election ballot as candidates for the Iowa legislature include nine Democrats, seven Republicans, one Libertarian, and one independent. I’ve added details in the original post, which follows.

After a decade of little change in the racial breakdown of the Iowa House and Senate, more people of color are running for the state legislature this year.

Candidates appearing on today’s primary ballot include eight Democrats and seven eight Republicans, which to my knowledge is a record for the Iowa GOP.

In addition, three people of color representing minor parties have filed as general election candidates in state legislative districts.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2020

The Iowa House opened its 2020 session on January 13 with 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, a change from last year’s 54-46 split due to State Representative Andy McKean’s party switch shortly before lawmakers adjourned last year.

The House members include 67 men and 33 women (23 Democrats and ten Republicans). Although 34 women were elected to the chamber in 2018 (a record number), State Representative Lisa Heddens stepped down last summer, and Ross Wilburn won the special election to serve out her term in House district 46.

Five African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Wilburn) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 95 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the state Senate following the 2008 election. Democratic State Representative Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the lower chamber. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted significant changes since last year.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Smiths (both Democrats), while the other 98 members have different surnames. As for popular first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Thomas (two go by Tom), three Johns and two Jons, and three men each named Gary and Brian. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Bruce, Chris, Jeff, Michael (one goes by Mike), Ross, and Charles (a Chuck and a Charlie).

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IA-Sen: Where things stand in the Democratic primary

Five Democrats are now competing for the chance to take on U.S. Senator Joni Ernst next November. After making low-key appearances at Democratic events around Iowa for about six months, Cal Woods made his candidacy official on December 17.

Assuming all five candidates file nominating petitions in March, the crowded field increases the chance that no one will win the nomination outright in the June 3 primary.

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Jerry Foxhoven stopped playing along. This will end badly for Kim Reynolds

Editor’s note: Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of this story continues here and here.

Governor Kim Reynolds didn’t want the public to learn why she forced out Jerry Foxhoven as director of the Iowa Department of Human Services. The vague official narrative about Foxhoven’s unexpected departure remained intact for a month.

But the ground shifted last week. As further details emerge, the governor and her top staff will have more explaining to do.

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"This is political": House Republicans vote to limit Iowa AG's powers

North Carolina Republican lawmakers started the trend after losing the governor’s race in 2016. GOP legislative majorities in Michigan and Wisconsin followed suit late last year, seeking to hamstring newly-elected governors and the Michigan attorney general. Kansas Republicans are now trying to limit the appointment power of that state’s Democratic governor.

Iowa House Republicans took their own step toward “banana-republic style governance” on April 23, voting for unprecedented restrictions on Attorney General Tom Miller’s ability to make legal decisions.

The bill’s floor manager, State Representative Gary Worthan, admitted his proposal stemmed from political disagreements with Miller, whom Iowans elected to a tenth term last November.

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Iowa lawmakers pass another unconstitutional "Ag Gag" bill

Iowa legislators just can’t quit violating the constitution in the service of livestock farmers and their lobby groups.

Two months after a federal judge comprehensively dismantled Iowa’s 2012 law prohibiting “agricultural production facility fraud,” the state House and Senate approved a bill creating the crime of “agricultural production facility trespass.” Governor Kim Reynolds has indicated she will sign the legislation. (UPDATE: She signed it on March 14.)

Although the drafters modeled the new bill after portions of an Idaho statute that survived a legal challenge, federal courts could and should strike down this law. Like the previous “ag gag” legislation, its primary purpose is to suppress speech reflecting certain viewpoints.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2019

The Iowa House opened its 2019 session today with 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats. State Representative Michael Bergan was sworn in for a second term, even though his Democratic opponent Kayla Koether is contesting the outcome. A special committee will consider her complaint in the coming weeks.

The new state representatives include 66 men and 34 women (24 Democrats and ten Republicans, record numbers for both parties).

Four African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, and Phyllis Thede) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 96 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the state Senate following the 2008 election. Democratic State Representative Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the lower chamber. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted significant changes since last year.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Smiths (both Democrats), while the other 98 members have different surnames. As for popular first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Thomas (two go by Tom), three Johns and two Jons, and three men each named Gary and Brian. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Bruce, Chris, Jeff, Michael (one goes by Mike), and Charles (a Chuck and a Charlie).

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Lessons of 2018: Both parties elected more women lawmakers than ever

Fourth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections.

The largest group of women ever to run for the Iowa legislature has produced the largest contingent of women lawmakers in state history.

For the first time, women will make up more than a third of Iowa House members and a majority of the lower chamber’s Democratic caucus.

The number of women serving in the Iowa Senate will exceed the previous record set in 2013 and 2014. In a major shift from the recent past, the women senators will include almost as many Republicans as Democrats.

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Iowans will likely elect record number of women lawmakers in 2018

A record number of women running for office in Iowa this year has translated into a record number of women who will appear on our state’s general election ballot. Iowa State University’s Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics noted that 85 women (86 percent of female candidates on Iowa’s primary ballot) won their party’s nominations yesterday.

More women than ever will likely win Iowa House seats this November (current number: 28 out of 100). Female representation will almost certainly increase in the state Senate too and could exceed the previous record (ten out of 50 senators in 2013-2014). Follow me after the jump for details.

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

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

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

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Weekend thread: Statewide candidate edition

Iowa will soon have its first new secretary of agriculture since 2007. The U.S. Senate confirmed Bill Northey on February 27 as undersecretary for farm production and conservation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He should have been confirmed months ago; senators on the Agriculture Committee unanimously endorsed his nomination in October. But Senator Ted Cruz of Texas held the nomination over a Renewable Fuel Standard dispute that has nothing to do with Northey’s portfolio.

Once Northey resigns as Iowa secretary of agriculture, Governor Kim Reynolds will appoint his longtime deputy Mike Naig to fill that post for the rest of this year, the governor’s office announced on March 1. I enclose Naig’s official bio below. One of five Republicans who have said they will run for Northey’s job, Naig formally launched his campaign for that office on March 2. At this writing, only Craig Lang has qualified for the primary ballot. Other declared GOP candidates are Ray Gaesser, Chad Ingels, and Dan Zumbach. UPDATE: Northey posted on Twitter March 6, “I heartily endorse Mike Naig as our next Iowa Ag Secy. Mike has been a great partner as my Deputy Secy of ag for 4+ yrs. Mike is ready to lead. Let’s elect Mike in June & Nov!”

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Who's endorsed the seven Democrats running for Congress in IA-03

Seven candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s third Congressional district, where two-term Representative David Young will be a top target for national Democrats and outside groups. Young’s approval rating was below 40 percent in an October survey by Public Policy Polling for Patriot Majority USA. The latest Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register found that 36 percent of respondents in IA-03 would support an unnamed Republican running for Congress, while 35 percent would vote for a Democrat.

This race is wide open, and the nominee may be chosen at a district convention, if no contender receives at least 35 percent of the vote in the June 5 primary. To that end, several candidates are recruiting supporters to attend Iowa Democratic precinct caucuses on February 5. Those caucus-goers will select county convention delegates, and county conventions will select district convention delegates on March 24.

About two-thirds of the Democrats and more than half of all registered voters in IA-03 live in Polk County, containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs. The district’s sixteen counties contain 161,724 active registered Democrats, 173,947 Republicans, and 171,061 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

While many Democratic activists, including myself, haven’t chosen a favorite in this strong field, others have been coming off the fence. Some labor unions or other progressive organizations have started to weigh in too. Last week I asked all seven candidates–Cindy Axne, Pete D’Alessandro, Austin Frerick, Theresa Greenfield, Paul Knupp, Eddie Mauro, and Heather Ryan–for a list of endorsements or prominent supporters.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2018

The Iowa House opens its 2018 session today with 58 Republicans, 41 Democrats, and one vacancy, since Jim Carlin resigned after winning the recent special election in Iowa Senate district 3. Voters in House district 6 will choose Carlin’s successor on January 16. UPDATE: Republican Jacob Bossman won that election, giving the GOP 59 seats for the remainder of 2018.

