# Tom Fiegen

Throwback Thursday: When Terry Branstad first tried to elevate Kim Reynolds, 18 years ago

Terry Branstad passed over some better-known and better-connected Republicans when he picked State Senator Kim Reynolds to be his running mate in 2010. During that campaign, Branstad said he was looking for a lieutenant governor who could take his place. He made clear on many subsequent occasions that he was “grooming” Reynolds. The plan will come to fruition after Branstad is confirmed as U.S. ambassador to China.

Few Iowans outside Clarke County had heard of Reynolds in June 2010, but Branstad had taken an interest in her political career long before then. If his original plan had worked out, Reynolds would have been elected to the Iowa Senate for the first time on this day in 1999.

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A year's worth of guest posts, plus tips for guest authors

One of my blogging new year’s resolutions for 2016 was to publish more work by other authors, and I’m grateful to the many talented writers who helped me meet that goal. After the jump I’ve linked to all 140 guest posts published here last year.

I encourage readers to consider writing for this site in 2017. Guest authors can write about any political issue of local, state, or national importance. As you can see from the stories enclosed below, a wide range of topics and perspectives are welcome here.

Pieces can be short or long, funny or sad. You can write in a detached voice or let your emotions show.

Posts can analyze what happened or advocate for what should happen, either in terms of public policy or a political strategy for Democrats. Authors can share first-person accounts of campaign events or more personal reflections about public figures.

Guest authors do not need to e-mail a draft to me or ask permission to pursue a story idea. Just register for an account (using the “sign up” link near the upper right), log in, write a post, edit as needed, and hit “submit for review” when you are ready to publish. The piece will be “pending” until I approve it for publication, to prevent spammers from using the site to sell their wares. You can write under your own name or choose any pseudonym not already claimed by another Bleeding Heartland user. I do not reveal authors’ identity without their permission.

I also want to thank everyone who comments on posts here. If you’ve never participated that way, feel free to register for a user account and share your views. If you used to comment occasionally but have not done so lately, you may need to reset your password. Let me know if you have any problems registering for an account, logging in, or changing a password. My address is near the lower right-hand corner of this page.

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The 16 highest-traffic Bleeding Heartland posts in 2016

Traffic can be a touchy subject for bloggers. Most writers know the pain of pouring a lot of effort into a project that gets little traction. On the flip side, although clicks are always welcome, seeing a post take off is not as satisfying when you are less invested in the piece. The most-viewed post in nearly 10 years of Bleeding Heartland’s existence was nothing special, just another opinion poll write-up. FYI: A good way to get the Drudge Report to link to your site is to type up a long list of negative statements about Hillary Clinton.

I’ve never compiled a year-end list like this before, but since people occasionally ask what material is most popular at the blog, I figured, why not start a new tradition? Ulterior motive: I hope more readers will be inspired to write for Bleeding Heartland in 2017 after learning that guest authors wrote some of this year’s most-viewed posts, including the one at the very top.

Follow me after the jump for the sixteen posts that generated the most traffic in 2016. Some of the results surprised me.

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Bob Krause makes eight candidates for Iowa Democratic Party chair

Saying he is the “compromise candidate” best positioned to unify the Iowa Democratic Party and bring back blue-collar workers who swung to Donald Trump, Bob Krause e-mailed Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee members late Friday night to announce his candidacy for state party chair.

Krause served in the Iowa House during the 1970s and in recent years has been an outspoken advocate for veterans as president of the Des Moines-based Veterans National Recovery Center. He sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2016, finishing a distant second in the 2010 primary and fourth in 2016. Krause also explored a candidacy for governor in 2014 before leaving that race to endorse Jack Hatch.

I enclose below Krause’s message to Iowa Democratic leaders, who will hear from contenders on December 17 and vote for a new chair in January. Krause’s comments about the shortcomings of the Vote Builder database echo frustrations I’ve heard from quite a few down-ballot candidates and activists.

The others seeking to lead the state party, in order of their official announcements, are Kim Weaver, Sandy Dockendorff, Blair Lawton, Derek Eadon, Kurt Meyer, Julie Stauch, and Mike Gronstal. Click here for background on each. Bleeding Heartland has published commentaries by Stauch, Meyer, and Eadon, and I hope to run guest posts by the other candidates soon.

UPDATE: Krause also posted an announcement video on Facebook late on December 9.

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Rushing the stage at a presidential candidate event is not "civil disobedience"

Hillary Clinton came to Iowa yesterday for the first time since the February 1 caucuses. After visiting the Des Moines t-shirt shop Raygun, she spoke primarily about economic policies to a packed Lincoln High School gymnasium.

During the rally, a woman jumped over the barricade and ran toward the stage. Several Secret Service agents tackled her, while Clinton showed remarkable composure as she kept delivering her stump speech. The protester was apparently representing the “Direct Action Everywhere” community, trying to call attention to “Hillary’s support for Costco and other corporate animal abusers.”

As a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union, I support anyone’s right to protest peacefully, to hold up signs, and even to disrupt a political event by shouting taunts or slogans (though heckling’s not my personal style). But rushing the stage is not an acceptable form of protest, especially right after the Republican presidential candidate hinted that “Second Amendment people” might be the only way to stop Clinton from appointing judges to the federal bench.

So I was disturbed last night to see former State Senator Tom Fiegen advocate more barricade jumping at Clinton campaign events.

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Low primary turnout is warning sign for Iowa Democrats

The U.S. Senate primary outcome was frustrating for supporters of Rob Hogg. Despite outperforming his numbers in the Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register, Hogg finished about 8.5 percent behind front-runner Patty Judge. Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause each took about 6.7 percent of the primary votes, which arguably kept Hogg from overcoming Judge’s higher name recognition and better-funded campaign. Many activists are upset that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee encouraged Judge to bigfoot Hogg in the first place.

Let’s set aside the blame game for now.

The low turnout in yesterday’s primary should alarm all Iowa Democrats, regardless of preference in the Senate race.

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Iowa primary election results thread

Polls closed at 9 pm across Iowa. Any comments about today’s primary elections are welcome in this thread. Anecdotally, I heard reports of low turnout from various parts of the state all day long. I will be updating this post throughout the evening. For statewide results, check the Iowa Secretary of State’s results page. The Polk County Elections Office is posting results here.

Follow me after the jump for updates. The Des Moines Register posted the video of Patty Judge’s victory speech, because our local CBS affiliate cut away from it, and the NBC and ABC affiliates had ended their election coverage before then.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge played not to lose, and it looks like she's not losing

Since launching her U.S. Senate campaign in March, former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge has held relatively few public events. She hasn’t put out attention-getting policy proposals. Her campaign has announced high-profile endorsements through news releases, not at press conferences where tv cameras would be rolling. She didn’t come to the two televised debates ready to drop headline-grabbing talking points.

Both Iowa and national Republicans have mocked Judge’s sparse public schedule, asking, “Where’s Patty?” Even some Democrats have been puzzled by the experienced candidate’s low-profile approach to a race she entered very late.

Judge’s strategy had a certain logic, though. If her internal polling showed her well ahead of the other three Democrats seeking the nomination–expected given her higher visibility as a former statewide office-holder–packing her schedule with rallies and town-halls would have little upside. Republican video trackers, like the ones who have been following State Senator Rob Hogg around since last summer, would catch any slip and blow it out of all proportion.

Two public polls released in recent days lend support to persistent rumors in Democratic circles that surveys conducted for the Judge campaign put her 10 or 15 points ahead of her nearest rival.

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Enter Bleeding Heartland's 2016 Iowa primary election prediction contest

It’s that time of year. For your chance at bragging rights in the Bleeding Heartland community, post a comment in this thread with your answers to the following fifteen questions sometime before 7 am central time on Tuesday, June 7.

Anyone can enter, whether you now live or have ever lived in Iowa. It’s fine to change your mind about some or all of your answers, as long as you post a comment with your new predictions before the deadline.

Only comments posted in this thread will be valid contest entries. Predictions submitted by e-mail or posted on Facebook or Twitter will not be considered. Please try to answer every question, even if it’s just a wild guess. We’re all guessing anyway, since no public polls have been published for most of these races.

Bleeding Heartland user ModerateIADem won this blog’s primary election prediction contests in 2010 and 2012. There was no clear winner two years ago.

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Of Slates and Allegiances in Johnson County

Guest posts advocating for Democratic candidates in competitive primaries are welcome here. Please read these guidelines before writing. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Plenty of chatter about the Democratic primary for Johnson County Board of Supervisors has been focused on which candidate is allied with which other candidate(s) (or not), which elected official is supporting which candidate (or not), which candidate supports which presidential candidate, and who represents real Democratic values…or not.

There are no slates in this election. I am not running with any of the other candidates on the ballot this June 7th, nor to my knowledge are any of the others. That said, a number of my supporters have made very public their support of one or two other candidacies. As you travel around Johnson County you will find my yard signs next to those of all five other candidates in the race, as well as next to those of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Rob Hogg, Tom Fiegen, and Black Lives Matter. I am honored to be in all that good company.

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Iowa's Democracy Spring

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts advocating for candidates in competitive Democratic primaries. Please read these guidelines before writing. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In the 2016 Iowa Democratic Senate primary, if we are not careful, we are going to get corporate ag anti-environment, anti-labor Patty Judge jammed down our throats. The two progressives in the race are Tom Fiegen and Rob Hogg. The purpose of this letter is to compare the two on the issues that are important to us as progressives:clean water, CAFOs, blocking the Prestage slaughter plant in Mason City, the Bakken pipeline, $15 minimum wage, family farming, economic fairness and immigrant rights.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Democratic district conventions edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The Iowa Democratic Party’s conventions in the four Congressional districts yesterday elected 29 delegates and four alternates for the Democratic National Convention as well as members of various party committees.

Unlike 2008, when Barack Obama gained significant ground at Iowa’s county and district conventions, this weekend’s allocation of delegates for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was the same as what would have been predicted based on the February 1 precinct caucus results. The Iowa Democratic Party released this table on April 30:

IDP district convention delegates photo IDPdistrictconventions_zps5ibx8ljl.png

I’ll update this post later when the full lists of delegates and State Central Committee members become available. Some notable results are after the jump.

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IA-Sen: Two big labor endorsements for Rob Hogg

Two of Iowa’s largest labor organizations are backing State Senator Rob Hogg in the four-way Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. Speaking to delegates at the Iowa Democratic Party’s second Congressional district convention this morning, Hogg announced that the Iowa Federation of Labor has endorsed him, Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble reported. A couple of hours later at the first district convention, Hogg announced the support of AFSCME Council 61, which represents tens of thousands of public employees.

During his speech at a campaign event in Urbandale on April 25, Hogg mentioned his strong pro-labor voting record during four years of service in the Iowa House and ten in the Iowa Senate. Also relevant: Hogg’s main primary rival is Patty Judge, who was not known as a champion on labor issues in the Iowa legislature and was lieutenant governor when Governor Chet Culver vetoed a collective bargaining bill in 2008. I do not recall Judge speaking publicly about that bill at the time, but the veto caused lingering bad blood between Culver and the organized labor community.

Labor support doesn’t always carry the day in Iowa Democratic politics. Mike Blouin fell a bit short against Culver in the 2006 gubernatorial primary despite having more labor endorsements, including from AFSCME. Still, financial and/or organizational help from AFSCME and the IFL will be a boost for Hogg as he competes against Judge, Bob Krause, and Tom Fiegen to get out the vote before June 7. Judge spoke this morning to delegates at the third and fourth district conventions and is scheduled to appear at the other conventions in the afternoon. Krause and Fiegen were planning to appear at all the conventions today as well.

