Friday, January 31, 2014

Hatch Tours Campuses

Jack Hatch supports the tuition freezes that appear to be a consensus between the legislature and Hatch's likely opponent this fall, Governor Terry Branstad. But the nearly certain Democratic nominee for governor says the freeze alone doesn't do enough to control higher education costs.

"I think it was great we did it," Hatch said of the tuition freeze at the regent's schools. "But Drake, Simpson, the community colleges, they got tossed over the side."

Hatch is calling for an accelerated BA program that would lower student costs by increasing the three and four year graduation rates, and a state low interest student loan program. "The financial institutions are not helping you," he told a University of Iowa student crowd, " they're just increasing your debt." Hatch also stopped at Drake and Grinnell yesterday.

With Tyler Olson and Bob Krause out of the race, Hatch is an overwhelming favorite in the June primary. "I'm the last man standing," he said, "some folks say I got the short straw." Other Democratic primary candidates are former third party contender Jonathan Narcisse and Some Dude Paul Dahl.

While Hatch remains an underdog against Branstad, he's pushing back on the notion that an urban Des Moines legislator can;'t lead the state. "This governor is not a friend of rural Iowa. The people being hurt the most on schools and infrastructure are the people he claims to represent."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Schultz's Crusade Disenfranchises Legitimate Voters

One of the dangers of arguing from the absolute is that a single counter-example shatters the argument.

Republicans have defended the puny results of Matt Schultz's voter fraud crusade with an absolute argument: that even one illegitimate voter justifies the effort, and by extension justifies the voter ID law Schultz wants to leave as his legacy as he tries to exit for Congress.

That's a flawed justification, because none of the handful of cases was someone impersonating someone else who could have been stopped by ID. But that's also a tangent from that main point: even one case is too many.

It's the ultimate question of justice. Which is worse: the guilty going free, or the innocent being punished?

Well, now we have our counter-example: proof that the innocent HAVE been punished.

Ken Kline, the Cerro Gordo County auditor, reports that one non-felon and two ex-felons were mistakenly included on a list of felons ineligible to vote in Iowa – but the problem wasn’t caught until after it was too late to include their ballots in the official tally.

“I enjoy my job, and take pride in serving as county auditor in Iowa, where we have a strong history of fair and impartial elections,” Kline wrote in the letter (to Schultz). “One thing I dislike intensely is when I have to send a letter to a voter, notifying the voter his or her ballot was rejected. To have rejected a ballot based on an error or incorrect information is troubling, to say the least.”

In his letter, Kline suggested Schultz pursue two fixes: Analyze how the list of felons is compiled and identify how the three errors happened in the first place, and have the DCI investigate all Iowans flagged as possible felons in future elections before the vote is final.

Kline told the Register that he sent letters to the three voters on Tuesday notifying them that they are indeed eligible to vote, and one man telephoned him to thank him, saying it meant a lot that his vote will count next time.

The Register article makes much of Kline's party, making it the first word in the headline. But I knew Ken for years before I knew his affiliation, and knowing him I think he'd be disappointed with that emphasis. So read that headline as "ELECTION official: Mistakes on elections list wrongly barred three Iowans from voting." Because that's how he sees himself.

Ken Kline is universally respected by the other auditors of both parties and was the state's pioneer in rolling out computerized poll books for use at precincts on election day. (Tangent: Schultz has tried to roll out competing software but nearly all counties are staying with the "Precinct Atlas" program originally developed by Kline's staff.)

I've had to tell people "you can't vote," and even if the reason back before election day registration was just procrastination or lack of awareness, it's still heartbreaking. And having to tell someone "you can't vote" when in fact they had done nothing wrong and fully HAD that right is simply unacceptable.

And scaring away people who have the right to vote is just as bad. For that's the real point of this crusade: not the tiny handful of people who made a mistake, misunderstood a confusing law that has changed and then changed back, and then got caught and prosecuted when a strongly worded letter should have been sufficient.

No, the real point is the hundreds and thousands of people who will hear those stories and say to themselves, "I'm not taking any chances." The poor and the disenfranchised and the marginalized are USED to the system messing with them. They EXPECT it. If you make voting a hassle with the law, people will avoid the hassle.

Even more to the point, the poor and the disenfranchised and the marginalized are overwhelmingly likely to vote a particular way. Mission accomplished, Matt.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Upcoming Events: Mostly February 1

First time since I started this feature that I totally punted the ball on a Monday events calendar. But the week's not over and there's still stuff going on.

We Democrats have or first convention committee meeting Saturday at the West High cafeteria, starting at 10. Those should be done fast except for platform, so there's plenty of time to get over to the Sanctuary by 3 for Dave Loebsack's fundraiser ($25 and up).

If you bat for the other team, 2nd District Republicans are meeting Saturday at 9 at the Coralville library and promising loads of candidates:

(Interesting: Lofgren tweeted today that it's just 127 days till the primary, even though he is "officially" the only announced Republican in the 2nd CD. Miller-Meeks petitions were spotted caucus night, but no official announcement yet...)

Planned Parenthood is hosting an "Election Matter" house party 6 PM Thursday at 127 Ferson in Iowa City. (And belated congrats to PP organizer and 2012 legislative candidate Sara Sedlacek, who became a mom last week.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Some Are Ready, Some Not

Twin stories today in Buzzfeed and the Washington Post cover the ground I skipped on the Ready For Hillary event in Des Moines, and I think my decision to do the credentials crunch of post-caucus collating was time better spent.