The 99 state representatives include 27 women (18 Democrats and nine Republicans) and 72 men. Five African-Americans (all Democrats) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 95 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the Iowa Senate following the 2008 election.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted significant changes since last year.

Under the Ethics Committee subheading, you’ll see a remarkable example of Republican hypocrisy.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Taylors (one from each party) and two Smiths (both Democrats). As for first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Roberts (two Robs, one Bob, and a Bobby), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), three Johns and a Jon, and three men each named Gary and Charles (two Chucks and a Charlie). There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Brian, Bruce, Chris, Todd, and Michael (one goes by Mike).

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IA-Gov: Boulton, Hubbell lead in early legislative endorsements

State Senator Nate Boulton and Fred Hubbell have locked up more support among state lawmakers than the five other Democrats running for governor combined.

Whether legislative endorsements will matter in the 2018 gubernatorial race is an open question. The overwhelming majority of state lawmakers backed Mike Blouin before the 2006 gubernatorial primary, which Chet Culver won. Last year, former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge won the nomination for U.S. Senate, even though about 60 current and 30 former Democratic lawmakers had endorsed State Senator Rob Hogg.

Nevertheless, prominent supporters can provide a clue to activists or journalists about which primary contenders are well-positioned. Where things stand:

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Who's Ready to Run?

Heather Ryan continues the series of posts by Iowa women who helped make 2017 a record-breaking year for political training programs. Ryan is the chair of the East Des Moines Area Democrats and a host of the Facebook Political Series “Fight Like a Girl.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

It’s fair to say that I was most likely not the target demographic for the “Ready to Run” program hosted in Ames, Iowa on April 28. While I am indeed female, I am far from a political novice. In fact, I consume politics almost as voraciously as I consume a bag of Taki’s. I majored in Political Science at Drake, worked in Washington DC and have participated in countless campaigns. That being said, I constantly seek out knowledge, and the Ready to Run program was an excellent means for such.

As of late, I have attended Precinct Leader Training, Wellstone University, Ready to Run and even teamed up with Representative Ruth Ann Gaines to teach Politics in a Reality TV world. Each of these courses offered their own unique educational experience. The Precinct Leader Training, run by the Iowa Democratic Party, expands on grassroots, neighborhood activism. Wellstone University is a three day intensive where we worked on our stump speeches, fundraising technique and internet presence (among a slew of other things). Representative Gaines and I teach public speaking and presentation skills in a time when the populous is more interested in seeing a rumble than a debate. But unlike any of those training seminars, Ready to Run focuses solely on encouraging and preparing women to run for office. This is the primary strength of this day-long crash course.

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Michael Kiernan running for open Des Moines city council seat

Former Des Moines City Council member Michael Kiernan announced yesterday that he will run for the open seat in Ward 3 this year, focusing on an “agenda of improving public safety, fixing potholes and continuing progress.” He held the at-large city council seat from 2004 to 2010 and served as Iowa Democratic Party state chair from January 2009 to June 2010. You can find his campaign on Facebook and on Twitter @mjkiernan.

Josh Mandelbaum has been campaigning in Ward 3 for the last two months. His strong challenge drove 24-year incumbent Christine Hensley to retire rather than seek re-election. Now that the odds of a Democrat winning this seat have increased, Kiernan has decided to give it a shot. In a thinly-veiled swipe at Mandelbaum, Kiernan posted on Facebook yesterday, “I’ve been hearing a lot about crime in our city lately. I keep expecting to hear people who say they want to serve our community talk about this issue. Instead, all I’m hearing about is political endorsements and campaign war chests.” He echoed the talking point in his news release and on Twitter: “Lot of talk about politics, political endorsements and political cash…no talk of public safety. That’s why I am running.”

If Kiernan had attended Mandelbaum’s first event as a candidate, he would have heard his opponent talk about many substantive issues including “the importance of public health and public safety” and “providing resources to our first responders, police and fire.” Granted, Mandelbaum’s campaign did announce last month that he had raised more than $110,000 in three weeks, “recruited over 150 volunteers to help door-knock and hold house parties, and will soon have an elected official and labor leader endorsement list.” Taking on an entrenched incumbent requires a lot of groundwork, including early fundraising and lining up prominent supporters. But contrary to the impression Kiernan is trying to create, endorsements and cash have not been the focus of Mandelbaum’s message to Des Moines residents. You can read or listen to his first speech as a candidate here.

I enclose below a map of the ward, covering west-side and south-side neighborhoods, as well as Kiernan’s news release, more background on his life and career, and the list of elected officials backing Mandelbaum. (His campaign hasn’t rolled out the labor endorsements yet.)

Mandelbaum has not publicly commented on Kiernan entering the race. I anticipate his case to Democratic voters will be similar to a statement his campaign released after Hensley disclosed her retirement plans: “When this race looked impossible to win, Josh stepped up to run because the values we share as a community were being threatened everyday.” I’ve closely followed Mandelbaum’s work over the years and will encourage voters in the ward to support him, because of his skills and commitment to progressive policies.

Local elections are non-partisan, but I expect some Republican backed by corporate interests to join the field in Ward 3 before long. I welcome tips on other possible candidates.

UPDATE: Added below new comments from Kiernan, who answered some questions by phone on May 18.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2017

The Iowa House opens its 2017 session today with 59 Republicans, 40 Democrats, and one vacancy, since Jim Lykam resigned after winning the recent special election in Iowa Senate district 45. The 99 state representatives include 27 women (18 Democrats and nine Republicans) and 72 men. Five African-Americans (all Democrats) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 95 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the Iowa Senate following the 2008 election.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year.

Under the Ethics Committee subheading, you’ll see a remarkable example of Republican hypocrisy.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Taylors (one from each party) and two Smiths (both Democrats). As for first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Roberts (two Robs, one Bob, and a Bobby), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), and three men each named Gary, John, and Charles (two Chucks and a Charlie). There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Brian, Bruce, Chris, Greg, Michael, and Todd.

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Fewer women will serve in the new Iowa Senate and House (updated)

The non-partisan organization 50/50 in 2020 has set a goal of electing 25 women to the Iowa Senate and 50 women to the Iowa House by 2020. Yesterday’s elections will bring a lot of new voices to the state capital. However, chambers that were already less diverse than most other state legislatures will become even less representative of the state’s population.

LATE UPDATE: The new Iowa House will in fact have one more female member than the chamber did in 2015 and 2016, following Monica Kurth’s victory in the special election to represent House district 89.

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Iowa Senate district 16: Nate Boulton's and Pam Dearden Conner's pitches to voters

UPDATE: Boulton won this race by just under 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent.

One of the most closely-watched state legislative primary results tonight will be the race to represent the open Iowa Senate district 16, covering the east side of Des Moines and Pleasant Hill in Polk County. No Republican has filed to run in this overwhelmingly Democratic district. The two contenders seeking to replace retiring Senator Dick Dearden are his daughter, Pam Dearden Conner, and Nate Boulton. Bleeding Heartland posted background on both candidates here. Each has substantial support from influential local Democrats.

I love three things about this primary:

1) It is happening. Dearden announced his plans to retire six months before the filing deadline, giving all local residents plenty of time to enter the Senate race. He could have pretended to be seeking another term, then pulled his nominating papers on the last day, leaving time for only his daughter to file. Too many Iowa lawmakers, including three House Democrats this year, have engineered their retirements so that only favored insiders had a chance to consider running for office.

2) Both sides are working hard. Although some Iowa Democrats have a bizarre fear of competitive primaries, I see no downside to two candidates and a small army of volunteers knocking doors and making phone calls, trying to identify supporters and get them to vote. As of May 24, more than 1,200 voters in Senate district 16 had requested absentee ballots. Both campaigns were out in force this past weekend, enjoying perfect weather for canvassing. Boulton has raised and spent more money, as you can see from his and Conner’s latest disclosure reports, but both sides have done substantial district-wide voter outreach.