Any comments about the Senate race are welcome in this thread. At this writing, statements about the latest endorsements for Hogg have not appeared on either labor organization’s website or on Hogg’s Senate campaign website. I will update as needed.

UPDATE: Speaking by phone on April 30, Hogg said he was “really excited about the labor endorsements. I think it will really magnify the grassroots support that I already have. I think it’s because we share a view that we need to create an economy that works for all Americans. And I have that voting record in the Iowa legislature–I’ve got a 99 percent lifetime Iowa Federation of Labor voting record. I didn’t set out to have that, but that’s how they’ve scored me, and I’m very, very proud of that and very excited about the endorsement.”

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"Acela primary" discussion thread

Five states along the east coast held primaries today. Donald Trump had a clean sweep on the Republican side of the so-called Acela primary, named for the Amtrak express train that connects Boston to Washington, DC. As of 8 pm central time, Trump had won more than 50 percent of the votes counted in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Dark days lie ahead for the #NeverTrump crowd. Even if Ted Cruz manages to win the Indiana primary next week and John Kasich wins Oregon and New Mexico, stopping Trump from reaching 1,237 delegates before the Republican National Convention will be a tall order. Dave Wasserman published a good analysis of Trump’s success at FiveThirtyEight.com. I’ve posted excerpts after the jump.

Networks called Maryland for Hillary Clinton immediately after polls closed. At this writing, she has also been projected to win Pennsylvania and Delaware, while Bernie Sanders is set to win Rhode Island, and Connecticut is still too close to call. Clinton’s remarks to her supporters in Philadelphia tonight sounded very much like a general-election stump speech.

Dave Weigel noted Clinton has won eleven states she lost to Barack Obama in 2008: Iowa, Maryland, Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Even more striking, Weigel pointed out, “After tonight, Donald Trump will have won 12 of the 13 original colonies. He’s also favored to win in the 13th, New Jersey.”

Any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread. Today the admin for U.S. Senate candidate Tom Fiegen’s social media blocked me on Twitter after I challenged one of Fiegen’s many tweets suggesting the Democratic superdelegates should switch from Clinton to Sanders. So touchy! Fiegen proceeded to block several people who had re-tweeted me or commented negatively about the blocking.

UPDATE: Added below the full text of Clinton’s speech tonight and a statement released by Sanders. Although he did not concede the nomination, he appears to be shifting to a fight about the Democratic Party platform, rather than trying to beat Clinton.

SECOND UPDATE: Clinton ended up winning Connecticut by about 5 points. Trump’s margins of victory were enormous in all five states: 29 points ahead of Kasich in Connecticut, 35 points in Pennsylvania, 31 points in Maryland, 39 points in Rhode Island, and 40 points in Delaware.

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IA-Sen: DSCC makes the obvious official, Judge doesn't talk about it

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee recruited former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge to run against Senator Chuck Grassley, praised her as a “formidable challenger” the day she launched her campaign, and invited her to lunch with Democratic senators in Washington a few days later. So it was no surprise when the DSCC made its support for Judge official on April 20.

Judge’s campaign has touted endorsements from influential Iowa Democrats but didn’t spread the word about the DSCC’s announcement this week–probably because backing from Washington insiders feeds into talking points Republicans and Democratic rivals have already been using.

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IA-Sen: Judge playing down, Hogg playing up differences on water quality

Photo of Iowa stream courtesy of InIowaWater.org, a project of the Environmental Law & Policy Center

By entering the U.S. Senate race, former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge ensured that environmental issues would become salient for many Iowa Democrats trying to choose among the four candidates running against Senator Chuck Grassley.

During the past two weeks, Judge has sought to minimize the daylight between herself and State Senator Rob Hogg on the need to address water pollution. But Hogg, widely considered Judge’s leading rival for the nomination, has made environmental concerns a big part of his pitch to Democrats.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge highlights support from women in first batch of endorsements

Claiming to have “a broad, statewide network that can work together to defeat Chuck Grassley,” former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge today released a list of nearly 60 prominent Iowa Democrats supporting her candidacy for U.S. Senate. I enclose below the full campaign statement, which highlighted endorsements from:

• “every living Democratic woman to hold a statewide office in Iowa,” namely former Attorney General Bonnie Campbell, former Secretary of State Elaine Baxter, and former Lieutenant Governors Sally Pederson and Jo Ann Zimmerman. Gender will be a factor for many Iowa Democrats weighing their choices in the four-way IA-Sen primary.

• “activists and community leaders,” such as LGBTQ advocates Nate Monson, Cecilia Martinez, and Bobbi Fogle; Jill June, the longtime leader of Iowa’s largest Planned Parenthood chapter; Joe Henry, national vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens; and former Secretary of State nominee Brad Anderson.

• “current and former elected officials,” including former U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell, Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, former Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, and former Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran.

• former Iowa Democratic Party chairs Rob Tully and Michael Kiernan (and Bonnie Campbell), along with current and former county party chairs.

Also worth noting:

• While Judge’s list is heavy on Iowans who backed Hillary Clinton for president, it includes some well-known Bernie Sanders endorsers like Gluba and Henry.

• Judge has not peeled away any of the 61 Democratic state lawmakers (including 25 women) who endorsed State Senator Rob Hogg for IA-Sen earlier this year, before the former lieutenant governor and Iowa secretary of agriculture was known to be considering this race.

Any comments about the Senate campaign are welcome in this thread. With all respect to Judge and the women and men named below, someone who aligned herself with the Iowa Farm Bureau against efforts to clean up waterways will never get my vote in a Democratic primary.

P.S.- I got a kick out of seeing both Joe Henry and Des Moines activist Sean Bagniewski on Judge’s supporter list. Less than two weeks ago, they were key players on opposite sides in the epic drama also known as the Polk County Democratic Convention.

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First thoughts on Obama nominating Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court

President Barack Obama decided to nominate Judge Merrick Garland of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals for the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. Of the six judges most often named as possible nominees, Garland was my least favorite. He’s a 60-something white guy with a lot of conservative fans whose record shows a slant toward law enforcement and against criminal defendants. We can do better.

I’ve heard speculation that the president didn’t want to “waste” a good nominee this year, knowing the Republican-controlled Senate will likely not confirm his choice. This way, all of the more appealing choices will be fresh faces for Hillary Clinton to choose from next year, if she is elected president.

My immediate concern is that GOP senators will wake up in the fall and realize that 1) Donald Trump cannot win the presidency, and 2) weakness at the top of the ticket may take down their Senate majority, so 3) they better hurry up and confirm Garland before Clinton has a chance to pick a more liberal judge.

Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley was one of the 23 Republicans who voted against confirming Garland in 1997, not because of Garland’s qualifications, but because in his view, “the evidence does not support filling the [appeals court] vacancy at a cost to taxpayers of $1 million a year.”

I will update this post with more reaction after Obama’s announcement. UPDATE: Further news is after the jump.

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IA-Sen: Robert Rees ends GOP primary challenge to Chuck Grassley

Conservative Republican Robert Rees announced this afternoon that he is ending the U.S. Senate campaign he launched in January. He explained in a statement posted on his campaign’s website,

Due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the subsequent entrance in to the race by former Lt. Governor Patty Judge, the dynamics of the U.S. Senate race in Iowa have changed.

While we are on pace to get on the ballot, I have decided to not run for U.S. Senate at this time.

Rees had been struggling to collect enough signatures to qualify for the GOP primary ballot. Nominating papers must be submitted to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office by the close of business this Friday, March 18. At this writing, Grassley and two of his four declared Democratic challengers (tate Senator Rob Hogg and former State Senator Tom Fiegen) have qualified to run in the June 7 primary. Former State Representative Bob Krause and Judge have not yet submitted their petitions.

Although Rees was never positioned to defeat Grassley, I regret his exit from the race, because his performance on June 7 would have signaled how many highly engaged Iowa Republicans are dissatisfied with the party’s most popular establishment figure. Little-known Tom Hoefling won just under 17 percent of the vote in his 2014 GOP primary challenge to Governor Terry Branstad.

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Guidelines for Bleeding Heartland guest authors advocating for candidates in Democratic primaries

This morning I wrote about a state legislative race where two Democrats are seeking the nomination.

This afternoon I received a robocall from Pat Murphy’s campaign in Iowa’s first Congressional district, directing me to the GOP Monica website to “get the facts” about rival candidate Monica Vernon’s Republican past.

Earlier this week, I wrote two posts about the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, which is getting much more attention in Iowa and nationally now that Patty Judge has entered the race.

Meanwhile, supporters of U.S. Senate candidate Tom Fiegen posted two guest pieces here in two days on behalf of their favored candidate.

All of which reminded me that it’s time to post guidelines for writers advocating for Democratic candidates at Bleeding Heartland. Unfortunately, competitive elections can bring out bad behavior on political blogs.

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Tom Fiegen, candidate for U.S. Senate Iowa, receives endorsement from Reverend Dr. Frantz Whitfield, respected Iowa Social Justice and Civil Rights leader.

Clarence Iowa – Today, Tom Fiegen’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Iowa, received the endorsement of Reverend Dr. Frantz Whitfield, respected Social Justice and Civil Rights leader and the pastor of Mt Carmel Baptist Church in Waterloo, Iowa.

Tom said, “I am humbled and honored by Rev. Dr. Frantz Whitfield’s endorsement. It is far more important than the endorsement of Washington, D.C. insiders and big-money establishment politicians. Dr. Whitfield is a respected Social Justice and Civil Rights leader in Iowa. He is a powerful and eloquent voice for working and oppressed Iowans. He speaks to the same economic and social issues that our campaign is all about.”

Rev. Whitfield’s endorsement eloquently says, “Robert F. Kennedy once stated “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not? Tom is the “Why Not” candidate – a candidate who is concerned about the ailments of the American people, he projects the voices of the unheard, and they are found in my friend Tom Fiegen. He is the only person qualified to add to the Political Revolution that is about to sweep this nation. Make the right choice, and elect Tom Fiegen for U.S. Senate.”

The influential Waterloo minister is the pastor of the Mt Carmel Baptist church in Waterloo, Iowa. Reverend Whitfield recounted the first time he saw Tom Fiegen, while sitting at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Des Moines last fall, at the table with Senator Bernie Sanders. He saw Tom Fiegen hold up a Bernie Sanders sign to the roar of thousands of JJ Dinner attendees. He said he was impressed at Tom’s courage and convictions.

Fiegen said, “Our campaign is honored to have the support of Rev. Dr. Whitfield. We are about representing working people and all Iowans, especially those who have gone unheard the last 35 years. Our campaign is about taking back our economy and our government from the grip of the special interests who bribe and own our elected leaders. Like Rev. Dr. Frantz, we are about returning to a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

learn more: http://fiegenforussenate.com/

Patty Judge enters the US Senate race in Iowa. It's about Citizens United.

A fourth Iowa Democrat joins the race to un-seat republican US Senator Chuck Grassley. Her name is Patty Judge. US Senate candidate Tom Fiegen — a Sanders Democrat — issued a warning to progressive Iowa democrats this week about the Big Money influence pulling the strings of this latest candidate to enter the race.

“I welcome Lt. Governor Judge to the race because of the contrast between us. Her political base is big money industrial agriculture interests where poisoning Iowa’s waters is part of the deal. The majority of Iowans want clean drinking water and small family farmers growing more fresh healthy local food. A majority of Iowans want Citizens United overturned. Make no mistake, this election is a choice between status-quo politics where everything is for sale to the high bidder and the politics of putting the needs of working people ahead of Super PACs.”