Bleeding Heartland is making much of the presence of Jackie Norris, one of the permanent political class who was in Obamaworld last time.

The political professional class (see also old Clinton hands, Crawford, Vilmain, Campbell) is signing up early.

But the electeds are more cautious-and smarter.
During another meeting with elected officials and candidates, state Sen. Jack Hatch, Iowa’s likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee, also asked the group to get involved in the midterms. “We want you to play in the 2014 elections,” Hatch said. “What we need is money and volunteers and cooperation.”

Janet Petersen, a state senator who supported Obama over Clinton, said she’d heard similar comments from Democrats. “What you’re asking in terms of creating lists is not what Iowans want,” Petersen said, sitting next to Oldson. “You guys want a list. Iowans want a sense of engagement and conversation and dialogue like they got on the Obama campaign.”

Smith responded to Peterson. “You mean engagement with the candidate — which is the one thing we can’t produce,” he said.
Drop the pretense, PACman, and carry the message.

Sending staffers and cutting checks might help, but not enough. What the elected class wants is Hillary, herself, in state, this fall, drawing gigantic crowds and big bucks for Iowa candidates.And that's a reasonable thing to ask.
Another frustration emerged during meetings. In spending time and resources on a candidate who isn’t even in the race yet, some said, Ready for Hillary stages a “total inversion” of the traditional primary, as state Rep. Jo Oldson put it.

Iowa, Oldson said, likes its candidates to beg voters — not the other way around. “This is just a different twist on how Iowans view getting into presidential campaigns,” she said. “It’s Iowa asking her to run, rather than the candidate asking Iowa to elect her.”
A nicer version of what I've been saying all along.
There was plenty of advice: Come early and come often. Slim down your entourage and ignore your consultants. Ditch the big rallies in favor of more intimate coffee shop visits. Be nimble and authentic. Listen, listen and listen some more. Embrace your potential to crack the proverbial glass ceiling, but make your campaign about much more than putting a woman in the White House. Most of all, don’t let anyone view your nomination as a coronation. You will have to earn it.
Which, I concede, Clinton doesn't HAVE to do. She may hear the advice and decide Iowa isn't worth the hassle, and let whoever's playing the Bill Bradley role in 2016 go to the barbecues and diners.

Just don't be mad at us if we think about voting for the one who showed up.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Week In Review: January 19-26

Most confusing word par in English language: biennial and biannual. I dropped off the grid the last couple days for the whichever one means every two years post-caucus data entry marathon. With the basics done and just proofreading and distribution ahead for the day, I can look back at the caucus and the other news of the week.

I'm showing a pre-proofreading signed-in attendance count of 277 and our nine locations, comparable to the other large counties which mostly had theirs at one site.  No reports of Democratic preference groups.

Branstad-brand Republicans are claiming victory but that fight's not over yet; they have to get their bodies out to the next layers of convention all the way up to state, and there are lots of other agendas to compete with: the 3rd District candidates, the already announced Senate candidates, and the possible Senate ambitions of one Bob Vander Plaats...

Looking ahead to the next caucus, Republicans are pushing the end of the 2016 nomination calendar earlier, with a July or even June convention and the beginning of the calendar later, with the IA-NH-NV-SC quartet of Official Early States scheduled for February. My pessimistic bet is Iowa gets initially scheduled for Monday, February 8, the date we had in 1988, but eventually get pushed back ad far as possible within calendar 2016.

New Year's Day is a Friday and probably out. Democrats got Jewish Sabbath blowback on the very idea of a Saturday, and Republicans would catch it even worse about a Sunday. That would put us on Monday, January 4, at the end of a long holiday weekend, and while college students are still gone but within the year.. Have I mentioned how fun it was caucusing with the UDems Tuesday, on campus for the first time in 10 years because we finally got a late enough date?

Not that any of it will matter much if Ready For Hillary has its way. Did anyone, press or public, ask the Ready For Hillary folks if Clinton has softened her attitudes toward caucuses in general and the state of Iowa in particular? As for Hillary Herself, she's going to Florida February 26 but no word on an Iowa appearance.

Ed Fallon played against type Monday, endorsing Jack Hatch and stepping on the announcement of outsider Jonathan Narcisse. Also, another Some Dude emerged on caucus night:  Zachary Newbrough of West Des Moines, whose web site seems to have stopped working during the week. Not entirely clear if he's a Democrat or an independent who tried to glom onto signatures at the caucus.

At the League of Women Voters forum yesterday. most of the Johnson County delegation was calling for 6% allowable growth for school districts. Bob Dvorsky said the figure was a rare instance where the ISEA, school boards and administrators all agree. Sally Stutsman said "I think there's support" for a gas tax increase " but not much leadership from the governor." But my favorite moment came from the guy who asked about medical marijuana with apparently no clue that he was asking the bill's lead sponsor, Joe Bolkcom.

A couple interesting legislative primaries: before his fall from grace, Shane Vander Hart noted that Jon Van Wyk is challenging freshman Rep. Greg Heartsill in House 28.

In Ames, Democrat Cynthia Oppedahl Paschen is challenging Senator Herman Quirmbach. History lesson: Like Iowa City, Ames has a tradition of electing female legislators, and some folks were  miffed when Quirmbach narrowly beat Karen Bolluyt in the 2002 primary on the retirement of Johnie Hammond (additional history: Johnie is female). Add to that the committee confrontation between Quirmbach and Republican Amy Sinclair. “I usually can appreciate the way Herman votes," says Paschen, "but sometimes he’s not the easiest to get along with.”

