# Statewide

Attorney general candidate Adam Gregg becoming Iowa's state public defender

Governor Terry Branstad has often appointed unsuccessful Republican candidates to state positions, and this week he named Adam Gregg, the GOP nominee for Iowa attorney general, to be Iowa State Public Defender. I’ve enclosed the press release after the jump. It contains background on Gregg, who worked as a staffer in the governor’s office before running against longtime Democratic incumbent Tom Miller. I don’t anticipate Gregg having any trouble being confirmed by the Iowa Senate.

The Des Moines rumor mill says Miller will retire at the end of his ninth term as attorney general. An race for that position would likely attract many candidates in both parties. I expect Gregg to seek the office in 2018, along with Branstad’s legal counsel Brenna Findley, who was the GOP challenger to Miller in 2010. Several Republicans in the Iowa House or Senate might give this race a look, especially if there are no open Congressional seats on the horizon.

For those wondering whether Gregg or Findley performed better against Miller, the answer depends on how you look at it. Both of the challengers raised quite a bit of money for first-time candidates seeking a statewide office. Gregg raised $191,359 in his first month and a half as a candidate, then nearly another $200,000 before the election; see here and here. Findley also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for her 2010 race; see here, here, and here.

Both Gregg and Findley campaigned energetically around the state, visiting all 99 counties and attending hundreds of public events. In 2010, when total turnout was 1,133,429 for the midterm election, Miller received 607,779 votes to 486,057 for Findley (there were a smattering of write-ins and 38,605 “under votes,” meaning voters left that part of the ballot blank).

This year total turnout was a bit higher at 1,142,226, and Miller received 616,711 votes to 481,046 for Gregg (there were more write-ins and 43,016 under votes).

So Findley received a slightly higher share of the two-party vote, but she also had way more help. Branstad talked up her campaign all year and appeared in one of her television commercials. She was able to run far more radio and tv ads statewide, thanks to more than half a million dollars in transfers from the Republican Party of Iowa. Gregg didn’t get anything like that kind of assistance or exposure, so arguably he got more bang for his campaign bucks.

I’m intrigued that an ambitious young conservative politician wanted to serve as the state public defender. It’s an important job, and I hope Gregg does it well. Some of my favorite people have worked as public defenders. But there’s no getting around the fact that his office will be defending some unsavory characters. The job is risky in that next time Gregg is a candidate for public office, rivals could run “Willie Horton” ads against him highlighting onetime clients who committed horrible crimes.

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The morning after an election

(Amen to that. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Yes, I am sad this morning. And frustrated. And mad. It's inevitable when you spend the better part of two years campaigning for candidates and ideas you strongly believe it. But I won't spend time bashing the winners or criticizing the campaigns for what they supposedly should or should not have done, although we should most definitely learn from any mistakes. And here is why:

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2014 election results discussion thread

Polls across Iowa close in just a few minutes, and I’ll be updating this post with results throughout the evening. Any comments about any of today’s races, in Iowa or elsewhere, are welcome in this thread.

Many races on the east coast and in the Midwest have already been called. As expected, Republicans picked up the U.S. Senate seats in West Virginia, Arkansas, and South Dakota. Louisiana will go to a runoff in December. Jeanne Shaheen held the New Hampshire Senate seat for Democrats, but Kay Hagan may be in trouble in North Carolina, and in a potentially stunning upset, Mark Warner is behind in Virginia. He needs a strong turnout in the DC suburbs.

As state-level results come in, these are the key Iowa Senate races to watch, and these are the key Iowa House races to watch. For the last four years, Democrats have held a 26-24 Iowa Senate majority. For the last two years, Republicans have held a 53-47 Iowa House majority.

UPDATE: Polls are closed and further updates will be after the jump. News organizations called the governor’s race for Terry Branstad immediately.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of November 3)

We won’t know the final early voting numbers until the Iowa elections are certified a few weeks from now, but after the jump I’ve posted absentee ballot figures based on the final daily update from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

As of yesterday, more than 455,000 Iowans had already returned early ballots to county auditors, a huge increase on total early voting in the 2010 midterm election. Registered Democrats have returned about 8,000 more ballots statewide than Republicans have. If Democrats identified and mobilized more independents to vote early (as happened in 2012), Bruce Braley could go into election day tens of thousands of votes ahead of Joni Ernst. Iowa Republicans typically perform better on election day than Democrats; how much better is open for debate, since the GOP encouraged many more people to vote early this year who previously voted on election day.

Statewide, about 33,000 Democrats, 19,000 Republicans, and 23,000 no-party voters had requested absentee ballots that county auditors had not received as of yesterday. Not every unreturned ballot represents an Iowan who will not vote. Some people mailed ballots that hadn’t reached county auditors by yesterday, but those will still count if they either arrive today or arrive before next Monday with a postmark on or before November 3. Other people will hand-deliver ballots to the county auditors today; those will be counted as long as they arrive by 9 pm.

While canvassing the last few days, I’ve met a bunch of people who plan to “surrender” their absentee ballots at the regular polling place today, then vote with a regular ballot.  

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Election day links and discussion thread

Happy election day to the Bleeding Heartland community. The weather forecast looks good for most parts of Iowa. Polls are open everywhere from 7 am to 9 pm. It’s too late to mail absentee ballots, but you can still hand-deliver completed absentee ballots to your county auditor’s office, or “surrender” you ballot at your regular polling place, then vote with an ordinary ballot.

Three new polls of the U.S. Senate race came out on Monday. Quinnipiac found Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst tied at 47 percent. (That pollster’s previous Iowa survey had Ernst leading by 49 percent to 45 percent.) Fox News found Ernst ahead by 45 percent to 44 percent. Public Policy Polling found Ernst ahead by 48 percent to 45 percent.

All three polls confirmed my belief that the Des Moines Register’s Iowa poll by Selzer & Co was an outlier. No other survey has found Ernst above 50 percent or ahead by such a large margin. If she does win the IA-Sen race by 7 points, I will declare Ann Selzer a polling genius.

Incidentally, the new polls also found Governor Terry Branstad ahead of Democratic challenger Jack Hatch by a smaller margin than in the Register’s final Iowa poll. Quinnipiac found Branstad ahead by 52 percent to 41 percent. That was similar to Public Policy Polling’s finding of Branstad at 54 percent and Hatch at 43 percent. Fox News found a bigger lead for the governor: 53 percent to 36 percent.

PPP has been the only firm to consistently poll down-ballot statewide races in Iowa this year. Its final poll found Democrat Brad Anderson ahead in the secretary of state race, with 44 percent support to 38 percent to Paul Pate and 3 percent each for Jake Porter and Spencer Highland. (Porter, a Libertarian, received about 3 percent of the statewide vote in the 2010 secretary of state race.)

PPP found State Auditor Mary Mosiman leading her Democratic challenger by 46 percent to 41 percent. State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald is ahead of his Republican challenger Sam Clovis by 48 percent to 38 percent, with Libertarian Keith Laube pulling 5 percent. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has a comfortable 51 percent to 33 percent lead over Democrat Sherrie Taha, with a minor-party candidate pulling 5 percent. Finally, Attorney General Tom Miller leads Republican Adam Gregg by 55 percent to 36 percent.

While canvassing in Windsor Heights and Clive on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, I didn’t see any Republicans knocking on doors, nor did I see Republican campaign literature on doorknobs or front porches. Another Democratic canvasser in a different part of the state had a similar experience. I would like to hear from Bleeding Heartland readers about what you’ve seen of the Republican “ground game” during the final days. As far as I can tell, the GOP has relied mainly on robocalls and perhaps live-caller phone-banking. Republicans paid for many robocalls in the final days.

Speaking of robocalls, many Democratic households in the third Congressional district (including mine) received a call Monday evening recorded by Senator Chuck Grassley, making the case for David Young.

Any comments related to today’s election are welcome in this thread.

P.S. – A testy exchange with a reporter about how President Barack Obama has handled the ebola outbreak underscored why Joni Ernst’s handlers didn’t want her sitting down with most Iowa newspaper editorial boards.

Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of November 2)

More than 430,000 Iowans have already returned absentee ballots to county auditors, but nearly 90,000 absentee ballots requested statewide are still outstanding. If you have not yet returned your absentee ballot, either “surrender” it tomorrow at the polling place (and receive a new ballot to vote like everyone else on election day), or hand-deliver a completed ballot to your county auditor’s office today or tomorrow by 9 pm.

Today is the last day for in-person early voting: all 99 county auditors’ offices are open until 5 pm.

I’ve enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa’s four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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Weekend open thread: Final Iowa polls edition (updated)

The Des Moines Register dropped a hammer on Iowa Democrats this evening with the latest statewide poll by Selzer & Co. The Register’s new poll finds Joni Ernst ahead of Bruce Braley by 51 percent to 44 percent, leading Braley in all four Congressional districts, and winning independent voters by 12 points. The poll looks like an outlier to me, compared to most other surveys that were in the field these past two weeks. No other poll has found Ernst above 50 percent this fall, and no non-partisan poll has found her leading Braley by more than four points. Of the ten other polls in the field during the last two weeks, two found Braley ahead by one point, two found the race tied, two found Ernst ahead by one point, and four found her ahead by margins between two and four points.

On November 5, either Ann Selzer will look like a genius, or a bunch of other pollsters (whose surveys found a close race here) will laugh.

The problem for Democrats is that the Register’s Iowa poll always generates more media coverage than any other poll. Even if this poll turns out to be an outlier, it could depress volunteers during the final days. A good GOTV program can overcome a one-point deficit but not seven points.

The Register’s latest poll found Governor Terry Branstad ahead of Democratic challenger Jack Hatch by 59 percent to 35 percent, one of the biggest leads any poll has found for Branstad. Selzer only polled on two other statewide races. Democratic Attorney General leads challenger Adam Gregg by 50 percent to 39 percent. The secretary of state race looks too close to call, with Republican Paul Pate ahead of Democrat Brad Anderson by 44 percent to 41 percent.

P.S. – There’s still plenty of time to enter Bleeding Heartland’s election prediction contest.

UPDATE: Below I’ve added excerpts from the Register’s analysis of the Selzer poll, along with the Braley campaign’s reaction, calling the Register poll an “outlier.”

SECOND UPDATE: Added more commentary on Senate polling below.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 30)

Early voting by Iowa Democrats, Republicans, and no-party voters already exceeds the number of absentee ballots cast by each of those groups in the 2010 general election. Depending on how many more ballots are returned in time to be counted, this year’s early vote may exceed 40 percent of the electorate.

Democrats lead in absentee ballots returned by about 7,000 statewide but have many more ballots outstanding (about 47,000) than do Republicans (about 30,000). Each 11,000 to 12,000 ballots left on the table represents roughly 1 percent of the expected statewide vote.