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Two bizarre takes on the IA-Sen Democratic primary

Patty Judge’s decision to run for U.S. Senate was Iowa’s biggest political news last week. Taking their cue from Washington-based pols who recruited the former lieutenant governor, many national reporters who covered the story took for granted that Judge will be the Democratic challenger to six-term Senator Chuck Grassley, glossing over the fact that she will face serious competition in the June primary.

On the flip side, the Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich and Howie Klein of the Down With Tyranny! blog recently made some odd assessments in their reviews of the Democratic race for Senate.

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IA-Sen: Three fault lines in a Democratic primary between Patty Judge and Rob Hogg

Former Lieutenant Governor and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge will seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, Jason Noble reported today for the Des Moines Register, citing multiple unnamed sources. She will make her candidacy official tomorrow. Two weeks should be plenty of time for her supporters to collect the 2,104 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

Three Democrats are already competing for the chance to run against six-term incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley, but once Judge enters the race, the main contest will be between her and State Senator Rob Hogg. Intending no disrespect to Tom Fiegen or Bob Krause, their performance in the 2010 IA-Sen primary suggests they will not be major factors on June 7.

I see three main factors influencing Iowa Democrats as they decide between Judge and Hogg.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge thinking about challenging Chuck Grassley

The Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble snagged a surprising scoop yesterday: former Lieutenant Governor and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge is considering running for the U.S. Senate this year. Referring to Grassley’s approach to the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, Judge told Noble,

“Iowans have always been straight shooters, and up until the recent time I would have said the same thing about Chuck,” Judge said. […]

“I don’t like this double-speak,” Judge said. “I don’t like this deliberate obstruction of the process. I think Chuck Grassley owes us better. He’s been with us a long time. Maybe he’s been with us too long.”

To qualify for the Democratic primary ballot, Judge would need to submit nominating papers with the Secretary of State’s Office by March 18, three weeks from today. That doesn’t leave much time to collect at least 2,104 signatures, including minimum amounts in at least ten Iowa counties. But Judge could pull together a campaign quickly, having won three statewide elections–for secretary of agriculture in 1998 and 2002 and on the ticket with Chet Culver in 2006.

Three other Democrats are seeking the nomination to run against Grassley: State Senator Rob Hogg, former State Senator Tom Fiegen, and former State Representative Bob Krause. Former State Representative Ray Zirkelbach launched a U.S. Senate campaign in November but ended his campaign last month, Zirkelbach confirmed by phone this morning.

Dozens of Democratic state lawmakers endorsed Hogg in January. I enclose the full list below. Any comments about the Senate race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Rebecca Tuetken notes, “Patty Judge does meet one apparent Iowa requirement: she told @SenatorHarkin ’08 steak fry that she can castrate a calf.” Truly a classic moment for Judge, when Joni Ernst was still the little-known Montgomery County auditor.

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Ray Zirkelbach becomes fourth Democrat to run for U.S. Senate--but why?


Former State Representative Ray Zirkelbach is officially exploring a candidacy for U.S. Senate in 2016, James Q. Lynch reported for the Cedar Rapids Gazette on November 7.

Although the field is getting crowded — former legislators Bob Krause of Fairfield and Tom Fiegen of Clarence, and State Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids have all entered the race — Zirkelbach, 37, believes he’ll be the Democratic Party’s best candidate to defeat [Senator Chuck] Grassley. His ideas will set him apart from the others, Zirkelbach said. […]

“It’s about progress,” he said.

First elected to the Iowa House in 2004, Zirkelbach served three terms before losing his 2010 re-election bid. He missed the 2006 and 2007 legislative sessions, because his Iowa Army National Guard unit had been called up to serve in Iraq.

I have not seen a website or Facebook page for Zirkelbach’s U.S. Senate exploratory committee yet, but will update this post as needed. In lieu of an up to date official bio, I have posted the “member profile” that appeared on the Iowa House Democrats website during Zirkelbach’s third term. Zirkelbach’s Twitter account hasn’t been active since 2009; his personal Facebook feed is here.

I struggle to understand why Zirkelbach would run for Senate when we already have three progressive Democrats in the field, including one (Hogg) with a much stronger background of legislative accomplishments.

Meanwhile, to my knowledge, Democrats have no declared candidate against GOP State Representative Lee Hein in Iowa House district 96, where Zirkelbach lives (a map is at the end of this post). Hein defeated Zirkelbach in the 2010 wave election, and Democrats didn’t field a challenger against him in 2012 or 2014. Taking on the incoming House Agriculture Committee chair would be a long-shot race; House district 96 leans to the GOP with 4,386 active registered Democrats, 5,761 Republicans, and 8,483 no-party voters according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. But Zirkelbach would be much better positioned to defeat Hein than Grassley.

UPDATE: Pat Rynard spoke to Zirkelbach about his Senate bid. Added excerpts to that post below.

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Thoughts on the Iowa Democratic Party's final Jefferson-Jackson dinner

The Iowa Democratic Party held its final Jefferson-Jackson dinner Saturday night, drawing some 6,000 activists to hear three presidential candidates speak in Des Moines. Last night’s spectacle won’t loom as large over the Iowa caucus campaign as the JJ did in 2007, when it took place in November and the caucuses were scheduled for early January, rather than February. But some new tactics emerged during the speeches by presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, and Hillary Clinton. My thoughts on the evening’s highlights are after the jump.

I am a sucker for hand-made political signs, so I also enclose below my favorite pictures from the crowds in the bleachers. I put “Feel the Bern” in lights up top because I’ve never seen electrified signs at the JJ before.

While I see the value in supporters waving signs (or glow sticks, as many did last night) at a big rally, the “sign wars” some campaigns stage before multi-candidate events have always struck me as pointless. How does it demonstrate “organizational strength” to send a few staffers to put up printed materials in windows or along a road? Why would anyone want their volunteers to stand around yelling for hours before the dinner, rather than saving their energy and voices to show that enthusiasm inside the hall? For those who disagree with me and love the show, Pat Rynard chronicled the morning and afternoon activities by all three campaigns at Iowa Starting Line.

As for why I called it the “final” JJ, the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual fall fundraiser will continue under a to-be-determined name honoring icons considered more inclusive. You can send your suggestion to the state party using this form through February 15, 2016.

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IA-Sen: Rob Hogg making Senate bid official

After two months of exploring a candidacy, Democratic State Senator Rob Hogg will make his bid for U.S. Senate official tomorrow, launching a three-day tour of twelve Iowa communities. His full announcement and tour schedule is after the jump. Hogg will kick off the campaign in Callender (Webster County), “a community 15 miles southwest of Fort Dodge.”

“I will be making my announcement in Callender as a symbol of my support for small towns and rural Iowa,” Hogg said.  “I am also announcing in Callender because my grandmother was born in Callender in 1902 and family is important to me.”

Former State Senator Tom Fiegen and former State Representative Bob Krause are also seeking the Senate nomination and have appeared at numerous local Democratic events this year. Krause and Fiegen competed in the 2010 IA-Sen primary, finishing well behind Roxanne Conlin in that contest. This year, Fiegen is branding himself as a “Bernie Sanders Democrat,” posting far more frequently on social media about the Sanders presidential effort than about his own Senate bid. Whether Democratic activists who are “feeling the Bern” will translate into a large base of support for Fiegen after the Iowa caucuses remains to be seen.

Although both Krause and Fiegen promote progressive values and policies, I plan to support Hogg in the Democratic primary. He has been fighting good fights in the Iowa legislature since 2003, sometimes battling bad legislation that had strong backing in his own caucus.

Whoever he may be, the eventual nominee will have an uphill battle against six-term incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley. Not only will the Senate Judiciary Committee chair likely be able to outspend his opponent, he has never lost an election and still has strong favorability numbers, according to most opinion polls. Speaking to Roll Call’s Tom Curry last week, Iowa’s senior senator speculated that Hogg would be the most difficult challenger for him to face: “I know him a little bit, not very much, but he will be a strong competitor.”

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Wing Ding edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

More than twenty Iowa Democratic county committees put on a great “Wing Ding” in Clear Lake Friday night. The Surf Ballroom was packed to capacity, thanks to appearances by four of the five Democratic presidential hopefuls. Despite a fairly long list of speakers including candidates for U.S. House and Senate and State Senator Amanda Ragan, who was receiving an award, the Wing Ding amazingly finished ahead of schedule. I enclose below my take on all the speeches.

For those following the saga of three former Ron Paul campaign operatives, recently indicted for their role in making illegal payments to then State Senator Kent Sorenson: Russ Choma covered the prosecutors’ latest court filing for Mother Jones. Prosecutors allege the operatives “were prepared to leak documents to harm Sorenson in 2012 if they couldn’t obtain his endorsement for Ron Paul.” An attorney for Jesse Benton acknowledged that in late 2011, his client “threatened to expose Mr. Sorenson, believing that Mr. Sorenson was trying to blackmail the 2012 RP Campaign, if Mr. Sorenson did not make up his mind on whether to commit to the Ron Paul Campaign.” But the lawyer said Benton did not follow through on what he described as “a knee-jerk, emotional reaction.” Of course, there would have been no reason to carry out the threat after Sorenson agreed to take the money in exchange for switching his allegiance to Paul.

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IA-Sen: Rob Hogg exploring challenge to Chuck Grassley

Democratic State Senator Rob Hogg announced today,

I have formed an exploratory committee to consider becoming a candidate for the United States Senate in 2016.  Like many Iowans, I believe we need Congress to work better for all of our citizens and our country’s future.  If we had a Congress that worked better, we could:

> Build a vibrant, full-employment economy that works for all Americans.

> Improve public health and public safety through prevention, prevention, and more prevention.

> Strengthen Social Security and Medicare and fulfill our commitments to seniors, veterans, and people living with disabilities.

> Confront the challenge of our century – climate change – through solutions that work for our economy, our health, and our environment.

Hogg didn’t set a timetable for deciding on a U.S. Senate bid but said he will travel around Iowa in the coming weeks. His full press release and official bio are after the jump. His exploratory committee is on the web here. He’s on Twitter @SenatorRobHogg and on Facebook here.

Hogg was just re-elected to his third four-year term in the Iowa Senate last November, so he would not have to give up his legislative seat in order to run for U.S. Senate in 2016. Most recently, he has chaired the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee; before that, he chaired the Judiciary Committee. He is among the most outspoken Iowa lawmakers on climate change and other environmental issues.

Two Democrats have already announced plans to run against Grassley: former State Representative Bob Krause and former State Senator Tom Fiegen. They recently discussed their key issues with Mike Glover of the Iowa Daily Democrat. Krause and Fiegen also competed in the 2010 Democratic primary, which Roxanne Conlin won with about 77 percent of the vote.

UPDATE: Added below further comments from Hogg, via Iowa Starting Line.

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Kiernan resigning as head of the Iowa Democratic Party

The Des Moines Register reported this morning that Michael Kiernan is stepping down as chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Kiernan is leaving because of personal reasons, [IDP Executive Director Norm] Sterzenbach said. He declined to go into details but noted that Democrats will hold a press conference at 2 p.m.

The Democratic State Central Committee will hold a special meeting Thursday night to vote on a new chairman.

I’ll update this post after Kiernan’s press conference today. UPDATE: Kiernan said he is resigning “because of personal health reasons. I am resigning so that I can focus on my family and my health. Believe me when I say that I would be here fighting to elect more Democrats every day if I could.” I posted the complete statement released by the Iowa Democratic Party after the jump. I’m sure all Bleeding Heartland readers join me in wishing Kiernan a speedy recovery.