A couple quick cribs from TIR's Kevin Hall:
State Rep. Tom Shaw (R-Laurens) decided not to run for another term. … Former Republican State Senator Mike Sexton announced plans to run for the seat.

The four-way GOP primary in Senate District 15 became a three-way primary. Zach Nunn has decided to run for House District 30 instead, challenging freshman Dem Joe Riding.
In a good chance for a Democratic pick-up, union guy Charlie McConkey is running in open House 15, the more Democratic of the two Council Bluffs seats. Republican Mark Brandenburg is stepping down and at last report was going to run for county recorder. (Also running for recorder, in Dubuque: Pat Murphy's son.) On the flip side, up in the northeast corner, Republican Darrel Branhagen will be challenging incumbent Roger Thomas in House 55. That's one of the tougher Democratic-held seats.

The long-range most important flap of the week is Mike Huckabee's. Full quote:

"Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women," Huckabee told his audience at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting in downtown Washington. "That's not a war on them. It's a war for them. And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it."
Most of this is just frame for It's the subtext: A large, perhaps nomination-controlling, share of the Republican base addresses the whole cluster of reproductive rights issues with a mindset of "control your libido": unmarried women shouldn't be having sex outside marriage anyway so it's their own fault. Much as a majority of the Republican base also thinks People Are Poor Because They Don't Work Hard Enough.

Hey, non-partisan do-gooders who think Party=Bad and we should all just get along and compromise: This isn't just something where you can split the difference in dollar amounts and meet halfway. How does one compromise completely incompatible world views?
Cynthia Oppedal Paschen
Cynthia Oppedal Paschen
Cynthia Oppedal Paschen
Cynthia Oppedal Paschen
Cynthia Oppedal Paschen
Cynthia Oppedal Paschen

Friday, January 24, 2014

Save Our South Slope Draws Big Crowd

As an in-town Iowa Citian, I was long jealous of my neighbors a little farther out in Tiffin and North Liberty or Ely who could get their cable, phone and internet from South Slope. The company had a great reputation for quality and community-mindedness.

But lately South Slope is suffering from some self-inflicted wounds, damaging their reputation with their customers and workers.

South Slope employees have been without a contract since a lock-out in November, as the company refuses to budge on a tiered wage system that would pay new workers less and undercut the Communication Workers of America bargaining unit.

"CEO salary and benefits (have) suddenly skyrocketed," said Tracy Leone of the Iowa Federation of Labor at a Save Our South Slope rally last night, yet "management is trying to force 30% wage cuts for new hires and current employees who transfer."

Without an agreement, management has unilaterally imposed its "final" terms that, in addition to wages, include scheduling changes and an end to minimum pay for "call-out" in emergency situations.

South Slope, like many telecoms that started out as small rural phone companies, is a co-op. But employees and members have found it impossible to find out when the board meets or when elections are scheduled, and staff and members say board members have been unresponsive.

"Because the co-op is a nonprofit, said attorney Paul McAndrew,  " I expect that earnings will be reinvested in the co-op, returned to members as dividends, or used to compensate skilled workers, not used to pad CEO pay or compensate Board members."

The rally was originally planned for outside the South Slope offices, but was moved to the North Liberty Community Center due to weather. South Slope CEO Justyn Miller was on hand, despite a notice distributed which stated "management's presence at this union-sponsored event constitutes illegal surveillance and intimidation of employees."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Day Off, Then More Work

Feels weird to have a morning after without numbers to crunch. Only number I have for you is 5: boxes of Stuff in my living room, where it will sit till our sorting party tomorrow night. Today I'm taking a break but not till after I tell you a little about how things went in Johnson County.

I had about 20 people at five precincts in the Iowa Memorial Union. It's our first time on campus since the Night Of The Screaming Dean a decade ago, when we almost got fire-coded out of the building. Since then, the caucus dates have made a campus site pointless, since dorms tend to be empty on January 3. So It was great to hang out with the UDems, with Nick Johnson, Mary Vasey and me representing for the old-timers. We were out the door by 8:15.

I've been on and off the central committee so many times I've lost count. This time, I'm on. My attitude is, I'll be around anyway so if a new person wants the job, great; I'm also unavailable to run the precinct on election day. (Also: I got my 18 Is Adult resolution passed on to the platform committee, where I expect it to have as good a chance as my chance of being appointed to the charter review board.)

City High reported the highest turnout with about 100 people in seven east side precincts and a big showing of elected officials and candidates, including Dave Loebsack. Paul Deaton has a nice writeup from Solon.

In the 1st Congressional district, my candidate Anesa Kajtazovic was at home in Black Hawk County, along with rivals Pat Murphy and Dave O'Brien. Monica Vernon was at home in Linn, and no reports on Swati Dandekar. Maybe she wandered into a GOP caucus and felt right at home.

It's really too soon to get a handle on who won the Republican Battle For Control or which candidates got their people into the right places. Most results are probably where mine are: in a box. Caucus night was only the preliminary stage. The more decisive stage will be at county conventions in March, where the district and state delegates are chosen. THOSE are the people who will decide the inconclusive primaries, if any.

Linn County, with one mass Republican site, was the place to be for the GOP, with most of the Senate candidates on hand. In Johnson County Republicans took a different approach, with most caucuses out in the neighborhoods and maybe three tops at any one location. The JCDems split the difference with nine locations. Curious what people prefer.

