Des Moines City Council members flouted gender balance requirement

Two Des Moines City Council members seeking re-election on November 5 used their appointment powers to perpetuate a gender imbalance on a key board in the state’s largest city, despite a state law requiring certain local boards to have no more than a simple majority of male or female members.

Joe Gatto, who represents Ward 4, and Linda Westergaard (Ward 2) both named men to fill vacancies on the Des Moines Plan and Zoning Commission when state law indicated a woman should have been appointed. Gatto has done so twice. The second time, his choice worsened the commission’s imbalance and happened well before the end of a statutory period during which officials are supposed to make a “good faith effort” to find someone from the underrepresented gender.

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Iowa local election results discussion thread

Polls closed at 8:00 pm across Iowa. What local elections are you following tonight, Bleeding Heartland readers?

Polk County voters appear to have approved Public Measure A to fund improvements to the county court system. UPDATE: With all precincts reporting, “yes” on A has 21,702 votes (67 percent) to 10,611 votes (33 percent) for “no.”

With 65 of 71 precincts reporting, Des Moines at-large City Council member Skip Moore has 7,720 votes, while challenger Chris Diebel has 4,725 votes. Incumbent Chris Hensley has been re-elected in the third ward, and in the open first ward, Bill Gray has a lead over Sean Bagniewski, the candidate preferred by many progressives and labor activists.

UPDATE: Windsor Heights results are in: for the first time I can remember, all of the candidates I supported won! Longtime city council member Diana Willits won the open race for mayor (Jerry Sullivan retired). Diana is one of the few Republicans I’ve consistently voted for over the years. Unofficial results for city council indicate that the winners were incumbent Betty Glover (whom I didn’t support) and candidates Steve Peterson and Tony Timm (for whom I voted). Peterson is a former city council member and was the Joe Biden precinct captain in Windsor Heights 2 in 2008. Timm is the executive director of the largest homeless shelter in Des Moines.

SECOND UPDATE: By a 2-1 margin, Iowa City voters upheld the city ordinance keeping 19 and 20-year-olds out of bars. The Iowa City council results will be a disappointment to those who were hoping to elect more progressives in the “people’s republic.”

THIRD UPDATE: Looks like the incumbents were re-elected in Coralville, a big loss for the Koch brothers’ group Americans for Prosperity.

FOURTH UPDATE: Two local officials who are running for the state legislature as Republicans lost yesterday. Royce Phillips was a city council member in Tiffin and is a candidate for the open Iowa Senate district 39. Mark LeRette was a city council member in Muscatine and is a candidate for the open House district 91.

Cedar Rapids voters re-elected Mayor Ron Corbett. An ten-year extension of the local-option sales tax also passed easily in the Cedar Rapids metro area.

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Des Moines City Council: Skip Moore's and Chris Diebel's case to voters

I can’t remember a local race that’s been more divisive for central Iowa Democrats than the Des Moines at-large City Council contest between Skip Moore and Chris Diebel. (That includes Ed Fallon’s challenge to Leonard Boswell in the 2008 Democratic primary to represent IA-03. In that race, the whole local establishment was on Boswell’s side.) I’ve been meaning to post an update on the city council race for the past week, but frankly, I wanted to avoid sparking a flamewar like some of the Facebook threads I’ve seen.

The early returns tonight indicate a big victory for Moore.

After the jump I’ve posted examples of positive and negative messages from the Diebel and Moore campaigns, along with one of the direct-mail pieces the National Association of Realtors Fund sent to Des Moines residents. The realtors’ group appears to be polling voters to gauge whether their mailing and radio ads have helped Diebel. During the last couple of days, several of my acquaintances in Des Moines have received telephone polls that asked them why they were supporting the candidate of their choice, and whether Diebel’s mail or the realtors’ mail affected their vote.  

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National Association of Realtors buying radio ads for Chris Diebel

For the first time yesterday, I heard radio commercials supporting Chris Diebel’s campaign for the at-large Des Moines City Council seat. The National Association of Realtors Fund paid for the radio spots. I managed to tape one this morning and have posted the transcript after the jump, along with a comment from Diebel.

Both Diebel and Skip Moore, the incumbent he is challenging, are Democrats, but the realtors’ ad seems designed to appeal to Republican-leaning voters. The election will take place on November 5.

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Brian Meyer only Democrat competing for Iowa House district 33

Following up on yesterday’s news, Des Moines City Council member Brian Meyer will be unchallenged for the Democratic nomination in Iowa House district 33, where a special election is set for October 22. The two Democrats who had announced campaigns, Karl Schilling and Joe Henry, both endorsed Meyer yesterday. Felix Gallagher confirmed by telephone today that he had considered running for the House seat but decided against the race. By the way, I forgot to mention that Gallagher was the treasurer for Desmund Adams’ campaign in Iowa Senate district 22 last year.

Meyer’s press release spoke of entering the race “in the hopes of unifying the party and continuing the good work of former Representative [Kevin] McCarthy.” I don’t see any urgency to unify the party in a district Republicans have no realistic hope of winning. The latest Civic Skinny column in the Des Moines weekly Cityview suggests another reason for Meyer to get into the race:

Word is that Marshalltown’s Mark Smith, who bested Des Moines’ Rick Olson, 24-20, in the caucus vote to succeed Kevin McCarthy as head of the Democrats in the Iowa House, has let go McCarthy’s key aide, Des Moines City Councilman Brian Meyer. The move has surprised – and upset – some Democrats. …

In all likelihood the Iowa House seat will be Meyer’s for as long as he wants it. That would force a special election to replace Meyer as the Des Moines City Council member representing Ward 4. Bleeding Heartland user Columcille raises the interesting possibility of Chris Diebel running for that seat, instead of challenging incumbent Skip Moore for the at-large council seat. UPDATE: A Bleeding Heartland reader alerted me to a big problem with that scenario: Diebel lives in Ward 3, not Ward 4 (city council map here).  

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