Kiernan was selected to chair the Iowa Democratic Party in January 2009. Under his leadership the party has been out-raising the Republican Party of Iowa. He also helped recruit Roxanne Conlin to run against Senator Chuck Grassley. Speaking to her supporters after winning yesterday’s primary election,

Conlin told a story about January 2009.

“I was sitting there innocently with nothing on my mind but the concerns of my clients when an old dear friend insisted on an appointment,” Conlin said.

The old friend, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan, told her that he wanted to talk to her about something.

“The something that he wanted to talk to me about was my running against Grassley. I thought he’d lost his mind. I said, ‘You must be kidding me!”

As the crowd laughed, Conlin said: “So it turned out it was a good idea after all.”

That was months before Bob Krause or Tom Fiegen had announced plans to run against Grassley. It showed a lot of foresight for Kiernan to be seeking out a high-profile challenger for that race.  

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Weekend open thread: Election prediction contest edition

It’s time for another Bleeding Heartland election prediction contest. No prizes will be awarded, but winners will get bragging rights. Can anyone dethrone American007, overall winner of our 2008 election contest?

Enter by answering the following questions. To qualify for the contest, your predictions must be posted as a comment in this thread by 7 am on Tuesday, June 8, 2010. This isn’t like The Price is Right; the winning answers will be closest to the final results, whether or not they were a little high or low.

1. How many votes will be cast in the Republican primary for Iowa governor? (Hint: about 199,000 Iowans voted in the hard-fought 2002 Republican gubernatorial primary.)

2. What percentages of the vote will Terry Branstad, Bob Vander Plaats and Rod Roberts receive in the Republican primary for governor?

3. What percentages of the vote will Roxanne Conlin, Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen receive in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate?

4. What percentages of the vote will Rob Gettemy, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Steve Rathje and Chris Reed receive in the Republican primary in Iowa’s second Congressional district? Remember, if you expect this nomination to be decided at a district convention, make sure your guess has the top vote-getter below 35 percent.

5. Who will be the top four candidates in the Republican primary in Iowa’s third Congressional district, and what percentages of the vote will they receive? Again, keep the top vote-getter below 35 percent if you expect this nomination to go to a district convention. Your possible answers are Jim Gibbons, Brad Zaun, Dave Funk, Mark Rees, Scott Batcher, Jason Welch and Pat Bertroche.

6. What percentages of the vote will Mike Denklau and Matt Campbell receive in the Democratic primary in Iowa’s fifth Congressional district?

7. What percentages of the vote will Matt Schultz, George Eichhorn and Chris Sanger receive in the Republican primary for secretary of state? (I covered that campaign in this post.)

8. What percentages of the vote will Dave Jamison and Jim Heavens receive in the Republican primary for state treasurer? (The Iowa Republican blog has been covering this race from time to time.)

9. What percentages of the vote will State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad and challenger Clair Rudison receive in the Democratic primary for Iowa House district 66? (Click here for background.)

10. What percentages of the vote will Tom Shaw, Stephen Richards and Alissa Wagner receive in the Republican primary for Iowa House district 8? (Click here and here for background. Keep in mind that although Wagner withdrew from the race and endorsed Shaw, her name will remain on the ballot.)

Don’t be afraid to make some wild guesses. You can’t win if you don’t play!

This is also an open thread, so share whatever’s on your mind.

Two Iowa polls: so alike, yet so different

KCCI-TV in Des Moines released a new Iowa poll conducted by Research 2000 yesterday. I can’t find details about the sample or when it was in the field, but topline results were in this report. The numbers for the Republican gubernatorial primary and the Democratic U.S. Senate primary were similar to those found in a Public Policy Polling survey released on Tuesday. KCCI’s poll found that Terry Branstad has 44 percent support in the GOP primary, Bob Vander Plaats has 29 percent and Rod Roberts has 12 percent, with 15 percent undecided. Public Policy Polling had Branstad with 46 percent, Vander Plaats with 31 percent and Roberts with 13 percent.

In the Senate primary, KCCI’s poll shows Roxanne Conlin way ahead with 48 percent, Bob Krause with 13 percent, Tom Fiegen with 12 percent and 27 percent undecided. PPP had Conlin with 48 percent support among Democratic primary voters, to 13 percent for Krause and 8 percent for Fiegen.

In the general election matchup for governor, KCCI’s new poll has Branstad leading Governor Chet Culver, 51 percent to 42 percent, with 7 percent undecided. Those aren’t good numbers for Culver, but they’re slightly better than PPP’s poll showing Branstad ahead 52-37.

When the pollsters tested Conlin against Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the results were shockingly different. KCCI’s new poll by Research 2000 has Grassley at 50 percent, Conlin at 42 percent and 8 percent undecided. Meanwhile, Public Policy Polling has Grassley leading Conlin 57-31 and concludes that Grassley is safe for re-election.

The KCCI poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. PPP’s poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percent. One of these pollsters is way off on the Senate race. I have no idea which one, and I don’t know whether it has something to do with the sample or the weighting. It’s strange for two polls taken around the same time to show similar numbers in some races but hugely different numbers in one contest. PPP found that Conlin “is an unknown to 53% of voters in the state,” which sounded like a high number to me. I haven’t seen KCCI’s numbers on Conlin’s name recognition.

I will update this post with more details about the KCCI/Research 2000 poll when those become available.

Linkfest on the Iowa Democratic primary for U.S. Senate

Iowa’s primary election is one week from today, and while most of the competitive races are on the Republican side, Democrats do have some choices to make as well. The Sioux City Journal’s Bret Hayworth wrote a good summary of the campaign between Matt Campbell and Mike Denklau in Iowa’s fifth Congressional district, which covers 32 counties.

In most other parts of Iowa, the only choice facing Democrats is on the U.S. Senate part of the primary ballot. Lots of links on the race between Roxanne Conlin, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause are after the jump.

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IA-Sen: Roxanne Conlin launches first tv ad

Roxanne Conlin, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, begins television advertising across Iowa this week. I’m not able to embed the commercial, but click here to watch. The Conlin campaign released this transcript:

“I’m Roxanne Conlin. Taking on the special interests has been the cause of my life. Like taking on the big banks to help family farms at risk of foreclosure. I took on corrupt politicians and corporations who violated the public trust. I’m running for U.S. Senate to take this fight to Washington. Fight for relief on Main Street, not more bailouts for Wall Street. Because the special interests have had their turn. Now, it’s our turn. I’m Roxanne Conlin and I approved this message.”

I noticed a small omission from that transcript: in the commercial, Conlin says, “As a prosecutor I took on corrupt politicians…” That’s important, because many Iowans may not remember that she served as U.S. attorney for Iowa’s southern district from 1977 to 1981.

This ad is a shorter version of the introductory video Conlin’s campaign released last fall, which I discussed here. It’s a fairly basic message for Iowans who haven’t heard of Conlin, and it makes sense for her to raise her profile just before the June 8 primary. Though this ad doesn’t mention five-term Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley, it starts building the case Conlin will make later in the campaign: Grassley has stood up for special interests throughout his career. I believe Grassley voted for the financial reform bill last week in order to undercut the narrative Conlin will build against him.

All three Democratic challengers to Grassley attended a Johnson County Democrats event over the weekend. John Deeth blogged the “Grassley retirement party” here and posted photos here. At Iowa Independent, Adam Sullivan posted video of Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen criticizing Conlin. I agree with Krause and Fiegen on many domestic policies, and I appreciate the way Krause has spoken out against our military involvement in Afghanistan. However, they are aiming at the wrong target in attacking Conlin now. No one’s under the illusion that it will be easy to beat Grassley, but it’s a stretch for Krause and Fiegen to suggest that they are stronger candidates than Conlin. She has more name recognition already and is in a better position to campaign statewide than they are.

Late last week Conlin called on Grassley to denounce Kentucky Republican Rand Paul’s comments about civil rights. Paul suggested that private businesses should be allowed to discriminate. Without mentioning Paul’s name, Grassley’s spokesperson told Iowa Independent,

Sen. Grassley’s position is that if a place is open for business it should be open for everyone.  You may know that Grassley was a co-sponsor of the 1982 and 2006 reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act, the 1965 companion to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  He was in the middle of the agreement reached on the 1982 legislation. Grassley also supported the 1991 extension of the Civil Rights Act.  That was the last major amendment to the Civil Rights Act.  It was broadened in 1972, after its passage in 1964.

Grassley is wise to put some distance between himself and Paul’s views. As Assistant Iowa Attorney General in the 1970s, Conlin prosecuted the first cases under our state’s civil rights law.  

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Biden in Cedar Rapids and other events coming up this week

Governor Chet Culver and Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge are kicking off their re-election campaign this week with events all over the state. One highlight will be Tuesday’s rally at noon in Cedar Rapids’ Greene Square Park, headlined by Vice President Joe Biden. To RSVP for any of the Culver campaign events, click here.

Follow me after the jump for the whole event calendar. If you know of anything I’ve left out, please post a comment or send me an e-mail: desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

Governor Chet Culver kicks off his re-election campaign on Monday, May 17. The governor, First Lady Mari Culver, and Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge will hold events in 41 counties over five days. Members of the public can RSVP to attend the Culver campaign events here.

Details on those and many other events can be found after the jump.

Bike to Work week also begins next Monday and runs through May 21. According to the Iowa Bicycle Coalition,

In 2009, 716 employers, 114 cities, and 2,395 commuters (22% first-timers) participated. Approximately 63,188 commuting miles were pledged, 3,510 gallons of gas saved, and $7,336.83 saved in fuel costs. Contact Mark Wyatt at (515) 309-2867 or mark@iowabicyclecoalition.org.

Here’s hoping the bicycle commuters will get warm, dry weather next week.

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Big gains for Conlin and Culver in new KCCI poll

Democratic Senate candidate Roxanne Conlin and Governor Chet Culver markedly improved their position in the latest statewide poll by Research 2000 for KCCI-TV. The pollster surveyed 600 likely Iowa voters between May 3 and May 5, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

In the Senate race, five-term incumbent Republican Chuck Grassley leads Conlin 49 percent to 40 percent. The last time Research 2000 polled this race for KCCI in mid-February, Grassley led Conlin 56-35. The firm has not polled Grassley against either of the other Democratic Senate candidates, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause.

To my knowledge, Grassley has never been below 50 percent in a public poll before. The favorability numbers suggest that support for Conlin has more room to grow, because 20 percent of respondents didn’t know enough about her to have an opinion. Only 5 percent of respondents said the same about Grassley. Michael O’Brien of The Hill declared Conlin “within striking distance” of Grassley.

In the governor’s race, the new poll found former Governor Terry Branstad leading Culver 48 percent to 41 percent. Normally those numbers wouldn’t look good for an incumbent, but in Research 2000’s February poll for KCCI, Branstad’s lead was twice as large (54-38). DavidNYC of Swing State Project quipped that Culver’s numbers no longer resemble those of the 1962 New York Mets but look more like those of the 1963 Mets. Culver led Bob Vander Plaats 44 percent to 40 percent and Rod Roberts by 46 percent to 36 percent.

I frankly expected worse numbers in this poll. The three Republican candidates have been criss-crossing the state bashing Culver full-time for months now. Branstad, Vander Plaats and Roberts have held two debates and countless campaign events and media interviews in towns large and small. Furthermore, Branstad has been running paid television advertising statewide for a full month. Culver’s campaign manager Donn Stanley emphasized that angle in his comment on the poll: “What is particularly surprising is that this poll comes out after weeks of Branstad’s campaign airing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of television ads across Iowa. He is the only candidate in the race that is running television ads. This poll suggests those ads have not be resonating with Iowa voters.”

Branstad’s campaign spokesman Tim Albrecht told KCCI, “Polls will go up and down, but what’s unchanged is that Governor Branstad is the Republican who can beat Chet Culver in November.”