THANK YOU to everyone who helped make a successful caucus night. A special thanks to the cluster chairs: Travis Weipert in Tiffin, Rod Sullivan at City High, Karen Disbrow at Southeast, Peter Hansen at West High, Tom Larkin in Coralville, Diana Coberly in North Liberty, Bill Hanes and the Solon crew, and Gretchen & Kent Fuller in Hills. Also thanks to the exec board members and temp committee chairs. But it couldn't have happened without everyone's help.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ready For Caucuses

Like election night, caucus night had an inverse relationship between Deeth Blog traffic and content. I'm too in the loop of the process to write but everyone visits anyway.

So if you are here, here's a few Caucus 2016 items that popped up today.

Politico is billing the Ready For Hillary campaign - it quacks like a duck - as "Look(ing) More Like the Obama Machine." But Bloomberg finds their money dude and he's been in Clintonworld since the 2004 cycle.

Meanwhile, academic uberpundit Larry Sabato believes Clinton is "more vulnerable than everyone thinks."
A consensus choice for a major-party presidential nomination is exceedingly rare.

When no incumbent was running, the only precedent for a consensus choice in the entire post-World War II era is Richard Nixon in 1960. This impressive feat was nonetheless achieved with some difficulty and embarrassment.

The larger lesson from 1960 is that even a rare consensus nomination does not come easily.
With the caucuses coming just before that Ready For Hillary rally Saturday, I'm surprised there wasn't a little more outreach.  With every other politician on the planet urging people to attend, wouldn't it have been nice and civic-minded of Hillary to remind Iowans about caucus night? A tweet would have cost zero and would have been the story of the night.

Still got 2 hours and 15 minutes to prove me wrong. And I promise to stop being critical if she can get one of her snow shovelers from 2008 over to my house right now.

Caucus morning clips

Caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus! Here's where. Here's why.

It's also campaign finance time. As Johnson County Caucus Czar I won't have time to dig into reports for a couple days, but if you want to yourself here's the state and local links. The two best committee names, Friends Of Bacon and Citizens For Rock, unfortunately represent defunct candidacies. Ed Tibbets has a good QC-area roundup.
State Rep. Tom Shaw is not seeking re-election in deep red House District 10 in Pocahontas, Humboldt, Calhoun, and Webster counties. Shaw must have gotten lonesome. He was part of a three member Krazy Kaucus elected in 2010; the other two, Kim Pearson and Glen Massie, quit after one term each and saw Democrats win their seats.

Technically, Shaw took over a Democratic seat in `10. But the Democrat was Dolores Mertz who was barely a Democrat and barely won her last term in 2008. So this probably gets settled in the primary, and Shaw had two hot primaries in his two terms.

And from the Peoples Яepublic, a tip of the hat to the newly organized SOLO Democrats of the state's red northwest corner. The name does NOT mean that there is one Democrat each in Sioux, Osceola, Lyon & O'Brien counties.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Upcoming events: January 20-27

Caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus! Here's where.

Lots of other stuff this week. It's MLK Day and here's the big Iowa City event:

"Join us for the celebration, “Unity in the Community,” which will be from noon to 4 p.m. Monday at the Spot - 1030 Crosspark Avenue on the backside of STUFF ETC., in Iowa City. It will be an afternoon of celebration, music, food and fun. Choirs, praise dancers and musicians will perform. And Marian Coleman — who will share photos of the 1960s civil rights movement — will will be our guest speaker."

Also because of the holiday weekend, the deadline for campaign finance reports for all state/local committees, normally the 19th, is Tuesday the 21st.

On Wednesday, see "Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars" from 6:30 - 8:30 pm at Iowa City Public Library Meeting Room A.

Unmanned: is a Robert Greenwald film from Brave New Films examining our increasing use of weaponized drones. It includes coverage of U.S. armed drone use in Pakistan and other countries, and features interviews with US officials & family members of civilian victims.

Sponsors: Veterans for Peace #161, Johnson Co. Green Party, Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, and PEACE Iowa

At 4:30 Thursday, Local labor activists are holding a "Save Our Co-op Rally & Press Conference" at the South Slope office, 980 N. Front St., North Liberty:

We call on South Slope’s current Board of Directors to stop operating in secret, imposing harsh new contract terms without agreement from employees, and withholding information about upcoming Board elections.

After that you can attend an evening fundraiser featuring Middle Eastern food and music for the Iowa City Emergency Campaign for Syrian Refugees. That's 6:30 at Old Brick. Suggested donations: $20 for adults/ $15 students. Proceeds towards UNICEF.

Friday the new Goodwill flagship store opens its doors in the old Office Depot site. Across the parking lot from Salvation Army: thrift store price war!

Later Friday, it's the Mike Carberry for Johnson County Supervisor Fundraiser/ 53rd Birthday Party is Fri. Jan 24, 5-6:30 pm The Mill (120 E. Burlington St. Iowa City, IA) More details later

Saturday is the big Ready For Hillary rally in Des Moines. I'm curious but will probably miss out - not a boycott but the weekend post-caucus I'm always dealing with the mountain of paperwork.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Week In Review: January 13-19

Just a couple extra highlights this week: Dueling "Go Caucus" calls Saturday from Terry Branstad and Ron Paul: "Needed to determine RPI leadership."

Craig Robinson: "Some liberty leaning Republican activists are upset that Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker sent out an email that expressed support of Republican Governor Terry Branstad's re-election."

The clown car is getting full in the 3rd CD Republican primary, and I finally find myself agreeing with John Boehner.

