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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Democrats have candidates in all top Iowa Senate targets

Fifteen months before the 2020 election, Democrats have at least one declared candidate in each of the four most vulnerable Republican-held Iowa Senate districts. That’s good news for a party that needs to start making up ground in the upper chamber, where Republicans hold 32 of the 50 seats.

Bleeding Heartland will publish a fuller review of the Iowa Senate landscape (comparable to this first look at 2020 state House races) when the field is set in more competitive districts. For now, here’s where things stand in the top Democratic targets:

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Where things stand with MidAmerican's bad solar bill

As state lawmakers wrap up their work for 2019, one of the biggest question marks surrounds MidAmerican Energy’s push to make future solar development unaffordable for most Iowa homeowners and small businesses.

Four weeks after the bill cleared the Iowa Senate, it is still hung up in the House, where a group of Republicans recently took an unusual step to signal their opposition.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2019

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2019 session on January 14 with 32 Republicans and 18 Democrats. A record eleven senators are women (six Democrats and five Republicans), up from six women in the chamber at the start of the last legislature’s work.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. Note that Democratic Senator Nate Boulton will serve on committees after all. Minority Leader Janet Petersen had declined to assign him to any committees last month.

A few words about demographics: all current state 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 legislature; in 2014, Nathan Blake fell 18 votes short of becoming the first. No Asian American has served in the Iowa Senate since Swati Dandekar resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Smiths (a Democrat and a Republican) and two Taylors (both Democrats). As for first names, there are three Marks, three Zachs, and two men each named Dan, Jim, Tim, Tom, and Jeff.

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Report highlights Iowa Medicaid horror stories; oversight bill languishes

Complaints to the Iowa Office of Ombudsman regarding privatized Medicaid increased by 157 percent last year, reflecting “systemic frustration” over cuts to health services for patients and unpaid bills for providers. Ombudsman Kristie Hirschman has “yet to be convinced” that the Department of Human Services is providing “adequate oversight” of the private insurance companies that control access to care and reimbursements, she wrote in a report released on April 2. The three outrageous examples she recounted resemble too many other tragic cases since Iowa shifted to a managed-care model for more than half a million Medicaid recipients.

Hirschman has assigned a full-time staffer to handle Medicaid-related complaints. The same issues come up again and again, more than a year after she, the state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman, and the advocacy group Disability Rights Iowa informed the DHS director about recurring problems with Medicaid managed-care organizations.

Although the ombudsman praised the legislature for “taking steps to correct some of the problems we and others have identified,” Senate Republican leaders haven’t brought up a Medicaid oversight bill that passed the Iowa House unanimously last month.

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