One problem with the poll is the partisan makeup of the sample: 33 percent Democrats, 29 percent Republicans and 38 percent Independents. That’s quite different from the proportion of Iowans who cast votes in the 2006 general election (pdf file available here): 37 percent were Democrats, 37 percent were Republicans, and 26 percent independents. I would be very surprised if the voter universe this November had a plurality of no-party voters.

Both Grassley and Branstad led comfortably among no-party voters in the new KCCI poll, so if that poll over-sampled independents, the Republican leads in the Senate and governor’s race might be even smaller than they appear. On the other hand, there’s no guarantee that this November’s voter universe will contain more Democrats than Republicans, as this poll assumes. Iowa Democrats still have a voter registration advantage of about 100,000 over the GOP, but Republicans may benefit from an “enthusiasm gap.”

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

UPDATE: Secretary of State Michael Mauro released the latest Iowa voter registration numbers today: 602,768 Republicans, 711,106 Democrats, and 774,005 no-party voters. The total number of registered voters is 2,089,561. Approximately 1,050,000 Iowans voted in the 2006 general election.

New Rasmussen poll on the Iowa Senate and governor races

A new Rasmussen poll finds Senator Chuck Grassley’s lead shrinking against Roxanne Conlin and Terry Branstad still over 50 percent against Governor Chet Culver. Rasmussen surveyed 500 Iowa likely voters on April 29, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.

In the Senate race (survey questions and toplines here), Rasmussen found Grassley ahead of Conlin 53 percent to 40 percent. Grassley led Conlin 55-36 in Rasmussen’s previous Iowa poll, taken in mid-March. Rasmussen’s summary notes that Grassley “now leads Conlin by only five points among women.”

Grassley leads Democrat Bob Krause by 57 percent to 31 percent, the same as in Rasmussen’s March poll. He leads Tom Fiegen by 57 percent to 30 percent, a slightly smaller margin than his 57-28 lead in March.

This race is still Grassley’s to lose; Rasmussen finds 63 percent of respondents have a very or somewhat favorable opinion of the incumbent, while only 34 percent have a very or somewhat unfavorable opinion. The corresponding numbers for Conlin are 44 favorable/30 unfavorable.

However, a few stumbles by Grassley could make this race highly competitive in a hurry. At the very least Conlin is going to make it a lot closer than any other Democrat has against Grassley in the last 25 years.

I expect Conlin to have little trouble winning the Democratic primary on June 8. Not only is she the best-known candidate, she out-raised Grassley in the first quarter and had about $1 million cash on hand as of March 31. According to FEC reports, Krause had $352 and Fiegen had $582 on hand at the end of the first quarter. The Des Moines Register recently profiled Conlin, Fiegen and Krause.

Rasmussen’s numbers on the governor’s race continue to point to a tough road ahead for Culver. He trails Branstad 53 percent to 38 percent, little changed from Branstad’s 52-36 lead in Rasmussen’s March poll. Bob Vander Plaats leads Culver 45-41 in the new poll, up from a 42-40 lead in the March poll. Culver is barely ahead of Rod Roberts in the new poll, 43-41, little changed from the 40-38 lead Culver had against Roberts in the previous poll.

It’s not encouraging for an incumbent to be stuck around 40 percent against all challengers. Culver needs to bring up his own numbers and get out there to tell voters about his administration’s successes. For a preview of the case Culver will make with Iowa voters, watch his appearance on Chuck Todd’s MSNBC program last week.

Assuming Branstad will be the Republican nominee, Culver’s campaign will have to take him on aggressively. The race is bound to tighten up, but as long as Branstad is polling above 50 percent the odds are against Culver. Perhaps the governor can needle Branstad and provoke the same kind of response Vander Plaats got during the second Republican debate.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

UPDATE: At Daily Kos, Steve Singiser comments, “is it possible that one of the most invulnerable Senators in recent American history is really within striking range. Looking at the Rasmussen poll in Iowa, it appears so.”

Obama in SE Iowa and other events coming up during the next two weeks

President Barack Obama is coming back to Iowa this Tuesday with stops scheduled in Fort Madison, Mount Pleasant and Ottumwa. More details on those and other events coming up during the next two weeks can be found after the jump.

The Republican Party of Iowa is organizing a “Stand Up 4 Freedom Rally” on Monday at 5:00 in Ottumwa’s Central Park.

Congratulations to everyone elected to the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee at the district conventions this weekend.

First district: Jean Pardee, Sue Frembgen, Michael Blackwell, Jerry Lynch, Bruce Clark and Jane Lawrence

Second district: Ebony Luensman, Judy Stevens, Melinda Jones, Norm Sterzenbach, Kory May and Al Bohanan

Third distict: Dori Rammelsberg-Dvorak, Mary Campos, Linda Olson, John McCormly, Bill Brauch and Glen Rammelsberg

Fourth district: Susan Seedorff-Keninger, Karen Pratte, Lois Jirgens, Chris Petersen, Tom Harrington and Don Ruby

Fifth district: Monica McCarthy, Penny Rosjford, Marcia Fulton, Tim Bottaro, Dennis Ryan and Dick Sokolowski

Consider this an open thread for discussing anything on your mind this weekend.

A British historian of Russia got caught hiding behind a pseudonym on Amazon in order to post nasty reviews of rival historians’ work while praising his own. One of the historians he trashed responded here. Fortunately, Bleeding Heartland has had few problems with sock-puppetry. Thanks to everyone who respects this community’s rules of engagement.

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Iowa Democrats and Republicans holding district conventions tomorrow

This weekend, activists across Iowa have a chance to hear from their party’s candidates for Congress, the Iowa legislature, and statewide offices. The Iowa Democratic Party is holding conventions in all five Congressional districts on Saturday, April 24. These events are open to the public as well as the media. In other words, you do not have to be a convention delegate or alternate to attend. Here’s a list of Democratic convention locations and some scheduled speakers:

WHAT: 1st District Convention WHEN: 10:00AM WHERE: Northeast Iowa Community College 10250 Sundown Rd. Peosta, IA SPEAKERS: Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Francis Thicke, Congressman Bruce Braley

WHAT: 2nd District Convention WHEN:11:00 AM WHERE: Fairfield Arts and Convention Center 200 North Main St. Fairfield, IA SPEAKERS: Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, Governor Chet Culver, Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Francis Thicke, Congressman Dave Loebsack, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan

WHAT: 3rd District Convention WHEN: 9:00 AM WHERE: Adventureland Inn 3200 Adventureland Dr. Altoona, IA SPEAKERS: Senator Tom Harkin, Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Francis Thicke, Congressman Leonard Boswell

WHAT: 4th District Convention WHEN: 10:00 AM WHERE: North Iowa Fairgrounds, Olson Building 3700 4th St. SW Mason City, IA SPEAKERS: Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, Candidate for Congress Bill Maske

WHAT: 5th District Convention WHEN: 9:00 AM WHERE: Atlantic Middle School 1100 Linn St. Atlantic, IA SPEAKERS: Senator Tom Harkin, Senate Candidate Tom Fiegen, Governor Chet Culver, Secretary of State Michael Mauro, Candidate for Congress Matt Campbell, Candidate for Congress Mike Denklau, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan

The Republican Party of Iowa is holding conventions in the second, third and fifth districts this Saturday, and in the first and fourth districts on Saturday, May 1. (Click here for event details.) GOP conventions are open to the media but not the public.

The second and third district conventions will be well-attended because of the competitive GOP Congressional primaries. If no candidate wins at least 35 percent of the vote in the June 8 primary, district conventions will have to reconvene in June to select the nominee. Seven Republicans are running against Representative Leonard Boswell in the third district, and at least four of them are campaigning actively.

According to Republican blogger David Chung, there is “unprecedented” interest in the second district convention because of the four Republicans running against Representative Dave Loebsack. Chung writes, “For the first time in my memory, Linn County has filled [its] delegation. We have never actually had as many paid delegates as we were allotted.” Chung considers it “likely” that a second district convention will need to reconvene to select Loebsack’s opponent. Some other people following that race closely expect the contest to be decided on June 8, with only two candidates as serious contenders: Rob Gettemy and Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Gettemmy has the most cash on hand and the support of many influential Linn County Republicans as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee. The 2008 GOP nominee, Miller-Meeks, has spent the most time campaigning around the district. She has more cash on hand than either Steve Rathje or Chris Reed and is likely to do particularly well outside Linn County, where her three Republican rivals are based.

The district conventions will also elect members of the parties’ State Central Committees. Former Republican SCC member Chung is seeking that position again and expects a “massive shakeup” on the committee, because “several current members have decided not to run” again.

UPDATE: I’ve been told that Thicke will be at the fourth district convention as well, and Senate candidate Bob Krause will be at some of these conventions too, but I don’t have details.

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Conlin releases strong fundraising numbers (updated)

Roxanne Conlin gave her U.S. Senate campaign $250,000 during the first quarter of 2010 and raised nearly $630,000 from other donors. From this morning’s press release:

Conlin Campaign Raises More than all of Grassley’s Past Challengers Combined

Has $1 Million in the Bank

Banked $879,615 in First Quarter with NO PAC or WASHINGTON LOBBYIST MONEY

Des Moines – Roxanne Conlin’s grassroots campaign for the US Senate has more than $1 million in the bank.  Iowans made up 81 percent of the campaign’s contributors and she has not accepted one penny from Washington lobbyists or PACs.

“I’m humbled by the outpouring of support for our campaign,” said Conlin. “Our grassroots effort has reached 93 counties and we will reach the remaining six this weekend.  Iowans keep telling me, Chuck Grassley is not the same man they sent to Washington decades ago.  We need a fighter who will stand up for Main Street and not bail out Wall Street.”


No PAC or Washington lobbyist funds.

81 percent of donors are Iowans.

78 percent of contributions are $100 or less.


Campaign to date raised:                                    $1,483,191

First Quarter 2010 raised:                                   $629,615

Candidate contribution:                                      $250,000

First Quarter PAC Money:                                  $0

First Quarter Federal Lobbyist Money:               $0

First Quarter 2010 total:                                      $879,615

Cash on hand:                                                      $1,000,455

Those are impressive numbers for a challenger, especially since Grassley is not considered one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents. Grassley’s last Democratic opponent, Art Small, only raised about $136,000 during the whole 2004 campaign, and about $70,000 of that total came from the candidate himself.

I haven’t seen Grassley’s latest fundraising numbers yet. He raised about $810,000 during the fourth quarter of last year and began 2010 with about $5 million on hand. While Grassley will surely have a big cash-on-hand edge over Conlin, she will have the resources to run a statewide campaign.

UPDATE: Grassley raised $613,577 in the first quarter and has about $5.3 million cash on hand. I am surprised that Conlin was able to out-raise the incumbent for the quarter even if you don’t count her own large contribution to the campaign.

I haven’t seen first-quarter numbers for the other Democratic candidates, Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen, but at year-end Fiegen had about $400 on hand, and Krause had about $3,500.

Jason Hancock covered a recent dustup among the Democratic candidates over debates before the June 8 primary. I hope we will see some debates in addition to candidate forums. I plan to vote for Conlin, whose work I have long admired and who is best positioned to make the race competitive. Not only has she raised money, she will have a strong volunteer base. Just in my own precinct I know several Democrats who are not inclined to volunteer for Governor Chet Culver but will knock on doors or make phone calls for Conlin. By next Monday she will have held campaign events in all 99 counties.