3) As far as I can tell, the candidates have stayed positive. Months ago, I was worried the Senate district 16 primary might turn nasty like the 2013 Des Moines City Council race between Chris Diebel and Skip Moore, which lit up social media and strained friendships.

May the best Democrat win. I’ve posted below some examples of campaign literature and direct mail supporting each candidate. You can find more information on the websites for Conner and Boulton.

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Never let it be said that the 2016 Iowa legislature accomplished nothing

In four months of work this year, Iowa lawmakers made no progress on improving water quality or expanding conservation programs, funded K-12 schools and higher education below levels needed to keep up with inflation, failed to increase the minimum wage or address wage theft, let most criminal justice reform proposals die in committee, didn’t approve adequate oversight for the newly-privatized Medicaid program, opted against making medical cannabis more available to sick and suffering Iowans, and left unaddressed several other issues that affect thousands of constituents.

But let the record reflect that bipartisan majorities in the Iowa House and Senate acted decisively to solve a non-existent problem. At a bill-signing ceremony yesterday, Governor Terry Branstad and supporters celebrated preventing something that probably never would have happened.

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Weekend open thread: Mother's Day edition

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community who is celebrating this weekend. Although abolitionist and feminist Julia Ward Howe originally envisioned the holiday as a “Day of Peace,” our culture approaches today as a time to thank mothers with cards, phone calls, visits, or gifts. In lieu of a traditional bouquet of flowers, I offer wild geranium, a native plant now blooming in many wooded areas, and a shout out to some of the mothers who are active in Iowa political life.

These Iowa mothers now hold state or federal office: U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, State Auditor Mary Mosiman, State Senators Rita Hart, Pam Jochum, Liz Mathis, Janet Petersen, Amanda Ragan, Amy Sinclair, and Mary Jo Wilhelm, House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, State Representatives Deborah Berry, Timi Brown-Powers, Nancy Dunkel, Ruth Ann Gaines, Mary Gaskill, Lisa Heddens, Megan Jones, Vicki Lensing, Mary Mascher, Helen Miller, Linda Miller, Dawn Pettengill, Patti Ruff, Kirsten Running-Marquardt, Sandy Salmon, Sharon Steckman, Sally Stutsman, Phyllis Thede, Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, Cindy Winckler, and Mary Wolfe.

These Iowa mothers are running for state or federal office this year: U.S. Senate candidate Patty Judge, U.S. House candidates Monica Vernon (IA-01) and Kim Weaver (IA-04), Iowa Senate candidates Susan Bangert, Pam Dearden Conner, Rene Gadelha, Miyoko Hikiji, and Bonnie Sadler, Iowa House candidates Perla Alarcon-Flory, Jane Bloomingdale, Claire Celsi, Sondra Childs-Smith, Paula Dreeszen, Carrie Duncan, Deb Duncan, Jeannine Eldrenkamp, Kristi Hager, Jan Heikes, Ashley Hinson, Barbara Hovland, Sara Huddleston, Jennifer Konfrst, Shannon Lundgren, Heather Matson, Teresa Meyer, Maridith Morris, Amy Nielsen, Andrea Phillips, Stacie Stokes, and Sherrie Taha.

Mother’s Day is painful for many people. If you are the mother of a child who has died, I recommend Cronesense’s personal reflection on “the other side of the coin,” a piece by Frankenoid, “Mother’s Day in the Land of the Bereaved,” or Sheila Quirke’s “What I Know About Motherhood Now That My Child Has Died.” If your beloved mother is no longer living, I recommend Hope Edelman’s Mother’s Day letter to motherless daughters or her commentary for CNN. If you have severed contact with your mother because of her toxic parenting, you may appreciate Theresa Edwards rant about “13 Things No Estranged Child Needs To Hear On Mother’s Day” and Sherry’s post on “The Dirty Little Secret.”

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature (post-filing edition)

Now that the deadline to compete in the Democratic or Republican primaries has passed, the field of candidates is set in most of the 100 Iowa House districts and 25 Iowa Senate districts that will be on the ballot this fall.

It’s time for a first look at chances to increase diversity in the state legislature for the next two years. The proportion of white lawmakers is unlikely to change, while the proportion of women could move in either direction.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge thinking about challenging Chuck Grassley

The Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble snagged a surprising scoop yesterday: former Lieutenant Governor and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge is considering running for the U.S. Senate this year. Referring to Grassley’s approach to the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, Judge told Noble,

“Iowans have always been straight shooters, and up until the recent time I would have said the same thing about Chuck,” Judge said. […]

“I don’t like this double-speak,” Judge said. “I don’t like this deliberate obstruction of the process. I think Chuck Grassley owes us better. He’s been with us a long time. Maybe he’s been with us too long.”

To qualify for the Democratic primary ballot, Judge would need to submit nominating papers with the Secretary of State’s Office by March 18, three weeks from today. That doesn’t leave much time to collect at least 2,104 signatures, including minimum amounts in at least ten Iowa counties. But Judge could pull together a campaign quickly, having won three statewide elections–for secretary of agriculture in 1998 and 2002 and on the ticket with Chet Culver in 2006.

Three other Democrats are seeking the nomination to run against Grassley: State Senator Rob Hogg, former State Senator Tom Fiegen, and former State Representative Bob Krause. Former State Representative Ray Zirkelbach launched a U.S. Senate campaign in November but ended his campaign last month, Zirkelbach confirmed by phone this morning.

Dozens of Democratic state lawmakers endorsed Hogg in January. I enclose the full list below. Any comments about the Senate race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Rebecca Tuetken notes, “Patty Judge does meet one apparent Iowa requirement: she told @SenatorHarkin ’08 steak fry that she can castrate a calf.” Truly a classic moment for Judge, when Joni Ernst was still the little-known Montgomery County auditor.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2016

The Iowa House opened its 2016 session today with 57 Republicans and 43 Democrats. The 100 state representatives include 27 women (21 Democrats and six Republicans) and 73 men. Five African-Americans (all Democrats) serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 95 state representatives are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the Iowa Senate following the 2008 election.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year. All are on the Republican side, mostly following from Kraig Paulsen’s decision to step down as speaker, Chuck Soderberg’s retirement, and the passing of Jack Drake.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Millers (one from each party), two Taylors (one from each party), and two Moores (both Republicans). As for first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Roberts (two Robs, one Bob, and a Bobby), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), four Johns, and three Brians. There are two Lindas, two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz), and two men each named Dan, Mark, Greg, Tom, Bruce, Todd, Chris, and Charles (one goes by Chuck).

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Mike Sherzan becomes third Democratic candidate in IA-03

Mike Sherzan fuzzy photo 12345433_1536683933290188_7888591554410449181_n_zpspx3oabs2.jpg

Mike Sherzan announced today that he will seek the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s third Congressional district. He recently stepped down as leader of the financial services company he founded in order to focus his full attention on the Congressional race. I enclose below Sherzan’s press release and statements from his campaign website, which outline the candidate’s four priority issues: protecting retirement security by not privatizing Medicare or Social Security; promoting clean energy, with a focus on renewables and ag-based technologies; increasing the number of college graduates by reducing the cost of tuition and student loans; and rebuilding the middle-class by supporting equal pay for women and a minimum wage hike.

Sherzan has had a successful career in finance and may be able to largely self-fund his campaign, but he is distancing himself from stereotypes about corporate leaders who run for office. His “about” page and policy statements repeatedly refer to growing up in a family of modest means and working his way through college, with the help of Social Security benefits after his father’s sudden passing. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland last month, Sherzan emphasized that he “comes from a Democratic background” and urged people not to “judge my positions based on my business experience,” adding that “government was never meant to be a business.” His campaign is on Twitter and Facebook, though strangely, at this writing the campaign launch hasn’t been announced on either of those pages.