Although Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley have asked the U.S. Postal Service to put legible postmarks on all absentee ballots, I would not risk dropping a ballot in the mail now. If it arrives after election day with no postmark, it will not be counted. Safer to either take your ballot to the post office and demand a postmark on the envelope, or hand-deliver the envelope to the county auditor’s office.

I’ve enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa’s four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

The big question remains: which party has mobilized more voters who otherwise would not have participated in the midterm election? A new Des Moines Register analysis suggests Democrats have only a “thin edge” in early voting. But Nate Cohn of the New York Times’ “Upshot” blog has a different take:

In Iowa, the overall early vote is nearly tied in a state where Democrats usually fare well in the early vote.

But Democrats insist that the Republicans are merely banking voters who would have voted on Election Day anyway, and back it up with data showing a lead among people who didn’t vote in 2010, 40 to 29 percent. If the G.O.P. is faring better in the early vote by attracting voters who would have turned out anyway, then they diminish their ability to fare as well on Election Day as they have in the past.

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Enter Bleeding Heartland's 2014 general election prediction contest

Time for another Bleeding Heartland election prediction contest. To enter, post your guesses as comments in this thread before 7 am on Tuesday, November 4. Predictions submitted by e-mail or social media will not be considered. It’s ok to change your mind, as long as you post your revised predictions as an additional comment in this thread before the deadline.

No money’s at stake here, just bragging rights like those enjoyed by Bleeding Heartland users ModerateIADem (twice), American007, Johannes, and tietack. This isn’t “The Price is Right”; the winning answers will be closest to the final results, whether they were a little high or low.

Even if you have no idea, please try to take a stab at answering every question. We had no clear winner in this year’s primary election prediction contest; the best guessers on some races were way off on other races.

Minor-party or independent candidates are on the ballot for some races, so the percentages of the vote for Democratic and Republican nominees need not add up to 100. You can view the complete list of candidates for federal and state offices in Iowa here (pdf).

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 29)

Roughly 50,000 registered Iowa Democrats, 35,000 Republicans, and 35,000 no-party voters have requested but not yet returned absentee ballots. The Iowa Secretary of State’s Office sent out a press release yesterday on deadlines for returning those ballots. Excerpt:

Absentee ballots returned by mail and received in the county auditor’s office by 9 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, November 4 are eligible for counting. Absentee ballots returned by mail and received by the auditors office after the polls close must be postmarked by November 3 or earlier and be received by the auditor before noon on Monday, November 10.  Mail is not always postmarked so it is important to return the ballot as soon as possible. Absentee ballots can also be returned to the county auditor’s office in person no later than 9 p.m. on Tuesday, November 4.

I would not simply drop a ballot in the mail at this point. The risk of it arriving late without a postmark is too great. Either take it to the post office and demand a postmark on the envelope, or hand-deliver it to the county auditor’s office.

If you make a mistake while filling out your absentee ballot, or your ballot gets lost or damaged, or you realize after mailing that you forgot the secrecy or affidavit envelopes, call your county auditor’s office. In many cases you will be able to come in, sign a form to void your original absentee ballot, and fill out a new absentee ballot right there.

I’ve enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa’s four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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Shorter Mary Mosiman: Not my job to look for fraud

State Auditor Mary Mosiman, who in her previous job stood by and watched other people collect salaries for doing no work, has doubled down on her defense of the status quo in state auditing procedures.

Highlights from Thomas Geyer’s report for the Quad-City Times are after the jump, along with state auditor candidate Jon Neiderbach’s reaction to the incumbent’s “reckless comments.”

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 28)

As of yesterday, the number of registered Republicans who had returned absentee ballots to county auditors (138,362) exceeds the total early Republican vote in the 2010 Iowa general election (136,243). Ballots returned by registered Democrats and no-party voters are likely to exceed 2010 early voting levels today or tomorrow.

Statewide, Democrats have returned about 5,000 more absentee ballots to county auditors than Republicans have, but they also have a lower return rate. Roughly 56,000 Democrats have requested but not yet returned absentee ballots, compared to about 38,000 ballots outstanding for Republicans and 38,000 outstanding for no-party voters. Every 11,000 to 12,000 ballots left on the table represents roughly 1 percent of the expected total vote in the 2014 general election.

For Iowans who have not yet returned their absentee ballots, the safest options are to hand-deliver the completed ballot to the county auditor’s office, or to take it to the post office and demand a postmark for the envelope. Late-arriving mailed ballots with no postmark will not be counted.

Iowans cannot turn in completed absentee ballots at their regular polling place on election day. However, they may go to their precinct polling place next Tuesday, surrender their unreturned absentee ballot to poll workers, and receive a new ballot to fill out like other election-day voters.

I’ve enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa’s four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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Catching up on the Iowa secretary of state race

The Iowa secretary of state campaign looks like a nail-biter. Neither Democrat Brad Anderson nor Republican Paul Pate has had a lead outside the margin of error in any public poll I’ve seen. The new Loras College statewide survey shows Anderson barely ahead of Pate by 39.9 percent to 39.0 percent. That survey did not include the other two candidates running for secretary of state, even though Libertarian Jake Porter received about 3 percent of the statewide vote in 2010.

When Anderson and Pate appeared jointly on Iowa Public Television earlier this month (in a “job interview” that resembled a debate), major differences between the candidates were apparent. Pate would continue outgoing Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s crusade for a voter ID law, an expensive “fix” to a non-existent problem, which risks disenfranchising voters. Anderson proposes several ideas to improve the voter file and maintain security, without depressing turnout.

During the same “Iowa Press” program, Pate hedged on whether former employees of the Secretary of State’s Office should pay back the state for salary and benefits they received for doing no work. I’ve enclosed that exchange after the jump. I would guess that 90 percent of Iowans agree with Anderson: it’s a “no-brainer” that these people should pay back the money.

Pate’s campaign website is mostly devoid of policy ideas. His case to voters is simple: he has more experience, having served as secretary of state before, he supports voter ID requirements, and he is a “non-partisan leader,” as opposed to his “partisan political operative” opponent. Never mind that Pate once sought the position of Iowa GOP chair.

Compared to Pate, Anderson has proposed more specific ideas for improving the work of the Secretary of State’s Office. (For that matter, so has Porter.) Anderson’s campaign website includes not only ideas to make Iowa number one in voter turnout, but also proposals to make it easier to start a business, create a new registry for veteran-owned businesses, improve the integrity of the Iowa caucuses, make it easier for overseas and military voters to cast ballots, and most recently, an address confidentiality program that would allow survivors of domestic abuse or sexual violence “to register to vote, cast a ballot, and go about daily life without fear for safety.” (Pate’s campaign quickly announced that the Republican also supports “Safe at Home” measures.)

Anderson and Pate are still running the television and radio commercials Bleeding Heartland covered here. In addition, a group I’d never heard of called iVote has spent just under $30,000 to run a tv ad opposing Pate. Democratic strategists created the new political action committee to get involved in several secretary of state races. When I saw iVote’s spot for the first time during a lunchtime local newscast, the unorthodox style caught my attention. I’ve enclosed the video and transcript below. The Cedar Rapids Gazette’s fact-checker rated this ad “true.”

Speaking of the Gazette, that newspaper endorsed Anderson today, saying he would offer “a clean break” from the “sorry chapter” of Schultz’s tenure as secretary of state. Click through to read the whole editorial, or scroll own to read excerpts. How embarrassing for Pate not to get the support of his hometown newspaper. He’s been a local business owner for decades as well as a former Cedar Rapids mayor and former state senator representing part of Linn County.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 27)

A week before election day, early voting is on track to well exceed the total number of absentee ballots cast in the 2010 Iowa general election. I’ve enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa’s four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

Republicans lead in ballots requested and returned in the fourth Congressional district. Democrats lead in the other three districts, by the largest margin in IA-02 (where Representative Dave Loebsack is facing Mariannette Miller-Meeks) and by the smallest margin in IA-03 (the open-seat race between Staci Appel and David Young).

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Iowa caucus hopefuls eager to serve as campaign surrogates

With the 2016 caucuses only a bit more than a year away, many potential presidential candidates have been paying their dues in Iowa this fall. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headlining events for Bruce Braley in Cedar Rapids and Davenport on Wednesday, while her husband, President Bill Clinton, will campaign with Braley in Des Moines and Waterloo this Saturday. Vice President Joe Biden was in Davenport today with Braley and Representative Dave Loebsack.

Others who might run for president (if Hillary Clinton opts out) have been here lately too. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts got large crowds of Democrats going in Iowa City and Des Moines last weekend. This past Saturday, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota gave the keynote speech at the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recently visited Iowa for the fourth time since June, headlining events for Braley, Loebsack, gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch, and Steve Siegel, the Democratic candidate in Iowa Senate district 41.

On the Republican side, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did an event for Representative Steve King before headlining Governor Terry Branstad’s “birthday” bash in Des Moines on Saturday. (King helped Christie out of a jam once.) The New Jersey governor will be back later this week to campaign with Branstad, Senate nominee Joni Ernst, and IA-02 nominee Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Burlington. Last week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky came to Cedar Falls for an event with IA-01 GOP nominee Rod Blum, and Texas Governor Rick Perry made stops in Des Moines and the Cedar Rapids area for attorney general nominee Adam Gregg, Blum, and Ernst. Former Senator Rick Santorum did an event for King last week too, and Donald Trump did earlier in October. Senator Marco Rubio is coming back to eastern Iowa tomorrow to raise money for the Scott County Republicans and for Blum.

I’ve heard that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee have recorded radio ads for Sam Clovis, the social conservative favorite who is running for state treasurer. However, I haven’t heard those spots on the radio yet. Speaking of social conservative heroes, Dr. Ben Carson (possibly the new “flavor of the month” for Iowa Republicans) is slated to keynote the FAMiLY Leader’s fall fundraiser on November 22.

Any comments about the next presidential race in Iowa are welcome in this thread. P.S. Imagine if any Democratic candidate or elected official followed Branstad’s lead and moved his “birthday party” up from November 17 to October 25 for political reasons. There would be a chorus of outrage from pundits: Phony! Not acting like a real Iowan!  

Three reasons Jon Neiderbach would be a better state auditor than Mary Mosiman

Iowa’s state auditor is a low-profile position and a difficult office to campaign for, even without a marquee U.S. Senate race sucking up all the oxygen. But there are huge contrasts between Republican incumbent Mary Mosiman, appointed to the office last year, and her Democratic challenger Jonathan Neiderbach.

Last week, Robert Rees hosted a mini-debate of the state auditor candidates during his “Morning Drive” program on the Des Moines-based talk radio station 98.3 The Torch. You can listen to the 15-minute exchange here or look it up on the list of Morning Drive podcasts for October 21. The big takeaway is that Mosiman wants to maintain the status quo in State Auditor’s office operations, despite mismanagement including secret payouts to state employees, which several years of audits failed to uncover. Neiderbach wants to improve the audits so that they are meeting the tasks set out in Iowa Code.