I respect the Democrats who prefer Krause or Fiegen, and I understand why some people were annoyed by Iowa Democratic Party chair Michael Kiernan’s apparent favoritism last year. Competitive primaries are often healthy for a party, and I particularly appreciate that Krause has kept his message focused on his good ideas and Grassley’s flaws as a public servant. I hope the final eight weeks of the primary campaign will not become too divisive.

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Grassley still misleading Iowans on health reform

Senator Chuck Grassley is still misleading Iowans about what’s in the health insurance reform bill Congress passed last month. On April 1 he had this to say in Mason City:

Several residents were worried about what would happen to their health care premiums now that the president has signed the health care law. The mandate requiring everyone to purchase health insurance was also a worry.

“It’s questionable whether the federal government can require you to buy anything,” Grassley said.

One woman asked Grassley if federal funds connected to the health care law could be used to pay for abortions.

Grassley said he believes that the subsidies the poor will receive to purchase insurance could be used to pay for abortion. Democrats believe an executive order signed by President Obama at the insistence of Michigan Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak stops any federal funds from being used for to pay for abortions.

“I think he was sold a bill of goods that an executive order would take care of it,” Grassley said. “I am pro-life and that’s how I feel about it.”

Grassley conveniently failed to mention that he supported a health insurance mandate in 1993, in 2007 and even last summer. He only started questioning the legality of a mandate last fall. Contrary to what he told the Mason City crowd, legal scholars don’t think much of the constitutional arguments against health reform. It’s also ludicrous for Grassley to charge that federal funds will be used for abortions. On the contrary, Obama’s executive order is likely to end all private insurance coverage of abortion, even for women who don’t receive a dime in government subsidies.

Grassley is smart enough not to call health insurance reform “socialist”, but when someone in the Mason City audience asked about the government taking stock in General Motors and some large banks, Grassley drew applause by saying, “If you’re listed in the Yellow Pages, I guess the president thinks that the government ought to nationalize you.”

As far as I can tell, Grassley is no longer claiming that health insurance reform will let the government “pull the plug on grandma.” A poll taken in late February found that a majority of Iowans think Grassley “embarrassed” our state by making that allegation last summer. In the same poll, only 42 percent of respondents said Grassley should be re-elected. The poll results were released this week; Iowa Independent analyzed the results here, and Senate Guru did the same in this guest post at Bleeding Heartland.

The Senate race still looks like Grassley’s to lose, but Iowans are aware that the senator stretched the truth about end-of-life counseling. We need to call him out on his other distortions too, like his claims about student loan reform. According to Grassley’s pretzel logic, ending big federal subsidies to banks will somehow impose a “tax” on students.

I encourage all Iowa Democrats to get involved in supporting one of Grassley’s challengers: Roxanne Conlin, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

This April is shaping up to be a relatively quiet month in Iowa politics, with the legislature already adjourned for the year. However, after the jump you’ll find details for many events coming up soon. Please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of an event I’ve left out.

I have also posted information about an internship opportunity for women who would like to work on a sustainable farm, as well as a grant opportunity called “Iowa Sun4Schools.” It’s for Iowa schools that may want to install a solar array: “In addition to supplying electricity to the facility, the solar array will serve as an educational and research tool, and as a symbol of the schools commitment to saving energy and reducing their carbon footprint.”

UPDATE: Iowa nonprofit, charitable and government organizations have until April 16 to nominate people for the Governor’s Volunteer Award.

SECOND UPDATE: The Fred Phelps freak show is coming back to Des Moines on April 10 to protest a constitutional law symposium on same-sex marriage at Drake University. Click here for details about counter-protests being planned.

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Will Iowans buy Grassley's balancing act on health reform?

Many Republicans in Congress are calling for repeal of the new health insurance reform law. They know that won’t happen, but it’s good political posturing, because the GOP base is fired up and ready to go against “socialist” Obamacare.

Senator Chuck Grassley is taking a more nuanced approach. As the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, he played a prominent role in crafting the bill. Now he is taking credit for a few aspects of the new law while drawing attention to a populist-sounding provision left out by Democrats.

After the House passed the Senate’s heath insurance reform on Sunday, most Iowa Republicans condemned the effort in broad terms. In contrast, Grassley released an oddly specific statement about an amendment he planned to offer to the bill containing “fixes” to health insurance reform. Grassley called for the president, White House staff and senior Congressional staff to be covered under the new health insurance system. As expected, Senate Democrats voted against all Republican amendments to the reconciliation bill, hoping to avoid another House vote on the legislation. That prompted this press release from Grassley’s office: “Senate approves unfair double standard by rejecting Grassley amendment to apply health care reforms to White House and all of Congress.” (Not every failed amendment offered by Grassley leads to a press release. I don’t recall his office drawing attention to one he offered in October, which would have cut benefits for poor people and legal immigrants in order to save private health insurers $7 billion a year.)

Grassley got some media play this week for his “double standard” framing, but a different statement from his office attracted far more attention. That release noted, “The health care legislation signed into law yesterday includes provisions Grassley co-authored to impose standards for the tax exemption of charitable hospitals for the first time.”

Anyone following this issue knows that Grassley delayed the Senate Finance Committee’s work on the health reform bill for several months, pretending to seek compromise while fundraising on a promise to defeat Obamacare and spreading false claims about what the bill would permit. Grassley then voted against the bill in the Senate Finance Committee and on the Senate floor.

Political blogs quickly publicized Grassley’s effort to brag about good things in a bill he tried to stop. The senator was even featured in a segment on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program: “Republicans farcically flustered by health reform’s passage”. Two of the Iowa Democrats running for U.S. Senate seized on Grassley’s hypocrisy as well. I posted a press release from Tom Fiegen and a memo from Roxanne Conlin’s campaign after the jump.

Grassley’s balancing act on health reform makes some political sense. He doesn’t need to play to the crowd that despises Obamacare, because the filing deadline for federal candidates in Iowa passed earlier this month. It’s too late for a conservative to mount a primary challenge against the five-term incumbent.

Meanwhile, the news media have reported many details about the new law this week, and some of the provisions are likely to be quite popular. Why should Grassley loudly condemn a law that gives tax credits to small businesses, closes the Medicare “donut hole” and lets young adults be covered on their parents’ insurance policies? If he’s trying to impress swing voters, he’s better off railing against the “double standard” of Washington elitists.  

On the other hand, swing voters might be repelled to see Grassley claim credit for reforms after he tried to “pull the plug” on health insurance reform. The senator defended himself as follows:

“So overall even though it’s got a lot of good things in it, even a lot of things that I wrote, even a lot of things that I thought up myself to help health care delivery, the bad outweighs the good, it’s just that simple.”

When the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee slammed Grassley’s posturing, Grassley’s office responded that DSCC Chairman Bob Menendez has also taken credit for provisions in bills he voted against. We’ve heard similar “two wrongs make a right” arguments from Grassley before. It doesn’t sound statesmanlike to me.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

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Rasmussen poll finds little change in Senate race

The Republican polling firm Rasmussen conducted a one-day survey of 500 “likely voters” in Iowa on March 17. Click here for topline results.

Senator Chuck Grassley still leads all his Democratic challengers, with no statistically significant change in his lead since Rasmussen’s last Iowa poll in February. He leads Roxanne Conlin 55 percent to 36 percent (the February numbers were 53-36). Grassley leads Bob Krause 57-31 (55-33 in February), and he leads Tom Fiegen 57-28 (56-28 in February).

Instead of asking respondents whether they approved of Grassley’s work in the Senate, Rasmussen asked whether they had a favorable or unfavorable impression of the senator. He was at 66 percent very or somewhat favorable, 31 percent very or somewhat unfavorable. (The latest Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register measured Grassley’s approval at 54 percent, but favorability numbers can often run ahead of approval numbers.)

Clearly the Senate race is still Grassley’s to lose, but he’s not likely to be re-elected with the huge margins he’s had in the past. There is also plenty of time for the race to tighten up if Grassley makes big mistakes. As Senate Guru reminded us in this diary, the current fundraising quarter ends March 31. I encourage Democrats to get involved and support one of Grassley’s challengers. Here are links to donate to the Conlin campaign, the Fiegen campaign and the Krause campaign.

Other notable findings from the latest Rasmussen poll: President Barack Obama’s approve/disapprove numbers were 50/49, but Governor Chet Culver is still in negative territory at 41 percent approve/57 disapprove. About 45 percent of respondents said they favored “the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and the congressional Democrats,” while 53 percent said they opposed it. Remember, this poll was in the field before Congress gave final approval to the bill Obama signed yesterday. I am curious to see future polling on the issue. A quickie USA Today/Gallup nationwide poll released yesterday was the first in a long time to show net positive approval for health care reform: 49 percent of respondents said it was a “good thing” that Congress passed the bill over the weekend, while 40 percent said it was a “bad thing.”

Events coming up this week

I didn’t manage to compile calendars the past couple of weeks, but I wanted to get back on track today, because there are lots of newsworthy events happening in the coming week around Iowa.

I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to the DAWN’s List reception honoring outstanding Iowa Democratic women tomorrow. I’d appreciate it if someone who attends would post a comment or a diary here about the reception.

Other notable events this week include a symposium in Des Moines about Iowa’s 2008 floods, a sustainable communities conference in Dubuque, and a public workshop in Ankeny about competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. Details on those and other happenings are after the jump.

Keep checking John Deeth’s blog for news about statewide, Congressional and state legislative candidate filings, which continue through March 19.

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Rasmussen's new Iowa poll less bad than I expected

Republican pollster Scott Rasmussen released a new poll of the Iowa governor and U.S. Senate races today. Rasmussen surveyed 500 “likely Iowa voters” on February 18.

Given Rasmussen’s usual “house effect” favoring Republican candidates, I expected the numbers to be worse for Democrats than other recent Iowa polling. Instead, they were comparable to last week’s Research 2000 Iowa poll for KCCI-TV and the Selzer and Co. poll for the Des Moines Register, which was conducted three weeks ago.

Like the other pollsters, Rasmussen found Governor Chet Culver well behind Republican front-runner Terry Branstad. Like Research 2000, Rasmussen found Senator Chuck Grassley above 50 percent against Democratic challengers, but well below Grassley’s usual re-election numbers and even below the numbers Rasmussen found for Grassley in late January.

More details are after the jump.

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Open thread with events coming up this week

I didn’t have time to pull this together yesterday, but here’s a late weekend open thread. Share whatever’s on your mind.

(UPDATE: If you think you know American history, see how well you do on Charles Lemos’ Presidents’ Day trivia quiz. Each president is the correct answer to only one question.)

After the jump I’ve posted details on many events coming up this week. I hope to attend the screening of the “Big River” documentary in Des Moines on February 18. It’s a sequel to the must-watch “King Corn,” and the screening is a joint benefit for the Iowa Environmental Council and Practical Farmers of Iowa.

If you are a Democratic candidate in Iowa, please e-mail me your list of upcoming events so I can include them in these threads. (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com)

Oxfam America “is seeking Des Moines area volunteers to lend 5-8 hours of time per week to help them raise awareness of the impacts of climate change on global communities and encourage action to alleviate it.” If you’re interested, you need to contact them by February 15 (information below).

Have a laugh at this from the Onion: New law would ban marriages between people who don’t love each other.

New Law Would Ban Marriages Between People Who Don’t Love Each Other

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Weekend open thread with events coming up this week

The coming week will be busy at the state capitol, because February 12 is the first “funnel” date. All bills excluding appropriations bills that have not been approved by at least one committee by February 12 will be dead for the 2010 session, unless something extraordinary happens.

Also, Iowa House Republicans are expected to try to suspend the rules this week to force consideration of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. If last April’s events are any guide, they can expect help from two Iowa House Democrats: Geri Huser and Dolores Mertz. Meanwhile, Mertz is working with a group of Republicans on a constitutional amendment that would “recognize human eggs as persons worthy of legal protection.” Such an amendment would outlaw abortion and probably some forms of birth control as well.