And Ten Years Ago Today, the 2004 caucuses. You know what that means:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Peek In My Packet for Petitions

Caucus time is when cats get out of bags for candidates, whether or not there's been an official announcement or even an announcement of an announcement.

Tuesday night's caucuses are a quick and easy way to collect signatures on nominating petitions. Not the ONLY way, of course. There may be a self-starter or late decider out there somewhere.

Here in Johnson County all the action is local, with only one set of nomination papers for each federal and statewide office.

Two supervisor seats are up and for Democrats one seat is open. Republican John Etheredge won an upset in a low turnout March 2013 special election. That'll be hard to replicate in a general election in Johnson County, where any Republican, even an incumbent, starts out several thousand votes behind just on straight tickets.

After facing appointers, delegates and voters four times in a year in 2009-10, Janelle Rettig won a full term and is seeking another one. Two other Democrats are announced: Mike Carberry, an ex-party chair who ran for the nomination in the 2013 special, and Lisa Green-Douglass of rural North Liberty.

And there's another set of papers for a name not yet officially announced: North Liberty city council member Gerry Kuhl. Papers in packets does NOT necessarily mean papers get filed; the deadlines are March 14 for the legislature, statewides and federal and March 26 for the courthouse jobs. Expect my usual OCD level coverage at that time.

Incumbent county attorney Janet Lyness, seeking a third term, has a challenge from recent UI law grad John Zimmerman, running on a platform of various justice system issues. The same cluster of racial/drug war issues held the justice center under 60% twice... but in a two way primary 55ish percent is a win not a loss.

Two more courthouse incumbents, treasurer Tom Kriz and recorder Kim Painter, have papers for another term. Both were first elected in 1998, both had close races that year, and neither has had an opponent since.

All the Johnson County legislative delegation's Democratic incumbents are running with no primary challenges: Joe Bolkcom and Bob Dvorsky in the Senate, and Dave Jacoby, Mary Mascher, Vicki Lensing and Sally Stutsman in the house.

Three non-incumbent locals showed up at our packet party last week petitions in hand (there was at least one grumble that non-incumbents weren't included). In open Senate 39, where Republican Sandy Greiner is retiring, Clear Creek Amana school board member Kevin Kinney of Oxford and Rich Gilmore of Washington are both passing papers. And in Republican Bobby Kaufmann's House 73, David Johnson of West Branch is making his fourth legislative run (one loss as an independent and two primary defeats).

As for the one and only statewide candidates:  Does the senator from Des Moines really wants to be on the ballot as "John G. (Jack) Hatch"?!? That's what the papers say. The Narcisse-ists apparantly JUST NOW decided to get in. They're welcome to show up, but they're on their own.

The two incumbent Democrats. treasurer Mike Fitzgerald and attorney general Tom Miller, are running for the millionth and million-sixth terms respectively. Anyone else remember when Miller was the "pro-life" (sic) candidate for governor in 1990? Must be a Dubuque thing.

Brad Anderson is still the only name for Secretary of State. The current default Democratic slate is filled out - which hasn't happened every year - by Sherry Taha for Secretary of Agriculture and Jon Niederbach for state auditor.

I've seen a couple of platform resolutions floating around but nothing on the Dem side. Anyone heard? Personally I've toyed with the idea of voting NO on the entire platform as there's no way to hold officials to it. And the higher it gets the blander it gets. The fundamental flaw in that strategy: by the end of the convention, when the final approval vote happens,no one's left to vote except the platform committee diehards. So instead I may just pass a resolution that pie is good.

I should post my national and international platform someday. I'm sure it's as offensive as my local one. And does some Republican want to write their version of this post?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Inevitablily Tour and an Iowa Opportunity

The next stop on the Hillary Clinton Inevitability Tour, as I long ago predicted, is the book:

Hillary Clinton's new memoir doesn't have a title yet, but it does have a scheduled release date: June 1, 2014.

That's according to the new entry for the book, which features a plain book jacket with the former secretary of state's name and photo, but no title.

For now, the book is titled merely "New Memoir" and is available, naturally, for pre-order.

But the book isn't a straight memoir, as it is also set to include some forward-looking ideas for the country — something that suggests Clinton may well have designs on running for president again in 2016.

May well, indeed. And no, the little guy on the cover is not me.

And with any book, as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin can tell you, comes the book tour. I think Live From Prairie Lights would be an excellent stop on the Hillary Book Tour, though any first stop in Iowa for whatever reason, if ever, would be in Des Moines. My bet is the tour conspicuously skips us.

Maybe that's OK. It is, as everyone keeps telling me, very early, though I searched the Deeth Blog Archives and saw John Edwards visiting Iowa City on February 25, 2006, just a month from now on a 2016 timeline, doing an event for a Some Dude congressional candidate, some college professor with a beard named Loebsack.

That's the kind of opportunity that presents itself. My prediction of Book Tour was followed by a prediction of Select Campaign Stops, and I've got just the person and place.

State Senator Matt McCoy, who had congressional ambitions in 2001 till Leonard Boswell carpetbagged into the Des Moines based district, announced that he is NOT going to run for Congress in 2014. McCoy was the big Democratic name hanging out there and this pretty much clears the field for Staci Appel, who gets the Chris Coons Prize for being in the right place at the right time.

Tangent: Coons was a county supervisor in Delaware who got into the 2010 Senate race when Attorney General Beau (Son Of) Biden opted out. Republicans had recruited a prohibitive favorite in moderate congressman and ex-governor Mike Castle... but Castle got teabagged to death in the GOP primary by Christine "I'm Not A Witch" O'Donnell. Coons walked from County Supervisor into the Senate without breaking a sweat. (In parts of California Congress to County Supervisor is considered a step UP.)