Sherzan briefly ran for Congress during the last election cycle but withdrew from that race in April 2013, citing unspecified health issues. He now joins Desmund Adams and Jim Mowrer in a Democratic field that may expand to include former Governor Chet Culver, who is in no hurry to make a decision. A few hours after Sherzan announced, Mowrer’s campaign rolled out a new batch of endorsements, which I’ve added at the end of this post. The 2014 challenger to Representative Steve King in IA-04 has lined up the most support from Iowa Democratic insiders, including Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), former Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson, and eight current state legislators.

The winner of next June’s Democratic primary will face first-term Representative David Young in what may become Iowa’s most competitive Congressional district. The sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 150,733 active registered Democrats, 163,699 Republicans, and 166,740 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Polk County will be central to every candidate’s strategy for winning the nomination, because two-thirds of the registered Democrats in IA-03 live in the district’s most populous county.

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District Court lets stand Branstad veto of mental health institute funding

Polk County District Court Judge Douglas Staskal has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Governor Terry Branstad’s authority to veto funding intended to keep two in-patient mental health facilities open. Twenty Democratic state lawmakers and the president of Iowa’s largest public-employee union filed the lawsuit in July, arguing that the governor’s line-item vetoes violated Iowa Code provisions requiring that the state “shall operate” mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. But Judge Staskal found that “Existing statutes cannot limit the Governor’s item veto authority,” which “is of constitutional magnitude. The only limitations that have been placed on that authority have been derived from the language of the constitution itself. […] And, there is no language in the item veto provision which suggests a statutory limitation on the power it creates. It is elementary that, to the extent there is conflict between a constitutional provision and a statute, the constitution prevails.”

I enclose below longer excerpts from the court ruling, which can be read in full here. Mark Hedberg, the lead attorney representing the plaintiffs, told Bleeding Heartland they “are preparing an appeal” to the Iowa Supreme Court “and will ask that it be expedited.”

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Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum endorsing Hillary Clinton is a big deal

Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum endorsed Hillary Clinton for president today in a guest column for the Des Moines Register. This afternoon, she will elaborate on her reasons at a Women for Hillary event in Dubuque.

Jochum joins the list of prominent Iowa supporters of Barack Obama before the 2008 caucuses who are now backing Clinton. An Iowa House Democrat at that time, Jochum headed Obama’s leadership team in Dubuque County. Obama easily won a plurality of delegates in Dubuque and carried all of the neighboring counties too.

More important, Jochum is a hero to many on what you might call “the Democratic wing of the Iowa Democratic Party.” I’m thinking of the 26 percent who voted for Ed Fallon in the 2006 gubernatorial primary, as well as people who have long advocated for campaign finance reform at the state level. Although I think highly of Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, he’s not the progressive champion Jochum is–not by a long shot. She has helped fight some very tough fights, where powerful interest groups were lined up on the other side. I can’t think of an Iowa state legislator in my lifetime who has reached such a senior leadership position while being as consistently progressive as Jochum.

My impression is that many on the “Democratic wing” of the party have already committed to caucus for Bernie Sanders. Others feel conflicted as I do, drawn to Sanders for his passion and his uncompromising policy agenda, while recognizing Clinton’s strengths as a candidate and what it would mean for this country to elect a woman president. That Jochum is on board with Clinton could carry a lot of weight with undecided Democrats like me.

Before today, eight Democratic state senators and nine state representatives had already endorsed Clinton for the 2016 caucuses. I’ve enclosed the full list after the jump, along with excerpts from Jochum’s Des Moines Register op-ed.

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Judge denies motion to dismiss lawsuit over Branstad closing mental health facilities

Polk County District Court Judge Douglas Staskal ruled yesterday that a lawsuit challenging Governor Terry Branstad’s line-item vetoes of mental health facility funding can move forward.

A group of Democratic state legislators and AFSCME, Iowa’s largest public employee union, filed the lawsuit in July. Last month, attorneys for the state filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit or force the plaintiffs to “recast” (revise and resubmit) their court filing.

But in a thirteen-page ruling, Judge Staskal rejected the state’s arguments that “the plaintiffs lack standing, have failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and that the case presents a nonjusticiable political question.” He found that AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan has standing because he represents the interests of state workers who were laid off when the state government closed in-patient mental health facilities in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. The judge also noted that state legislators “have standing to challenge the propriety of the Governor’s exercise of his veto authority.” Judge Staskal found plaintiffs had stated a claim: “a challenge to the Governor’s exercise of his line-item veto authority.” As for the political question, the ruling noted, “Whether to close Clarinda and Mount Pleasant is a policy matter for the other branches of government. Whether the Governor’s particular use of his line-item veto power is constitutional is a matter for the courts.”

Judge Staskal did find in favor of one argument advanced by state attorneys, releasing Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer as a co-defendant: “The Director [Palmer] plainly has no authority to veto legislation and there is no allegation that he did veto legislation. Therefore, there is no conceivable set of facts upon which relief could be granted on the claim that the Director exercised an improper veto.”    

The legislators who joined this lawsuit are State Senators Rich Taylor, Tom Courtney, Janet Petersen, Tony Bisignano, Herman Quirmbach, and Dick Dearden, and State Representatives Bruce Hunter, Curt Hanson, Jerry Kearns, Mark Smith, Art Staed, Ako Abdul-Samad, Jo Oldson, Ruth Ann Gaines, Sharon Steckman, Todd Taylor, Mary Gaskill, Kirsten Running-Marquardt, Timi Brown-Powers, and Dave Jacoby.

Some big 2008 Obama supporters on new list of Iowa Women for Hillary

Today Hillary Clinton’s campaign released names of “nearly 200 women from all of Iowa’s 99 counties including nearly two dozen State Legislators, County Chairs and local elected officials” who support Clinton’s presidential bid. I’ve enclosed the full list after the jump. Many of these women also backed Clinton for president before the 2008 Iowa caucuses, such as former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell, former State Senator Staci Appel, and Ruth Harkin.

Nine women currently serving in the Iowa House are on the Iowa Women for Hillary list: State Representatives Marti Anderson, Timi Brown-Powers, Abby Finkenauer, Ruth Ann Gaines, Vicki Lensing, Mary Mascher, Jo Oldson, Sally Stutsman, and Phyllis Thede. Lensing and Mascher were among 21 state lawmakers who backed Clinton before the 2008 caucuses. Oldson was also in the legislature then; to my knowledge, she did not endorse a candidate before the 2008 caucuses. I am seeking confirmation and will update as needed.

The others were not in the state legislature in 2007, but Anderson and then Johnson County Supervisor Stutsman were high-profile supporters of Clinton’s campaign. Thede and Gaines were county leaders for Obama. I don’t know whether Finkenauer and Brown-Powers were active volunteers for any of the presidential campaigns that year. UPDATE: Brown-Powers told me that she caucused for Obama but was not active in the campaign.

Two current Iowa Senate Democrats are on the new Iowa Women for Hillary list: Janet Petersen backed Obama in 2007, as a member of the Iowa House. Liz Mathis was not a state lawmaker that year, and I am not aware of her publicly endorsing a candidate.

State Representatives Cindy Winckler and Beth Wessel-Kroeschell endorsed Clinton as Iowa House members in 2007 but have not done so this year. I am seeking comment from both on whether they have picked a different candidate, are undecided, or plan not to endorse before the 2016 caucuses.

Like Gaines and Thede, several other women on today’s press release were among the Obama campaign’s county leaders in 2007, such as Peggy Bramman (Delaware County), Clara Oleson (Cedar County), and Debbie Gitchell and Jan Bauer (Story County).

I got a kick out of seeing Bauer’s name, because earlier this year, she told the Washington Post that she was “waiting to see how aggressively pursued I am” before picking a candidate. Bleeding Heartland cited that comment as an unfortunate example of prairie prima donna behavior, which hurts the Iowa caucuses.

