Liz Bennett, Breanna Oxley face off in open Iowa Senate primary (updated)

Catching up on some news from before the holiday weekend: a competitive Democratic primary is shaping up for an open Iowa Senate seat covering part of Cedar Rapids. Four-term State Representative Liz Bennett confirmed on June 30 that she will run for the district that State Senator Rob Hogg has represented since 2007. Hogg won’t seek re-election in 2022, he announced last month. Iowa has yet to adopt a new political map, but this district will cover some part of the city of Cedar Rapids.

Bennett is the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Economic Growth Committee and a member of the Human Resources, Natural Resources, and Information Technology committees, as well as the Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals Appropriations subcommittee. Having won four previous state legislative races, she will be the early favorite in the Iowa Senate primary.

Bennett is also the first out LGBTQ woman elected to the Iowa legislature and the only out LGBTQ person now serving at the statehouse. Only one out LGBTQ person has ever served in the Iowa Senate: Matt McCoy, who did not seek re-election in 2018.

Breanna Oxley, a public school teacher and education activist, was first to declare her candidacy for the Cedar Rapids Senate district on June 15. She told Bleeding Heartland last week she is staying in that race. Her endorsers include former U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack, former State Senator Swati Dandekar, and former Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Swati Dandekar confirmed for Asian Development Bank position

The U.S. Senate has confirmed former State Senator Swati Dandekar as U.S. executive director of the Asian Development Bank, with the rank of ambassador. Senators approved Dandekar’s non-controversial appointment by voice vote on May 17, Senator Chuck Grassley’s office announced the next day. President Barack Obama nominated Dandekar for the position last November. Created in 1966 and representing dozens of member countries, the bank “finances development in the Asia and Pacific region with the aim of reducing poverty” through “loans, technical assistance and grants for a broad range of development activities.”

Grassley commented in a statement,

Swati Dandekar has served Iowa in many ways over a long period of time. She’s shown her talent for building relationships that lead to productive dialogue and initiatives. Her enthusiasm for public service and willingness to take on new challenges and responsibilities are what the public deserves. The President and the Senate made a good decision in choosing Swati Dandekar to represent the United States in this capacity.

Born and raised in India, Dandekar has lived in Marion (Linn County) since the 1970s. She won a seat on the Linn-Mar School Board during the 1990s and was a Governor Tom Vilsack appointee to the Vision Iowa board in 2000. To my knowledge, Dandekar was the longest-serving Asian-American in the Iowa legislature, spending six years in the state House before winning a swing Senate district in 2008. The newspaper AsianWeek named her Asian Pacific American of the year in 2008, and she was a leader of the National Foundation for Women Legislators.

No Asian-American has served in the Iowa legislature since Dandekar resigned her seat in 2011 to accept Governor Terry Branstad’s appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board. She left that position in 2013 to run for Congress, finishing third in the 2014 Democratic primary to represent Iowa’s first district.

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

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

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

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