Iowa Senate district 26 preview: Waylon Brown vs. Deb Scharper

Deb Scharper launched her campaign today in Iowa Senate 26, one of two Obama/Trump state Senate districts where no one filed to run in the June 2 Democratic primary.

While outside the top tier of Democratic pickup opportunities in the upper chamber, this district was decided by a narrow margin in 2012. Scharper’s race against first-term State Senator Waylon Brown is also worth watching for clues on whether Republicans, who now hold a 32-18 Senate majority, can maintain their advantage in the part of Iowa that swung most heavily to Donald Trump in 2016.

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How shelter-in-place would improve on what Iowa's already doing

Governor Kim Reynolds announced more business closures on April 6, as the number of confirmed novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections climbed to 946. Cases have nearly doubled the total of 497 on March 31. Confirmed deaths (now 25) have more than doubled from eleven on April 3.

Establishments now shuttered in Iowa include enclosed shopping malls (but not stores that can be accessed from outside the mall), arcades, outdoor and indoor playgrounds, social halls, bowling alleys, tobacco or vape stores, movie stores, and campgrounds.

Though Reynolds repeatedly urged Iowans to stay home if possible, and said the ban on gatherings larger than ten people will be enforced, she again stopped short of issuing a mandatory shelter-in-place order.

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New look at the 2020 Iowa House landscape (post-filing edition)

Now that the deadline for candidates to qualify for the June primary ballot has passed, it’s time to revisit the 2020 Iowa House landscape. (A separate overview of state Senate races is in progress.)

Republicans now hold a 53-47 majority in the lower chamber, meaning Democrats need a net gain of four seats for control. Thanks to our state’s nonpartisan redistricting system, more than a dozen House districts should be highly competitive. This post covers 22 House districts that could fall into that category. One or both parties spent significant funds on twenty Iowa House races in 2018, not counting House districts 82 or 16, where Republican candidates ended up winning by small margins.

Since Bleeding Heartland first reviewed the House landscape last May, both parties have had some recruiting successes, while other districts still lack a top-tier challenger. The Secretary of State published the full list of Democratic and GOP primary candidates here. In some races that are currently uncontested, major parties may get candidates on the ballot later by holding a special nominating convention.

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State Patrol must respect civil rights at Iowa Capitol

Iowa lawmakers have never enacted a “bathroom ban” targeting transgender people, but some State Patrol officers took it upon themselves to enforce that non-existent policy at the Capitol on March 12.

Security guards forced a large group of students to leave the building because some of the teens had used restrooms conforming to their gender identity.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2020

The Iowa House opened its 2020 session on January 13 with 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, a change from last year’s 54-46 split due to State Representative Andy McKean’s party switch shortly before lawmakers adjourned last year.

The House members include 67 men and 33 women (23 Democrats and ten Republicans). Although 34 women were elected to the chamber in 2018 (a record number), State Representative Lisa Heddens stepped down last summer, and Ross Wilburn won the special election to serve out her term in House district 46.

Five African Americans (Democrats Ako Abdul-Samad, Ruth Ann Gaines, Ras Smith, Phyllis Thede, and Wilburn) will serve in the legislature’s lower chamber; the other 95 lawmakers are white. No Latino has ever been elected to the Iowa House, and there has not been an Asian-American member since Swati Dandekar moved up to the state Senate following the 2008 election. Democratic State Representative Liz Bennett is the only out LGBTQ member of the lower chamber. To my knowledge, Abdul-Samad (who is Muslim) is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

After the jump I’ve posted details on the Iowa House majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing House committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted significant changes since last year.

Some non-political trivia: the Iowa House includes two Smiths (both Democrats), while the other 98 members have different surnames. As for popular first names, there are six Davids (four go by Dave), four Marys (one goes by Mary Ann), three Roberts (a Rob, a Bob, and a Bobby), three men named Thomas (two go by Tom), three Johns and two Jons, and three men each named Gary and Brian. There are also two Elizabeths (a Beth and a Liz) and two men each named Bruce, Chris, Jeff, Michael (one goes by Mike), Ross, and Charles (a Chuck and a Charlie).

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Iowa Republican lawmakers having trouble with oversight concept

Members of the Iowa House and Senate begin the work of the 2020 legislative session this morning. Speaking to journalists last week, GOP leaders described plans to work on a wide range of issues in the coming months, including workforce development, taxes, child care, and medical cannabis.

But top statehouse Republicans aren’t planning any oversight hearings on what’s been happening at the Glenwood Resource Center for Iowans with severe intellectual disabilities.

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