# Steve Sodders

Minority impact statements in Iowa: History and continuing efforts

Marty Ryan of Des Moines lobbied the Iowa legislature for 27 years and now blogs weekly. -promoted by Laura Belin

The Iowa quarter, printed in the latter part of 2004, is based upon a Grant Wood painting depicting a group of students and their teacher planting a tree outside of a county school. The statement on the coin says, “Foundation In Education.” For many decades, Iowa was noted for its first-in-the-nation education status. Likewise, Iowa has been a consistent leader in civil rights.

In fact, Iowa established some standards of equality long before the federal government or other states.

But racial disparities continue to affect Iowans in many areas of life. A reform the Democratic-controlled legislature enacted more than a decade ago has only slightly mitigated the problem.

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Iowa Senate district 36 preview: Jeff Edler vs. Dave Degner

Some sobering facts about the bloodbath that was the 2016 election in Iowa:

Donald Trump carried eighteen state Senate districts that had voted for President Barack Obama in 2012.*

Eleven of those eighteen were even-numbered districts, which are on the Iowa ballot in presidential election years.

The four Republicans who already represented Obama/Trump districts all easily won another term in the Iowa Senate.**

But six of the seven Democratic senators up for re-election in Obama/Trump districts lost: Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (Senate district 8), Mary Jo Wilhelm (Senate district 26), Brian Schoenjahn (Senate district 32), Steve Sodders (Senate district 36), Tom Courtney (Senate district 44), and Chris Brase (Senate district 46).

With Republicans now enjoying a 32-18 majority in the upper chamber, Democrats need to win back at least a few Obama/Trump seats next year to have a realistic chance of regaining Iowa Senate control after the next round of redistricting.

Democrats have been actively campaigning in Senate districts 8 and 44 for some time. Now GOP State Senator Jeff Edler has a strong challenger in Senate district 36.

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Review of progressive local election victories around Iowa

Democrats around the country had a lot to celebrate last night, including a “tidal wave” in Virginia, total control of state government in New Jersey, a vote to expand Medicaid in Maine, and a special election that gave the party a majority in the Washington State Senate. Voting rights may be expanded soon in several states, Ari Berman wrote today at Mother Jones.

Many progressive Democrats scored victories in Iowa’s non-partisan local elections as well.

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

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

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

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

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Highlights from a campaign literacy seminar in Cedar Rapids

Molly Donahue reports on a recent candidate training event in Cedar Rapids. Donahue was the 2016 Democratic nominee in Iowa House district 68 and is seeking the nomination for the same seat next year. -promoted by desmoinesdem

On Wednesday, June 7 in Cedar Rapids, former two-term State Senator Steve Sodders held a campaign literacy workshop at the Cherry building in Newbo, hosted by Bex Hurns. Sodders is spending much of his free time helping out candidates or potential candidates with pertinent information on how to run a campaign. The small group of fifteen people who were permitted to attend the Cedar Rapids event included those who are thinking about running for an office, as well as others like myself, who are already running.

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Steve Sodders rules out running for Congress in IA-01

Former State Senator Steve Sodders will not run for Congress in Iowa’s first district next year, he told Bleeding Heartland this morning.

I’m taking my hat out of the congressional race, after long consideration and discussions with family and friends, it would be very difficult for me to run for higher office at this time due to my work schedule at the Marshall County Sheriff office. I do plan on staying in politics and will likely run for another office in the future. I can retire in January of 2019 from law enforcement after 29 years.

Sodders, a longtime deputy sheriff, represented Marshall and Tama counties in the Iowa Senate for two terms before losing his re-election bid to Jeff Edler last year. Republicans spent heavily in that race, as did some conservative interest groups. Many Democrats would support Sodders in a 2020 rematch with Edler. Another possibility would be a campaign for Marshall County supervisor. Two of the three current supervisors (Bill Patten and Dave Thompson) are up for re-election in 2018.

To my knowledge, Courtney Rowe is the only declared Democratic challenger to two-term Representative Rod Blum in IA-01. Bleeding Heartland posted more information about the Cedar Rapids-based engineer here. Her campaign has a Facebook page.

State Representative Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque is likely to join the Congressional field soon, having filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and spoken recently at several Democratic events around the district. Click here for background on Finkenauer and to hear what her stump speech might sound like if she runs against Blum. Her campaign website is here.

State Senator Jeff Danielson of Waterloo and Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson have previously said they are thinking about running for Congress next year.

Blum is a top 2018 target for Iowa and U.S. House Democrats. The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 164,113 active registered Democrats, 144,584 Republicans, and 190,664 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, which is Blum’s home base.

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Five Democrats who might run for Congress in IA-01

Despite the huge swing toward Donald Trump and down-ballot Republicans in northeast Iowa last year, Democrats are gearing up for a major challenge to GOP Representative Rod Blum in Iowa’s first Congressional district. Many Iowans considered Blum’s 2014 victory a fluke of a GOP wave year, but he outperformed Trump by about 5 points while winning re-election in 2016.

Now IA-01 is in the top tier of pickup opportunities for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Former Bernie Sanders campaign staffer Blair Lawton is already on the ground organizing for the Iowa Democratic Party in the district.

A competitive Democratic primary here is a near-certainty. After the jump, I’ve posted background on five possible candidates, in alphabetical order. I’d welcome tips on others who may be considering this race.

The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 164,485 active registered Democrats, 144,687 Republicans, and 189,606 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, a traditional Democratic stronghold that is also Blum’s home base.

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Democrats set to target Blum in IA-01; GOP will go after Loebsack in IA-02

Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting system has given our state an unusual number of competitive Congressional districts. Major-party candidates and outside groups spent millions of dollars last year in Iowa’s first district race pitting GOP Representative Rod Blum against Democratic challenger Monica Vernon, as well as in the third district, where Republican Representative David Young faced Democrat Jim Mowrer.

Not only are Democrats determined to go after IA-01 and IA-03 again in 2018, Iowa Republicans have signaled that they will try to defeat six-term Representative Dave Loebsack, who mostly got a pass in the second district during 2016.

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Election results thread: Dark days ahead

Polls just closed in Iowa. Considered a heavy favorite to win the electoral college, Hillary Clinton is in serious danger of losing the presidency. Results from swing states to the east suggest that Donald Trump is outperforming Mitt Romney in heavily white working-class and rural areas. That doesn’t bode well for our state, even if early vote numbers suggested Clinton might have a chance.

Most of the battleground state House and Senate districts are overwhelmingly white. Republicans have been able to outspend Democrats in almost all of the targeted races. We could be looking at a GOP trifecta in Iowa for the first time since 1998.

I’ll be updating this post regularly as Iowa results come in. The Secretary of State will post results here.

No surprise: the U.S. Senate race was called for Chuck Grassley immediately. He led all the late opinion polls by comfortable double-digit margins.

The rest of the updates are after the jump.

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Republicans outspending Democrats in most Iowa Senate battlegrounds

Iowa House and Senate candidates were required to file their last pre-election campaign finance reports on Friday. In stark contrast to four years ago, Republicans are outspending Democrats in most of the contested state Senate districts. (I’ll address spending in the key Iowa House races in a different post.)

Currently, there are 25 Senate Democrats, 23 Republicans, and one independent. If former GOP Senator David Johnson makes good on his promise to remain an independent in 2017, and Democrats win the December special election to replace the late Senator Joe Seng, Republicans would need to pick up three seats to gain control of the upper chamber for the first time since 2004.

I enclose below in-kind contribution figures for the Senate districts expected to be in play next Tuesday. Candidates running elsewhere did not report large in-kind contributions from their respective parties.

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The truth about that so-called "trolley for lobbyists"

Iowa Republicans have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars this fall on television commercials and direct mail highlighting supposedly wasteful spending by Democratic state lawmakers. For the fourth election cycle in a row, many of these attacks repeat zombie lies from the 2010 campaign about money spent on “heated sidewalks” and a “trolley for lobbyists.”

As Bleeding Heartland explained here, Iowa House and Senate Democrats never approved money for heated sidewalks. They simply rejected a GOP amendment to a 2010 appropriations bill, which would have prohibited using state funds for “geothermal systems for melting snow and ice from streets or sidewalks.” The amendment was pointless, because planners of the award-winning streetscape project in question had already ruled out heated sidewalks in favor of porous pavement.

What about the Republican hit pieces claiming Democrats spent money on a “trolley for lobbyists”?

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Friends and former colleagues remember Rich Olive

Former State Senator Rich Olive died of cancer yesterday at the age of 66. He represented Wright and Hamilton counties, along with some rural areas in Story and Webster counties, from 2007 through 2010. During that time, he chaired the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee.

Many Iowans who knew Olive through his work in the legislature agreed to share some of their memories with Bleeding Heartland readers.