Follow me after the jump for highlights from last week’s debate and two more reasons to support Neiderbach for state auditor.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 26)

In all likelihood, at least a quarter of the Iowans who will participate in this year’s midterm election have already returned completed ballots to county auditors. Another 150,000 voters have requested ballots but not yet returned them. To anyone planning to vote by mail: send your ballot back as soon as possible. Iowa law says any ballot mailed by the day before the election (in this case November 3) is valid, but county auditors will not count late-arriving ballots without postmarks. Unfortunately, post offices no longer routinely put postmarks on all mail that passes through. Iowans who are worried about their ballots arriving on time should either take them to a post office this week and ask for a postmark, or hand-deliver completed ballots to the county auditor’s office.

Don’t forget to seal the ballot in the secrecy envelope, seal the secrecy envelope in the affidavit envelope, and sign the affidavit envelope before mailing. If you make a mistake on your absentee ballot, don’t erase or cross anything out. Contact your county auditor about the procedure for getting a replacement ballot.

I’ve enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa’s four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 23)

Another commitment kept me away from my computer for most of the day, but after the jump I’ve enclosed the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa’s four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

Democrats slightly extended their statewide lead in absentee ballot requests and regained a small lead in absentee ballots returned to county auditors, after Republicans had held an edge of a few hundreds ballots the previous day. However, Republicans now lead in absentee ballots returned in Iowa’s third Congressional district as well as in the fourth. Here’s hoping some of the Republicans who have already voted in IA-03 followed the lead of conservatives who oppose David Young.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 22)

Six weeks ago, Bleeding Heartland argued that it was too soon for Iowa Democrats to celebrate a lead in early voting, in part because Republicans had plenty of time to catch up. Yesterday, the number of absentee ballots registered Republicans had returned to county auditors exceeded the number of ballots returned by registered Democrats. A press release by a GOP consultant noted that it’s the first time Iowa Republicans have ever led in early voting.

Democrats still lead in absentee ballots requested, but Republicans also claim that in recent days, they have generated more ballot requests from Iowans who did not vote in the 2010 general election.

I’ve enclosed below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa’s four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 21)

Every weekday through November 4, Bleeding Heartland will post the latest early voting numbers, as compiled by the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. I enclose below the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa’s four Congressional districts. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

As of yesterday, Republicans have nearly caught up with Democrats in ballots returned to county auditors. Democrats lead by a little more than 18,000 in absentee ballot requests, but early votes only count if the ballots come back in.

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Iowa candidate web videos need "paid for" attribution statements

Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board Executive Director Megan Tooker has determined that state law requiring “paid for by” attribution lines for political advertising also applies to videos posted on free websites such as YouTube. David Chung, a member of the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee, had filed an ethics complaint against Brad Anderson, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state. (Chung is from Cedar Rapids, as is Anderson’s GOP opponent Paul Pate.) Anderson’s television commercial contains the standard attribution line, but some of his web videos did not. After the jump I’ve posted the relevant portion of Iowa Code.

Tooker informed Anderson that in her opinion, campaign videos available online should also include a “paid for” statement. Anderson’s campaign immediately altered the videos to comply. Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register, “So long as Anderson republishes the videos with appropriate attribution statements or publishes a corrective notice in the newspaper, he will not face a fine or penalty.”

Responding to my request for comment, the Anderson campaign noted, “Although state law is ambiguous related to requiring disclaimers on free YouTube videos, in the abundance of caution we have added disclaimers to all of our YouTube videos and will continue to moving forward.”

In a press release yesterday, Iowa GOP Co-Chairman Cody Hoefert thundered, “we now learn that Brad Anderson either ignored Iowa’s election laws or does not believe they apply to him. Either way, this only goes to underscore the fact that he is not someone Iowans can trust to uphold the integrity of their elections.” News flash for Hoefert: the Anderson campaign was able to point to many web videos that lacked “paid for” statements while promoting the Iowa GOP and/or Republican candidates and office-holders. For instance, Governor Terry Branstad’s campaign produced a video featuring Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds in order to drum up 2014 Iowa caucus attendance. In that video, she urged supporters to help elect Republicans up and down the ticket in 2014. Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has also promoted his candidacy through web videos without attribution statements. The Iowa GOP itself produced a video promoting State Auditor Mary Mosiman without any attribution statement.

Obviously, Chung and the Iowa GOP were only playing out a stunt to gain an edge for Pate in what looks like a close contest for secretary of state. Nevertheless, it’s useful for Tooker to clarify that this portion of state law applies to web videos as well as to television commercials.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 20)

As of yesterday, absentee ballot requests from Iowa Democrats now exceed the total early vote by Democrats in Iowa’s 2010 midterm election. Ballot requests from Republicans and no-party voters surpassed those groups’ 2010 early vote totals over the weekend.

Convincing supporters to vote early is important, but it doesn’t matter if they don’t mail in their ballots. Democrats now lead Republicans by more than 15,000 in absentee ballot requests but by less than 2,000 in absentee ballots returned to county auditors.

Follow me after the jump for the latest data on absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa’s four Congressional districts. All figures come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 19)

Every weekday through November 4, Bleeding Heartland is posting early voting numbers for all of Iowa and in each of the four Congressional districts. All data come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. The latest tables are after the jump. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

Absentee ballot requests from Iowa Republicans and no-party voters now exceed the total early vote from those groups in Iowa’s 2010 midterm election. Ballot requests from Iowa Democrats are only about 4,000 below the total early vote cast by Democrats in 2010.

Three big unanswered questions remain: which party is generating more absentee ballot requests from “unreliable” voters who otherwise would not participate in the midterm? Which party has mobilized more of the independents who are voting early? And which party will do better in making sure its supporters not only request an absentee ballot, but also return it to the county auditor on time?

All 99 county auditors’ offices are open for in-person early voting during regular business hours through Monday, November 3. Larger-population counties also have satellite voting locations, often in public libraries or community centers. Click here (pdf) for the full list of Polk County satellite voting locations, with dates and hours. The last day for in-person early voting at satellite locations in Polk County is this Friday, October 24.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 16)

Iowa Democrats got a head start on canvassing and collecting vote by mail requests one by one this summer. But after sending absentee ballot request forms to literally every registered Republican in the state, the Iowa GOP has reduced the Democratic early voting advantage substantially. As of yesterday, Democrats lead Republicans in absentee ballot requests by less than 10,000 statewide, and by only a little more than 5,000 in absentee ballots already returned to county auditors.

Follow me after the jump for the latest early voting numbers statewide and in Iowa’s four Congressional districts. All data come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

All 99 county auditors’ offices are open for in-person early voting during regular business hours. Larger-population counties also have satellite voting locations, often in public libraries or community centers. Click here (pdf) for the full list of Polk County satellite voting locations, with dates and hours. In my experience, voting early in person is fast and easy.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 15)

Iowans continue to vote early in numbers well ahead of the 2010 pace. More than 333,000 people have requested absentee ballots, and more than 170,000 ballots have been returned to county auditors. Iowans voting by mail can track their absentee ballots here to make sure the envelope arrived safely. But not every ballot that auditors receive will be counted, so it’s critical to follow instructions. Seal the secrecy envelope after placing your ballot inside, and sign and seal the affidavit envelope before mailing the ballot back. Do not erase or cross out anything on your absentee ballot; you can request a replacement ballot if you make a mistake.

The latest early voting numbers statewide and in Iowa’s four Congressional districts are after the jump. All data come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 14)

Every weekday morning through November 4, Bleeding Heartland will post new absentee ballot numbers, based on data released from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

The statewide Democratic advantage in absentee ballot requests now stands at just under 15,000. The largest Democratic early vote advantage continues to be in IA-02, followed by IA-01 and IA-03. Republicans have requested and returned more ballots in IA-04. Democrats say that as in 2012, they have identified the majority of the independents who are voting early. There is no way to confirm that claim using publicly available data.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 13)

More than 300,000 Iowans have requested absentee ballots for the November 4 election, and nearly 140,000 have returned those ballots to their county auditors. The latest tables showing absentee ballots requested and returned statewide and in each of Iowa’s four Congressional districts are after the jump. The data come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 12)

Every weekday through November 4, Bleeding Heartland will continue to post tables showing absentee ballots requested and returned in Iowa’s four Congressional districts. The data come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22. For the first time since early voting started this year, Democrats lead Republicans in absentee ballot requests by fewer than 20,000.

In the 2010 midterm election, early ballots were cast by 155,421 Iowa Democrats, 136,243 Republicans, and 68,499 no-party voters. As of yesterday, 125,927 Iowa Democrats had requested an absentee ballot (81 percent of the 2010 total early Democratic vote), 106,982 Republicans had requested an absentee ballot (79 percent of the 2010 total early GOP vote), and 56,697 no-party voters had requested a ballot (83 percent of the 2010 total early vote by independents). Democrats claim that their canvassers have identified most of the no-party voters casting early ballots this year.

The new Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News indicated that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst is slightly ahead of Democratic nominee Bruce Braley by 47 percent to 46 percent, but also found that “The Democrats’ aggressive early voting push is aiding Braley,” who leads by 56 percent to 38 percent among respondents who said they had already voted.  

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Media outlets don't have to include third-party candidates in debates

Although 13 independent or minor-party candidates running for federal or statewide office qualified for the Iowa ballot this year, only Democratic and Republican candidates for governor, U.S. Senate, and the third Congressional district have been invited to televised debates. After each of these events, I’ve seen comments on social media complaining that third-party candidates were denied the opportunity to speak directly to voters.

Libertarian nominee for secretary of state Jake Porter announced yesterday that he “is filing an open records request on Iowa Public Television (IPTV) regarding an episode of Iowa Press that was recorded on Friday, October 3 […] The open records request will look into possible collusion and violations of Iowa law to keep him out of the debate.” I’ve posted the full press release from Porter after the jump.

According to Porter, Iowa Public Television claimed that edition of “Iowa Press” was not a debate. The program in question was presented as a “job interview” for Democrat Brad Anderson and Republican Paul Pate. It sure looked like a debate to me. The format was virtually identical to programs Iowa Public Television billed as debates between Dave Loebsack and Mariannette Miller-Meeks in IA-02, and between Staci Appel and David Young in IA-03 (excluding an independent and a Libertarian candidate who are also running for Congress in that district). The main difference was that the Congressional debates were one-hour special programs, whereas the “Iowa Press” show featuring Anderson and Pate was the usual 30 minutes long, aired at the usual time. So was last month’s show featuring Attorney General Tom Miller and his Republican challenger Adam Gregg.

