Jason Kander: If you come for our right to vote, we're coming for your job

“Iowa is on the front lines of this fight for voting rights in America,” Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander told state Democratic convention delegates on June 16. “And I’m here because a threat to democracy anywhere in America is a threat to democracy everywhere in America.”

The founder of Let America Vote was the only non-Iowan on the convention speaker’s list. His remarks were a highlight of the morning proceedings, so I’ve enclosed below the audio clip and full transcript. Among the memorable lines: “let’s send a message to every vote-suppressing politician in Iowa and across America that if you want to attack democracy, you’ve got to go through us. And if you want to come for our right to vote, we’re coming for your job.”

Kander has visited our state more than a dozen times in the last year and a half, raising awareness about voter suppression and headlining events for Democratic candidates or progressive organizations. Let America Vote’s executive director Abe Rakov has been based in Des Moines since last fall.

The group will particularly target the Iowa secretary of state race; Kander told reporters yesterday that Democratic nominee Deidre DeJear is “totally awesome.” (Fact check: true.) Let America Vote will also support some state legislative candidates. Last weekend they had interns out canvassing for four Democratic challengers in the suburbs of Des Moines: Heather Matson (House district 38), Karin Derry (House district 39), Kristin Sunde (House district 42), and Jennifer Konfrst (House district 43). Kander said on June 16 that Let America Vote has more than 40 interns on the ground in Iowa and knocked more than 7,000 doors here in the last five days.

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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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Republicans virtually guaranteed to pick up Iowa Senate district 1

State Senator David Johnson, the only independent to serve in the Iowa legislature in recent decades, announced today he will not seek re-election in November. He had won four previous state Senate races as a Republican and indicated last year that he planned to run for another term. However, Johnson had neither raised nor spent any money from his campaign account since January 1.

The retirement gives the GOP, which already holds 29 of the 50 seats in the upper chamber, a clear shot at picking up Senate district 1 in the state’s northwest corner. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, this district contains 7,304 active registered Democrats, 20,589 Republicans, and 13,333 no-party voters. Only one seat (nearby Senate district 2) is more heavily skewed toward the GOP. Brad Price, Zach Whiting, and Jesse Wolfe are competing for the GOP nomination in Johnson’s district. Democrats did not field a candidate here.

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Iowa legislative recap: Senate confirmations

Continuing a series on news from the Iowa legislature’s 2018 session that attracted little attention before lawmakers adjourned for the year.

The Iowa Senate confirmed almost everyone Governor Kim Reynolds nominated for a state board or commission this year with unanimous or near-unanimous support. However, opposition from Democratic senators blocked three of the governor’s more than 200 appointees (full list here).

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Iowa lawmakers drop lawsuit over governor's illegal fund transfer

Catching up on news overshadowed by the biggest Iowa politics story of the week: on May 23 a group of Iowa House Democrats dropped their legal challenge to Governor Kim Reynolds’ use of emergency funds without legislative approval last September. Reynolds transferred $13 million from the Iowa Economic Emergency Fund to cover a shortfall in the fiscal 2017 budget, despite a warning from State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald that Iowa law did not permit that action.

State Representative Chris Hall, the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Appropriations Committee, filed suit in January, charging that Reynolds and Department of Management Director David Roederer “conspired together to unlawfully appropriate and misuse state funds.” The lawsuit alleged that the governor acted unilaterally in order to avoid the political fallout from calling the legislature back for a special session. House Democrats Marti Anderson, Liz Bennett, Bruce Hunter, Jerry Kearns, Monica Kurth, and Amy Nielsen joined the legal action a few weeks later.

Republican legislators tacitly acknowledged that Reynolds broke the law. They added language to a bill cutting current-year spending that retroactively legalized the governor’s action and appropriated $13 million from the emergency fund to the general fund for fiscal year 2017. (See page 8 of Senate File 2117, which both chambers passed along party lines in March.)

“Our legal challenge held Governor Reynolds and Republicans accountable, and it did so without costing taxpayers a single dime,” Hall said in a news release enclosed in full below. “We have seen too many cover ups and not enough leadership from the Reynolds administration. This is a victory for taxpayers and ensures that our tax dollars will be spent according to the law.”

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that there would be little to gain by following through with this lawsuit. Once the legislature passed and Reynolds signed Senate File 2117, a court would almost certainly have dismissed the case as moot.

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