The best-known onetime John Edwards supporter on the new Women for Hillary list is Roxanne Conlin, a former U.S. attorney and Democratic nominee for governor and U.S. Senate. She came out for Clinton a few months ago.

Two other prominent Iowa women who weren’t on today’s press release are worth noting as once-dedicated Obama supporters backing Clinton for president in 2016. Jackie Norris was an early Obama campaign staffer in 2007 and ran Obama’s 2008 general election campaign in Iowa. Early last year, she showed up for the “Ready for Hillary” super PAC’s first event in this state. Former Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky announced in June that she will be helping Clinton’s campaign build support for next year’s caucuses.

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AFSCME, 20 Democratic legislators sue Branstad over mental health closures (updated)

Iowa’s largest public employee union and 20 Democratic state legislators filed a lawsuit today challenging the closure of mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. I enclose below a press release from AFSCME Council 61, which lists the six state senators and fourteen state representatives who joined the lawsuit naming Governor Terry Branstad and Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer.

The Branstad administration announced plans in January to close two of Iowa’s four in-patient mental health facilities. State legislators were neither consulted nor notified in advance. The Department of Human Services started winding down operations well before the end of the 2015 fiscal year. Democrats fought to include funding for the Clarinda and Mount Pleasant institutes in the budget for the current fiscal year, but Branstad item-vetoed the appropriation. The lawsuit contends that closing the facilities violates Iowa Code, which holds that the state “shall operate” mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. The governor’s communications director told KCCI that AFSCME’s leader in Iowa “is resistant to change” and that the closed “centers were not suited to offer modern mental health care.”

The Iowa legislature’s decision next year on whether to fund the Clarinda and Mount Pleasant facilities will be critically important. The Iowa Supreme Court recently dismissed the lawsuit challenging the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home in 2014, without considering the merits of that case, on the grounds that the legislature made the issue “moot” by no longer appropriating state money to operate that facility. By refusing to include funding for the two closed mental health institutes in the budget for fiscal year 2017, Iowa House Republicans could bolster the Branstad administration’s efforts to defeat the lawsuit filed today.

UPDATE: Added more speculation about this lawsuit’s prospects below.

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Iowa Senate, House approve gas tax increase

A bill that would raise Iowa’s gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon is on its way to Governor Terry Branstad’s desk after approval today by both chambers in the Iowa legislature. The Iowa Senate passed Senate File 257 this morning by 28 votes to 21. Sixteen Democrats and twelve Republicans voted for the bill, while ten Democrats and eleven Republicans opposed it. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal had reportedly insisted on at least half the GOP caucus supporting a gas tax increase as a condition for bringing the bill to the floor.

A few hours later, the Iowa House took up the Senate bill (rather than the bill that cleared two House committees last week). Thirty Republicans and 23 Democrats voted yes, while 26 Republicans and 20 Democrats voted no.

Only two state legislators missed today’s votes: Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren and Republican State Representative Chip Baltimore. Baltimore voted against the House version of this bill in committee last week, while Chelgren doesn’t serve on the committees that approved the bill in the Senate. Chelgren appears to have been absent for all of today’s votes, while Baltimore was at the Capitol but left the chamber when the gas tax bill came up. Speaking to reporters later, he tried to make a virtue out of his absence: “I refuse to legitimize either the bill or the process with a vote.” Weak sauce from a guy who is widely expected to seek higher office someday.

Conservative groups are urging Branstad to veto Senate File 257, but that seems unlikely, given the governor’s recent comments on road funding. Branstad’s spokesman said today that the governor will carefully review the final bill before deciding whether to sign it.  

After the jump I’ve enclosed the roll call votes in both chambers, as well as Senate Transportation Committee Chair Tod Bowman’s opening remarks this morning, which summarize key points in Senate File 257.

Final note: several of the “no” votes came from lawmakers who may face competitive re-election campaigns in 2016. Those include Democrats Chris Brase (Senate district 46), Steve Sodders (Senate district 36), and Mary Jo Wilhelm (Senate district 26), and Republicans Dennis Guth (Senate district 4) and Amy Sinclair (Senate district 14).

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2015

The Iowa House will begin its 2015 session on January 12 with 57 Republicans and 43 Democrats (assuming a Republican wins the January 6 special election in House district 4). Depending on who wins that special election, the 100 state representatives will include either 27 or 28 women, and either 72 or 73 men.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since the previous legislative session.

Some non-political trivia: two of the three state representatives with the surname Olson retired this year, as did one of the two Iowa House members named Smith. There are still two Millers and two Taylors in the legislature’s lower chamber, one from each party. As for first names, the new cohort contains five six Davids (four go by Dave), four Roberts (two Robs, one Bob, and a Bobby), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), three four Johns, and three Brians. There are two Lindas, two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz), and two men each named Dan, Mark, Greg, Chuck, Bruce, Todd, and Chris.

2015 UPDATE: Added below information for John Kooiker, who won the House district 4 special election, and David Sieck, who won the House district 23 special election.  

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Fewer women will serve in the Iowa Senate, more in Iowa House

For the past two years, ten women have served in the Iowa Senate (20 percent of the chamber’s membership). That number will fall to seven or eight by the time the newly-elected legislature begins its 2015 session.

However, the number of women who will serve in the Iowa House will grow from 25 to 27 for the next two years. Follow me after the jump for details and a full list of Democratic and Republican women who will serve in the newly-elected Iowa legislature.

Following up on prospects for increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the Iowa legislature, all five African-American state representatives were re-elected to the Iowa House this week: Helen Miller (House district 9), Ruth Ann Gaines (House district 32), Ako Abdul-Samad (House district 35), Deborah Berry (House district 62), and Phyllis Thede (House district 93). Neither party nominated any African-American candidates for the Iowa Senate, which remains all-white.  

Iowans have yet to elect a Latino candidate to the state legislature. Democrats nominated Karyn Finn in House district 60 and Maria Bribriesco in Senate district 47, but both lost to Republican incumbents on Tuesday.

As has been the case since Swati Dandekar left the Iowa Senate in 2011, the Iowa legislature includes no Asian-American lawmakers. Neither party nominated any Asian-American candidates in 2014.

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Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature

Forty men and ten women currently serve in the Iowa Senate. No senators are African-American, Latino, or Asian-American.

Seventy-five men and 25 women currently serve in the Iowa House. Five state representatives are African-American and none are Latino or Asian-American.

Time for a look at how those numbers might change after the November election, now that primaries have determined the major-party nominees in all state legislative districts. Click here for the June 3 unofficial election results and here for the full list of candidates who filed to run in the primaries.

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Iowa House rejects broadband access bill

When bills come to the floor of the Iowa House or Senate, the outcome of the vote is typically a foregone conclusion. Leaders rarely call up bills that don’t have the votes to pass. But in “the most surprising vote of the day, if not this year’s session,” Iowa House members on Friday rejected House File 2472, a bill designed to expand broadband access in small-town and rural Iowa. The initiative was among Governor Terry Branstad’s legislative priorities this year. While the goal is uncontroversial, especially in communities where people are stuck with dialup internet, lawmakers disagreed on how to accomplish the task.

The House Journal for April 25 includes details from the floor debate, including roll calls on two Democratic amendments that failed to pass on party-line votes. One of them was a “strike” amendment replacing the entire content of House File 2472 with stronger incentives favored by House Democrats. After the routine business of rejecting minority party amendments, a vote was called on final passage. But only 42 Republicans voted yes, joined by just two Democrats. I’ve posted a list of yes and no votes after the jump. House Minority Leader Mark Smith said Democrats opposed the bill because it “does not go far enough in expanding broadband access to more homes and small businesses.” The Republicans who voted no may have been put off by the size of the tax breaks or the lack of accountability. State Representative Guy Vander Linden told Radio Iowa, “We don’t say they need to meet any requirements in terms of our capacity, speed – anything. All we say is: ‘If you will put broadband infrastructure in place in any unserved or underserved area…we’ll give you all these benefits.’ That, to me, sounds like a blank check that I’m not willing to sign up to.”