Like Coons, Appel got into the 3rd CR race when it looked like an uphill longshot against Tom Latham. But with his retirement it's a top tier open seat with a clown car Republican primary. The half million Appel has raised heled clear the field. And McCoy, despite the unique diversity he'd bring as Iowa's first out legislator, understands that moving Iowa out of the two state No Girlz Aloud club with Mississippi is important to our state's reputation (attn: Pat Murphy.)

So Appel it will be. Appel also has a critical extra qualification: she endorsed Hillary Clinton early in 2007, and as we saw in the `10 and `12 cycles, support and visits from Clintonworld (Bill only those years) goes to old friends. The only other female candidate in a `14 race who backed Hillary in `07-08 is Swati Dandekar, and I don't see a path for her to get through the primary after the bridges she burned with the party base.

Early state, swing state, top tier open seat race, chance to gain a seat from the Republicans AND to elect Iowa's first woman... everything says that Hillary Clinton should visit Des Moines this fall to campaign for Staci Appel.

My guess, though, is that Hillary avoids early contest states and instead visits early donor states on the coasts. Appel will get some Clinton love, sure, but I'm betting Bill gets the job.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Addendum: More Thoughts on Ready Rally

I'm not asking for my own personal sit down and pie shake with Hillary at the Hamburg Inn, though I recommend the blueberry and I'm sure Bill will back me up on the Burg's quality.

I'm asking Clinton, or even the people close to her, to explain and redefine her relationship with my state, which is a fair ask from the first state or the 57th state (sorry Mr. President.)

From Chuck Schumer at Jefferson-Jackson to Claire McCaskill in Linn County, to this, I'm getting two messages.

1) Hillary wants the field cleared. Which is understandable for any politician, but may not be in Iowa's best interest.

2) She wants to avoid uncontrolled Iowa-style retail politics.  Note McCaskill explicitly saying "Iowa won't get as much attention." McCaskill, as you recall, earned her own special circle in hell on Hillary's Hit List, as a co-generational woman who backed Obama. McCaskill is no doubt trying to restore herself to Clinton 45's good graces. It's noteworthy that the message she was asked to carry by SOMEone, probably not Hillary Herself but certainly one who knows, was "Iowa won't get as much attention."

Those things aren't disqualifiers from the presidency, though personally I think they're counterproductive.

More importantly: I  think it's counter-productive for Iowa bigshots to play along by endorsing Clinton two years out. At the very least they should be privately asking the questions I'm asking in public. Maybe Clinton truly is inevitable this time. But I want to know how my state rates during the Clinton 45 presidency, and I want to know where we stand for 2024.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ready? Ask me later. I got some questions first.

I don't hate Hillary Clinton.

This may surprise you as I seem to get in a dig every chance I get.  I think she was a good advocate and Senator and an OK (but not great) Secretary of State. I'm confident she could do The Big Job, just as Joe Biden could. If she were the Democratic nominee, as seems likely, I'd vote for her without reservation, which is more than I did for one past "inevitable" nominee.

The inevitability push is starting again. Clinton was a strong but imperfect frontrunner in 2005-2007; now she's the strongest frontrunner for an open seat presidency since before the modern nominating system. I actually counted back and I think the last nominee this inevitable was probably Ulysses Grant.

Some Iowans are jumping on the inevitability bandwagon in a couple weeks with a Ready For Hillary rally on Saturday the 25th in Des Moines. (Remember when that was Republican caucus day?) We won't see Clinton HERSELF, of course; see countdown clock on the right. Maybe that would be over the top and too much of a media circus, though it's fair to note that Republican candidates are already visiting.

No, the big guests are surrogates, and LOCAL surrogates at that. There's prominent 2007 names from HillaryWorld and BarackWorld: Teresa Vilmain, Jerry Crawford, Jackie Norris, Bonnie Campbell... and, interesting,  `08 Obama backer Tyler Olson, last seen exiting the governor's race.

That's a pretty heady crowd for a little blogger with a dumb hat to position himself against. But that's not exactly what I'm doing. I'm just trying to stick up for our state and our open process, and my instinctive reaction to "inevitability" is Bill Bradley.

This ongoing Hillary critique isn't about Iowa's God given right to caucus first, even though I rant about First In The Nation to the point where I may do more harm than good. I think Iowa is an imperfect but good system, a system that's done a good job on the Democratic side, and until recently in the other party too, for four decades. I know that at some point that door will close, and that the scale of national office will be forever more too big for a retail component.

I just don't want to slam it shut with my own vote.

It's clear from semi-attributed quotes in prominent books, and from private talks with her backers even here in Iowa, that Clinton World in general, and to some extent the candidate herself, had a negative attitude toward caucus processes in general, and Iowa in particular. It bordered on contempt for Iowa's institutions and political culture, blaming Iowa rather than a too imperial, too careful, too flawed campaign and one fatally flawed vote in the Senate.

And it's more than just process. It's power and policy. I know we're choosing the president of the whole county and leader of the free world-  but that includes our little corner of it. When the big spreadsheet is crunched, are Iowa's needs and concerns going to be weighed on their merits, or on the 2008 results?

And we know there's a Big Spreadsheet. Every politician remembers their friends and enemies, but as Politico writes this week, Clinton World data entered and quantified it. And until I learn otherwise, I can only assume that my entire state, with the exception of the Vilsacks and Leonard Boswell, earned a big red 7, a special level of shit list reserved for the worst "traitors."