Photo of Rich Olive at the capitol taken by Senate Democratic staff; used with permission.

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

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

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

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Iowa Democrats trying to add autism insurance coverage to budget bill

Earlier this month, Claire Celsi informed Bleeding Heartland readers about the demise of an autism insurance bill after State Representative Peter Cownie refused to bring the measure up for a vote in the Iowa House Commerce Committee, which he chairs.

As both Autism Awareness Month and the 2016 legislative session wind down, Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate have been working to add the same requirements to a must-pass budget bill. Follow me after the jump for background and where things stand in this fight.

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Medicaid oversight bill passes Iowa Senate with bipartisan support

Since Terry Branstad returned to the governor’s office, the overwhelming majority of Iowa Senate votes on contentious political issues have fallen along strict party lines: 26 Democrats one way and 24 Republicans the opposite. However, the Branstad administration’s rush to privatize Medicaid has created space for bipartisanship, as a growing number of Republicans acknowledge the dangers of shifting to managed care for a program through which one in six Iowans access health services.

Last month, three GOP senators joined their Democratic colleagues to vote for a bill that would have halted Iowa’s Medicaid privatization. That legislation is going nowhere in the Republican-controlled state House, and federal officials recently approved waivers to allow the Iowa Department of Human Services to implement the managed care policy as of April 1.

Yesterday a quarter of the GOP state senators voted with all 26 Democrats for a Medicaid oversight bill that had cleared the Senate Human Resources Committee unanimously. In her remarks to open floor debate on Senate File 2213, Human Resources Committee Chair Amanda Ragan said the bill was designed “to safeguard the interests of Medicaid members, encourage the participation of Medicaid providers, and protect Iowa taxpayers.” She told colleagues, “we must require DHS and the managed care companies to protect consumers, preserve provider networks, address the unique needs of children and assure accountability.”

I enclose below highlights from the debate on SF 2213, the roll call on final passage, and Ragan’s full remarks, along with a Democratic staff analysis summarizing the bill’s key points.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge thinking about challenging Chuck Grassley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2016

The Iowa legislature’s 2016 session began on Monday. For the sixth year in a row, the 50 state senators include 26 Democrats and 24 Republicans. Just seven senators are women (six Democrats and a Republican), down from a high of ten women serving in the chamber during 2013 and 2014. All current senators are white. To my knowledge, the only African-American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the Iowa House or Senate; Nathan Blake fell 18 votes short of becoming the first in 2014. No Asian-American has served in the state Senate since Swati Dandekar resigned in 2011.

I enclose below details on the Iowa Senate majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Senate committees. Little has changed since last year, in contrast to the Iowa House, which saw some big changes in the majority Republican caucus since the legislature adjourned in June.

Term limits are a terrible idea generally but would be especially awful if applied to the Iowa Senate, as the longest-serving current senator bizarrely advocated last year. The experience gap between Democrats and Republicans is striking. As detailed below, only four of the 24 Senate Republicans have ten or more years of experience in the Iowa legislature, compared to seventeen of the 26 Democrats. No current Iowa Senate Republican has more than 20 years legislative experience, whereas six Democrats do.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa Senate members include three Marks, three Bills, three Richards (who go by Rich, Rick, and Dick), two Mikes, two Toms, two Joes, and two men named Charles (one goes by Chaz).

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Iowa Supreme Court dismisses case on Iowa Juvenile Home closure

This morning the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously dismissed a lawsuit brought by Democratic state lawmakers and a public employee union leader to challenge the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home without legislative input in the middle of the 2014 fiscal year. The seven justices reversed a Polk County District Court ruling from February 2014, which had ordered the Branstad administration to reopen the home.

The full text of Justice Edward Mansfield’s decision is available here (pdf). Follow me after the jump for key points and excerpts. The central factor in the ruling was the Iowa legislature’s failure to appropriate funds to operate the Iowa Juvenile Home for the 2015 fiscal year.

Today’s news is a classic example of elections having consequences. Had Democrats recaptured the Iowa House majority in 2012, which could easily have happened with better allocation of resources, lawmakers in both chambers would have funded the home for girls during the 2014 legislative session. That in turn would have prompted the Iowa Supreme Court to view the lawsuit over the juvenile home closure differently.

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Iowa Senate confirms all but one Branstad appointee during 2015 session

The Iowa legislature’s 2015 session drags on amid unresolved conflict over various budget issues, especially K-12 school funding. But one aspect of the lawmakers’ work is complete for this year. The Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate has confirmed all but one of Governor Terry Branstad’s more than 200 nominees. The overwhelming majority of those votes were unanimous or nearly so.

In recent years, senators have voted against confirming one or two Branstad nominees. This year no nomination failed on the Iowa Senate floor, and only one department head was ever in real danger of not being confirmed to do his job: Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer.

Branstad has occasionally withdrawn nominees who didn’t have support from the necessary two-thirds majority in the Iowa Senate. This year the governor didn’t need to exercise that power, although he sidestepped a near-certain rejection by accepting Teresa Wahlert’s resignation in January, rather than reappointing her to run Iowa Workforce Development. In addition, Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Director Arlen Ciechanowski recently announced plans to retire, tacitly acknowledging the votes weren’t there to confirm him.

Follow me after the jump for background on the controversies surrounding Palmer and Ciechanowski and details on Palmer’s confirmation vote–the closest call by far for any Branstad appointee this year.

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Iowa Democratic lawmakers seeking to expand medical cannabis law

Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Joe Bolkcom has introduced a bill to make medical marijuana more broadly available to Iowans suffering from life-threatening or chronic illnesses. Senate Study Bill 1243 would allow the possession and use of medical cannabis (not just the cannabis oil derivative legalized last year) for any of the following “debilitating medical conditions”: cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, AIDS or HIV, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (often known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), Ehlers-danlos syndrome, or post-traumatic stress syndrome. Scroll to the end of this post for a detailed summary of the bill.

The latest Des Moines Register poll by Selzer & Co indicates that 70 percent of Iowans favor allowing medical marijuana use. Yet Iowa’s new law allowing cannabis oil treatments has yet to benefit a single patient. Nevertheless, persuading Iowa House Republicans and Governor Terry Branstad to legalize marijuana for additional medical conditions may be an uphill battle. Follow me after the jump for more background on this issue, and excerpts from recent testimony before members of the Iowa Senate.

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Iowa Senate, House approve gas tax increase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IA-01 Democratic candidate news roundup

Another Democrat is moving closer to a Congressional bid in Iowa’s first district. The Daily Iowan reported several days ago that Ravi Patel “is assembling campaign operatives and meeting with influential donors in Eastern Iowa in preparation for the run.” He is best known as principal and president of Hawkeye Hotels, a fast-growing company his parents established. Pat Rynard wrote on the Iowa Starting Line blog that Patel “has built connections from holding many fundraisers for Democratic candidates” and is “an entrepreneur involved in many startup businesses.”

If he runs for Congress, Patel told the Daily Iowan that his campaign “would be data-driven and heavy on social media.” His biggest potential weakness would probably be his youth (current age: 29). Iowans have nominated some young candidates who faced competitive primaries against more experienced rivals, most recently Ben Lange, the GOP’s 2012 nominee in IA-01. But despite a lot of excitement on social media, State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic didn’t make much headway with IA-01 Democratic voters, finishing fourth in the 2014 primary. Anecdotally, many Democrats liked Kajtazovic but questioned whether she had enough experience for the job she was seeking. Patel would also be competing against others who have more longstanding ties to the district. Although he owns a home in Cedar Rapids now, he has spent most of his life in either Burlington or Iowa City, which are located in the second Congressional district.

The front-runner in the Democratic primary remains Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon, who last week added her first labor union endorsement to the long list of sate legislators backing her second bid for Congress. After the jump I’ve posted the press release announcing the Teamsters Local 238 endorsement of Vernon. That local did not endorse in the 2014 primary to represent IA-01, but two other Teamsters locals backed the eventual winner Pat Murphy. Note: the press release mentions that Teamsters Local 238 has approximately 6,000 members. A representative for the union told me that between 2,000 and 2,500 of those members live in the IA-01 counties.

Other Democrats considering a bid in IA-01 include former Governor Chet Culver, former State Senator Swati Dandekar (who placed third in the 2014 primary), and former Saturday Night Live actor Gary Kroeger. His most recent blog post, which I’ve excerpted below, takes a quick look at the history of America’s major political parties with a view to reducing the “vitriol in our disagreements.” Kroeger posted today on Facebook that if elected to Congress, he would push for creating a national jobs program inspired by a non-profit foundation he profiled at his blog a couple of years ago.

Any comments about the IA-01 race are welcome in this thread. Republican blogger Craig Robinson pointed out recently that GOP incumbent Rod Blum will benefit tremendously from having U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley on the ballot in 2016.