House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer has already filed a motion to reconsider the vote on this bill, so leaders may believe they can find the votes they need through friendly persuasion or arm-twisting. (She was one of the “no” votes, presumably to preserve her ability to file the bill again after realizing it would not pass.) Two Republicans (Clel Baudler and Ron Jorgensen) were absent from Friday’s vote. Assuming they support the broadband bill and Upmeyer changes her vote, House leaders would need to persuade four more Republicans or Democrats.

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Education budget passes, ensuring tuition freeze at state universities

Iowa lawmakers are finally getting the hang of divided control–or maybe they just want to get out of town early in an election year. During the 2011 legislative session, Iowa House Republicans and Senate Democrats were still arguing about state budget targets well into June and didn’t approve final spending bills until the very last day of the fiscal year.

In contrast, legislative leaders agreed on fiscal year 2015 spending targets seven weeks ago. On April 23, both the Iowa House and Senate approved the conference committee report for the education appropriations bill. Details on the education budget debate, final funding levels and roll calls are after the jump.

Amazingly, the legislature may be ready to adjourn for the year by the end of next week.

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What could go wrong? Less training for manure spreaders edition

More than 800 manure spills have occurred on Iowa farms during the past two decades. At least 262 manure spills reached Iowa waterways between 2001 and 2011 alone, affecting the vast majority of counties.

More than half of rivers and streams in the region including Iowa are in “poor condition for aquatic life.” Manure spills are a major contributing factor to this problem, and they are happening more often. The number of recorded manure spills in Iowa grew from 46 in 2012 to 76 in 2013.

How should state government respond to this set of facts? Various policies might address the explosion in waterways officially recognized as “impaired.”  

But this is Iowa, where it’s a minor miracle to get state lawmakers to take any steps against water pollution, and agricultural interests have repeatedly moved to undermine regulations related to the handling of manure on large-scale farms.

Last week, two-thirds of Iowa House members saw fit to reduce continuing education requirements for people certified to spread liquid manure on farm fields.  

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What could go wrong? Iowa House legalizes silencers (updated)

Most gun-related bills failed to make it through in the Iowa legislature’s first “funnel” last week. The list of proposals that are dead for this year included efforts to restrict access to firearms (such as Senate File 2179 to close the gun show loophole) and several bills aimed at making guns more available: House File 384 to authorize possession of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns; House File 169/Senate File 251 to allow Iowans with permits to carry concealed weapons on school grounds; House File 172 to allow school employees to carry guns in school; and House File 2012 to allow children as young as 12 to possess handguns.

The trouble is, many incumbents don’t want to face the gun lobby’s wrath in an election year. Many lawmakers want to have something to brag about when pro-gun activists compile scorecards and endorsement lists. Such concerns prompted Iowa House and Senate leaders to revive and eventually pass a 2010 bill to make it easier for Iowans to carry concealed weapons.

I believe the same dynamic prompted Iowa House members to vote overwhelmingly yesterday to legalize firearm suppressors, better known as “silencers” popular for many decades among snipers and assassins.

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IA-Gov: Leonard Boswell, 14 legislators endorse Jack Hatch (updated)

State Senator Jack Hatch’s campaign released a list of prominent Iowa endorsers today, including eight-term U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell, eight Iowa Senate Democrats (Dennis Black, Joe Bolkcom, Tom Courtney, Dick Dearden, Matt McCoy, Steve Sodders, Joe Seng, and Rich Taylor), and six Iowa House Democrats (Ako Abdul-Samad, Marti Anderson, John Forbes, Ruth Ann Gaines, Bruce Hunger, and Frank Wood). Several of those lawmakers stood with Hatch during his statewide tour last month to announce his candidacy. Others had not taken a public stand in the governor’s race before today, to my knowledge.

I’ve posted the Hatch campaign’s press release after the jump. Boswell and several of the endorsers cited Hatch’s experience and record of legislative accomplishments, themes I expect to hear repeatedly during the next eight months. Hatch’s main Democratic primary competition, State Representative Tyler Olson, has support from more than two dozen state lawmakers but doesn’t have nearly as much legislative experience. Nor is he known for doing the heavy lifting on many bills that have become law.

This comment from Senator Tom Courtney jumped out at me from today’s press release: “Anyone can floor manage a bill passed out of another chamber or sign on as a co-sponsor to an existing bill, but Jack has shown real leadership throughout his time in public service – creating new ideas, finding allies, drafting legislation, and fighting to see it succeed in the legislative process.” I read that as a subtle swipe at Olson, because his major legislative accomplishment was floor-managing the public smoking ban in 2008–a cause initially pushed by other legislators, including Janet Petersen and Staci Appel. Highlighting Hatch’s “new ideas” is also an implicit rebuttal to Olson’s promise to provide “fresh leadership” for the next 30 years.

Any comments about the governor’s race are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Added details below on the Hatch campaign’s steering committee.

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Analysis of the Obama-Romney vote in the Iowa House districts

The Daily Kos Elections team has been compiling 2012 presidential election results by state legislative district as well as by Congressional district, state by state. Last week the Iowa numbers were added to the database. I took a first stab at previewing the battle for control of the Iowa Senate next year, using data including the raw vote totals and percentages for President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in each district.

The Daily Kos database includes Obama and Romney vote totals and percentages for each Iowa House district here. After the jump I’ve incorporated that information and other factors to predict which Iowa House districts will be competitive in 2014. Writing this post has been challenging, because every election cycle brings surprises, and many more seats in the lower chamber will be in play. Unlike the Iowa Senate, where only half of the 50 members are on the ballot in each general election, all 100 Iowa House members are on ballot in every even-numbered year. Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority in the lower chamber.

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Last-minute Iowa legislative scramble is nothing to brag about

The Iowa Senate wrapped up its work for the year shortly after midnight on May 23, and Iowa House members adjourned about 11 hours later. Lawmakers in both parties have been congratulating themselves for compromising on some big issues that ended in stalemate the previous two years. Rod Boshart compiled an excellent list of what the legislature did and didn’t approve during 2013.

We all can appreciate the desire to finish a big project before a holiday weekend, and since legislators stopped receiving per diem payments weeks ago, they understandably wanted to get out of town as quickly as possible. However, I found it disturbing that votes were held before most lawmakers, let alone members of the public, had time to digest final conference committee deals on education reform, an alternative to Medicaid expansion, property taxes, and the health and human services budget. Transparency isn’t just a buzzword. Had journalists and advocacy groups been able to look over the last-minute compromises, people might have discovered problematic language or even simple drafting errors, which could produce unintended consequences after Governor Terry Branstad signs these bills into law.

I have a lot of questions about the final education reform bill and the plan to provide health insurance to low-income Iowans, particularly those earning between 101 percent and 138 percent of the poverty level. I also need more time to sort through the budget numbers and final changes to the standings bill. After the holiday weekend Bleeding Heartland will examine the important results of the legislative session in more detail. For now, I’ve posted after the jump details on who voted for and against the major bills approved this week.

UPDATE: In the May 24 edition of the On Iowa Politics podcast, statehouse reporters Mike Wiser and James Lynch discussed how the big issues came together “behind closed doors,” with no public scrutiny or oversight. Lynch commented that to his knowledge, the conference committee named to resolve the impasse over Medicaid expansion never formally met, except perhaps for one organizational meeting. Lynch recounted one occasion when Iowa House Republican Dave Heaton was briefing journalists about the health care talks, and the journalists asked when that happened, since there hadn’t been any public notices of conference committee meetings. According to Lynch, Heaton replied, “We’re not having meetings, but we’re meeting.” Senate President Pam Jochum said that negotiations between Democratic State Senator Amanda Ragan and House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer produced the “key to Iowa’s health care compromise.” Notably, Upmeyer didn’t have a prominent role in passing the House health insurance plan, nor was she named to the conference committee assigned to merge the House and Senate proposals.