Even I'm not asking for an immediate in person mea culpa in front of the Butter Cow, though she'd certainly be welcome. That countdown clock is a joke of rhetorical exaggeration and the fact that I'm having to explain it means that people aren't getting it. (I'm leaving it up anyway.)

But before I'm Ready For Hillary, I need some reassurance. A public kind word for Iowa from someone in the inner circle, or even positive indications on or off record from some of the Iowa names who'll be at that Ready rally, would be useful right now. Without that, I'm left planning for worse case scenarios.

I have issue concerns, too. I don't think she's the right person to say and do the domestically difficult things needed to address lasting peace in the Middle East. Though in fairness I don't see ANY mainstream American politician able to discuss Palestine-Israel policy in terms I'd be happy with. Which is a big part of the problem in that whole part of the world. Economically, I don't want to see the Democratic Party go the DLC direction on domestic economic policy that it did in the 1990s.

Despite the Hillary Clock, it's very early. I may get there. But right now I'm not yet Ready.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Upcoming Events: January 13-20

The legislative session starts today, which meens a full week of state of the state statements. A couple fresh faces in the House: Des Moines Democrat Brian Meyer and Madison County Republican Stan "Recall" Gustafson, and Julian Garrett moves across the rotunda from House to Senate. And a new House Democratic leader as Mark Smith takes over.

The donation deadlines passed on New Year's eve but two big campaign finance deadlines this week. By Wednesday federal candidates have to report what they've raised. Mark Jacobs (Senate R), Staci Appel (3rd CD D) and Dave O'Brien (1st CD D) have already proclaimed their numbers loudly, meaning they're happy; Joni Ernst has grumbled about things that are more important than money which means she isn't.

On the 19th every state and local committee has a report due. This usually means the first stage of triage for the early starting legislative candidates, and a sense of where the statewide contenders are.

Raising money for the next report: Lisa Green-Douglass, candidate for county supervisor, will host a fundraising event on Saturday, from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. at The Mill in Iowa City. For more information, call 319-936-0175. 

Thursday evening the Iowa City Federation of Labor has its annual meeting, with officer elcetions, at City Fed Hall 940 S Gilbert Ct. In a change, the annual meeting ans the annual chili supper have been split this year; the chili supper will be next month.

Caucus prep is peaking this week. Johnson County Republicans meet tonight (last week's meeting was frozen out) and also have a training session on Saturday at 10 AM. Both events are at the local GOP's default location, the Miller Learning Center. 2010 Keokuk St.

We Democrats, meaning me, are having caucus training sessions at 1 and 3 on Sunday at the Iowa City Public Library Room A. It's a hands-on chance to go over caucus materials and process one last time before Tuesday the 21st. Old pros and people who felt comfortable after the on-line training can consider this optional, but all Democrats welcome. Not especially formal but I'll plan to start sessions at 1 and again at 3.

And there WILL be school next Monday on MLK day.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Week In Review: January 6-12

Football season ended for me last Sunday, but political season never ends.

Matt Schultz picked the worst possible time for press conference, right in the middle of Chris Christie's marathon, an event so epic it distracted even the in-state media. We are, of course, Iowa. The GOP powers that be pulled political journeyman Paul Pate (four jobs and ran for a fifth) off the bench to try to replace Schultz. But the really interesting development that day: a resignation and likely third congressional campaign Mariannette Miller-Meeks, whose name alone takes up 20% of a tweet. I suggest #3M3 for the universal hashtag.

Candidates and even the Democrats are starting to mention the caucuses more and more, as contenders prepare backup plans in case no one hits the magic 35% in the primary. The main mentioners were in the Republican senate race, but Monica Vernon in the 1st CD Democratic race also made note, as did Jack Hatch and Iowa Democratic Party chair Scott Brennan, who did an eastern Iowa drive around Thursday.

Later Thursday the Johnson County Dems started handing out caucus packets at a well-attended monthly meeting. Our chair transition officially happened as Mike Carberry stepped down to work on his supervisor race. Gerene Denning will be interim chair till a March 6 election.

Other candidates on hand: Kevin Kinney, newly announced contender in open Senate 39, along with the previously announced Rich Gilmore; fourth time legislative candidate David Johnson, who introduced himself as "I'm the candidate your county didn't vote for" in the 2012 House 73 primary; Recorder Kim Painter, with no opponent since 1998 and none in sight...

...and both county attorney Janey Lyness and newly announced primary challenger John Zimmerman. State level Republicans declared marijuana law reform dead for the session this week, yet it was the courthouse level Democrat who drew the opposition.

The Iowa Iowa City City City City Council Council has Officially opened up the charter review commission. I'm applying but I think my prospects are poor. The last commission a decade ago included two former mayors, a former council member, a legislator and at least two attorneys, and my qualifications are "smart guy with a dumb hat." (Adam Sullivan also meets those qualifications it seems.) More to the point: by way of application I wrote this, with direct shots at at least four of the seven council members who make the decision.

My own week was dominated by two dead pieces of equipment, a car and a printer. One is repaired and the other is replaced.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Nothing New

Despite all the developments in Iowa Republican politics this morning, I don't see anything new.

Matt Schultz? Nothing new. First thing he wants to do in Congress is repeal Obamacare... which is different than the first 40 votes by the House Republicans to repeal Obamacare how? The other bullet points are all GOP boilerplate, not much better than just answering everything with "Voter ID": "Protect against government overreach," balanced budgets, guns, and term limits.