It’s also worth noting that at least three and perhaps as many as six battleground Iowa Senate races will be located within IA-01 next year. State Senator Jeff Danielson will seek a fourth term in Senate district 30, covering parts of Waterloo and Cedar Falls; he faced well-funded challengers in his last two re-election campaigns. State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm won by just 126 votes in Senate district 26 in 2012. I expect the GOP to target that district, half of which is in IA-01 and half in IA-04. Republicans are less likely to mount a serious challenge against either State Senator Liz Mathis in Senate district 34 or State Senator Brian Schoenjahn in Senate district 32, but a surprise retirement would instantly make either of those races competitive. Meanwhile, Democrats are likely to target Senate district 28, where GOP State Senator Mike Breitbach won by only 17 votes in 2012. First-term Senator Dan Zumbach could also face a serious challenger in Senate district 48. After the jump I’ve posted a map showing all the Iowa Senate district lines. UPDATE: Perhaps I should also have mentioned Democratic State Senator Steve Sodders (SD-36) and Republican Tim Kapucian (SD-38), who will be up for re-election in 2016 as well in counties that are part of IA-01. I haven’t heard of potentially strong challengers in either Iowa Senate district, but that could change before next spring.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2015

The Iowa legislature’s 2015 session begins today. Democrats maintained their 26 to 24 majority in the upper chamber. After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa Senate majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes from the previous committee assignments. Click here for a similar post on the new Iowa House.

I’ve also enclosed below details on the tenure of all 50 Iowa senators. The experience gap between the caucuses is striking, even more so since three of the longest-serving GOP state senators retired in 2014. Only seven of the 24 Republicans have served in either the state House or Senate for more than four years, whereas nineteen of the 26 Democrats have more than four years of legislative service. Only four of the 24 Senate Republicans have ten or more years of experience in the Iowa legislature, compared to seventeen of the 26 Democrats. No current Iowa Senate Republican has more than 20 years legislative experience, whereas six Democrats do.

Just seven of the 50 senators are women, down from ten women in the chamber two years ago. The Democratic caucus includes 20 men and six women; the Republican caucus 23 men and one woman.

All current Iowa senators are white. To my knowledge, no African-American has ever served in the Iowa Senate. CORRECTION: Bleeding Heartland reader northwest points out that I forgot Tom Mann, who represented part of Des Moines in the Iowa Senate during the 1980s.

No Latino has ever served in the Iowa House or Senate; Nathan Blake fell 18 votes short of becoming the first in 2014. No Asian-American has served in the state Senate since Swati Dandekar resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 state senators include three Marks, three Bills, three Richards (who go by Rich, Rick, and Dick), two Mikes, two Toms, two Joes, and two men named Charles (one goes by Chaz).  

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Another baby step toward making medical cannabis available in Iowa

The Iowa legislature’s Cannabidiol Implementation Study Committee met Thursday to discuss problems related to the implementation of the new law intended to allow Iowans to use cannabis oil to treat seizure disorders. Although the law went into effect on July 1, families who lobbied for measure are not yet able to purchase the oil derived from marijuana plants, because of various legal hurdles. Ten lawmakers (five from each chamber and five from each political party) serve on the study committee: State Senators Joe Bolkcom (D), Bill Dotzler (D), Steve Sodders (D), Charles Schneider (R), and Mike Brietbach (R), and State Representatives Walt Rogers (R), Clel Baudler (R), Linda Miller (R), John Forbes (D), and Bob Kressig (D).

Tony Leys reported for the Des Moines Register that the committee voted 9-1 to recommend that the state reschedule marijuana from “a Schedule I drug, meaning its use for any reason is illegal,” to “a Schedule II drug, which could be used for medical purposes.” Rogers was the dissenting vote. The committee voted 6-4 for “a motion to recommend allowing the closely regulated production and distribution of medical marijuana for approved patients. The motion did not specify what type of marijuana, but it did say the state should not tax the products.” Baudler, at one time Iowa’s most vocal opponent of medical marijuana, joined the five Democrats on the committee to approve that motion. However, Leys noted that Baudler “strenuously opposes expanding the law to let people possess marijuana to treat other conditions, such as cancer or Crohn’s disease. The committee rejected a motion to recommend such an expansion.”

The committee’s recommendations are not binding on the Iowa House and Senate, which will go back into session next January.

Not to take anything away from the suffering of Iowans with seizure disorders, but I don’t understand why lawmakers would want to approve medical cannabis for those conditions only and not for a range of other chronic or life-threatening diseases, which affect thousands of people here. Other states have created workable programs limiting access to those with genuine medical needs, and a majority of Iowans support legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Oncologists have been quietly recommending cannabis to cancer patients for at least four decades.

Highlights from this year's Iowa Senate votes on Branstad nominees

During the 2014 legislative session, the Iowa Senate confirmed all but a handful of Governor Terry Branstad’s more than 200 nominees for state boards and commissions. It’s not unusual for senators to vote down one or two appointees, but this year the Senate confirmed everyone who came up for a vote on the floor.

The only close call was former Iowa House Republican Nick Wagner, confirmed to the Iowa Utilities Board last month with just one vote to spare. Branstad originally named Wagner to the three-member utilities board in 2013 but pulled his nomination when it became clear that senators would not confirm him. Branstad named Wagner to that board anyway, right after the Senate adjourned for the year in 2013. By the time his nomination came up for consideration this year, a couple of factors that worked against him were no longer relevant. Former State Senator Swati Dandekar had resigned from the board to run for Congress, so there would no longer be two of three members from Marion (a Cedar Rapids suburb). Furthermore, Branstad named attorney Sheila Tipton to replace Dandekar, so senators could no longer object to the lack of a lawyer on the Iowa Utilities Board.

Still, most of the Democratic caucus opposed Wagner’s nomination. State Senator Rob Hogg cited the nominee’s support for a bad nuclear power bill that the legislature considered a few years back. Meanwhile, State Senator Matt McCoy (who incidentally wanted to pass the nuclear bill) noted that as a key Iowa House Republican on budget matters, Wagner “was not willing to listen” and “took very difficult and very hard-line positions.” After the jump I’ve posted the roll call on the Wagner nomination; 11 Democrats joined all 24 Republicans to confirm him.

As in recent years, the governor withdrew a handful of nominees who were not likely to gain at least 34 votes (a two-thirds majority) in the upper chamber. A few nominees for low-profile boards had to go because of party imbalance issues. Chet Hollingshead, one of seven Branstad appointees to the Mental Health and Disability Services Commission, never came up for a vote, presumably because of a theft incident Bleeding Heartland user Iowa_native described here.

I am not sure why Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal informed Branstad that Jason Carlstrom was unlikely to be confirmed as chair of the Iowa Board of Parole. The governor first appointed Carlstrom to that position in the summer of 2012, to fill out the remainder of someone else’s term. The Iowa Senate unanimously confirmed him during the 2013 legislative session. When Branstad reappointed Carlstrom to the parole board this year, I didn’t expect him to run into any trouble. I will update this post if I learn more details.

The highest-profile nominee withdrawn by Branstad was former Iowa House Republican Jamie Van Fossen, whom the governor wanted to chair the Public Employment Relations Board. Cityview’s Civic Skinny described the backstory well; I’ve posted excerpts after the jump. Van Fossen still serves on that board, having been confirmed to a full term in 2012. But the new chair will be Mike Cormack, a Republican who served four terms in the Iowa House and later worked for the State Department of Education. Senators unanimously confirmed Cormack last month. The outgoing Public Employment Relations Board chair, Jim Riordan, has alleged that the board faced political pressure from Branstad staffers to hire an employer-friendly administrative law judge.

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HIV transmission bill passes in end-of-session surprise

Sometimes bills left for dead rise again in the final hours of the Iowa legislature’s work. So it was for Senate File 2297, an “act relating to the criminal transmission of a contagious or infectious disease.” If signed into law, this bill would replace current Iowa law on HIV transmission, under which a person can be sentenced to 25 years in prison, even if the virus that causes AIDS was not transmitted to anyone. For background on the old law, one of the harshest in the country, click here or here, or listen to this Iowa Public Radio program from March. (Incidentally, the Iowa Supreme Court has heard but not yet ruled on a case related to that law but not challenging its constitutionality.)

Whereas current law takes a “one size fits all” approach to HIV transmission cases, Senate File 2297 outlines more serious penalties for those who intentionally infect a partner (not just with HIV, but with any communicable disease) than for those who either didn’t mean to transmit or did not transmit a disease. In addition,

under the new bill, Iowans would no longer be sentenced as sex offenders and a retroactive clause in the bill would remove anyone sentenced under 709c from the sex offender registry. Prosecutors would also have to prove substantial risk, rather than the current law which simply requires non-disclosure.

