Sara Craig Gongol joins small group of top Iowa women staffers

The first woman elected to our state’s highest office has picked the third woman to serve as an Iowa governor’s chief of staff.

Sara Craig Gongol will replace Governor Kim Reynolds’ current chief of staff Ryan Koopmans, effective December 15. Craig Gongol was a leading campaign strategist for Reynolds this year and has been “a key member of my team” since 2014, the governor said in a December 11 press release.

The appointment inspired me to look into which women have held the top staff position for governors or members of Congress from Iowa. Like Craig Gongol, who ran Mitt Romney’s 2012 Iowa caucus campaign, several women who managed high-level Iowa campaigns went on to serve as chiefs of staff.

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Seven ways Mary Mosiman helped bury ISU's airplane scandal

A year ago this week, State Auditor Mary Mosiman released the findings from her office’s only examination of the wide-ranging scandal surrounding former Iowa State University President Steven Leath’s use of university-owned airplanes.

To say the self-styled “taxpayer’s watchdog” failed to properly investigate Leath’s personal trips on the taxpayer’s dime would be an understatement.

Mosiman did not try to find out how many times Leath misused ISU’s airplanes or how much his personal travel cost the university. Because the auditor looked the other way, Iowans will never know the scope of a top official’s misconduct at a large public institution.

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When another strong Congressional candidate missed an Iowa primary ballot

Theresa Greenfield’s failure to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot in Iowa’s third Congressional district was one of the strangest plot twists in our state’s recent political history. With influential endorsers and the funds to compete on television, Greenfield would have been a strong contender to either win the nomination or prevent any candidate from clearing the 35 percent threshold on June 5. EMILY’s List might have stayed out of a race with two pro-choice women in a field of four candidates, rather than spending heavily to help Cindy Axne in the final weeks.

Greenfield’s unsuccessful mad dash to collect a new set of petitions on the last day of the filing period reminded tipster Darrell Hanson of a last-minute scramble to salvage another well-known candidate’s Congressional bid.

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When someone tried to plant a false story in the Des Moines Register

A year ago today, Des Moines Register public affairs reporter William Petroski reached out to the Iowa Attorney General’s office, seeking to confirm a tip from a “really good source.”

The story never made it into the paper, because it didn’t check out. Odds are the misinformation came from someone close to then Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.

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More women managing Iowa campaigns

Iowa hasn’t been the most friendly state for women in politics, to put it mildly. We didn’t elect a woman to Congress until 2014. We have not elected a woman governor. Just 22.7 percent of our state lawmakers are women, below the pitiful national average of 25.3 percent. Only two women have ever been Iowa Supreme Court justices, and we are currently the only state in the country to have no women serving on our highest court.

But Iowa has not escaped the national trend of more women becoming politically involved in the wake of the 2016 election. Not only will a record number of female candidates appear on Iowa ballots in 2018, more women than ever before are leading campaigns for high-level offices.

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