I sympathize with Porter’s frustration, because unlike some third-party candidates, he has been running for a long time and has staked out substantive and relevant policy positions. He was included in the 2010 “Iowa Press” program alongside Democratic Secretary of State Michael Mauro and his GOP challenger Matt Schultz.

I doubt Porter will get far in any legal action against Iowa Public Television. A 1998 U.S. Supreme Court ruling held that “public television stations have the right to choose which political candidates appear in the debates they broadcast.” They can exclude candidates they deem to be on the fringe, with little campaign infrastructure or public support. I’ve enclosed below more details on that case. Click here to download a scholarly analysis of that ruling.

I suspect Iowa Public Television would have invited Porter to participate in this year’s “job interview” if not for Spencer Highland, the unknown candidate representing the unknown “New Independent Party Iowa” who also qualified to run for secretary of state. Offering four candidates equal time on a half-hour show would be unwieldy, especially since Highland has not given the media any reason to take him seriously as a candidate for this office. Limiting the show to the two major-party candidates may have seemed easier to justify than inviting Anderson, Pate, and Porter but not Highland.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 9)

More than 278,000 Iowans have already requested absentee ballots this year, roughly one-quarter as many as voted in the 2010 midterm election. As of yesterday, more than 119,000 Iowans had returned absentee ballots to their county auditors, roughly one-third as many as the total number of absentee voters from 2010.

Follow me after the jump for the latest tables showing absentee ballots requested and returned in all four Congressional districts are after the jump. The data come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables going back to September 22.

Iowans who have voted early by mail can use the “track your absentee ballot” page of the Secretary of State’s website to confirm that your ballot reached your county auditor. Most years I have found it easier to vote early in person right at the auditor’s office. That way, you know your ballot has been received.

Following the instructions for absentee voting is critically important. Ballots will not be counted if the voter has not sealed the secrecy envelope, or has not signed the affidavit envelope. If you requested an absentee ballot but can’t find it, or made a mistake while filling it out, contact your county auditor for help. The easiest solution is to visit the county auditor’s office, fill out a form to void the ballot first sent to you, and vote early in person right there.

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Secretary of State race: Brad Anderson's on tv, Paul Pate's on the radio

Both major-party candidates for Iowa secretary of state started running paid advertising within the past two days. After the jump I’ve enclosed the video and transcript of Democratic nominee Brad Anderson’s first television commercial, as well as my transcript of Republican Paul Pate’s first radio ad. Both candidates call for making it “easy to vote” but “hard to cheat” in elections. CORRECTION: Anderson’s ad was released online on October 9 but started running on television stations across Iowa on October 13.

I’ve also enclosed below the voter ID discussion from the debate Pate and Anderson held on Iowa Public Television last weekend. Pate has embraced outgoing Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s pet project, in the absence of any evidence that voter impersonation is a real problem in Iowa (or elsewhere). Anderson explains his plan to strengthen election integrity without changing current state law on voter ID.

Two other candidates are running for secretary of state this year. Libertarian Jake Porter is making his second attempt at the job. In 2010, he received about 3 percent of the statewide vote. To my knowledge, he has not run any paid advertising yet this year. When Iowa Public Television excluded him from the recent “Iowa Press” debate, Porter said he will consider a lawsuit and fight to reduce Iowa Public Television’s taxpayer funding. The fourth candidate on the ballot is the little-known Spencer Highland of the “New Independent Party Iowa.”

Closer to election day, Bleeding Heartland will post a comprehensive review of the this campaign. Public Policy Polling’s Iowa survey from late September found Pate slightly ahead of Anderson by 36 percent to 33 percent, with Porter and Highland pulling 3 percent each.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 8)

Iowans continue to vote early at a pace well ahead of any previous midterm election. Follow me after the jump for the latest tables showing absentee ballots requested and returned in all four Congressional districts are after the jump. The data come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Click here for previous tables, which make it easier to spot trends in the numbers.

Democrats lead in early voting in the first, second, and third Congressional districts, while Republicans have requested and returned more ballots in the fourth district, where the GOP has a large voter registration advantage.

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 7)

More than a quarter of a million Iowans have requested absentee ballots, and nearly 100,000 have already returned early ballots to their county auditor. The latest tables showing absentee ballots requested and returned in all four Congressional districts are after the jump. The data come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.

Click here for previous tables, which make it easier to spot trends in the numbers. For the first time since September 22, the statewide Democratic lead in absentee ballot requests has dipped below 30,000.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 6)

The latest early voting numbers from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office show Republicans continuing to gain ground. Statewide, the Democratic lead in absentee ballot requests has fallen to about 32,000. For the first time this year, Republicans have a small lead in absentee ballots requested in the fourth Congressional district (where the party has a voter registration edge of more than 55,000).

The latest tables showing absentee ballots requested and returned in all four Congressional districts are after the jump. Click here for previous tables, which make it easier to spot trends in the numbers.

The big unanswered question remains: which party is mobilizing more voters who otherwise would not participate in a midterm election? A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee official told Philip Rucker of the Washington Post that among the Iowans who had requested absentee ballots by October 2, about 30 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of no-party voters did not vote in 2010. The Secretary of State’s Office declined to independently verify that claim. If accurate, it works out to about roughly 30,000 of the Democrats and 20,000 of the no-party voters who had requested ballots by October 2.

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Catching up on the state treasurer race, with two Sam Clovis tv ads

Mike Fitzgerald is both the longest-serving state treasurer in the country and a Democratic survivor of two Republican wave elections (1994 and 2010). Probably for those reasons, he doesn’t appear concerned at all about winning a ninth term in office. As of this summer, Fitzgerald had not raised or spent much money for his re-election campaign. He’s given few stump speeches around the state, other than his appearance at the Des Moines Register’s Iowa State Fair soapbox. I have not seen so much as a campaign website or Facebook page, let alone any commercials for is candidacy. That’s no surprise, since Fitzgerald doesn’t have a large war chest and didn’t start advertising for his last re-election bid until late October 2010.

No Republican stepped up to run against Fitzgerald this spring, but in June, Governor Terry Branstad recruited unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Sam Clovis to run for treasurer in an obvious attempt to boost enthusiasm among social conservatives. GOP primary turnout was surprisingly low despite several hard-fought races around the state. (Incidentally, fellow Senate candidate Matt Whitaker agreed to chair Clovis’ treasurer campaign. Whitaker was the GOP nominee for state treasurer in 2002.)

Branstad promised to help Clovis with fundraising, which had been a major problem for him throughout the Senate primary campaign. The July financial report didn’t show big money coming in to Clovis’ state treasurer campaign yet, but a press release from the Clovis campaign this week leads by crediting Branstad with helping secure the resources for two television commercials. The first spot has supposedly been running on eastern Iowa tv stations for about a month, as well as in Des Moines (though I haven’t seen it yet). The second spot is reportedly going on the air this week. I’ve posted both videos after the jump, with my transcripts.

Clovis has virtually no chance to win this election. Public Policy Polling’s Iowa survey in August showed him trailing Fitzgerald by 47 percent to 33 percent, with 5 percent supporting Libertarian nominee Keith Laube. The latest PPP survey in Iowa from this past weekend shows little change: Fitzgerald still has 47 percent support to 35 percent for Clovis and 5 percent for Laube, with the rest of respondents undecided.

While Clovis’ own race may be hopeless, an advertising push for him could help other Republicans on the ballot by mobilizing social conservative voters. Clovis was a highly visible figure during the 2010 campaign against retaining Iowa Supreme Court justices, and his second-place showing in the U.S. Senate primary was impressive, given his campaign’s meager resources. The ads for his state treasurer campaign are low-budget but feature the candidate and his party affiliation prominently, which is the point.

P.S. – In 2010 as well as this year, Iowa Republicans have accused Fitzgerald of campaigning on the state’s dime because his image appears on State Treasurer’s Office materials promoting programs such as the “Great Iowa Treasure Hunt” or 529 college savings plan. Give me a break. One natural advantage of incumbency is that publicity surrounding official actions raises your visibility and name recognition. If that’s using state funds to campaign, so are most public appearances by Iowa’s governors and lieutenant governors and any number of official documents bearing their images.

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Auditor details mismanagement by Matt Schultz and Mary Mosiman

If you thought nothing could surprise you anymore about Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, I recommend reading the report Chief Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins released yesterday. Jenkins reviewed payments to Schultz’s former chief deputy Jim Gibbons after Gibbons stopped coming to work. You can download a pdf of the audit here. I’ve posted the full text after the jump.

Key points: Schultz told Gibbons in May 2012 that his position would be eliminated at the end of the calendar year. Gibbons stopped coming in to work regularly the following month. Normal procedure calls for at-will state employees to be paid “until the end of the pay period, up to a maximum of 2 weeks after being notified their position is to be eliminated.” After learning that state agencies are not allowed to make severance payments to at-will employees, Schultz decided to keep Gibbons on the payroll through December 2012. There are no timesheets or records of how often Gibbons came to work between June and December of that year. Former colleagues could not provide Jenkins with much information about anything Gibbons did for the Secretary of State’s Office. Gibbons reported directly to Schultz.

The audit concluded, “Based on the lack of documentation supporting work performed by Mr. Gibbons, we cannot determine the public benefit of the Secretary of State’s Office paying Mr. Gibbons $90,738.67 in salary, vacation, and benefits for the period June 8, 2012 through December 31, 2012.” Jenkins also questioned the public benefit of paying more than $21,000 to two other at-will employees whose positions were eliminated.

Schultz is now running for Madison County attorney. That election will be a good test of whether Madison County Republicans care more about partisan allegiance or basic competence. A statement from Schultz tried to pass off Gibbons’ work arrangement as something advised by the Department of Administrative Services. That spin is misleading, for reasons I explain after the jump.

Current State Auditor Mary Mosiman was one of Schultz’s deputies during the period examined, and to put it mildly, this report casts an unflattering light on her. She has claimed that she warned Schultz that keeping Gibbons on the payroll was damaging to morale in the agency. But the bottom line is, she never blew the whistle on a colleague getting tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars for doing no work.

In addition, Jenkins found that neither Mosiman nor Gibbons submitted timesheets or “leave slips” documenting approval of planned time off. As a result, Mosiman “was paid for one week of accumulated vacation she should not have received” when she left the Secretary of State’s Office for her current job. She has reportedly already returned to the state her excess payment of $2,500. No one knows whether that’s the full extent of overpayments to Schultz’s subordinates. Jenkins’ report states, “Because timesheets and leave slips were not required to be completed and were not submitted by the Deputies, we are unable to identify any additional vacation hours used but not properly recorded for the Deputies.”

The state auditor is supposed to make sure the public’s money is well spent. How can someone do that job without understanding the need to record essential information such as time spent working and time spent on vacation? Even if Mosiman was not aware that she received too much vacation pay, she should have recognized and taken steps to correct the lack of record-keeping at the Secretary of State’s Office. She should not have stood by and let Gibbons collect month after month of salary and benefits, long after he stopped coming to work.