Senate File 2297 passed the Iowa Senate unanimously in February. Democratic State Senator Rob Hogg said it would update Iowa law to reflect modern medicine and replace a “badly outdated and draconian” part of the code. Republican State Senator Charles Schneider agreed that current law was “not always proportionate” to the crime committed.

So far, so good. But instead of sailing through the Iowa House, Senate File 2297 stalled. It cleared a House Judiciary Subcommittee but not the full committee in time for the “second funnel” deadline in mid-March. The bill landed on the “unfinished business” calendar, which kept it eligible for debate.

I hadn’t heard anything about this bill for some time, until I saw this morning that it came up for debate in Iowa House a little before 2 am. It passed by 98 votes to 0. After the jump I’ve posted a statement from the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa, which has pushed for similar legislation for years.  

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Branstad defends DHS director and appeals to Iowa Supreme Court

This morning Governor Terry Branstad stood by Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer and his handling of problems at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo (Tama County). He also spoke confidently about his appeal to Iowa Supreme Court against a Polk County District Court ruling ordering that the Iowa Juvenile Home be reopened.

More background and details are after the jump.  

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Judge orders Branstad administration to reopen Iowa Juvenile Home

Polk County District Court Judge Scott Rosenberg ruled yesterday in favor of plaintiffs who are challenging the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home by the Iowa Department of Human Services. Finding that the four state legislators and the president of a public employees union were “likely to succeed on the merits” when the court considers their lawsuit, Judge Rosenberg granted the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction. He ordered Governor Terry Branstad’s administration to “reopen the Toledo home and abide by the duly passed laws of the state of Iowa which established the Toledo Home […].”

After the jump I’ve posted an excerpt from the ruling, which you can read in full on the Des Moines Register’s website. I’ve also posted reaction from several of the plaintiffs and from Branstad.

This isn’t the first time a state court has found that the governor overreached in disregarding legislative intent on the allocation of state funds. Maybe Branstad should get better legal advice before deciding to ignore language from budget bills he signed into law.  

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Democratic legislators, AFSCME leader sue Branstad over closing juvenile home

Four Democratic state legislators and the leader of Iowa’s largest public employee union filed a lawsuit yesterday seeking to block Governor Terry Branstad’s administration from closing the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo (Tama County) this month. Joining AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan are gubernatorial candidate Senator Jack Hatch, Senator Steve Sodders (whose district includes Toledo), Iowa House Minority Leader Mark Smith, and former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy. The lawsuit alleges that it is unconstitutional for Branstad to close the home after signing into law budget appropriations for operating the home in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. An official statement from the plaintiffs is after the jump, along with a brief summary provided by Sodders.

When Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer announced in December that the Iowa Juvenile Home would be closed after all the resident girls were relocated, he said the “difficult decision” was in the best interests of the girls who had lived there. Yesterday Governor Branstad also cited the interests of “those kids who’ve been mistreated and abused and not gotten their education.”

Over the past year, the Des Moines Register’s Clark Kauffman has documented outrageous practices at the Iowa Juvenile Home, including long placements in isolated cells. In October, a task force appointed by Branstad recommended reforms for the facility. The lawsuit alleges that at the governor’s direction, DHS Director Palmer disregarded the task force’s recommendations and will unlawfully use funds appropriated for the Juvenile Home for other purposes.

In 2012, the Iowa Supreme Court found that Branstad had improperly used his line-item veto power to change how state funds were allocated. This case is somewhat different but poses similar constitutional questions.

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Sources say FBI raided Kent Sorenson's house (updated)

Former State Senator Kent Sorenson’s political career is over, but his legal problems may be deepening. Robert Wenzel reported today at the Economic Policy Journal blog that two sources have confirmed “the FBI was at Sorenson’s house for 7 hours” one day last week. “They took Sorenson’s computers and the school-related computers of Sorenson’s children. Notebooks and diaries were also taken.”

In order to evade Iowa Senate ethics rules, Sorenson is alleged to have received payments from third parties for work promoting presidential candidates Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul. (See volume one and volume two of the lengthy report by special investigator Mark Weinhardt.) Some of those payments may have violated federal campaign finance laws. Wenzel discussed some possible national political reverberations from the FBI investigation. Assuming his sources are correct, I suspect this case will be a powerful deterrent to any Iowa lawmaker tempted to seek money for a future political endorsement.

Hat tip to Democratic State Senator Steve Sodders.

UPDATE: Sorenson’s attorney said the search happened on November 20 and added,

“We were not notified that he was the target of any investigation,” attorney Theodore Sporer told the [Des Moines] Register. “They took computers and things that would be used to verify or validate communications with presidential entities.”

“It wasn’t a ‘raid,’” Sporer told the Register. “They executed a search warrant that, frankly, we anticipated was coming.”

SECOND UPDATE: Enjoyed the Iowa .Gif-t Shop’s take on this story.

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

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

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

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

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

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Branstad appoints new leader for Iowa Veterans Home

Governor Terry Branstad announced yesterday that he had accepted the resignation of David Worley as commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. After the jump I’ve posted the official press release, including Worley’s resignation letter. His successor will be retired Brig. Gen. and former State Representative Jodi Tymeson, whom Branstad named chief operating officer at the Iowa Veterans Home in May. At that time, the governor’s staff dismissed claims that Worley (a holdover from Chet Culver’s administration) had created a hostile work environment at the home. I never understood why Branstad would create an entirely new management position for Tymeson if Worley truly had “the governor’s full faith and confidence.”

I also enclose below comments from Iowa Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Daryl Beall and State Senator Steve Sodders, who represents the Marshalltown area. Beall presided over a lengthy Senate hearing on alleged problems at the Iowa Veterans Home in May, after which Sodders called for a full investigation of Worley’s conduct.

Veterans’ advocate Bob Krause, who is exploring a run for governor, discussed Worley’s resignation and ways to improve conditions for Iowa Veterans Home staff and residents in an open letter, which I’ve posted below.

I’ll say this for Branstad: he knows how to bury a story. On a slow news day, Worley’s resignation might have generated a lot of Iowa media coverage and questions about why the governor waited so long to replace him. Instead, this news will be overshadowed by coverage of the federal government shutdown and the new health insurance exchanges.

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Iowa Congressional voting and comments on the government shutdown

The 2014 fiscal year began at midnight. Congress is ringing in the occasion with the first partial federal government shutdown since the mid-1990s. The U.S. House and Senate have been unable to agree on a continuing spending resolution, because most House Republicans insist on defunding or delaying the 2010 health care reform law as a condition of funding most government operations.

Details on Iowa Congressional votes on budget resolutions are after the jump, along with comments from all the Iowans in Congress and many of the candidates for U.S. House or Senate.

Authorization for most federal agricultural programs also expired at midnight, and it’s not clear when Congress will be able to agree on a short-term extension or a new five-year farm bill. Toward the end of this post I’ve enclosed some comments on the failure to pass a farm bill.

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Last-minute Iowa legislative scramble is nothing to brag about

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

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

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

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

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

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Another Iowa legislative victory for Big Ag

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

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

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IA-Sen: Most Democratic state legislators endorse Braley

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

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

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IA-01: Steve Sodders not running

Democratic State Senator Steve Sodders announced on Facebook a few minutes ago that he will not run for the U.S. House in Iowa’s first Congressional district next year. His press release is after the jump. Sodders was just re-elected in 2012 to a second four-year term in the Iowa Senate, where he is also is president pro-tem and chairs the Economic Growth Committee. He announced earlier this month that he was considering running for the seat Representative Bruce Braley is vacating to run for U.S. Senate.

So far State Representative Pat Murphy, a former Iowa House speaker who represents part of Dubuque, is the only Democratic candidate in IA-01. Two Republicans have announced their candidacies: Cedar Rapids-based business owner Steve Rathje and Dubuque-based business owner Rod Blum. Any comments about the race are welcome in this thread.

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Paging the women of IA-01

Seventy-six countries around the world have a higher percentage of women in their national legislatures than the United States. Iowa is one of very few states that has never sent a woman to Congress. The open seat in Iowa’s first Congressional district is a perfect chance to leave Mississippi in the dust. Yet so far, no women have announced plans to run for the seat Bruce Braley is vacating. Three men are in the race for sure: Pat Murphy, Steve Rathje, and Rod Blum. Steve Sodders is strongly considering it and visited Washington last week to talk with Democrats about the race. UPDATE: Sodders has ruled out running for Congress.

The last time IA-01 was open, four Democratic men and three Republican men sought to replace Jim Nussle. Are we looking at a repeat?

For years, academic researchers have shown that “when women run for office, they perform just as well as men.” But they don’t run for office as often as men do for lots of reasons. A new study suggests that from a young age, women are less likely than men to consider running for office someday (full report here).

