Democrat Lance Roorda running for one of toughest Iowa Senate districts

An under-reported Iowa politics story this year has been strong Democratic recruiting for the 2020 state Senate races. Even though recapturing the Iowa Senate is likely to take at least two election cycles, given the current 32-18 Republican majority, Democrats have declared candidates in five out of six Senate seats the party lost in 2016.*

Other Democrats are actively campaigning in three Senate districts that were only nominally contested in 2016.**

As of this week, Democrats also have a challenger in an Iowa Senate district that is so heavily Republican the party did not field a candidate for the last election.

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Five thoughts about Linda Upmeyer's tenure as Iowa House speaker

Iowa House Republicans meet in Des Moines this morning to elect new leaders for the 2020 legislative session. Linda Upmeyer announced on September 30 that she will step down as House speaker when the legislature reconvenes in January and will not seek re-election next November. She said in a written statement that she wants to spend more time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

Speaking to WHO Radio’s Jeff Angelo on October 1, Upmeyer said she was also influenced by her predecessor Kraig Paulsen’s decision to leave the post long before an election. A new speaker is “well-served” by having a session under their belt, which helps them with fundraising and recruiting candidates, she explained. “I wanted to make sure that whoever was going to be leading the caucus in the future had those tools at their disposal going into this next election.”

Sources close to the legislature indicate that current House Appropriations Committee chair Pat Grassley is likely to become the next speaker, with Matt Windschitl moving up from House speaker pro-tem to majority leader. Current Majority Leader Chris Hagenow may not be part of the new leadership team, for reasons that remain unclear. UPDATE: The caucus selected Grassley as speaker, Windschitl as majority leader, and State Representative John Wills as speaker pro tem.

I’ve been thinking about Upmeyer’s legacy and how she influenced the chamber.

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Jack Hatch considering run against Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie?

Former State Senator Jack Hatch appears to be seriously considering a campaign for mayor of Des Moines.

In recent days, numerous Democrats living in the capital city have received a lengthy telephone poll testing positive messages about Hatch and mostly negative messages about Mayor Frank Cownie, a four-term incumbent who has held the position since 2004.

Hatch did not immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail seeking comment on his plans and whether he commissioned the poll. I’ve paraphrased the questions below, based on detailed notes from a source who took the survey on September 9, and will update this post as needed when Hatch makes his intentions clear.

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2019 Iowa legislative recap: Constitutional amendments

Bleeding Heartland continues to catch up on the legislature’s significant actions during the session that ended on April 27. Previous posts related to the work of the Iowa House or Senate can be found here.

Republicans showed little interest in amending the Iowa Constitution during the 2019 session. Only one amendment passed both chambers. If and when that proposal appears on a statewide ballot, it will spark a costly and divisive campaign about gun rights and regulations.

The Senate and House debate over the pro-gun amendment is the focus of the first half of this post. Arguments raised on both sides will surely return in future television commercials and mass mailings.

The rest of the post reviews this year’s unsuccessful attempts to change the constitution. One amendment (backed by Governor Kim Reynolds) made it through the Iowa House, and four others advanced from a House or Senate committee but did not come up for a floor vote. The rest did not get through a committee, even though some of the same ideas went further last year.

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Iowa Privatized Medicaid: It Has Been A Disaster. Here’s Why.

By Simon Davis-Cohen for Tarbell.org

This is a reprint from Tarbell.org, a news website pioneering journalism that reveals who runs America and empowers readers with solutions. Read this on Tarbell.org.

If you have any feedback on this piece, please contact Tarbell’s engagement editor, Danielle Keeton-Olsen, at danielle@tarbell.org.

In 2016, Iowa privatized Medicaid under then-Governor Terry Branstad. He was a founding member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). “Obamacare” is often attacked by the David and Charles Koch-backed group that opposes government action in health care or the economy.

Branstad claimed outsourcing Medicaid would save the state and taxpayers money. However, Iowa has not been able to provide any data that shows privatization saved the state money. In fact, privatization is now costing Iowa money. (Branstad resigned the governorship in 2017 to become the U.S. Ambassador to China.)

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IA-01: First thoughts on a possible Rod Blum-Abby Finkenauer rematch

Thomas Nelson of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier was first to report last week that former U.S. Representative Rod Blum’s campaign has spent $11,365 on polling this year. Blum’s quarterly filing with the Federal Election Commission showed two disbursements to the candidate’s longtime pollster in early January.

The payments exceeded the $4,119 Blum for Congress owed The Polling Company at the end of December, indicating that Blum commissioned new surveys in the first district and wasn’t merely settling debts left over from the 2018 campaign.

While I have not been able to find details about the questions asked, his campaign likely tested voters’ views on key issues as well as approval and favorability numbers for himself and Representative Abby Finkenauer. Blum hasn’t ruled out running for office again. Nelson noted that he appeared at a Jones County GOP event on April 11.

No Republican has confirmed plans to run against Finkenauer. I see Blum as a weaker challenger than State Representative Ashley Hinson, who has said she’s considering the race and will make her intentions known after the legislative session ends.

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