After the jump I’ve posted comments from Schultz, Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis (who requested the audit), Democratic candidate for secretary of state Brad Anderson, and Democratic candidate for state auditor Jon Neiderbach.

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Iowa absentee ballot numbers in the 2014 general election

This morning the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office started posting absentee ballot statistics for this year’s general election. They will update the chart on weekdays here (pdf).

As in 2012, Bleeding Heartland will update the absentee ballot totals daily as they become available. The first set of numbers are after the jump. I’ve organized the data a bit differently from the Secretary of State’s Office. For each day’s totals, I will create two charts: the first shows the number of absentee ballots Iowans have requested, in each of the four Congressional districts and statewide. The second shows the number of absentee ballots county auditors have received from voters, in each of the four Congressional districts and statewide. (For now, those numbers are small, because most of the county auditors have not yet mailed ballots to voters who requested them.)

In-person early voting will begin on September 25 at county auditors’ offices. Some counties will open satellite locations for in-person early voting as well. When an Iowan votes early at the auditor’s office, that counts as an absentee ballot requested by the voter and as an absentee ballot received by the auditor on the same day.

Today’s press release from the Secretary of State’s Office noted that “demand for absentee ballots with 43 days before the election is much higher this year for all party affiliations than at a similar point in 2010.” Absentee ballot requests as of September 21 totaled 112,178 statewide, compared to 56,725 at this point in Iowa’s last midterm election campaign. Registered Democrats had requested 57,869 absentee ballots (versus 34,318 at this point in 2010), Republicans had requested 31,099 ballots (12,710 in 2010), and no-party voters had requested 23,043 ballots (9,664 in 2010). Click here for more information about voting early, or to download an absentee ballot request form.

Note that not every mailed-in absentee ballot will count. Some ballots mailed late will not get a postmark proving voters sent them before election day. John Deeth goes over other common errors that can lead to absentee ballots not being counted, such as voters not signing the “affidavit envelope” or re-opening the affidavit envelope after sealing it. Everyone planning to vote by mail needs to read the instructions carefully and follow them exactly.

UPDATE: I should have noted that if this year’s turnout is similar to 2010, about 1.1 million Iowans will cast ballots, meaning that roughly 10 percent of those likely to participate in the midterm have already requested a ballot. The Republican Party of Iowa’s first mass mailing of absentee ballot request forms went out in early September, while the Iowa Democratic Party’s went out last week.

SECOND UPDATE: Adding latest daily numbers after the jump.

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Weekend open thread: Final Harkin Steak Fry edition

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

The weather is perfect in Indianola this afternoon for the roughly 5,000 people expected to attend Senator Tom Harkin’s final “Steak Fry” event. At least 200 journalists will be on hand, mostly to see Hillary Clinton’s first appearance in Iowa since the 2008 caucuses. If you see a lot of “Hillary doesn’t appear to have much of an Iowa problem” stories tonight and tomorrow, remember that you heard it here first, and repeatedly.

I stand by my prediction that Hillary Clinton will face only token Democratic opposition in Iowa and elsewhere if she runs for president again. But in case she doesn’t run, 2012 Harkin Steak Fry headliner Martin O’Malley is building up a lot of goodwill among Iowa Democrats. In addition to raising money for key Iowa Senate candidates this summer, the Maryland governor’s political action committee is funding staffers for the Iowa Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign, gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch, and secretary of state candidate Brad Anderson. I still don’t see O’Malley running against Clinton in any scenario.

President Bill Clinton will speak today as well. That’s got to be a tough act to follow. No one can get a crowd of Democrats going like he can. I’ll update this post later with highlights from the event and news coverage. I hope other Bleeding Heartland readers will share their impressions. C-SPAN will carry the main speeches, starting at 2:00 pm. That will be on channel 95 in the Des Moines area.

Third-party and independent candidates in Iowa's 2014 elections

The filing period for general election candidates in Iowa closed last Friday, so it’s a good time to review where candidates not representing either the Democratic or Republican Party are running for office. The full candidate list is on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website (pdf(. After the jump I discuss all the federal, statewide, and state legislative races including at least one independent or minor-party candidate. Where possible, I’ve linked to campaign websites, so you can learn more about the candidates and their priorities.

Rarely has any Iowa election been affected by an independent or third-party candidate on the ballot. Arguably, the most recent case may have been the 2010 election in Iowa’s first Congressional district. Final results showed that Democratic incumbent Bruce Braley defeated Republican challenger Ben Lange by 4,209 votes, while conservative candidates Rob Petsche and Jason Faulkner drew 4,087 votes and 2,092 votes, respectively.

Any comments about Iowa’s 2014 elections are welcome in this thread.

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Iowa State Fair tips and speaking schedule for state and federal candidates

The Iowa State Fair opened a few minutes ago and runs through August 17. I’m a big fan of the event, and after the jump, I’ve posted some of my favorite tips for enjoying the fair, along with the schedule for candidate appearances at the Des Moines Register’s “soapbox” on the Grand Concourse. The Register will live-stream speeches by candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governor, as well as a few nationally known politicians from out of state.

The fair has almost endless free entertainment, but bring cash with you anyway, because the State Fair board had to backtrack on plans to eliminate cash purchases for food. Instead, vendors have been encouraged to accept credit and debit cards. I suspect most will stick with a cash-only system.  

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Helping parties verify eligible caucus-goers wouldn't make the Iowa caucuses a primary

For years, prominent Iowa Republicans have hyped unfounded fears about “voter fraud.” So it’s ironic that yesterday, the state GOP attacked Brad Anderson’s proposal to help ensure that only eligible voters can take part in the Iowa caucuses.

Anderson is the Democratic nominee for secretary of state. After the jump I’ve posted his “caucus integrity” plan, including this idea: “Parties should be encouraged to utilize electronic poll book technology that would provide up-to-date lists and allow Iowans to check-in electronically. I believe the next Secretary of State should work with each of the parties to develop and support an affordable, efficient and effective electronic poll book that would allow caucus participants to easily check-in and allow volunteers to immediately confirm eligibility.”

I’ve also enclosed below an Iowa GOP press release. New Republican state party chair Jeff Kaufmann asserted, “Anderson’s plan is a problem in search of a solution. We must maintain the separation of politics and state.” Charlie Smithson, legal counsel for Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz since 2012, offered his opinion: “If government becomes involved with the caucus process, other states will argue that the caucuses have become the functional equivalent of a primary,” hurting Iowa’s efforts to remain first in the presidential nominating process.

That’s a real stretch. Anderson’s plan says straight away, “The caucuses are, and must remain strictly a party function run independently by the Republican Party of Iowa and the Iowa Democratic Party.” He hasn’t proposed involving county auditors or the Secretary of State’s office in setting caucus rules, or in tabulating or announcing Iowa caucus results. He’s talking about working with the parties ahead of time, so that on caucus night, they have tools to verify that only eligible voters residing in the precinct take part. Republicans could still hold their straw polls early in the evening, electing county delegates later, while Democrats maintain their system of dividing into preference groups, with a 15 percent threshold for viability in every precinct. Using a poll book for check-in wouldn’t change the fact that the Iowa Democratic Party announces only how many county convention delegates each candidate won, not raw numbers of caucus-goers who supported them.

If the Iowa caucuses ever produce another very close result, like the Republican outcome in 2012, any reports (credible or not) about ineligible voters taking part would boost the case for ditching Iowa as first in the nation. After the record-breaking Democratic caucus turnout in 2008, some people claimed that Barack Obama’s campaign had brought large numbers of supporters in from out of state. Although facts didn’t support those allegations, it would be easier to refute them if the parties had a better system for checking in caucus-goers.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Having worked in elections administration and volunteered at many Iowa caucuses, John Deeth explains how Anderson’s ideas could improve the check-in process on caucus night.

P.S.- I think Kaufmann meant to say that Anderson’s plan is a “solution in search of a problem.” Which is ironic, since he and Smithson have both lent their support to Matt Schultz’s photo ID crusade, the ultimate solution in search of a non-existent Iowa voter impersonation problem.  

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Sam Clovis will run for Iowa state treasurer

Sam Clovis, who finished a distant second in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, will likely be nominated for state treasurer at the Iowa GOP’s statewide convention on June 14, The Iowa Republican blog reported last night. No Republicans stepped up to run for the office long held by Democrat Mike Fitzgerald in time for the March filing deadline. John Thompson, a native of Jefferson and army veteran, recently declared his candidacy for state treasurer and was hoping to be nominated at the state convention. Earlier this week, Iowa Republican blogger Craig Robinson published a hit piece backgrounder on Thompson that read like a desperate plea for some other candidate to seek the treasurer’s office.

Today’s exclusive report by Kevin Hall says “Clovis has received a lot of encouragement to run over the past couple of days,” including a “Thursday evening phone call” from Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. They offered to help Clovis raise money for a statewide campaign, and he would need their help, as fundraising was his weakest area by far as a Senate candidate. Apparently the governor does not want to run on a ticket with Thompson, given the “interesting background” Robinson highlighted.

Fitzgerald is the longest-serving state treasurer in the country, having been first elected in 1982, the same year Branstad was elected governor for the first time. He has been re-elected seven times, twice amid huge Republican landslides (1994 and 2010). He defeated Dave Jamison by more than 60,000 votes in 2010.

One of Branstad’s staffers, Adam Gregg, will be nominated for attorney general at tomorrow’s GOP convention. That’s the only other statewide office for which no Republican filed in time to appear on primary ballots.

Final Iowa trivia note: Fitzgerald’s 2002 opponent was Matt Whitaker, the fourth-place candidate in this year’s GOP Senate primary.

Branstad staffer Adam Gregg will run for Iowa attorney general

No Republican stepped up to run against Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller in time to appear on the primary election ballot, but yesterday Adam Gregg announced that he will seek the GOP nomination for attorney general at the state party convention later this month. Gregg worked in private practice for the Des Moines-based Brown Winick law firm before joining Governor Terry Branstad’s staff as a legislative liaison in 2012. (He’s quitting that job to run for office.) His press release touted his work to help pass “the largest tax cut in Iowa’s history, historic education reform, and a state based, Iowa alternative to Obamacare.” The tax cut refers to the property tax reform approved during the 2013 legislative session. The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is more accurately described as an alternative to Medicaid expansion rather than an alternative to “Obamacare.” Iowa is still implementing the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Gregg promised “to fight everyday for Iowa families, Iowa farmers, and our constitutional freedoms,” to “be an advocate for open government,” and to “hold Washington, DC accountable when the federal government oversteps its bounds.” Around the country, many Republican state attorneys general have used the job to grandstand against federal policies they don’t like for ideological reasons. Sounds like Gregg will be emulating that model.

