3 hopes for Des Moines Register chief politics reporter Brianne Pfannenstiel

The Des Moines Register made it official this week: Brianne Pfannenstiel will move up to the chief politics reporter job after three years covering the statehouse. She is best-known for writing about alleged sexual misconduct by State Senator Nate Boulton; that article quickly ended his campaign for governor. It was a tricky story to report, and Pfannenstiel handled the material well. Another huge scoop was her June 2017 investigative report on delayed state tax refunds.

Pfannenstiel impressed me during her first year at the Register, when she had the news sense to write multiple pieces about the most under-covered major Iowa politics story of 2015. Some experienced statehouse reporters failed to recognize the significance of an unprecedented move to enact a new sales tax break without legislative approval. That policy change turned out to be far more costly than officials had projected, contributing to state revenue shortfalls in subsequent years.

I’m looking forward to watching Pfannenstiel apply her detail-oriented approach to her new beat. As she turns her attention to campaigns and elections, I hope she will:

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Iowans will likely elect record number of women lawmakers in 2018

A record number of women running for office in Iowa this year has translated into a record number of women who will appear on our state’s general election ballot. Iowa State University’s Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics noted that 85 women (86 percent of female candidates on Iowa’s primary ballot) won their party’s nominations yesterday.

More women than ever will likely win Iowa House seats this November (current number: 28 out of 100). Female representation will almost certainly increase in the state Senate too and could exceed the previous record (ten out of 50 senators in 2013-2014). Follow me after the jump for details.

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Memorial Day open thread: Forgotten history

Historical accounts have long credited Waterloo, New York, with establishing the tradition now known as Memorial Day. That small town first held an “annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags,” on May 5, 1866.

However, Felice Leon of The Root explained “The Black History of Memorial Day” in a fascinating video posted on Facebook over the weekend.

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Boulton's conduct was unacceptable. His response is not credible

Three women have described in detail incidents of non-consensual touching by State Senator Nate Boulton, Brianne Pfannenstiel reported today for the Des Moines Register. Boulton did not deny the women’s accounts but said they did not match his recollection. He also asserted his alleged behavior “in social settings” was not comparable to harassment or assault in the workplace.

Boulton’s alleged conduct was unacceptable. His distinction is not credible. His political career is no longer tenable.

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The case for each Democrat running for Congress in IA-03

With less than three weeks remaining before the June 5 primary, many Democrats (including myself) are still undecided in the primary to represent Iowa’s third Congressional district. All three candidates left standing in the once-crowded field have raised enough money to run strong, district-wide campaigns.

This post focuses on how Cindy Axne, Pete D’Alessandro, and Eddie Mauro have presented themselves in stump speeches, direct mail, and television commercials aimed at Democratic voters.

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Groups sue to block abortion ban; Iowa AG won't defend law (updated)

UPDATE: Have added the plaintiffs’ court filings at the end of this post.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, and the Iowa City-based Emma Goldman Clinic filed suit today to block the new state ban on almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. I enclose below the full statement from the groups and will post the court filing once that document becomes available. The Polk County District Court is certain to put a stay on Senate File 359 (which would have taken effect July 1) while litigation is pending.

Attorney General Tom Miller “has disqualified himself from representing the state” in this case, Solicitor General Jeffrey Thompson informed Iowa’s Executive Council today. Miller took that step after determining “he could not zealously assert the state’s position because of his core belief that the statute, if upheld, would undermine rights and protections for women.” The attorney general recommends that the Executive Council authorize the Thomas More Society to defend the law. That conservative group has offered its legal services at no cost to the state.

Miller’s decision is telling, because a few years ago, the Iowa Attorney General’s office defended the state administrative rule seeking to ban the use of telemedicine to provide medical abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics around the state. The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously found that policy created an “undue burden” for women seeking an abortion. You can read that decision in full here.

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