Bleeding Heartland's coverage of U.S. Senate, House races in 2019

After the wipeout of 2016, I questioned whether Iowa’s top races of 2018 and 2020 would be foregone conclusions for the Republican incumbents. But amid unusually high turnout for a midterm election, Democratic challengers flipped two U.S. House seats and fell only a few points short against Governor Kim Reynolds and Representative Steve King.

One of my goals for 2019 was to provide in-depth reporting on Iowa’s federal and state legislative races. Thanks to our nonpartisan redistricting system, none of our four Congressional districts are considered safe for either party in 2020. While U.S. Senator Joni Ernst is still favored to win a second term, she is increasingly seen as a vulnerable GOP incumbent.

Follow me after the jump for a review of Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of the campaigns for U.S. Senate and House, with links to all relevant posts. A separate post will cover the year’s stories about battleground legislative districts.

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Latest reform won't help vast majority of Iowans disenfranchised over felonies

On the same day Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear restored voting rights to some 140,000 constituents who previously committed nonviolent crimes, Governor Kim Reynolds rolled out an incremental step to make it easier for Iowans to regain their voting rights after completing a felony sentence.

It was the fourth time the application process has been simplified in nearly nine years since Governor Terry Branstad restored Iowa’s lifetime ban on voting after a felony conviction.

Although the new policy may marginally increase the number of Iowans who can cast a ballot in 2020, it will leave tens of thousands of Iowans unable to vote for years. It’s not clear the governor’s office will be able to process all of the new applications in time for next year’s general election.

Reynolds could mostly solve this problem in a day. She clings to an unconvincing rationale for not doing so.

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Hundreds of Iowans are alive today thanks to Medicaid expansion

Expanding Medicaid “saved the lives of at least 19,200 adults aged 55 to 64” during the four years after the Affordable Care Act went into effect, including an estimated 272 Iowans, according to a new paper by Matt Broaddus and Aviva Aron-Dine for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Conversely, 15,600 older adults died prematurely because of state decisions not to expand Medicaid. […] The lifesaving impacts of Medicaid expansion are large: an estimated 39 to 64 percent reduction in annual mortality rates for older adults gaining coverage.

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IA-03: Highlights from 3Q campaign filings by Cindy Axne, David Young

The 2018 campaign for Iowa’s third Congressional district was the most expensive U.S. House race in our state’s history. Then-Representative David Young spent more than $2.8 million, his Democratic challenger Cindy Axne spent more than $5.1 million, and outside groups kicked in nearly $9 million to influence the outcome.

The latest Federal Election Commission filings show Axne and Young are both raising plenty for what should be a highly competitive (and expensive) rematch.

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Is door closing for other Republican candidates in IA-02?

State Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks announced on October 7 that former Governor Terry Branstad has endorsed her candidacy in Iowa’s second Congressional district. A statement quoting the former governor and his son Eric Branstad is at the end of this post. Branstad named Miller-Meeks to lead the Iowa Department of Public Health when he took office in 2011, and she served in that role for a little more than three years.

Miller-Meeks, who was the Republican nominee in IA-02 three times previously, has been unofficially campaigning for months but only formally launched last week. The other declared GOP candidate is former U.S. Representative Bobby Schilling.

Although there is plenty of time for other contenders to announce–Miller-Meeks kicked off her 2014 campaign less than a month before the filing deadline–the signal from Branstad could discourage other Republicans from seeking this seat.

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It is about the beds

Leslie Carpenter of Iowa City is an advocate for people with serious brain disorders and works to improve the broken treatment system in Iowa and across the country. -promoted by Laura Belin

Here in Iowa, we have heard for several years that we should realize the mental health crisis “isn’t about the beds.”

The argument was couched in a way to say it wasn’t about the beds, but the type of beds. The goal was to divert our attention from the fact that our state has the worst proportion of state bed numbers per capita: just two beds per 100,000 people. The Treatment Advocacy Center ranked Iowa dead last, 51st in the country on this metric. We have only 64 adult beds and 32 child beds at our state-run Mental Health Institutes in Independence and Cherokee.

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