I don’t give him much chance of beating Tom Miller. Four years ago, Brenna Findley got in the race early and ran a strong and well-financed campaign, only to come up well short amid a huge Republican landslide. Running a statewide campaign will raise Gregg’s profile, though, and possibly open doors to future political jobs. The Des Moines rumor mill expects Miller to retire rather than seek another term in 2018. In that case, Gregg could join Findley as prominent candidates in a much more winnable race.

IA-03: Matt Schultz still posturing as hero battling "voter fraud"

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz just can’t quit the fantasy that he has saved Iowans from a major “voter fraud” problem. A new report from the Secretary of State’s Office may serve as a welcome distraction from his record of keeping some political appointees on the payroll, but it distorts the reality of election irregularities and ignores more important factors that keep some eligible voters from having their ballots count in Iowa elections.

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Branstad administration scandal news and reaction thread (updated)

While Governor Terry Branstad vacations in Arizona this week, his administration is facing new allegations of misconduct. As first reported in the Sunday Des Moines Register, at least six former state employees were offered secret settlement deals after claiming they were forced out of their jobs for political reasons. Today, Democratic State Senator Bill Dotzler announced that he is seeking a federal investigation into the actions of Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert, whom Dotzler accused of interfering with the work of administrative law judges.

After the jump I’ve posted several links about both scandals as well as some political reaction. Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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IA-Gov: Terry Branstad has primary challenger, Jack Hatch does not

Governor Terry Branstad’s Republican challenger, Tom Hoefling, has qualified for the primary ballot after submitting his nominating petitions on March 14, the final day. I don’t see any way Hoefling could win a primary, but it will be interesting to see how large the conservative protest vote is against Branstad. GOP turnout should be larger than usual on June 3, because of competitive primaries for the U.S. Senate seat and the first, second, and third Congressional districts.

Last night the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicated that Jonathan Narcisse filed papers to run for governor as a Democrat. However, his petitions must not have had enough valid signatures, because his name does not appear on the full candidate list (pdf). The other long-shot Democratic hopeful, Paul Dahl, apparently never filed petitions. That leaves State Senator Jack Hatch as the lone Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

In other statewide candidate news, no Republicans stepped up to run against Attorney General Tom Miller or State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald. By this time in 2010, Brenna Findley was already campaigning around the state against Miller, and two Republicans were running for treasurer.

As expected, Sherrie Taha is the Democratic candidate for secretary of agriculture; she will face GOP incumbent Bill Northey. Jon Neiderbach is the Democratic candidate for state auditor; he will face GOP incumbent Mary Mosiman, whom Branstad appointed last year. The secretary of state’s race pits Democrat Brad Anderson against Republican Paul Pate. 2010 Libertarian nominee Jake Porter also plans to register for the ballot this summer.

IA-Sen: Rod Roberts rules out running

It’s been nearly ten months since former State Representative Rod Roberts confirmed that he was considering a campaign for U.S. Senate. I’ve long been a skeptic that Roberts has any niche or large constituency in a statewide Republican primary. In fact, I’d forgotten he was still thinking about the race. This week Carroll-based journalist Douglas Burns got the scoop in an interview: Roberts will not run for Senate, or Congress in the open third district, or for Iowa secretary of state in 2014. He cited family reasons and said he plans to continue his work as director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. In late 2010, then Governor-elect Terry Branstad offered Roberts that position without considering any other candidates, even though Roberts had not applied for the job.

Burns has long been high on Roberts as a possible Senate candidate, but for once I agree with Steve Deace: “Rod didn’t offer a reason other than, ‘I’m Rod Roberts and I’m a nice guy.’ What’s your plan? […] Offer people something.” In his latest column, Burns floats the scenario of Roberts emerging as a compromise Senate nominee at a statewide convention if none of the current candidates receives 35 percent of the vote in the June primary.

Not bloody likely.

I do largely agree with Burns’ assessment of Mark Jacobs, though. Many Iowa Republicans will be skeptical of a candidate who only recently moved back to the state. Nor will they cut Jacobs slack for giving money to Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Corzine in 2000, on the grounds that Corzine was CEO of Goldman Sachs, where Jacobs worked at the time.

I have a post in progress with more news on the Jacobs campaign. Meanwhile, any comments about the U.S. Senate race are welcome in this thread.

IA-03: Brenna Findley won't run in 2014

Governor Terry Branstad’s legal counsel Brenna Findley told the Des Moines Register yesterday that she has decided not to run for Congress in the open third district. She indicated that she plans to continue her work in the governor’s office and teach a course at the University of Iowa law school.

I would guess that the early conservative endorsements for Matt Schultz were in part intended to deter Findley from entering the GOP primary in IA-03. Not only was she seriously considering the race, the National Republican Congressional Committee had reserved the domain name BrennaFindleyforCongress.com. Findley has strong conservative credentials as a product of homeschooling and a longtime staffer for Representative Steve King before running for Iowa attorney general in 2010. She has repeatedly spoken out against illegal immigration and the mandate to purchase individual health insurance. She has arguably helped steer the Branstad administration’s policies to the right on abortion and gun-related issues.

Although Findley won’t run for Congress or statewide office this year, I expect Iowans will see her name on a ballot again sometime before the end of this decade. We may have an open race for attorney general in 2018 if Tom Miller decides to call it quits after nine terms.  

Matt Schultz touts more "fraud" that voter ID wouldn't prevent

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz announced yesterday that nine more Iowans are being charged with “voter fraud.” As you can see from the statement I’ve posted below, eight Waterloo residents face election misconduct charges (a Class D felony) because they registered to vote and cast ballots in the 2012 general election, even though they are felons whose voting rights had not been restored. One Lee County resident who is also an ex-felon is charged with registering to vote and casting a ballot in a 2013 local election.

By my count, Schultz’s obsessive hunt for voter fraud has now yielded criminal charges in 25 cases, representing less than a thousandth of one percent of ballots cast in Iowa’s recent local, state, and federal elections. Most of the cases involve felons whose rights had not been restored, though not all of the accused cast ballots–some had merely registered to vote. No proof has emerged that any of these people knew they were committing a crime. They may have assumed that they had a right to vote, because tens of thousands of Iowa ex-felons had their voting rights restored during Governor Chet Culver’s tenure. They may have assumed they were able to vote once offered a registration form.

Most important, none of these cases could have been averted if Schultz had accomplished his goal of forcing Iowans to show a photo ID when voting on election day. It’s likely that many of these improperly registered voters filled out a form after renewing a driver’s license. Schultz’s full-time criminal investigator has not found anyone guilty of impersonating another voter on election day, which is the only kind of fraud that a photo ID law could prevent.

The new defendants will probably be effective poster children for Schultz’s Congressional campaign, though. Republicans love the fantasy that making it more difficult for thousands of people to vote will somehow protect “election integrity” in Iowa.  

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Matt Schultz running in IA-03; Paul Pate running for Secretary of State

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz confirmed today that he will run for Congress in the open third district. He announced his decision at a press conference in Council Bluffs, where he served on the city council before winning the 2010 election for secretary of state. Council Bluffs is the second-largest city in IA-03. Schultz for Congress is on the web here and on Facebook here. The candidate’s Twitter handle is VoteMattSchultz. So far the website doesn’t contain detailed issue positions, just five section headings: “Protect against government overreach,” “Enact term limits for elected officials,” “Repeal Obamacare,” “Balance the federal government’s budget,” and “Protect our 2nd Amendment rights.”

I’ve posted background on Schultz after the jump, along with an excerpt from today’s official press release announcing his candidacy. It doesn’t mention what I suspect are the real reasons he is running for Congress instead of for re-election.

Meanwhile, Paul Pate announced today that he will seek the Republican nomination for secretary of state. He was elected to that statewide position in 1994 but left after one term to run for governor. Speaking to the Des Moines Register today, Pate said his experience gives him “a pretty good grasp of the office’s responsibilities,” allowing him to “hit the ground running.” He added that he can win the secretary of state’s race.

Pate said he already has strong name-ID with voters around Iowa, and a proven record of fundraising. The successful GOP candidate will need to raise at least $250,000, he said.

“Candidates need to recognize they won’t be able to run this on a shoestring budget,” he said.

Pate, who said he has “great respect” for Schultz, wants to make some changes to the secretary of state position.

“One key thing is my desire to bring more a nonpartisan approach to the office,” he said. “I think that’s something that Iowans and Americans have been clamoring for with all the gridlock going on in Washington.”

Pate flirted with running for Congress in IA-01 last year before opting out, citing family reasons. I’m curious to see whether he can clear the Republican field. My hunch is that he will be unopposed in the primary. I am seeking comment from State Representative Mary Ann Hanusa, who was the 2006 GOP nominee for secretary of state.

Brad Anderson is the likely Democratic nominee for this office, although former Secretary of State Michael Mauro has not ruled out running again in 2014. Mauro is currently Iowa’s labor commissioner.

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Bombshell in IA-03: Tom Latham not seeking re-election

From the day I first saw Iowa’s new map of political boundaries in 2011, I had a bad feeling that Republican Tom Latham would be representing me in Congress for most of this decade. I did not see today’s news coming: in an e-mail to supporters this afternoon (full text here), the ten-term incumbent announced that he will not seek re-election to the U.S. House in 2014. Latham plans to spend more time with his family.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was already targeting Iowa’s third Congressional district, and Latham was in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s incumbent protection program. As an open seat, the race will be far more competitive than if longtime incumbent Latham were on the ballot. I am curious to see which Republicans jump in this race. I doubt Des Moines-based teacher and business owner Joe Grandanette, who had already announced a primary challenge to Latham, will be the GOP nominee. I assume several state legislators or former legislators will go for it, but probably not State Senator Brad Zaun, who couldn’t beat Leonard Boswell in the biggest Republican landslide in decades.

Former State Senator Staci Appel has a head start in the race for the Democratic nomination, with nearly $200,000 cash on hand as of September 30 and the support of several Democratic-aligned interest groups, including EMILY’s List. Gabriel De La Cerda is the other declared Democratic candidate in IA-03. With Latham retiring, I wonder if other Democrats will jump in the race. For instance, State Senator Matt McCoy was planning to run for Congress in the third district in 2002 before Representative Boswell decided to move to Des Moines so as not to face Steve King in what was then IA-05.

As of December 1, IA-03 contained 157,456 active registered Democrats, 164,311 Republicans, and 160,205 no-party voters, according to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

UPDATE: Shortly after news broke of Latham’s retirement, Appel sent out a fundraising appeal and tweeted that her team was “thrilled to see our work holding Latham accountable has paid off.”

SECOND UPDATE: State Senator Janet Petersen comes to mind as a potential Democratic candidate as well. On the Republican side, I wonder whether some mayors or Waukee City Council Member Isaiah McGee will go for it.

