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

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

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

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

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Democrats Tom Courtney, Rex Troute running in Iowa Senate district 44

Every election cycle brings at least one or two huge upsets in an Iowa House or Senate race. The most shocking result from a 2016 Iowa legislative race was four-term incumbent State Senator Tom Courtney losing to Thomas Greene in Senate district 44. Like the five other Iowa Senate Democrats who lost their re-election bids that year, Courtney represented constituents who had favored President Barack Obama in 2012 but voted for Donald Trump four years later.

Courtney announced on August 30 that he will try to win his old job back in 2020. He’ll be heavily favored to win the Democratic nomination, but he’ll have at least one competitor in the primary: Rex Troute.

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Democrats have candidates in all top Iowa Senate targets

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

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

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Iowa Republicans choose not to look for overspending on Medicaid prescriptions

The Iowa Department of Human Services will not audit a practice that could be inflating costs for Medicaid prescription drug payments by millions of dollars a year.

State Representative John Forbes raised concerns after finding discrepancies on bills for some prescriptions his Urbandale pharmacy filled for patients served by Amerigroup, one of Iowa’s Medicaid managed-care providers. Earlier this month, House members unanimously approved Forbes’ amendment to the health and human services budget, instructing DHS to “audit all prescription drug benefit claims managed by a pharmacy benefit manager under the Medicaid program.”

However, House and Senate Republicans dropped that section from the final version of House File 766.

State Senator Mark Costello, who floor managed the health and human services budget in the upper chamber, claimed Iowa’s Medicaid director Michael Randol and an Amerigroup representative had told him the audit was unnecessary.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2018

The Iowa Senate begins work today with 29 Republicans, 20 Democrats, and one independent, former Republican David Johnson.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year’s legislative session.

Just six senators are women (five Democrats and a Republican), down from ten women serving in the chamber in 2013 and 2014 and seven during 2015 and 2016. All current senators are white. To my knowledge, the only African-American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the Iowa legislature; in 2014, Nathan Blake fell 18 votes short of becoming the first to join the Senate. No Asian-American has served in the state Senate since Swati Dandekar resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two with the surname Johnson, four Marks, and two men each named Bill, Richard (Rich and Rick), Robert (a Rob and a Bob), Dan, Jim, Tim, Tom, Jeff, and Charles (one goes by Chaz).

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