With the compressed legislative calendar and severe budget restraints, there may be fewer bills passed in 2010 than in previous sessions. If you’re keeping your eye on any bill, let us know in this thread. I hope the Iowa Senate Labor and Business Relations Committee will pass Senate File 2112, introduced by Senator Pam Jochum, on “workplace accommodations for employees who express breast milk.” It’s already cleared the subcommittee. Last hear State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad introduced a similar measure in the Iowa House, and I think there’s a decent chance of getting this bill through the House Labor Committee. Employers also benefit from practices that make it easier for their employees to continue breastfeeding.

Jochum is an all-around outstanding legislator. If I lived in the first district, she would definitely have my vote for Congress whenever Bruce Braley decides to run for U.S. Senate.

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend. Am I the only one out there who doesn’t care who wins the Superbowl?

After the jump I’ve posted details on other Iowa political events scheduled for this week.

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Iowa political fundraising roundup

Financial reports for the end of 2009 were due with the Federal Election Commission on January 31. Here are some highlights.

The Iowa Democratic Party announced yesterday that it raised about $2.47 million across all accounts in 2009, while the Republican Party of Iowa raised $1.46 million. IDP chair Michael Kiernan said the party had met its goal of securing “the resources needed to win this November.” Details:

IDP filed $1.23 million in the state report. RPI filed $450,137 in the same report.

Filed 19 January 2010. Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.


IDP filed $148,574 in State Party Building Fund Report. RPI filed $177,365.

Filed 28 January 2010. Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.


IDP filed $1.09 million filed in Federal Year-End Report. RPI filed $837,406.

Filed 31 January 2010. Federal Elections Commission.


The money reported in the federal year-end report can be used to support any candidates and campaigns. The money in the state fund can be used on statewide races or Iowa House and Senate races. The State Party Building Fund money can’t be used on candidates or campaigns, but only on expenses for the building where the party headquarters is located (such as equipment or maintenance).

The Iowa GOP responded that it entered 2010 with about $100,000 more cash on hand than Iowa Democrats, but I don’t know whether its cash is in restricted or unrestricted accounts. (UPDATE: The Iowa Democratic Party disputes this claim. Adding the amounts from all three reports filed, the IDP has $449,334.94 on hand, while “RPI has $265,281.06 on hand between all three reports filed.”)

As for the federal races, Senator Chuck Grassley raised about $810,000 in the fourth quarter of 2009, spent about $156,000 and ended the year with about $5 million cash on hand. That’s about ten times as much as Democrat Roxanne Conlin has on hand for her campaign. Democrats Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen reported approximately $3,500 and $400 on hand, respectively.

IowaPolitics.com posted numbers for the Congressional candidates here. I was most interested in the numbers from the second and third districts. In IA-02, two-term incumbent Dave Loebsack raised $94,479 in the fourth quarter, spent $36,572 and ended the year with $336,311 cash on hand.

Surprisingly, Steve Rathje led the money race on the Republican side, raising $59,130 in the fourth quarter, spending $12,648 and ending with $46,242 cash on hand. The 2008 GOP nominee, Mariannnette Miller-Meeks, raised $20,660 (including $4,000 she gave herself), spent $39 and had $20,620 on hand. IowaPolitics.com didn’t mention numbers for Chris Reed, but The Iowa Republican blog reported that Reed raised “a miniscule $2,833.75 in the last quarter of 2009,” ending the year with “just over $2000 cash on hand.”

In the third district, seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell raised $169,377 in the fourth quarter, spent $50,643 and had $462,193 cash on hand. Most of his money came from political action committee contributions.

Jim Gibbons led the crowded Republican field, thanks to support from heavy-hitters like Bruce Rastetter as well as a number of political action committees. Gibbons raised $207,310, spent $2,240 and ended the year with $205,069 on hand and $2,686 in debts owed. Craig Robinson of the Iowa Republican blog is ready to declare victory for Gibbons in the primary already, based on these numbers. However, Bleeding Heartland user mirage (a supporter of State Senator Brad Zaun) noted in the same thread, “About $51,000 of Gibbons funds will be restricted (meaning they can’t be used against Zaun in a primary), and about $130,000 came from outside the 3rd district.”

Speaking of Zaun, he raised $30,600, spent $93 and ended 2009 with $30,507 on hand. Presumably he has raised more money since January 1, because he made a television ad buy last week. But as Robinson noted triumphantly, “Even if [Dave] Funk or Zaun raised $1000 everyday between now and the primary, they still wouldn’t match what Gibbons currently has in his campaign account.”

Funk, the IA-03 candidate favored by the Tea Party crowd, raised $22,685 in the fourth quarter, spent $19,553 and ended the year with $16,507 on hand. According to mirage, much of Funk’s remaining money is restricted for use after the primary. I don’t think he’ll be needing that.

Mark Rees, who is running as a more moderate Republican, raised $3,100 and loaned his own campaign $52,647. He spent $3,247 and ended the year with $52,500 and $52,647 in debts owed to himself. I don’t know how much of a moderate GOP base is left in the Des Moines suburbs, but if conservatives divide their support among three or four candidates, Rees could slip through.

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Rasmussen finds Senate race is Grassley's to lose

Rasmussen released a new poll of Iowa’s U.S. Senate race yesterday, and they found Chuck Grassley in safe territory, leading Roxanne Conlin 59-31, Bob Krause 59-26 and Tom Fiegen 61-25.

Conlin performs best among Democratic voters, but all three Democrats lose anywhere from 22% to 30% of their own party’s vote to Grassley. The Republican carries voters not affiliated with either party by more than 35 points against any of the Democrats.

Rasmussen surveyed 500 “likely voters” in Iowa on January 26. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

Even taking into account Rasmussen’s “house effect” (a tendency to show more favorable results for Republican candidates), Grassley is above 50 percent and therefore in safe territory for an incumbent. He is going to be re-elected unless he starts making unforced errors. In 2006, Senator George Allen of Virginia had commanding leads over Jim Webb for quite some time before multiple gaffes allowed Webb to win. Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky almost blew a very big lead in 2004 against Dan Mongiardo.

Despite the long odds, it’s still worth taking the fight to Grassley. Iowa Democrats have given him a pass too many times. Under pressure, he may start making mistakes on the campaign trail. Even if he doesn’t, keeping him below 60 percent would be a lot better for down-ticket Democrats than letting Grassley win with 70 percent, as happened in 2004.

Share any thoughts about the Senate race in this thread.

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Roxanne Conlin releases fundraising numbers

Roxanne Conlin’s campaign for U.S. Senate released partial fundraising numbers today, and they are impressive:

Total cash raised (Nov. 2 – Dec. 31):


Cash on hand:


Total individual donors:  1,649 (1,395 Iowans/85% Iowans)

Online supporters signed up:  Over 31,000

Donations $100 and under: 1,332

Donations $250 and under: 1,433

All of Conlin’s campaign contributions came from individual supporters, because she has pledged not to accept contributions from federal lobbyists or PACs. (I wouldn’t have advised her to take that stance, because there are PACs and lobbyists fighting for good things as well as those working against the public interest.) In any event, she has shown that she can raise enough money to staff and run a statewide campaign. Conlin is about a third of the way through a 99-county tour she began earlier this month.

I haven’t seen year-end fundraising numbers from Senator Chuck Grassley yet. At the end of the third quarter of 2009, he had more than $4.4 million cash on hand, so clearly he will still be way ahead in the money race. During the third quarter, when Grassley played a high-profile role in health care reform negotiations, he raised $864,622 total, of which $364,295 came from political action committees.

In other words, Conlin raised more from individual donors in two months than Grassley raised from individuals during the third quarter. That’s a strong pace, and it suggests a lot of Iowans are motivated to take the fight to Grassley. Conlin has already raised nearly five times as much as Democrat Art Small spent during his entire 2004 campaign against Iowa’s senior senator.

I don’t have new fundraising numbers from the other Democrats running against Grassley. Bob Krause raised $7,430 during the third quarter, ending with $3,493 on hand. Tom Fiegen raised $3,781 during the third quarter, ending with $519 on hand. I like many of the statements I’ve heard from Krause and Fiegen, but they have yet to show that they will be able to run a statewide campaign, and therefore appear to be extreme underdogs leading up to the Democratic primary in June. Neither Krause nor Fiegen seems likely to drop out of this race, however. On the contrary, Fiegen called on Conlin to quit the race last month, saying Republican attacks on her would divert attention from Grassley and the “needs of working families.” Yesterday Krause criticized one of Conlin’s tax credit proposals.

Grassley will be very tough to beat. His approval rating has fallen but is still above 50 percent, and he has set a goal of raising $9 million for this race. Even if Democrats don’t manage to defeat Grassley, giving him a spirited challenge is well worth the effort. Driving up turnout among Democrats whom Grassley has alienated can only help our candidates down-ticket.

UPDATE: Rasmussen conducted a one-day poll of this race on January 26. Grassley leads Conlin 59 to 31, Krause 59 to 26 and Fiegen 61 to 25 (margin of error 4.5 percent).

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

Remember, the off-year Iowa caucuses are this Saturday, January 23, at 1 pm. Democrats can click here and enter your zip code to find your caucus location. Polk County Democratic Party executive director Tamyra Harrison explained the benefits of attending an off-year caucus here.

Some non-profit advocacy organizations have drafted resolutions for supporters to offer at their precinct caucuses. If adopted, these resolutions will be forwarded to the county platform committee. For example, 1000 Friends of Iowa is encouraging supporters to offer this resolution on responsible land use.

I noticed some job listings and other helpful information in the Iowa Environmental Council’s electronic newsletter.

Value Chain Partnerships, an “Iowa-based network for food and agriculture working groups,” has a new website: www.valuechains.org.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) is hiring “a Policy Advocate to work in our Des Moines office to promote clean energy, clean water and conservation projects in Iowa. […] For more information, visit http://elpc.org/category/jobs#… or email Andrew Snow at asnow@elpc.org. Application Deadline is Jan. 30, 2010.

Plains Justice is hiring “a Resource Director who will report to the CEO and work co-operatively with the Board, attorneys and other staff and volunteers to raise, manage and evaluate effective use of financial resources. Demonstrated fundraising success required. […] Contact info@plainsjustice.org for detailed job description. No phone calls please.”

There’s a position open for an “Iowa Great Lakes Watershed Coordinator,” who “will work in Spirit Lake, Iowa, to manage and coordinate the implementation of the objectives of a water quality conservation project and activities, conservation planning and application of practices, information and education and other related activities essential to the district and NRCS.” Application Deadline: January 26, 2010. For a complete job description, salary, hiring requirements, and how to apply, go to http://cleanwateralliance.net/…

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is hiring someone to support its Upper Mississippi River project. “Successful candidates will have relevant academic training in the natural, agricultural or social sciences and experience in environmental advocacy. The position is located in Ames, Iowa. A strong commitment to natural resource conservation, environmental protection, and public health is essential. To apply, submit a cover letter and resume to employment@ewg.org.  For more information and a job description visit http://www.ewg.org/jobs.”

Calling high school seniors: Keep Iowa Beautiful is offering up to four $500 scholarships. “Students across Iowa enrolling in an Iowa college or university to major in community enhancement or environmental areas of study are eligible. Students can download the application on-line at http://www.keepiowabeautiful.c… Deadline for application: must be postmarked by February 1, 2010. Please contact the KIB office at 515-323-6507 with any questions.”

Details about events coming up in the next ten days are after the jump.