THIRD UPDATE: Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds already ruled out running for Congress, but Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is seriously considering it.

I’ve added Appel’s statement on today’s news after the jump.

FOURTH UPDATE: Added Schultz’s statement after the jump. He served as a Council Bluffs City Council member before running for Iowa secretary of state.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal lives in IA-03 and could run for Congress without risking his state Senate seat, since he’s not up for re-election until 2016.

Also added statements from Representatives Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, and the Iowa Democratic Party below. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action released a statement calling on Latham to help move immigration reform forward, now that he “has nothing to lose.”

Have to agree with John Deeth: “On the GOP side I expect a clown car and maybe even another convention.” State Senators Brad Zaun and Jack Whitver are both thinking about it.

FIFTH UPDATE: Added statement from Gabriel De La Cerda, who was the first Democrat to declare in IA-03 earlier this year.

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Weekend open thread: Outrages of the week

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread. Here are a few links to get a conversation started.

A Polk County district court ruling related to one of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s pet projects called attention to the fact that Schultz was in Switzerland for the American Swiss Foundation’s 24th annual Young Leaders Conference, a weeklong event. Whether the secretary of state should attend a foreign junket like this at any time is debatable. But it’s ridiculous for him to have planned to be out of town when Iowa’s 99 county auditors were gathering in Des Moines to discuss election-related issues. The Iowa Democratic Party and the only declared Democratic candidate for secretary of state blasted Schultz. I’ve posted their comments below, along with the official defense from the Iowa Secretary of State’s spokesman.

Speaking of Schultz’s pet projects, here’s some important news from last month: the federal judge who wrote a key ruling upholding Indiana’s voter ID law now believes he got that case wrong.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Friday that it is proposing to alter the Renewable Fuel Standard on how much ethanol must be blended into gasoline. The announcement upset Iowa elected officials from both parties. After the jump I’ve posted statements from Governor Terry Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, and all of the Iowans in Congress except for Representative Tom Latham (R, IA-03), who has not commented on this issue to my knowledge.

The Associated Press reported this week on how the push to produce corn-based ethanol has damaged the environment in Iowa and elsewhere.

One last outrage: Will Potter reported for Mother Jones about a case that “could make it harder for journalists and academics to keep tabs on government agencies.” The FBI is going to court to prevent its “most prolific” Freedom of Information Act requester from accessing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents.

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Iowa voter citizenship checks on hold pending lawsuit

It’s time for an update on the legal conflict between Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz and voter rights advocates over Schultz’s efforts to remove “potential non-citizen registrants” from Iowa voter rolls. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa are suing to block the rule and won an important court victory yesterday. Follow me after the jump for background and details.

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Themes of Attorney General Tom Miller's re-election campaign

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller launched his campaign for a ninth term today with events in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Dubuque. His official statement, posted below, elaborates on Miller’s recent response to critics of his work and highlights the following “achievements for Iowans in the last three years”:

1. Miller’s “leadership in negotiating the national mortgage servicing settlement with major banks,” resulting in “payment of more than $40 million to Iowa homeowners and funding the Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline, which has helped thousands of Iowans with mortgage foreclosure issues.” (Roughly 6,000 Iowa borrowers received checks for $1,480 as part of the settlement–hardly adequate compensation for losses they suffered because of lenders’ mortgage servicing abuse.)

2. Protecting consumers against various kinds of fraud.

3. Helping to prosecute both violent and white-collar criminals, strengthening laws against child pornography and enticement of minors, improving victim assistance services to Iowans who have suffered from family violence or sexual assault.

4. Saving millions of taxpayer dollars by defending the state in various lawsuits.

5. Protecting the environment through “18 enforcement actions during the last three years involving air pollution, water pollution, and illegal solid waste disposal.”

Miller also promised to work on more issues during his next term, including “abuses by for-profit colleges,” “shoddy debt collection practices,” “ways to strengthen human trafficking and consumer protection laws,” and “the challenges of the e-cigarette.” UPDATE: Radio Iowa posted audio from one of Miller’s press events today.

I have not heard of any Republicans planning to challenge Miller in 2014. He was unopposed in 2006 and defeated Brenna Findley by a comfortable 55.5 percent to 44.4 percent margin in 2010 despite being outspent during the campaign and facing negative television commercials.

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Sherrie Taha's case for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture

Polk County Soil and Water Commissioner Sherrie Taha announced her candidacy for Iowa secretary of agriculture last month and has been appearing at Democratic events around the state in recent weeks. Her campaign is on Facebook here. To my knowledge, there isn’t a campaign website yet.

Taha’s central message is simple: “A healthy Iowa begins with healthy soil.” Protecting that soil will reduce input costs for farmers while producing cleaner water in Iowa and downstream. That basic truth seems to be lost on the incumbent Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. Despite evidence that Iowa’s world-class topsoil, a non-renewable resource, is “floating away” at an alarming rate, Northey has resisted any regulation aimed at reducing runoff into waterways. Instead, Northey promotes voluntary efforts, which may not be applied where they are most needed to keep topsoil in place. The incumbent also opposes any numeric standards which would indicate whether the state’s strategy to reduce water pollution from farms is working.

Taha will have an uphill battle against Northey, who was narrowly elected in 2006 and easily re-elected in 2010. The incumbent will have strong financial backing from interest groups that profit from current conventional agricultural practices. A far larger group of Iowans would benefit from Taha’s plan to do more to protect farmland and clean water. After the jump I’ve posted the introductory piece of literature from her campaign, which highlights her priorities and provides a short bio.

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Weekend open thread: Jefferson-Jackson Dinner edition

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

The Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was an entertaining affair. I’ve posted some highlights after the jump. The “news” of the evening was Senator Chuck Schumer of New York endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, but for my money that wasn’t the most interesting part of his speech.

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Democrat Jon Neiderbach running for State Auditor

Jon Neiderbach announced this morning that he will seek the Democratic nomination for Iowa state auditor in 2014. An attorney, Neiderbach served a term on the Des Moines School Board and worked in state government for many years, first at the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and later at the Iowa Department of Human Services. I’ve posted more background on Neiderbach after the jump, along with the introductory post from his campaign website, Realtaxpayerswatchdog.com. In that post, he praised the work of longtime Republican State Auditor Richard Johnson but argued that “recent State Auditors have violated our trust.”

They have myopia, looking only at what is close to them: how money is handled. Of course money handling is very important, but they ignore the larger and even more critical issues the State Auditor is required by law to address.

Our recent State Auditors have not examined the quality of management, the efficiency of operations, or the effectiveness of programs. They have allowed theft and fraud to go undiscovered for years, using clearly inadequate auditing procedures. And to make matters worse, recent State Auditors have gotten involved in politics: they have become spokespersons for Governor Branstad’s policies and rubber stamps for the political cronies he has appointed.

Neiderbach is referring to Johnson’s successor David Vaudt, who served as state auditor from 2003 through April of this year, and to Mary Mosiman, whom Governor Terry Branstad appointed after Vaudt resigned.

Neiderbach will discuss his campaign to become “Iowa’s Chief Accountability Officer” with people at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines on November 2. He is encouraging voters to call him at (515) 984-0021 or contact him via e-mail: realtaxpayerswatchdog AT gmail.com.

I am not aware of other candidates planning to challenge Mosiman next year. In 2010, Jon Murphy did not enter the race against Vaudt until after the Democratic primary.  

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Iowa AG Tom Miller previews case for his re-election?

Although Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller hasn’t made any official announcement about plans to seek a ninth term in 2014, he recently previewed what could become central themes of a re-election campaign. Storm Lake Times editor Art Cullen made a splash in the Iowa newspaper world last month with editorials calling for Miller to retire. Cullen cited the attorney general’s position on open records controversies and his alleged efforts to thwart the work of Iowa’s ombudsman. Newspapers including the Des Moines Register and the Des Moines-based weekly Cityview republished Cullen’s case for Miller to step aside and clear the path for “an attorney general for the people.” Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu cited several other troubling examples of how Miller has lost his way in recent years.

To defend his work and “set the record straight,” Miller wrote guest editorials for various publications. You can read his specific rebuttals to Cullen here. I was more interested in the list of achievements he cited as proof that “in the last few years,” the Attorney General’s office has “done more than ever to serve Iowans.” It sounds like the kernel of a stump speech or television commercial to me. I’ve posted those excerpts after the jump.

Please share any relevant thoughts in this thread. I haven’t heard yet about a Republican challenger to Miller, but I would not be surprised to see his 2010 opponent Brenna Findley take another shot next year. She is currently Governor Terry Branstad’s legal counsel and just completed a six-week stint as the governor’s interim chief of staff.

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IA-Gov: State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald not running

State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald confirmed today that he has decided against running for governor next year.

“Democrats have three good candidates out there and I look to running on the ticket with any one of them,”  Fitzgerald told Radio Iowa.

He says there wasn’t any one particular thing that made him decide not to run for governor. “I think it was a combination of things and it boiled down to I can serve the State of Iowa better as state treasurer,” he says.

Fitzgerald is the country’s longest-serving state treasurer and will be heavily favored for re-election in 2014. He defeated Republican challenger Dave Jamison by approximately 53 percent to 47 percent despite the massive GOP landslide of 2010.

State Representative Tyler Olson and former State Representative Bob Krause are already running for governor, and State Senator Jack Hatch plans to kick off his gubernatorial campaign with events in several cities on September 17.

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Ethics board dismisses complaint against State Auditor Mosiman

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board agreed on August 8 to dismiss a complaint Iowa Democratic Party executive director Troy Price filed in May against newly-appointed State Auditor Mary Mosiman. The complaint alleged that Mosiman improperly used funds from her Story County auditor campaign account for personal expenses. Mosiman admitted using campaign funds to pay for certified public accountant training and travel to Republican political events after she became head of the Iowa Secretary of State’s elections division. She maintained the payments were permissible because she had future political aspirations, even though she was not an elected official or a candidate for office when the funds in question were used. Mosiman is now running for state auditor in 2014.

After the jump I’ve posted a memorandum of understanding between Mosiman and the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. Both the state auditor and Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board members agreed that Iowa law does not spell out the full range of allowable post-election spending from campaign accounts.  Mosiman agreed to repay the campaign funds to resolve the dispute, while denying wrongdoing. The ethics board agreed to “consider issuing one of more advisory opinions” to “address the lack of clarity in the law that has revealed itself in this matter.”  

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Libertarian Jake Porter running for Secretary of State again

Catching up on news from last week, Jake Porter plans a second campaign for Iowa secretary of state on the Libertarian ticket. He received 33,854 votes (about 3 percent of votes cast) as the Libertarian nominee for that office in 2010. Porter’s campaign is on the web here, as well as on Facebook and twitter. I’ve posted his campaign announcement and official bio after the jump. He pledged not to “endorse any political candidate like [current Secretary of State] Matt Schultz did when he supported Rick Santorum for President,” and touted the fact that he is not affiliated with any major political party like Democratic candidate for secretary of state Brad Anderson.