Speaking to journalists on May 22, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Jochum weren’t able to answer a specific question about compromise wording reached regarding Medicaid coverage of abortions. That was no minor issue–it was the last sticking point holding up approval of the health and human services budget. In effect, Gronstal told journalists, you can see the wording after the final bill is published.

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Another Iowa legislative victory for Big Ag

Factory farm advocates failed in 2009 to circumvent the Iowa DNR’s rulemaking on applying manure over frozen and snow-covered ground. Then they failed in 2010 to win passage of a bill designed to weaken Iowa’s newly-adopted regulations on manure storage and application.

But this year, the Iowa Pork Producers Association succeeded in convincing state lawmakers to relax requirements for CAFO operators to be able to store their own manure properly. All they had to do was dress up their effort as an attempt to help families with aspiring young farmers.

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IA-Sen: Most Democratic state legislators endorse Braley

Representative Bruce Braley’s campaign for U.S. Senate rolled out its largest batch of endorsements today: 71 state legislators. All 26 Iowa Senate Democrats plus 45 of the 47 Iowa House Democrats are named in the press release I’ve posted after the jump. For some reason, Iowa House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy are not in this group. Murphy is running for the first Congressional district seat Braley is vacating.

Earlier this week, Braley’s campaign announced that it raised more than $1 million during the first quarter. That is a solid number, and I’ll be interested to see how the numbers break own (contributions from individuals vs PACs, for instance). Bleeding Heartland will publish a detailed roundup of Iowa Congressional fundraising after all the candidates have filed their reports with the Federal Election Commission. Those reports are due April 15.

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Iowa House votes to relax manure storage rules for CAFOs (updated)

In an ideal world, evidence that more than half of Midwest rivers and streams can’t support aquatic life would inspire policy-makers to clean up our waterways. Rivers that are suitable for swimming, fishing, and other recreation can be a huge economic engine for Iowa communities.

We live in Iowa, where most of our lawmakers take the Patty Judge view: “Iowa is an agricultural state and anyone who doesn’t like it can leave in any of four directions.”

Yesterday the Iowa House approved a bill to relax manure storage regulations for large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). All of the House Republicans and two-thirds of the Democrats supported this bad legislation. Details on the bill and the House vote are below.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2013

The Iowa House will begin its 2013 session next Monday with 53 Republicans, 46 Democrats and one seat to be filled in a special election on January 22.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year’s legislative session.

Some non-political Iowa House trivia: three state representatives have the surname Olson (not counting Democrat Jo Oldson). There are two Millers, two Taylors, and two Smiths, one from each party in every case. David is most common first name: the new cohort contains three Daves and two Davids. Four state representatives have the first name Mark, four are called Daniel (three go by Dan) and four were given the name Robert (two Robs, one Bob, and a Bobby). Four women are named Mary (one goes by Mary Ann), and two are named Linda. There are two men each named Greg, Chuck, John, Kevin, Pat, Bruce, Tom, and Chris, and there would have been two Brians if Brian Quirk had not resigned shortly after winning re-election. Oddly, no current Iowa House member is named Mike or Michael.

JANUARY 28 UPDATE: Democrat Todd Prichard won the special election in House district 52, bringing the number of Todds in the Iowa House to two. I’ve added his committee assignments below. Republicans maintain a 53-47 majority.

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Full list of Iowa House Democratic leaders, ranking members

Yesterday the Iowa House Democrats announced ranking members for all the standing and appropriations committees for the 2013 legislative session. Below I’ve posted the full list of House minority leaders and ranking members. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year. House Democrats will start the session with 46 caucus members, because State Representative Brian Quirk just resigned his seat.

House Republicans named all the committee chairs earlier this week.

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New Iowa House and Senate will include more women

Americans elected record numbers of women to Congress on Tuesday. Beginning in January, 20 women will serve in the U.S. Senate, and 78 women will serve in the U.S. House. During the past two years, seventeen U.S. senators and 73 U.S. representatives were women.

Although Iowans continued our streak of not sending women to Congress, we did elect some new women to the state legislature, producing a slight gain in the total number of female lawmakers.  

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First look at Democratic prospects for Iowa House gains

The redistricting process and several Republican retirements have created many pickup opportunities for Iowa House Democrats. The devastating 2010 election left them nowhere to go but up in the lower chamber, where Republicans currently enjoy a 60 to 40 majority. Relatively few sitting House Democrats represent vulnerable districts.

Speaking to activists at the Polk County Democratic convention on March 10, I heard lots of optimism about the House races. After the jump I’ve posted some early thoughts on the seats up for grabs.

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Weekend open thread: Women's Appreciation Day edition

Every year as International Women’s Day approaches, the Democratic Activist Women’s Network recognizes women who have excelled in Iowa politics. This week DAWN’s List announced the 2012 award-winners who will be honored at a reception in Des Moines on March 4. Event details are after the jump, along with the list of honorees for the Women’s Appreciation Day Reception.

On International Women’s Day itself (March 8), the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Des Moines, Sisters on the Planet Ambassadors, and the Iowa Oxfam Action Corps are hosting a potluck, speaker, and movie screening at the Thoreau Center, 3500 Kingman Blvd in Des Moines, from 5:00pm to 7:30pm.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

UPDATE: Over at the Essential Estrogen blog, Lynda Waddington reviewed what the four Republican women in the Iowa Senate have been doing this session.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2012

Although the 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats in the Iowa House haven’t changed since last year, I thought it was worth updating this post, because some committee assignments have changed, and House Democrats reshuffled their ranking members somewhat.

Majority and minority leadership teams are after the jump, along with all members of standing House committees. All 100 House districts are on the ballot every two years, so I’ve noted the new district numbers for state representatives seeking re-election in 2012, as well as which House members have said they will retire after this year’s legislative session.

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Iowa House passes pro-nuclear bill; Senate prospects unclear

After more than five hours of debate, the Iowa House on April 26 approved a bill to let MidAmerican Energy charge consumers for costs associated with a nuclear reactor it may or may not build in the coming decade. House File 561 passed 68 to 30. All Republicans present except two voted yes, joined by 12 House Democrats: Deborah Berry (district 22), Chris Hall (district 2), Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (district 67), Dan Muhlbauer (district 51), Pat Murphy (district 28), Rick Olson (district 68), Brian Quirk (district 15), Mark Smith (district 43), Phyllis Thede (district 81), Andrew Wenthe (district 18), John Wittneben (district 7) and Mary Wolfe (district 26). The remaining 29 House Democrats voted against the bill. Two Republicans voted no: Guy Vander Linden (district 75) and Kim Pearson (district 42).

Details on the House debate and efforts to amend the bill are after the jump, along with some speculation about its prospects in the Senate and thoughts about the coalitions lobbying for and against it.  

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Iowa House passes big government abortion ban

The abortion issue magically transforms conservatives from people who want to keep bureaucrats from getting between you and your doctor into people eager to let the government limit pregnant women’s medical care. The Iowa House demonstrated that contradiction again yesterday, as representatives approved a ban on most abortions after 20 weeks gestation.

House File 657 is modeled on a Nebraska statute with the intent of stopping Omaha physician Leroy Carhart from opening an abortion clinic in Iowa. State representatives voted 60 to 39 to send the bill to the Senate. The yes votes included 56 Republicans and four Democrats: Dan Muhlbauer (district 51), Brian Quirk (district 15), Kurt Swaim (district 94) and Roger Thomas (district 24). Three first-term Republicans–Kim Pearson (district 42), Glen Massie (district 74) and Tom Shaw (district 8)–voted no, along with the rest of the House Democratic caucus. Those Republicans have argued against the bill because it would ban less than 1 percent of abortions in Iowa; their opposition forced House Republican leaders to pull the bill out of the House Human Resources Committee and send it to Government Oversight instead.

