Three notable Iowa events that happened on July 4

Independence Day was established to celebrate the July 4, 1776 vote by the Second Continental Congress to adopt Declaration of Independence. But many other noteworthy historical events also happened on this day. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826. New York state abolished slavery on this day in 1827.

July 4 has also been a significant date in Iowa history. Two of the events described below happened within the lifetimes of many Bleeding Heartland readers.

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Iowa lawmakers had their chance. Now governor should issue voting rights order

“Let them vote! Let them vote!” Black Lives Matter protesters chanted a few minutes after Governor Kim Reynolds signed a police reform bill on June 12. Reynolds did not acknowledge hearing them, continuing to pass out pens to advocates of the legislation, which the Iowa House and Senate had unanimously approved the night before.

The protesters want the governor to sign an executive order automatically restoring voting rights to Iowans who have completed felony sentences. Iowa has the country’s strictest felon voting ban, which disproportionately disenfranchises African Americans. Reynolds has resisted calls to issue an executive order, saying she wants the legislature to approve a state constitutional amendment on felon voting instead.

The Iowa legislature adjourned for the year on June 14 without the constitutional amendment clearing the Senate.

For many thousands of Iowans with felony convictions, an order from Reynolds provides the only path to voting before 2024. She should issue one as soon as possible.

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Defeating Joni Ernst in November

David Weaver: To win statewide, candidates must demonstrate service, strong critical thinking skills, and the ability to understand rural Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

I have been an Iowan all my life, other than a two-year stint teaching English in Japan. I have lived in small towns like Grinnell, Pella, and Perry. I spent several years living in the city of Davenport, and I have lived in rural towns like Westside and Rippey (my hometown), as well as the farmhouse where my family currently resides.  I have been farming since 2006.   

I have always paid fairly close attention to politics and government, and ran for the Iowa House in 2018. 

Democrats have a (recent?) problem winning statewide elections. Zero for six in the past six races for governor or U.S. Senate. We know Democrats can win, and have won. Barack Obama did it a couple of times, and Rob Sand did it in 2018. Looking at my Iowa House district 47 results from 2018, one thing stood out to me that I believe is important and translates to winning any statewide race in Iowa.

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"It's still early" -- or is it?

Ira Lacher reflects on the stakes for presidential candidates, nearly a year before the Iowa caucuses. -promoted by Laura Belin

“It gets late early out here.”

Yogi Berra is credited with that observation about the final month of the baseball season, when the lower-in-the-sky sun of early fall casts longer shadows over more of the field.

Managers will tell you a win in April is just as important as a win in September. But when you don’t win in September, you have fewer opportunities to make up those losses.

Heading into March, there are about eleven months to go before Iowans tell the world why so-and-so should be the Democrat to oppose Donald J. Trump. Eleven months may seem like a long time. There are unanticipated world and national events to come, revelations to be made, gaffes to occur.

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Don't make more than 52,000 Iowans wait until 2023 to vote

Governor Kim Reynolds asked Iowa lawmakers today to start the process of amending the state constitution to remove the lifetime ban on voting by those who have committed “infamous crimes,” which under current law are defined as all felony offenses.

A constitutional amendment would be the best long-term fix for an unfair system that disproportionately affects racial minorities and those lacking the funds to navigate the restoration process. So the Iowa House and Senate should certainly heed the governor’s call. But it’s difficult to get a constitutional amendment through both chambers of the legislature, and the soonest an amendment could be enacted would be November 2022.

Reynolds and state lawmakers can and should take immediate steps to allow tens of thousands of Iowans to participate in this year’s local elections, the 2020 caucuses, and the primary and general elections of 2020 and 2022.

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Sara Craig Gongol joins small group of top Iowa women staffers

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

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

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

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