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Weekend open thread with events coming up this week

The Iowa caucuses take place this Saturday, January 23, beginning at 1 pm. Democrats can click here and enter your zip code to find your caucus location. If you’ve never attended an off-year caucus, I recommend the experience as a way to meet some of the most committed activists in your precinct and have input on the party platform and party machinery. Polk County Democratic Party executive director Tamyra Harrison explained the benefits of attending an off-year caucus in more detail here. The level of energy and excitement won’t match the 2008 caucus, but on the plus side, you won’t be packed like sardines into a stuffy room.

Some non-profit advocacy organizations have drafted resolutions for supporters to offer at their precinct caucuses. If adopted, these resolutions will be forwarded to the county platform committee. For example, 1000 Friends of Iowa is encouraging supporters to offer this resolution on responsible land use.

This thread is for discussing anything on your mind this weekend.

There are Martin Luther King Jr. remembrances going on in many Iowa cities today and tomorrow; check your local news outlet for details. To mark King’s birthday, Democratic Senate candidate Bob Krause pledged to develop “a comprehensive strategy for alleviating the Iowa incarceration disparity,” in light of the fact that “Iowa has a per capita incarceration rate for blacks that is fourteen times the incarceration rate for whites.”

I appreciated this letter to the editor by Frank McCammond of Redfield, which the Des Moines Register published on January 15:

Marian Riggs Gelb’s Jan. 3 guest column (“Protect Iowa’s Liquid Gems”) calls for thank-you notes to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for designating a few streams in northeast Iowa for protection as “outstanding waters.”

It was a nice suggestion. However, where do I write the note about letting the rest of the state’s river systems be turned into open sewers by the farm and livestock interests and by towns that won’t fix their sewage systems?

(Gelb’s guest column is here, and the Iowa Environmental Council has more information on the “outstanding Iowa waters” designation here.)

After the jump I’ve posted more about events coming up this week. Roxanne Conlin began her 99-county tour last week, but I couldn’t find any event details or calendar on her campaign website.

UPDATE: Duh! Forgot Johnson County’s special election on Tuesday. Go vote for Janelle Rettig for county supervisor. John Deeth has been providing great coverage of the race at his blog. Lori Cardella is like school in the summertime–no class.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

I’m looking forward to the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner this weekend. It will be live-streamed for those who can’t be there in person. The Iowa branch of Organizing for America is having a grand opening on Saturday as well, right before the JJ dinner.

Details for those and other events are after the jump. Post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know if something I’ve left out.

Linn County Dems: Don’t forget that November 24 is the special election in Iowa House district 33.

One more “save the date”: the Culver-Judge campaign’s holiday party will be on Saturday, December 5 at the Val-Air Ballroom in West Des Moines from 7:30 pm to 11:00 pm. Tickets are just $35 for an individual, $10 for students and $50 for a family. Call 515-244-5151 or go to www.chetculver.com for more information.

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Research 2000 polls the Iowa governor and Senate races

A new Iowa poll confirms that Terry Branstad is the toughest challenger for Chet Culver and that next year’s U.S. Senate race could become competitive. Research 2000 surveyed 600 “likely voters who vote regularly in state elections.” The poll was in the field from October 12 through 14, and you’ll find full results and crosstabs here.

Republicans may dismiss this as a “Democratic poll” because it was commissioned by the Daily Kos blog. However, Research 2000 is not a partisan firm, and the sample for this poll included 32 percent Democrats, 31 percent Republicans and 37 percent independents. That’s a smaller advantage for Democrats than the current Iowa voter registration numbers reflect. The proportion of independents in the sample might be a bit high for an off-year election, but that doesn’t necessarily skew against the Republican candidates.

I’ll highlight some of the key findings after the jump.

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Grassley has your back

If you’re an insurance company, that is:

Late in the afternoon [on Wednesday], Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the top Republican on the committee, requested consideration of the “Grassley F-1 Modified Amendment.” Its goal: eliminate $7 billion a year in fees that the government would charge private health insurance companies, and make up the shortfall by reducing benefits to poor people and legal immigrants.

It was dangerously close to a parody: Republicans demanding that fees be reduced on a profitable industry and shifted to low-income Americans. But Grassley pressed on, unafraid. The fees on the corporations, he said, are a “bad idea” and would undoubtedly result in higher insurance premiums. “I urge my colleagues to vote for my amendment, to strike the fees,” he exhorted.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) recognized the fat target that Grassley had just set up. “I think it’s a ‘message amendment,’ ” he said, suggesting Grassley was sending a symbolic signal to the conservative base. “It certainly takes on legal immigrants and Medicaid in a very sharp way.”

Grassley looked hurt. “You don’t really believe that this is a message amendment, do you?”

Why so cynical, Senator Rockefeller? I take Senator Grassley at his word. He would rather reduce health care coverage for poor people and immigrants (during a recession!) than force a profitable industry to pay higher fees.

I encourage Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen to add this Washington Post story to their Senate campaign websites.

In case anyone is wondering, I still have no idea who the mystery Grassley challenger might be.

UPDATE: Grassley also failed on Wednesday to get the committee to adopt “that would have required beneficiaries of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to show a photo ID in order to enroll.” However, the committee unanimously adopted Grassley’s amendment “that would require members of Congress to get their health insurance through a proposed federal exchange.”

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A new ad against Grassley, and maybe a new challenger

UPDATE: Hubbell told Iowa Independent he’s not interested in running against Grassley.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America have produced a new television commercial, which asks which side Chuck Grassley is on:

Click here to donate to help keep this ad on the air in Iowa and Washington, DC.

Speaking of which side Grassley’s on, Monday’s Des Moines Register reports on our senior senator’s massive campaign contributions from health industry interest groups. Thomas Beaumont’s story was based on numbers compiled by Maplight.org.

Meanwhile, Representative Bruce Braley confirmed on Friday that he is running for re-election in Iowa’s first Congressional district. I consider him highly likely to run for U.S. Senate when one of our current senators retires.

Rumors persist that a prominent Democrat will join Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen in challenging Grassley next year. Al Swearengen of The Iowa Republican blog speculates that Fred Hubbell is the mystery candidate. Hubbell currently chairs the Iowa Power Fund Board. From his official bio:

Fred S. Hubbell was a member of the Executive Board and Chairman of Insurance and Asset Management Americas for ING Group. Mr. Hubbell retired from ING Group’s Executive Board effective April 25, 2006. Mr. Hubbell was formerly Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Equitable of Iowa Companies, an insurance holding company, serving in his position as Chairman from May 1993 to October 1997, and as President and Chief Executive Officer from May 1989 to October 1997.

Charlotte Hubbell, Fred Hubbell’s wife, serves on the Environmental Protection Commission.

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New thread on possible challengers for Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley already has two likely Democratic opponents (Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen), but rumors persist that a better-known Iowa Democrat is thinking seriously about this race.

I still don’t buy the rumors that Representative Bruce Braley will take on this challenge, even though Braley sharply criticized Grassley in a guest piece for the Huffington Post on Friday. With Grassley’s approval ratings still outside the danger zone for an incumbent, I would hate to see Braley give up a safe House seat and a good committee assignment to run in 2010. He is young enough to wait until either Grassley or Harkin retires.

Whether or not Braley intends to run for Senate next year, he could raise his profile and support by promising to work as hard to keep a strong public option in the health care reform bill as Grassley is working to keep one out. (Progressive activists have now raised nearly $400,000 for House Democrats who promise not to vote for any health care bill lacking a strong public option.) A joint statement on behalf of Braley’s Populist Caucus would do even more to bolster Braley’s reputation as a fighter for a strong health care reform bill.

Other names being floated on various blogs include former first lady Christie Vilsack, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, Attorney General Tom Miller, and Mike Blouin, a former member of Congress who headed the state Department of Economic Development when Tom Vilsack was governor. Blouin narrowly lost the 2006 gubernatorial primary to Chet Culver, so he has recent experience campaigning statewide. On several issues Blouin and I are as far apart as any two Democrats could be, but I thought displacedyankdem made a strong case for him:

Even if he’s not in the very highest tier of candidates (Vilsack, Miller, and Braley), he is:

a)several tiers higher than Grassley’s past 3 opponents

b)likely to automatically get at least 35% and likely 40% of the vote (somewhere between 7 and 12 points higher than the last 3)

c)a strong enough candidate to take advantage if there is a Macaca moment a la Jim Webb 2006

d)likely to tie down millions of dollars in GOP money

e)risk free in that he’s not giving up an office

f)just young enough to be on the edge of viability (maybe I’m making too much out of the seniority thing)

Since running against Grassley will be an uphill battle, I would like Democrats to nominate someone who doesn’t have to give up a current elected position.

On a related note, Grassley is still playing rope-a-dope with the White House, this morning backing down on his ridiculous comments about pulling the plug on grandma. I hope key people in the Obama administration finally understand that nothing is to be gained by seeking a compromise with Grassley. The Senate Finance Committee “gang of six” is taking two weeks off from negotiating, probably because delays help Republican efforts to defeat health care reform.

Share any thoughts about Grassley or the 2010 Senate race in this thread.

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Grassley voted for end-of-life counseling in 2003 (updated)

Via the Iowa Senate blog, I saw this post by Amy Sullivan at Time magazine’s Swampland blog. She re-read the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, which passed with the votes of most Republicans, including our own Senator Chuck Grassley:

Anyone want to guess what it provided funding for? Did you say counseling for end-of-life issues and care? Ding ding ding!!

Let’s go to the bill text, shall we? “The covered services are: evaluating the beneficiary’s need for pain and symptom management, including the individual’s need for hospice care; counseling the beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising the beneficiary regarding advanced care planning.” The only difference between the 2003 provision and the infamous Section 1233 that threatens the very future and moral sanctity of the Republic is that the first applied only to terminally ill patients. Section 1233 would expand funding so that people could voluntarily receive counseling before they become terminally ill.

At his Winterset town-hall meeting on Wednesday, Grassley said this:

You shouldn’t have counseling at the end of life.  You ought to have it done 20 years before you’re going to die.  You ought to plan these things out. I don’t have any problem with things like living wills, but they ought to be done within the family. We should not have a government program that determines you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.”

Some of the current draft health care reform bills would cover counseling to help people create living wills before they ever get sick, which is what Grassley says should happen. In contrast, the 2003 bill he voted for only covered such counseling for people who were already terminally ill.

How interesting that Grassley only recently, under fire from conservative Republicans, decided that counseling on end-of-life options might allow someone “to decide grandma’s lived too long.”

By the way, Grassley convinced Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus to drop the end-of-life provisions from that committee’s draft bill. I didn’t think it was possible for Baucus to prove himself to be any more of a tool for Republicans. Talk about negotiating from a position of weakness. I hope Howard Dean is right in predicting that those provisions will be restored in the final version of the bill.

Speaking of Grassley, he now has two likely Democratic opponents. Bankruptcy attorney and former State Senator Tom Fiegen announced his candidacy today and has a campaign website here. His priority issues are full employment and health care for those without. James Lynch interviewed Fiegen for this piece in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Bob Krause has been exploring a Senate bid for several months. You can learn more about his campaign at KrauseforIowa.com.

Neither Fiegen nor Krause is going to beat Grassley next year, but it’s important to have Democrats committed to making the case against him. That could reduce the number of Democratic and Democratic-leaning independents who cross over to vote for the incumbent, and we need as much straight-ticket voting in 2010 as possible.

UPDATE: Dueling statements from Representative Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Grassley are after the jump.

SECOND UPDATE: I missed this story on Wednesday–Grassley was promoting Glenn Beck’s book in Winterset. Great partner in constructive bipartisan negotiations!

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