Excerpts from yesterday’s arguments for and against House File 657 are after the jump, along with thoughts about the bill’s prospects in the Iowa Senate.

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Iowa House Democrats elect Kevin McCarthy minority leader

Iowa House Democrats elected Kevin McCarthy minority leader for the coming legislative session on November 15. McCarthy represents district 67 on the southeast side of Des Moines. He served as House majority leader for the last four years alongside House Speaker Pat Murphy. Murphy did not seek the minority leader position after the election shrank the House Democratic caucus from 56 members to 40. The caucus elected four assistant minority leaders today: Ako Abdul-Samad from district 66 (Des Moines), Mark Smith from district 43 (Marshalltown), Sharon Steckman from district 13 (Mason City), and Mary Mascher from district 77 (Iowa City).

The press release from the House Democratic caucus does not say whether anyone challenged McCarthy for the leadership position. Last week Dave Jacoby of Coralville and Mark Smith were rumored to be considering a run for minority leader, although Smith told the Des Moines Register he had decided against pursuing the job. LATE UPDATE: McCarthy told IowaPolitics.com that Smith did challenge him for minority leader, but declined further comment.

I’ve never been in the McCarthy fan club. He and Murphy sometimes pushed bad legislation, including the odor study bill that was a gift to CAFO operators. McCarthy is also a notorious opponent of real campaign finance reform. I’m not just talking about the VOICE act, which would have created a voluntary public financing system. I’m talking about reasonable contribution limits, which the Democratic House and Senate leadership never moved in the past four years. I doubt McCarthy will collect many five-figure checks for the House Truman Fund once Iowa has a Republican governor and a large GOP majority in the lower chamber.

While I would have preferred to see a new face for House Democrats who wasn’t part of last session’s leadership team, I wish McCarthy well. He’ll have a big job holding the Democratic caucus together and laying the groundwork for future gains.

McCarthy issued this statement today: “House Democrats are committed to strengthening our economy and helping create jobs. We will work together on the main stream, bread and butter issues that effect the every day lives of Iowans. However, if Republicans steer to more extreme policies at the expense of ordinary Iowans, we will make our voices heard.” The reality is that with 60 votes and almost no moderates left in the GOP caucus, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer won’t need to work with Democrats on any bills they want to pass, no matter how extreme.

Even though the House Democratic caucus will be much smaller next year, it still will have some new blood. Seven Democrats won open-seat House races on November 2: Chris Hall from district 2 (elected despite unusually strong GOP performance in Sioux City), John Wittneben from district 7 (Palo Alto, Emmet and part of Kossuth counties), Anesa Kajtazovic from district 21 (Waterloo), Mary Wolfe from district 26 (Clinton), Dan Kelley from district 41 (Newton and most of Jasper County), Dan Muhlbauer from district 51 (Carroll County and parts of Crawford and Sac), and Ruth Ann Gaines from district 65 (Des Moines).

LATE UPDATE: McCarthy’s comments on the election and the upcoming session are after the jump.

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Iowa candidate filings deadline thread

The filing deadline for statewide and state legislative offices closed at the end of business today. John Deeth has been covering the highlights at his blog. Click here to download a pdf file from the Secretary of State’s office for the full candidate list.

As I mentioned earlier, Governor Chet Culver has no primary challenger. All three remaining Republican gubernatorial candidates qualified for the ballot (Terry Branstad, Rod Roberts, Bob Vander Plaats).

There will be a three-way Democratic primary for U.S. Senate between Roxanne Conlin, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause.

Republicans have a full slate of candidates for statewide offices. Sadly, Democrats failed to find anyone to take on Auditor David Vaudt.

Four Republicans filed against Bruce Braley in Iowa’s first Congressional district, and four Republicans filed against Dave Loebsack in the second district. All seven declared GOP candidates qualified for the ballot in Iowa’s third district. I would not be surprised if a district convention ends up selecting Leonard Boswell’s opponent.

Bill Maske is the only Democrat running against Tom Latham in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district. As expected, we will have a competitive primary in the fifth between Mike Denklau and Matt Campbell.

Most surprising statehouse district left uncontested: House district 16 in northeast Iowa. I had heard rumors that Republicans had no candidate against freshman State Representative John Beard, but I’m still shocked they left him unchallenged. That was a battleground race in 2008. Does anyone know whether a GOP district convention will be able to name a candidate for this race later?

Democrats didn’t leave any obviously competitive statehouse districts open. I’m a little disappointed we don’t have a candidate in House district 73, from which Republican Jodi Tymeson is retiring. It is a fairly strong GOP district, but I thought a candidate pounding the pavement there might help State Senator Staci Appel in her re-election campaign against Kent Sorenson (Senate district 37).

We found a candidate in House district 51 (Carroll County), which Rod Roberts is vacating to run for governor. Democrat Larry Lesle of Manning will face the winner of a three-way GOP primary.

Yesterday two-term incumbent Elesha Gayman surprised many people by announcing her retirement from House district 84 in Davenport. Gayman indicated that no one had been lined up to replace her, but today Shari Carnahan filed for that seat as a Democrat. She will face Gayman’s 2008 opponent, Ross Paustian.

Ruth Ann Gaines ended up being the only Democrat to file in Wayne Ford’s district 65 (Des Moines).

Six Democratic Iowa House incumbents have primary challengers. The people running against Dave Jacoby (district 30, Iowa City/Coralville) and Geri Huser (district 42, east side of Des Moines) appear to be backed by organized labor. A socially conservative pastor, Clair Rudison, is running against Ako Abdul-Samad in district 66 (Des Moines). Anesa Kajtazovic stepped up to the plate in House district 21 (Waterloo). Freshman Kerry Burt really should have retired from that seat. I don’t know what the deal is with Kenneth Oglesby, who is challenging Chuck Isenhart in district 27 (Dubuque). Likewise, I have no idea why Mike Petersen is running against Mary Gaskill in district 93 (Ottumwa). Please post a comment or e-mail me (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know the backstory.

Most surprising retirement: Republican Doug Struyk in district 99. The GOP candidate for secretary of state in 2006, Mary Ann Hanusa, is running for the Council Bluffs-based seat instead. She will face Democrat Kurt Hubler, who nearly defeated Struyk in 2008. Struyk was first elected as a Democrat but switched parties several years ago. His departure will leave only one turncoat in the Iowa House. We failed to field a candidate against Dawn Pettengill (district 39), who switched to the GOP in 2007.

More posts are coming soon on some of the battleground statehouse races. Meanwhile, post any relevant comments in this thread.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that we will see seven or eight rematches in Iowa House races. Republicans are running Josh Thurston and Stephen Burgmeier and 2009 special election winners Kirsten Running-Marquardt (district 33) and Curt Hanson (district 90). Also, in district 23 first-term Democrat Gene Ficken will face the Republican he beat in 2008, Dan Rasmussen. Republican Jane Jech is taking another shot at incumbent Mark Smith in district 43. The district 89 race may be a rematch as well if Jarad Klein wins the GOP primary to face first-term Democrat Larry Marek. In House district 60, first-term Republican Peter Cownie faces 2008 Democratic candidate Alan Koslow. Not only will Koslow be at a severe financial disadvantage, his endorsement of Jonathan Narcisse for governor won’t win him friends among the Democratic base. Democrat Pat VanZante is taking another shot at Jim Van Engelenhoven in district 71 (assuming Van Engelenhoven doesn’ lose to his GOP primary challenger). Republican Dave Heaton will face his 2008 opponent, Ron Fedler, in district 91.

SECOND UPDATE: Republicans are crowing that they are fielding candidates in 88 of the 100 Iowa House districts, while Democrats are fielding candidates in only 75 districts. I would like to challenge Republicans everywhere, but it’s only natural that Iowa Democrats are going to focus more on defense this year. We already have the majority, and it could be a tough cycle for incumbents at all levels.

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