Porter’s bio alludes to experience with political consulting and campaign management. He elaborated by e-mail that he managed Libertarian candidate Eric Cooper’s campaign for Iowa governor in 2010, Bob Barr’s Libertarian presidential campaign in Iowa during the 2008 general election, and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign in Iowa for part of 2011, when Johnson was running as a Republican.

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AFSCME endorses Pat Murphy in IA-01, Staci Appel in IA-03

The elections arm of Iowa’s largest labor union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, announced five endorsements for the 2014 elections today. I’ve posted the whole statement from the AFSCME Iowa Council 61 PEOPLE Committee after the jump. The biggest news is AFSCME coming out early for former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy in IA-01. Two other Democrats are already campaigning for that open seat, probably to be joined soon by State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic and former State Senator Swati Dandekar.

In IA-03, AFSCME will back former State Senator Staci Appel, who voted for a number of pro-labor bills during her four years in the legislature. Gabriel De La Cerda is also running in the Democratic primary and was an Iowa political coordinator for the United Steel Workers Union during the 2012 general election campaign. No one will be surprised to see AFSCME supporting four-term incumbent Dave Loebsack in IA-02 or Jim Mowrer in IA-04, where no other Democrat is likely to take on Steve King.

AFSCME hasn’t endorsed a Democratic challenger to Governor Terry Branstad yet. The only statewide candidate named in today’s release is Brad Anderson for Iowa secretary of state. He has the backing of most of Iowa’s Democratic establishment and may not face any competition in the primary, although former Secretary of State Michael Mauro hasn’t ruled out a comeback attempt.

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Bill Northey seeking third term as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture

Catching up on news from the weekend, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey held his seventh annual “BBQ bash” at the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on July 13. Speaking to the crowd, Northey confirmed that he will seek a third term in 2014 and said he had raised at least $100,000 for his re-election campaign at the event. Ever since Northey ruled out running for the U.S. Senate in early May, it’s been clear that he would go for another four years in the job he loves.

I’ve been disappointed in Northey as secretary of agriculture. He never followed through on the farmland protection initiative he announced in 2008, even though Iowa continues to lose some of the world’s most productive agricultural land at an alarming rate. He has insisted on a solely voluntary approach to reducing nutrient pollution in Iowa waterways despite ample evidence that approach will fail. Record nitrate levels have been reported this spring and summer in major Iowa rivers, and the Des Moines Water Works is facing huge extra costs to make water drinkable for 15 percent of Iowa’s population. Not only is Northey not part of the solution, he’s digging in his heels to perpetuate the problem.

Any comments about next year’s campaign for secretary of agriculture are welcome in this thread. I haven’t heard yet of any Democrats planning to challenge Northey. Dusky Terry, who narrowly lost the Democratic primary for this office in 2006, could be a credible candidate. He is currently mayor of Earlham,  a small town in Dallas County.  

Weekend open thread, with links on Iowa Republican women

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

Iowa Republicans will have at least two women on the statewide ballot in 2014: Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and State Auditor Mary Mosiman, who kicked off her election campaign on Thursday in Des Moines. Excerpts from Kevin Hall’s write-up of the event are after the jump.

State Senator Joni Ernst could also become a statewide nominee if she joins the U.S. Senate race, as expected. I think she has strong potential in a GOP primary against three or four men. At this writing, no Democratic woman has announced plans to run for any statewide office in Iowa, but several have either launched or are considering Congressional campaigns.

This week Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer replaced Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen on the Legislative Leaders Advisory Board of Newt Gingrich’s organization GOPAC. Upmeyer was an early endorser of Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign. Paulsen endorsed Gingrich shortly before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. If Paulsen runs for Congress in the open first district, Upmeyer will probably also seek to replace him as Iowa House speaker. She would be the first woman to reach that position in our state, although she’s not a shoo-in for the job. (For what it’s worth, I doubt Paulsen would win an IA-01 Republican primary.)

Last month Upmeyer and Reynolds joined the national advisory board of the Republican State Leadership Committee’s project to recruit more women candidates, called Right Women, Right Now. Upmeyer has served on the national board of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for several years.

Speaking of women elected officials, Eric Ostermeier wrote an interesting piece for the Smart Politics blog on how the 78 women in the U.S. House identify themselves. Three Republicans go by “Congressman” instead of “Congresswoman” or “Representative.”

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State Auditor's office will examine Schultz's use of HAVA funds

Chief Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins will investigate Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s use of Help America Vote Act funding, William Petroski reported today for the Des Moines Register. Democratic State Senator Tom Courtney requested the audit immediately after Governor Terry Branstad appointed Mary Mosiman as state auditor last month. Mosiman’s predecessor, David Vaudt, did not act on Courtney’s request for an audit last year. Schultz has used federal HAVA funding to pay for a law enforcement officer charged with investigating alleged voter fraud full-time. Courtney contends that such a use falls outside federal law, which calls for HAVA funds to cover “educating voters concerning voting procedures, voting rights and voting technology.”

Mosiman delegated the audit to Jenkins because until last month, she was working as Schultz’s deputy in charge of the Secretary of State’s elections office.

Please share any relevant comments in this thread. After the jump I’ve posted reaction from Schultz and Democratic candidate for secretary of state Brad Anderson.

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Mary Mosiman launching campaign for state auditor

I haven’t seen any formal announcement from State Auditor Mary Mosiman, but via James Q. Lynch, I see that her 2014 campaign kickoff event is scheduled for June 13 in Des Moines. Governor Terry Branstad and Republican Party of Iowa Chair A.J. Spiker will headline the fundraiser at the Iowa GOP headquarters. Earlier this month, Branstad appointed Mosiman to replace David Vaudt, who stepped down after more than a decade in the position.

Any comments about the race for state auditor are welcome in this thread. The Iowa Democratic Party has already taken a swipe at Mosiman, but I haven’t heard of any Democratic candidate for this office yet. Branstad and other Republicans have asserted that the state auditor should be a certified public accountant. Vaudt’s predecessor was Republican Richard Johnson, a CPA who served as state auditor for 24 years and jousted frequently with Branstad during his earlier terms as governor.  

Matt Schultz rules out IA-Sen, will seek re-election as secretary of state (updated)

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz announced on twitter this morning, “I am humbled by all of the encouragement to run for Senate, but I love serving Iowans as Secretary of State… I intend to run for SOS.” Earlier this month, Schultz traveled to Washington to speak with Republicans about the open U.S. Senate seat. I’m not surprised he decided to stay in his current office, where he will not be challenged in the GOP primary. Fundraising has never been Schultz’s strong suit, and in a Senate race he would be competing against at least two Republicans with the potential to raise big money (Matt Whitaker and David Young), plus a possible self-funding candidate in Mark Jacobs.

Schultz’s likely opponent in the secretary of state’s race is Brad Anderson, who has been raising money and building a campaign organization with the support of many heavyweights in the Iowa Democratic establishment. Iowa Labor Commissioner Michael Mauro, who served four years as secretary of state before losing to Schultz in 2010, has not ruled out running in the Democratic primary next year.

UPDATE: Added Brad Anderson’s comment on today’s news after the jump.

SECOND UPDATE: Schultz’s full written statement is below as well.

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Branstad taps Mary Mosiman for state auditor

Governor Terry Branstad announced this morning that Mary Mosiman will be Iowa’s new state auditor. She replaces David Vaudt, who resigned last month to become chairman of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board.

Mosiman served as Story County Auditor for ten years before Matt Schultz hired her to run the elections division of the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. She is a certified public accountant, which Branstad said was a “major requirement” as he searched for Vaudt’s successor.

After the jump I’ve posted the governor’s press release, containing more background on Mosiman. She will serve as auditor until after next year’s elections. I assume she will become the Republican nominee for state auditor in 2014 as well. I have not heard yet about any Democrat planning to run for that office. Iowa Democrats did not field a candidate against Vaudt in 2006. Jon Murphy launched his 2010 campaign less than five months before the general election.

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Brad Anderson has head start in secretary of state's race

When Brad Anderson announced plans to challenge Secretary of State Matt Schultz, many influential Iowa Democrats quickly jumped on board, noting Anderson’s skills and experience as manager of President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign in Iowa.

While Schultz considers running for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat next year, Anderson has begun building what may become the largest campaign organization for a statewide office in Iowa other than governor. Last week Anderson announced raising $102,186 for his campaign since he formally launched his candidacy. That may not sound like much money for a statewide race, but Matt Schultz didn’t even raise that much during his entire 2010 candidacy. In January 2013, Schultz’s re-election campaign reported $29,505.62 cash on hand but also $17,071.34 in unpaid bills.

Former Secretary of State Michael Mauro wasn’t a huge fundraiser even as an incumbent seeking re-election in 2010. Mauro has not ruled out running for secretary of state again. Although he did a fantastic job in that office, he would start a Democratic primary campaign against Anderson at an organizational disadvantage.

After the jump I’ve listed Anderson’s 99 “county captains,” along with members of his campaign steering committee. Anderson commented in a press release from April 25, “The 2012 election proved a strong organization is just as important as fundraising, and I am pleased some of the best organizers in the state have joined our team and are ready to help us win this important race.”

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Cheating Determines Iowa's Elections, Schultz Implies

(Rhetoric like this is one reason voter ID laws undermine public confidence in the integrity of elections. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Does any other Secretary of State agree with Iowa’s Matt Schultz–that abortion and gay marriage are legal because cheating determines election outcomes? Or is our Secretary of State saying Iowa has the worst elections in the nation?

In an astonishing, passionate speech to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition April 15, Shultz said the group could not advance its agenda because its opponents "cheat" at the polls. His solution?Voter ID cards, of course.

Schultz offered no evidence of such cheating. He charged that

we have a lot of forgetful Democratic Senators in the state of Iowa. They just don’t get it. . . . Why would somebody be against voter ID? WHY? It’s time to call a spade a spade. . . This about honesty and integrity–I’m an Eagle Scout–I think it’s important we have an Eagle Scout be Secretary of State.

Calling a spade a spade apparently means being ready to say Democrats win by cheating, which he soon said.

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Brad Anderson will challenge Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz

Barack Obama’s 2012 Iowa campaign manager Brad Anderson confirmed yesterday that he plans to run against Secretary of State Matt Schultz in 2014. I hope there will be a competitive Democratic primary, because from where I’m sitting, Anderson looks like the wrong candidate for this race.

UPDATE: Added details from Anderson’s formal announcement below, along with his campaign bio and a list of Democrats on his steering committee (including Senator Tom Harkin, former governors Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver, Representatives Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack, and several former chairs of the Iowa Democratic Party). Looks like there will be no competitive primary.

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