Four thoughts about Mary Ann Hanusa's state auditor campaign

Former State Representative Mary Ann Hanusa finally gave up her Congressional ambitions and announced on January 5 she’s running for state auditor. She won’t face any competition in the Republican primary, coming out of the gate with endorsements from Governor Kim Reynolds, Senator Chuck Grassley, and Senator Joni Ernst.

Democrat Rob Sand won the 2018 state auditor’s race by 660,169 votes to 601,320 for GOP incumbent Mary Mosiman (50.9 percent to 46.4 percent). Turnout set a modern midterm record for Iowa that year. Participation could be far lower in 2022—perhaps 1.1 million to 1.2 million voters.

Whether Hanusa emerges as a strong challenger will become more clear as her campaign unfolds, but here are some initial thoughts.

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Iowa Senate kicks reporters out of chamber: Why it matters

During the five years of their trifecta, Republican lawmakers shredded a 43-year-old collective bargaining law and overhauled a judicial selection process that had been in place for nearly six decades.

Now Iowa Senate Republicans are tossing out more than a century of precedent by refusing to seat any journalists on the chamber’s press bench. For the session that begins on January 10, they are relegating reporters to public galleries far removed from the action.

Why should anyone care where reporters sit at the Iowa capitol? Take it from someone who has never been allowed to work on the press bench: losing access to the chamber will greatly hinder news gathering in the Senate.

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State agency took 170 days to produce maternal health records

Rachel Bruns recounts the saga of trying to obtain records that the Iowa Department of Public Health could have provided promptly.

In an article I wrote for this website in January 2021, Provider practices in Iowa lead to more c-sections, complications, I mentioned that I had requested records from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) on the number of cesarean births and vaginal births after cesarean (VBACs) in Iowa hospitals.

A lot has happened related to my request since then. I’m summarizing my experience in case it can help other Iowans seeking what should be public information from a government entity.

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Court ruling good for open records, bad for Kim Reynolds

A Polk County District Court has rejected the state’s motion to dismiss part of Polly Carver-Kimm’s wrongful termination lawsuit against the state of Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds, her former communications director Pat Garrett, and several senior Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) officials.

Carver-Kimm handled press contacts and public records requests for the IDPH for thirteen years before being forced to resign in July 2020. She asserts that she was “stripped of her duties and later terminated after she made repeated efforts to comply with Iowa’s Open Records law (Chapter 22) by producing documents to local and national media regarding the State of Iowa’s response to the ongoing pandemic.”

District Court Judge Lawrence McLellan’s December 22 ruling (enclosed in full below) affirmed the importance of the open records law and rejected the state’s effort to remove Reynolds as a defendant in this case.

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Where things stand in the Iowa Democratic race for governor

Since State Auditor Rob Sand ruled out running for governor earlier this month, I’ve been meaning to catch up on the Democratic candidates who have been actively campaigning against Kim Reynolds: State Representative Ras Smith and Deidre DeJear, the 2018 nominee for secretary of state.

The field may not be set; many Democrats believe at least one other candidate will join the governor’s race early next year. Recent speculation has centered around State Representative Chris Hall. The six-term Iowa House Democrat from Sioux City, who is ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, has not announced whether he will seek re-election or run for higher office in 2022. Hall declined to comment for the record when I reached out to him shortly after Sand confirmed he’ll run for state auditor again.

This post will focus on bases of support for Smith and DeJear. We’ll know more about their capacity to run a strong statewide campaign after candidates disclose how much they’ve raised and spent this year. Those reports must be filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board by January 19.

Bleeding Heartland is unlikely to endorse any candidate before the primary, but I welcome guest commentaries advocating for any Democratic contenders. Those wanting to learn more about the options should tune in to the Iowa Unity Coalition’s gubernatorial candidate forum on January 22 in Des Moines; both Smith and DeJear have agreed to participate.

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We're suing Governor Reynolds over open records violations

The ACLU of Iowa filed suit on December 16 on behalf of three reporters and three media organizations over Governor Kim Reynolds’ long-standing failure to comply with Iowa’s open records law. The lawsuit cites five unfulfilled requests submitted by me, two submitted by Clark Kauffman of Iowa Capital Dispatch, and one submitted by Randy Evans of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

I’ve been seeking some of those records for more than a year. My oldest outstanding request, for video messages the governor may have recorded for meatpacking plant employees during the early weeks of the pandemic, dates to April 2020. Although Reynolds told members of the Iowa Capitol Press Association in January 2021 that she would commit to having her staff respond to open records requests “in a timely manner,” her office continues to stonewall.

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