Iowa Democratic Party leaders should be working to recruit a top-tier female candidate in IA-01, a Democratic-leaning seat that presents the best opportunity of my lifetime to send a woman to Congress. But that’s not going to happen when party chair Tyler Olson is thinking about running for Congress himself. Republican Party of Iowa leaders should also be looking for a strong woman candidate to capitalize on Democrats’ strategic error. I doubt that “liberating” thought would ever cross the minds of the “Liberty” gang running the Iowa GOP.

Sisters are going to have to do it for ourselves. Whether that’s the “50-50 in 2020” organization co-chaired by former women elected officials and candidates or some informal group of political activists, it’s time to identify and encourage women to step up to the plate in IA-01–before the early declared candidates get a large advantage in fundraising and endorsements.

Iowa Senate approves Medicaid expansion along party lines

Last night the Iowa Senate approved Senate File 296, a bill to expand Medicaid, on a strictly party-line vote of 26 to 23. You can listen to the entire Senate debate (approximately 90 minutes) at Radio Iowa. I’ve posted highlights from the debate after the jump, along with the full list of 52 organizations that have registered their support for Senate File 296. Some corporations and organizations have have registered their lobbyists as undecided on Senate File 296, but at this writing, not a single organization is registered against the Medicaid expansion.

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New thread on the Iowa Congressional races

Dubuque business owner Rod Blum told the Marshall County Republican Central Committee this week that he plans to enter the GOP primary to represent the open first Congressional district. Blum finished a close second to Ben Lange in the 2012 IA-01 primary. Cedar Rapids business owner Steve Rathje was the first Republican to announce in IA-01. I haven’t heard any news lately about other possible Republican candidates in the first district, like State Representative Walt Rogers or former Secretary of State Paul Pate.

Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer predicted on Sunday that the first Iowa woman elected governor or to Congress will be a Republican. If no Democratic woman steps up in IA-01, I believe Upmeyer will be proven right. I have heard from several independent sources that State Senator Liz Mathis is privately telling Democrats she won’t run for Congress. Senate President Pam Jochum took herself out of the running last month. Former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy is the only declared Democratic candidate so far. State Senator Steve Sodders is talking with potential supporters about the race.

I haven’t heard about any Republican planning to run against four-term Democrat Dave Loebsack in IA-02. For now, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee does not appear worried about holding this district.

According to the Des Moines rumor mill, former State Senator Staci Appel is considering a run for Congress in IA-03. Appel lives in Warren County and served one term in the Iowa Senate before losing to Republican Kent Sorenson in 2010. Mike Sherzan is currently the only declared Democratic challenger to ten-term Republican Tom Latham.

I haven’t heard of any Democrats planning to challenge six-term incumbent Steve King in IA-04. I’m still confident King will not run for the U.S. Senate. But if King does leave the fourth district open, many Republicans are rumored to be thinking about that race, including Upmeyer and State Representative Chip Baltimore.

Any comments about next year’s Congressional races in Iowa are welcome in this thread. A Congressional map is after the jump, along with the latest voter registration numbers in each district and Stuart Rothenberg’s comments on why he does not consider Latham or King vulnerable in 2014.

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IA-01: Democrat Steve Sodders thinking about it

State Senator Steve Sodders will “take a serious look” at running for the first Congressional district seat Bruce Braley is vacating. Speaking by telephone yesterday, Sodders said he is in the “very exploratory” phase, talking with different groups and individuals. He currently has no deadline for announcing his plans, but he expects to decide sometime before this summer whether to run in next year’s Democratic primary.

Marshall County Deputy Sheriff Sodders was first elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008. He was just re-elected to a four-year term in Senate district 36, covering Marshall and Tama counties and a small area in Black Hawk County. Consequently, he would not need to give up his Senate seat to run for Congress. In addition to serving as Senate president pro-tem, Sodders chairs the Economic Growth Committee. I’ve posted his official bio after the jump.

So far State Representative Pat Murphy is the only declared Democratic candidate in the first Congressional district, and Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Rathje is the only declared Republican.

I continue to believe that Iowa Democrats should nominate a woman for this very winnable seat–preferably someone other than the woman who just voted herself a 25 percent raise. I wish Senate President Pam Jochum had not taken herself out of the running so early.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicate that the 20 counties in IA-01 contain 165,428 active registered Democrats, 137,943 Republicans, and 193,674 no-party voters.

UPDATE: Sodders posted on Facebook on March 11, “Headed to Wash DC next week to talk to several groups and individuals about District 1.” At the end of this post I’ve added more recent comments from Sodders.

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IA-SEN: Braley meets with Iowa House and Senate Democrats

Representative Bruce Braley braved some pretty bad winter weather this morning to meet with Iowa House and Senate Democrats at the state capitol. I haven’t seen any details about his remarks, which were closed to the public and media. No doubt he is trying to gain early backing for a U.S. Senate candidacy. State Senator Steve Sodders posted on Facebook and twitter today, “Great morning speech today by Congressman Braley…I’m a supporter.” Sodders represents Iowa Senate district 36, which is part of the first Congressional district where Braley just won a fourth term in the U.S. House.

I’ll update this post later if any news leaks about the substance of Braley’s meetings today. My money’s on no serious Democratic primary opposition once he launches his Senate run. He told reporters that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Chair Michael Bennett have encouraged him to run for the seat Senator Tom Harkin is vacating.

Branstad administration rethinking driver's license policy (updated)

Governor Terry Branstad indicated yesterday that the Iowa Department of Transportation will review its policy on driver’s licenses for immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. He also suggested that if the Iowa legislature addresses this issue, he would sign a bill allowing approximately 5,000 undocumented immigrants with this status to receive Iowa driver’s licenses and non-operator IDs.

UPDATE: On the afternoon of January 23, the Iowa DOT announced it will issue driver’s licenses to immigrants with deferred status. The full official statement is at the end of this post.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2013

The Iowa legislature’s 2013 session opened today. After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa Senate majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year. Click here for a similar post on the new Iowa House.

Democrats hold a 26 to 24 majority in the upper chamber. The huge experience gap between the Iowa Senate caucuses is striking. Only seven of the 24 Republicans have served as lawmakers in either the House or Senate for more than four years, whereas 19 of the 26 Democrats have more than four years of legislative service. Click here for details on the tenure of all 50 Iowa senators.

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Huge experience gap between Iowa Senate Democrats and Republicans

Democrats will hold a slim majority in the next Iowa Senate: most likely 26-24 or 27-23, depending on the outcome of one recount and one special election in December. But the experience gap between the two parties’ caucuses is wider than I’ve ever seen, and perhaps unprecedented.

Only five Republicans who will serve in the next Iowa Senate have more than four years experience in the legislature’s upper chamber. Most of the old hands aren’t on the GOP leadership team. By comparison, eighteen Senate Democrats have held that office for more than four years. Thirteen of those have served in the upper chamber for at least a decade.

Many newcomers to the Iowa Senate have helped oversee public-sector budgets and programs as county supervisors, mayors, or members of city councils and school boards. Nevertheless, new legislators have a steep learning curve because state government is more complex than local government, and Iowa House and Senate members consider a wider range of issues during a typical legislative session. Whereas eleven Senate Democrats previously served in the Iowa House, only three sitting Republicans came to the Senate with that background. If the GOP had gained control of the upper chamber in this year’s elections, they would have been forced to put quite a few rookies in charge of standing committees.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the tenure of all incoming Iowa Senate members, indicating members of each party’s leadership team and past service in the Iowa House.

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Gronstal, Jochum to lead Iowa Senate Democrats

Iowa Senate Democrats caucused at the state capitol yesterday to choose their leaders for the next legislative session. As expected, Mike Gronstal remains Senate majority leader. The big change will be Pam Jochum of Dubuque as Senate president to replace Jack Kibbie, who retired last year.

After the jump I’ve enclosed background on Jochum and details on the rest of the Iowa Senate leadership team. Republicans elected leaders of their Senate caucus last week. Both parties will announce committee assignments before the end of the year.

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Democratic and Republican party spending in the Iowa Senate races

Candidates for the Iowa legislature were required to submit campaign finance disclosure reports on October 19 and November 2. The Schedule E forms on “In-Kind Contributions” contained the most interesting numbers, because they showed how Democratic and Republican party leaders are allocating resources across the battleground districts.

After the jump I’ve enclosed in-kind contribution figures for the Senate districts expected to be in play tomorrow. Candidates running in other Senate races did not report large in-kind contributions from their respective parties.

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Iowa Senate ad watch: I-JOBS lies edition (updated)

The I-JOBS infrastructure bonding initiative helped fund more than 1,600 infrastructure projects around Iowa during the “Great Recession.” From the beginning, Republicans have used misleading rhetoric to make their case against I-JOBS. Terry Branstad and GOP lawmakers exaggerated the initiative’s costs and understated its benefits repeatedly during the 2010 campaign.

Now some Iowa Senate candidates are putting lies about I-JOBS at the center of their radio advertising.

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First look at the Obama and Romney ground games in Iowa

At this time four years ago, Barack Obama’s campaign had about 30 field offices up and running in Iowa, compared to six offices for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Obama’s campaign has had eight Iowa field offices open this summer and is rolling out another 26 offices around Iowa this weekend. So far, Mitt Romney’s campaign has ten Iowa field offices, in addition to the unified Republican headquarters in Urbandale.

After the jump, I compare the field office locations for each presidential campaign, grouped by Iowa Congressional district. Where relevant, I’ve also noted competitive Iowa House and Senate districts near the Obama and Romney field offices, although I doubt either presidential campaign will do much for down-ticket Democratic or Republican candidates.

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Iowa primary election results thread

Polls closed across Iowa at 9 pm, and I will update this post periodically as results come in from around the states. Any comments related to today’s elections are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- As expected, Wisconsin Democrats fell short in their effort to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker.

UPDATE: Results are after the jump.  

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Weekend open thread: Candidate filing deadline edition

I’m posting the weekend thread early, because the filing period for primary election candidates in Iowa closed this afternoon. The Secretary of State’s Office posted the full list of candidates here (pdf). John Deeth has been covering the filing on a daily basis all month at his blog. Some highlights from races I’m watching are after the jump.

This is an open thread; all topics welcome.

UPDATE: Gotta agree with Senator Chuck Grassley: the History Channel is useless.

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Iowa Senate passes two bills favored by Big Ag (updated)

The Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate passed two bills today favored by corporate agricultural interest groups. House File 589, the notorious “ag gag” bill, seeks to prevent whistleblowers from reporting alleged abuse at agricultural facilities. Senate File 2172 would reduce the number of sows that confined-animal feeding operations need to report for manure management purposes. Details on the bills and how senators voted are after the jump.

UPDATE: Bypassing normal legislative procedures, the Republican-controlled Iowa House also passed the “ag gag” bill on February 28. Scroll down for details on how the state representatives voted.  

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2012

The November special election in Iowa Senate district 18 confirmed that Democrats will maintain a 26 to 24 majority in the upper chamber during the legislature’s 2012 session, set to begin on January 9.

Senate Democrats and Republicans recently announced updated committee assignments. Majority and minority leadership teams are after the jump, along with all members of standing committees. I’ve also noted which senators are up for re-election in 2012 and which are retiring next year.

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Branstad clears path for Iowa Workforce Development office closings

Iowa Workforce Development officials can move ahead with closing 37 36 of the agency’s 55 field offices around Iowa, thanks to a line-item veto by Governor Terry Branstad. State lawmakers included language in the economic development appropriations bill to require Iowa Workforce Development to maintain its current number of field offices through the 2012 fiscal year. However, Branstad rejected that provision yesterday:

“This item would prohibit Iowa Workforce Development from putting forth an enhanced delivery system that broadens access to Iowans across the state in fiscal year 2012,” Branstad said. “In order to develop a sustainable delivery system in light of continually fluctuating federal funding, the department must put forth a system that embraces the use of technology while providing enhanced benefits through maximum efficiencies.”

Branstad said Iowa Workforce Development has more than 190 “virtual access point workstations” in over 60 new locations throughout the state to increase access to these critica services. He says Iowans are already using the expanded hours of operation, six days a week.

“At my direction, IWD will have hundreds of additional virtual access points by the end of fiscal year 2012,” he said.

I doubt many unemployed Iowans would consider a computer terminal “enhanced” access, compared to an office staffed by a real person explaining the available services.

Controversy over shutting down these offices nearly derailed the Iowa Senate confirmation of Teresa Wahlert. Opposition from lawmakers of both parties didn’t persuade her, although two of the 39 field offices originally targeted will be spared. Iowa Workforce Development started closing some of its field offices even before legislators had adopted a final budget. In early July, the agency laid off 13 employees as part of the planned reorganization. Iowa Workforce Development Communications Coordinator Katie Hommer communications director was unable to tell me today when the agency will finish shutting down the offices slated for closure. She said staff are still going through the signed budget, which they only just received.

Hommer also did not know whether enough funds were provided for the agency to keep open its New Iowan Centers, which offer specialized services for recent immigrants. Those centers are currently located in Muscatine, Ottumwa, Marshalltown, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa City, Des Moines, Sioux City, Storm Lake, Council Bluffs, Mason City and Denison.

On a related note, Branstad’s love for streamlining government doesn’t extend to the U.S. Postal Service, which may close as many as 178 Iowa post offices. The downsizing is part of a plan to eliminate 3,700 of nearly 32,000 post offices nationwide. Branstad has repeatedly criticized plans to eliminate rural Iowa post offices, and yesterday he told Radio Iowa that the postal service is not using “common sense.” He wants the independent federal agency to explore alternatives to closing offices that small-town residents rely on.

Conservatives talk a good game about running government like a business, but a private business with declining revenues could never afford to operate retail outlets in as many locations as the U.S. Postal Service. The independent agency gets almost all of its revenues from postal fees (not federal budget allocations). As Americans send fewer paper letters and documents, postal service revenues have declined.

Branstad and his wife own 12 Iowa buildings that are leased to the U.S. Postal Service. So far only one of those, in Lohrville, is on the list of post offices to be closed.

UPDATE: Iowa House and Senate Democrats will reach out to Republicans to convene a special legislative session “with the sole purpose of overriding Governor Branstad’s line-item vetoes of legislation prohibiting the closure of the [Iowa Workforce Development] offices.” Details are in a press release I’ve posted after the jump. That document lists all the towns that would lose Iowa Workforce Development offices, as well as the county unemployment rate in each area.

SECOND UPDATE: Sounds like Republicans are not game for a special session to deal with this narrow issue. I’ve added Iowa Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley’s statement below.

THIRD UPDATE: Only 36 field offices will be closed, because federal funding came through to keep the Webster City office open. The closure of the Electrolux factory has been a particular hardship for Iowans in the local area. After the jump I’ve posted an Iowa Workforce Development press release, which lists all the cities and towns that will have the “regional integrated one-stop offices,” as well as all the localities that will lose their field offices.

Meanwhile, Iowa House and Senate Democrats formally called for a special session on July 29. Republicans are not interested. Expect these office closures to become a campaign issue in a bunch of statehouse races next year. The Golden Dome Blog found a video of Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds praising a “phenomenal” and “user friendly” workforce development office during last year’s gubernatorial campaign.

Democratic State Representative Dave Jacoby serves on the Iowa Workforce Development Board and is angry that board didn’t get to weigh in on whether these field offices should be closed.

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Gronstal re-elected leader and other Iowa Senate news

The Iowa Senate Democratic caucus on November 14 re-elected Mike Gronstal as majority leader and Jack Kibbie as Senate president. Five senators will serve as assistant majority leaders: Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, Bill Dotzler of Waterloo, Wally Horn of Cedar Rapids, Amanda Ragan of Mason City, and Steve Sodders of State Center. Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson got Iowa Republicans excited on Saturday by tweeting that Horn would challenge Gronstal, but according to this Des Moines Register report by Jennifer Jacobs, “No one mounted a challenge for either leadership role, several senators said.”

More Iowa Senate news is after the jump.

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Obama's prime-time special, Des Moines rally and other events coming up this week

It’s hard to believe that this election is less than a week away. GOTV!

Tuesday, October 28:

KCCI-TV (Channel 8) in Des Moines will broadcast an interview with fifth district Congressional candidate Rob Hubler at 10 p.m. I will update with a link to the station’s website if they make the video available there.

Wednesday, October 29:

Barack Obama has purchased a half-hour of prime-time on CBS and NBC, which will air at 7 pm central time.

Fourth district Congressional candidate Becky Greenwald will run a one-minute ad just before Obama’s special on KCCI and WHO-TV in Des Moines and KIMT and KTTC tv in Mason City. She will preview the contents of that commercial at a 1 pm press conference at her campaign headquarters in Waukee:

“With just one week to Election Day, when voters will tune in to hear Senator Obama’s plans for change, they deserve to know Tom Latham’s real record in Congress of voting more with President Bush than John McCain. He won’t support Barack Obama in Congress,” said Becky Greenwald. “I will work with Barack Obama to make a real difference for the 4th District.”

Rob Hubler will be in studio at KCCI doing a live interview on their Early Morning Show at 6:40 a.m.  Then he will be on the Des Moines Register website for a live chat from 12 noon to 1 p.m.  

Tom Harkin will campaign for Obama in eastern Iowa:


2:30 PM

Senator Harkin to Drop By a Phone Bank

Obama Iowa Campaign for Change Office

819 Avenue G

Fort Madison, Iowa

4:00 PM

Senator Harkin to Drop By a Phone Bank

Obama Iowa Campaign for Change Office

414 N. 3rd Street

Burlington, Iowa

Congressman Leonard Boswell and Republican challenger Kim Schmett will appear jointly on Iowa Public Radio at 10 am.

Chet Culver will headline GOTV events for several legislative candidates:

Marshalltown – 10:30 AM


Marshall County Democratic Headquarters

12 West Main Street

Marshalltown, Iowa

Tama – 11:30 AM


Tama County Democratic Headquarters

128 3rd Street

Tama, Iowa

Davenport – 1:45 PM


Scott County Democratic Headquarters

1706 Brady Street, Suite 206

Davenport, Iowa

Clinton – 3:00 PM


Clinton County Democratic Headquarters

224 22nd Place

Clinton, Iowa

Cedar Rapids – 5:00 PM


Linn County Democratic Headquarters

1229 1st Avenue, Southeast

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Thursday, October 30:

Harkin will campaign for Obama again:

2:15 PM

Senator Harkin to Kick Off a Canvass

Obama Iowa Campaign for Change Office

207 1st Ave. W

Newton, Iowa

5:00 PM

Senator Harkin to Kick Off a Canvass

Obama Iowa Campaign for Change Office

500 Jefferson Street

Waterloo, Iowa

Congressional candidate Becky Greenwald and Doug Thompson, Democratic candidate in Senate district 6, will hold an event with the Campus Democrats of Waldorf College at 5.30pm in the Campus Center at Waldorf College in Forest City. The Campus Center is located on South 8th Street. Please come and bring friends.

Friday, October 31:

Obama will hold a rally in downtown Des Moines:


Western Gateway Park Between 12th St. and 13th St., Grand Ave. and Locust St.  

Gates Open/Media Access: 9:30 AM

Program Begins:  11:30 AM

The event is free and open to the public.  Tickets are NOT required, but an RSVP is strongly encouraged.  To RSVP, please visit iowa.barackobama.com. Space is available on a first come first serve basis.

Public Entrance: Walnut St. and 12th St.

Parking is limited; car pooling and public transportation are recommended.  The free Downtown Shuttle will be available from any of the Des Moines parking facilities. More information is available at http://www.dmmta.com/downroute…

Rob Hubler will be on Iowa Public Radio at 12:35 pm, which is aired statewide on all NPR affiliates.

From Polk County Democrats:

Pollwatcher and Precinct Reporter Training for Election Day, Friday, October 31st at 6:00 PM at the Campaign for Change, 1408 Locust, Des Moines. With Special guests Secretary of State Michael Mauro and Congressman Leonard Boswell, who will auction off a surprise item.

The Tallgrass Bioneers Conference begins in Grinnell and runs through November 2:

Are you tired of partisan bickering over banker bail-outs, expensive wardrobes, and Joe the plumber?  Ready for a breather before election day and a respite from economic doom and gloom?

Why not take a break this weekend, enjoy the fall weather, get together with friends and come to Grinnell for the 2008 Tallgrass Bioneers Conference. We won’t be hearing politicians promises – just hearing from some great local and national speakers who have gotten past all of

the talk to make a real difference in their communities and the world.

The conference starts on Friday, October 31st and runs through Sunday. Friday features a keynote address by Chad Pregracke, a young guy who

has dedicated his life to cleaning up his beloved Mississippi river, and has lead others to adopt their own local waterways. Friday afternoon features an opening of still/LIFE – an amazing art

installation by Dallas environmental artist Tracy Hicks sponsored by the Faulconer Gallery.  Friday also features live workshops on community renewable energy projects, immigration and local water quality efforts. In the Harris Cinema, we will be showing pre-recorded presentations from the national Bioneers conference, including Ray

Anderson and Alexandra Cousteau.

Saturday features a walking tour of a restored prairie, a tour of Iowa’s first LEED gold certified “green building”, a discussion on

climate and adaptation by survivors of Katrina and the Cedar Rapids floods, a hands-on workshop with Tracy Hicks, and more.  Pre-recorded speakers include Janine Benyus, Bill McKibben and David Orr. Our Saturday keynote is by Alison Gannett – a world champion skier and climate change activist who has converted the world’s first 100mpg

solar SUV hybrid and built the first straw-bale home in a national historic district. The day will be topped off by a local food banquet prepared by Chef Kamal Hammouda of the Phoenix Cafe,  and a dinner speech by organic dairy farmer Francis Thicke.

Sunday, we round out the weekend with a lake clean-up at Rock Creek Lake, a tour of a local sustainably operated farm, historic walking

tour, an intergenerational art workshop,  pre-recorded presentations by Naomi Klein, Rebecca Moore,  Rick Reed and more.

It’s going to be a great weekend of big picture ideas and hands-on experiences, so please join us!

For more information, please visit:


(a link to google map and driving directions is at the top of the page)

To pre-register, visit:


Complete schedule:


October 31 is the deadline for early-bird registration for the Center on Sustainable Commmunities’ ‘Building a Sustainable Iowa’ workshop being held in Cedar Falls, Ankeny & Fairfield on November 10-15. This course is recognized by the building community as the most comprehensive residential green building training course offered in the state! COSC’s 4th Bi-annual Building a Sustainable Iowa Professional Training workshop will be held the week of November 10th through 15th in Cedar Falls, Ankeny and Fairfield. Each location will host the two day course with Marc Richmond, a nationally recognized green building consultant and educator, as the main presenter. We also bring in local experts as guest speakers. A two-hour homeowner class followed by an exhibit and networking social will be held at each site as well. Registration and agenda details available at www.icosc.com. Scholarships are available through the Iowa Department of Economic Development! Click here for an application. There are only 16 available, so apply now!

Saturday, November 1:

If you’re not attending the Tallgrass Bioneers conference, volunteer for Democratic candidates, wherever you are!

Tom Harkin kicks off his Get Out the Vote Bus Tour. Go here to RSVP for any of these events:

The Cardinal Room

Iowa State Memorial Union

2229 Lincoln Way

Ames, Iowa, 50014

8:45 AM – 9:45 AM

Moos Lodge

200 East 5th Street

Carroll, Iowa, 51401

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Campaign for Change HQ

805 Flindt Drive, Suite 2

Storm Lake, Iowa, 50588

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Fort Dodge Public Library

424 Central Avenue

Fort Dodge, Iowa, 50501

3:15 PM – 4:15 PM

Berte’s Back Nine

216 East State Street

Algona, Iowa, 50511

5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Chicago Dawg Restaurant

687 South Taft Avenue

Mason City, Iowa, 50401

7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

For more information on these great events please call the campaign HQ at 515-277-9966 or email Alissa brammer at Alissa@tomharkin.com.

Sunday, November 2:

It’s the second day of Harkin’s bus tour. Go here to RSVP for any of these events:

Jameson’s Irish Pub

310 East 4th Street

Waterloo, Iowa, 50703

11:45 – 12:45 PM

Labor Temple

1610 Garfield Avenue

Dubuque, Iowa, 52001

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Clinton Community College Auditorium

1000 Lincoln Boulevard

Clinton, Iowa, 52732

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

United Steelworkers Local 105

830 Devils Glenn Road

Bettendorf, Iowa, 52722

5:30 PM – 6:30 PM

Machinist Local 831

222 Prospect Place

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 52404

7:45 – 8:45 PM

For more information on these great events please call the campaign HQ at 515-277-9966 or email Alissa brammer at Alissa@tomharkin.com.

Monday, November 3:

It’s the last day of Harkin’s bus tour. Go here to RSVP for any of these events:


118 East College Street

Iowa City, Iowa, 52240

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Port of Burlington

400 North Front Street

Burlington, Iowa, 52601

12:15 PM – 1:15 PM


1305 East Mary Street

Ottumwa, Iowa, 52501

2:30 PM – 3:30 PM

UAW Hall

411 Iowa Avenue W

Marshalltown, Iowa, 50158

5:15 PM – 6:15 PM

Campaign for Change Office (Chet Culver and Leonard Boswell will also be at this event)

1408 Locust Street

Des Moines, IA, 50309

9:00 PM – 10:15 PM

For more information on these great events please call the campaign HQ at 515-277-9966 or email Alissa brammer at Alissa@tomharkin.com.


“The global climate is changing. We know that humans are responsible for a large portion of that change, which will have implications for Iowa.”

That is the central theme of a public forum set for Kirkwood Community College Monday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. Kirkwood and several other colleges and community groups will host a “Connections” program in Ballantyne Auditorium on the main Kirkwood campus.

The free forum will feature Dr. Jerald Schnoor of The University of Iowa, speaking on “Mitigating and Responding to Climate Change in Iowa.”  Schnoor is the Allen S. Henry Chair and professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

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Events coming up this weekend

Less than two weeks remain before the election. If you have time to volunteer this weekend, please contact a Democratic office to offer to help. Remember, there are many ways to help that do not involve phone calls to strangers or knocks on strangers’ doors.

If you live in the fourth or fifth Congressional districts, I encourage you to volunteer for Becky Greenwald or Rob Hubler. Or, contact the nearest field office for Barack Obama’s campaign.

One Iowa is also coordinating a “Weekend for Equality” volunteer effort. For more information, click here.

If nothing else, vote early so that other volunteers do not waste their time contacting you.

The other exciting event this weekend is another free concert in Des Moines by Justin Roberts and his Not Ready for Naptime Players. They’ll be playing in the lower court of Merle Hay Mall at 1 pm on Sunday. As I’ve written before, Justin’s music is fantastic, and his live shows are a lot of fun for kids and adults.

Please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of another important event I’ve missed.

Thursday, October 23:

Becky Greenwald will visit State Center and Eldora with State Senate candidate Steve Sodders and State House candidate Tim Hoy. They will be in State Center at 2 pm in the home of Rita Figgins, 502 4th St. SE. They will be at the Ahoy Foundation, 1266 Edgington Ave in Eldora, at 4 pm.

Rob Hubler is holding a “Servant versus the King” event at 7 pm on the Morningside Campus – UPS Hall, Sioux City.

Tom Harkin Senator Tom Harkin will attend a phone bank at the AFSCME Hall, District 61, 4320 NW 2nd Ave, Des Moines, from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. RSVP at


Questions, Call Joseph O’Hern at 515-447-5888.

From the Department of Natural Resources:

A series of informational meetings to highlight proposed rule changes regarding public lands will be held in October in Des Moines, Dubuque and Spirit Lake. […] The primary intent of changing the rules is to clarify the application procedure, formalize the permit denial process and provide better management of public lands and waters. The proposed rules will also provide for potential penalties associated with the violation of permit conditions or failure to get a permit prior to construction on public lands. The proposed rules also provide for greater enforcement ability by the DNR in cases where private entities have encroached on public land.

Public lands are owned by the citizens of Iowa and include many lakes, 14 rivers, wildlife management areas, state forests and state parks.

The proposed rules do not pertain to docks which are covered under a separate chapter of Iowa law and have recently been revised. […]

“The meetings will be an opportunity for the public to learn about what changes are being proposed, but it is also an opportunity for us to hear from the public. Policy always benefits when the public is able to participate in the discussion and provide valuable input,” said Ford-Shivvers.

   * Thursday, Oct. 23rd; 6-8 pm at EB Lyons Interpretive Center, Mines of Spain State Park, 8991 Bellevue Heights, Dubuque.

For more information, contact Inga Foster at 515-281-8967.

Friday, October 24:

At 8 am, Rob Hubler will appear on the Conversations radio program with Dordt University’s President.

Becky Greenwald will attend a house party at 1027 Angela Drive Indianola at 6 pm.

Iowa Public Television will broadcast a debate between Senator Tom Harkin and Christopher Reed at 7 pm.

From Michael Richards (the full conference schedule is after the jump):


SEED Conference II:    A Wake-Up Call

Cedar Rapids, Iowa       October 24/25        2008

In 2008 we have been hit with two of the most challenging crises in the history of Iowa;

1.      The most extreme flooding in the entire history of our state.

2.      The most serious global financial crisis in history.

S.E.E.D Conference II will explore root causes of these two major crises.

S.E.E.D  provides  an effective, non-partisan, local citizen capacity to activate reality based, sustainable solutions.  

For thousands of years, the native ecology of Iowa was resilient, incredibly diverse with  immense capacity to absorb water and sustain life.  These natural systems have been dramatically disrupted through our uninformed policy and economic actions of the past 100 years.   SEED serves as a community catalyst to apply intelligent biomimicry for land, water and resource management to restore ecological resilience.

Iowa has the base economic resources of fertile land, bountiful water and hard working, honest people. Out of necessity, we are entering a time of real economy; We will conserve, scale down, simplify, save, and spend prudently for the things that we actually need.  We will now create a sustainable economy.    As “The Sustainable State”, Iowa can lead the way to restore sane national economic systems and intelligent political discourse.

The false economy is collapsing, but the real economy remains.  Did we forget how to make things that people need?  Can we no longer grow local food?  Did Iowa factories burn down?  Are our tools lost?  Did we run out of good people to work in farms, factories and offices? No!  The real economy remains as our sustainable foundation.  The  present financial crisis is simply the evaporation of the false and illusory world of derivatives, collateralized debt, index funds, credit default swaps, structured investment vehicles, and the hard-sell marketing of sub-prime mortgages and super-sized homes.  That house of cards has collapsed.  We will now build a sane and sustainable economy.

Six years ago as the Iraq war started, I launched Sustainable Ecological Economic Development (S.E.E.D.) to address root, causal factors of war; the deluded pursuit of the false and destructive economy of Empire rather than productive and sustainable Creative Enterprise.  Economies based on Empire exploit other nations, the natural environment and even our own citizens through usury, labor exploitation, and unfair wealth-transfer through corporate welfare and coercive bailouts. Excessive national debt is irresponsibly relegated to future generations.  Average U.S. Citizens have been reduced to powerless serfs, indentured by fear, complex webs of wealth-transfer taxation and oppressive debt to fuel the totally unsustainable military/industrial-Wall St. Machine. Our founding fathers would not recognize the State of our Nation.  The bright light of the American Dream is now shrouded with dark clouds of fear, greed and deception.  We need a wake-up call and restore our nation to ecological and economic health.      The S.E.E.D. Conference is a call to community action.

                                “Without vision, a people perish”-(Book of Proverbs)

Six years ago, I issued a common sense clarion call to my fellow Iowans to shift out of Empire into Sustainable/Ecological Enterprise.  That was a really good idea six years ago.  Today, this paradigm shift is an urgent and absolute necessity.  We invite you to build a Sustainable State.          

                                                                                           -Michael Richards, SEED Founder

Saturday, October 25:

If you have time, volunteer for a Democratic campaign or a progressive interest group this weekend. Web links are at the top of this post.

Rob Hubler’s campaign has the following public events scheduled:

1 p.m., Sioux City Rally for Real Representation.

Special Guests: Governor Tom Vilsack and Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan

The Sanford Community Center

1700 Geneva St, Sioux City, IA

2:30 p.m., Le Mars Rally for Real Representation.

Special Guests IDP Chairman Scott Brennan and HD 3 candidate TJ Templeton

Plymouth County Democrats office

27 Central Ave Northwest, Le Mars, IA

3:45 p.m., Orange City Rally for Real Representation.

Special Guests IDP Chairman Scott Brennan, HD 3 candidate TJ Templeton,

HD 4 candidate James Van Bruggen

De Koffiehoek & Bistro

819 Lincoln Pl SE, Orange City, IA

5 p.m., Sheldon Rally for Real Representation. Special Guest IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

Family Table Restaurant

710 2nd Ave, Sheldon, IA

7 p.m., Fundraiser and dinner with Special Guest IDP Chairman Scott Brennan

(free will offering graciously accepted)

Minerva’s Restaurant

1405 Highway 71 N, Okoboji, IA

The Motor Mill Foundation will host a benefit concert by Big Blue Sky at the Elkader Opera House at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 25. There will be a guest appearance by singer/songwriter Dave Moore of Iowa City. Doors open for a silent auction at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. All proceeds go to preservation of the Motor Mill Historic Site on the Turkey River near Elkader. For details, go to www.motormill.org, or call Larry Stone at 1-888-807-1828.

Sunday, October 26:

Rob Hubler will attend a House Party with Senator Mike and Connie Gronstal at noon. Special Guest IDP Chairman Scott Brennan. 220 Bennett Avenue,

Council Bluffs, IA

At 3 p.m., Hubler will hold a rally in Sioux City (details TBA)

Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players will perform at Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines (lower court) at 1 pm. Bring money even though the show is free, because you’ll want to buy some CDs.

Monday, October 27:

The Department of Natural Resources will be holding another public meeting to discuss proposed rule changes for public lands (see above) from 6-8 pm at the Dickinson County Community Building, 1602 15th St., in Spirit Lake. For more information, contact Inga Foster at 515-281-8967.

From the Sierra Club of Iowa’s e-mail loop:

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — The Dry Run Creek Watershed Management Project will be the topic of a lecture hosted by the University of Northern Iowa Department of Earth Science at 4 p.m., Monday, Oct. 27, in Latham Hall, Room 125.

Rebecca Kauten, UNI alumna and urban coordinator in the Watershed Assessment and Monitoring Section of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will speak on “Water Quality in the Built Environment: Examples from a Local Watershed Project.” Her presentation will focus on Dry Run Creek, an impaired watershed, and efforts to implement best management practices in the drainage basin.

The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jim Walters, professor and head, UNI Department of Earth Science, at (319) 273-2707.

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