Term limits? Speaking of things from the 90s:

Paul Pate? Nothing new the second time. Secretary of State has been a stepping stone job for politicians of both parties for decades. Elaine Baxter ran for Congress twice, Chet Culver spent eight years talking to high school classes and generally making himself visible before running for governor, and now Schultz. The only Secretary of State who actually wanted to be Secretary of State was Mike Mauro, and not coincidentally he was the best we ever had. I still count his 2010 loss as a tragedy equal to the defeat of the three Supreme Court justices.

Pate has office hopped for close to three decades - House, Senate, secretary of state, a run for governor, and Cedar Rapids mayor (though he represented Marion in his legislative terms). Still, at least he's won some elections, which is more than Jim Gibbons can say.

And at least Pate indicated that he wants to make the office less partisan, though he could hardly make it more partisan. His term was relatively low key, but that was two decades ago, long before the voter ID issue became dogma in both parties.

Does low key fly in the modern Republican Party? The simultaneous timing of Pate and Schultz's announcements would same to indicate that this deal is done, though nothing's ever really a done deal in the current version of the Iowa Republican Party.

(And I almost feel sorry for both men, with the announcements landing right in the middle of Chris Christie's marathon press conference.)

Mariannette Miller-Meeks? Nothing new the third time. Don't draw a connection to Mountain Dew With Food Stamps forcing her resignation that isn't there. This is about the 2nd Congressional District. She took a pass on running during the Obama re-elect to avoid the informal three strikes you're out rule. And as desmoinesdem rightly notes, Mountain Dew With Food Stamps probably doesn't even hurt in a Republican primary.

Anecdote: In October I was at a Republican BBQ in Tiffin. By design only the Senate candidates spoke. Mark Lofgren was on hand.

Just as the last speaker concluded, MMM arrived. She was quickly surrounded two deep by people wanting to talk. Lofgren was standing off to the side by himself.

The week before that event someone did a Lofgren lit drop in Tiffin. The lit all specified the primary date, not the general election date, even though Lofgren was the only announced Republican. He won't be much longer...

Platform, John Deeth for Charter Review Commission

The Iowa City City Council (I hate the redundant City)  has completed a mandatory decennial duty and established a commission for the review of the city's home rule charter. They're taking applications and will appoint the members, and I am, no joke, applying.

I bring a long resume of government and political experience... but I also bring a lot of baggage. So I'm I'm taking my campaign over the heads of the seven members, two of whom I'm actually on speaking terms with, and taking my message directly to You The People.

The major flaw in Iowa City's government structure is the unrepresentative makeup of the city council - specifically, the lack of any voting representation for the student body in over 30 years. Compare that to the historic OVER-representation of downtown retail, and the inevitable impact on policy. Such as No Begging In Front Of Jewelry Stores.

Middle-aged Mid-American middle managers taking one class aren't "students." I mean 19 year old undergrads in sweats and jeans. Unless they're a third of the votes at the table, their share of the population, then the Iowa City council isn't representative.

But, but "the students are only here for four years." Maybe you hope there will be zero students in town in 2018, at least until you lose your job. Individuals may go but the student community is permanent.

The Platform

Directly elected mayor is so easy even council incumbent Jim Throgmorton backs it. But take it further. Make it full time and abolish city manager. Policy should be actively made by people who answer directly to voters, not passively rubber-stamped after it's been staff-crafted the way Iowa City has done it for decades.

Elect the city attorney and chief of police like we elect the county attorney and sheriff. Put city clerk on the ballot too.

Other than those executive jobs, no one should have to win city-wide to serve. Even someone as serious and well-financed as Raj Patel couldn't draw votes outside of mid-town in 2011, proving that the Love The Hawkeyes Hate The Students crowd simply won't vote for a student.

All elections will be from precinct-size wards, with only ward residents voting. A larger council of two dozen will almost certainly have four or five student members from campus precincts, and more diversity elsewhere.

To deal fairly with turnover within the student population, all council terms are two years. That also makes the council more immediately responsible to the electorate.

All city offices will be on the general election ballot with governor and president. That catches students, and other under-represented voters, at the moment of peak interest.

Abandon the city clerk's anti-student petition policy of cross-checking signatures to make sure they are "qualified" electors. This policy ignores the 2007 election day voter registration law. Any US citizen of "the legal age" - and Dr. Dobyns, the Constitution says that's 18 - without a felony is "qualified" to vote.
Abolish the requirement that petitions cannot address issues of state and federal law. Maybe if the voters get to symbolically vent in a marijuana referendum, they'll feel better and be able to evaluate our court and jail needs and county attorney race on their own merits.

I've just poured extra gasoline on the ashes of the bridges I long ago burned. So no illusions about my chances for the appointment. But forget me. I'm just another old straight white guy and we have plenty of representation already. Take my name off it and look at the ideas.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Statehouse Rs kill weed reform, local Democrat gets blame

Contrasting stories on the drug war front. Statehouse Republicans are, before the session even starts, killing any hope for drug law reform:
“No, I don’t want to embark on an experiment like that. I think would be damning to the health and welfare of the citizens of our state,” Branstad said.

Iowa’s governor also said he won’t reverse his stance against medical marijuana, describing it as something that would lead to a transition to more widespread use of marijuana.
That bill's lead sponsor is a local Democrat, Joe Bolkcom. But even though it's Republicans Branstad and Clel "medical marijuana is a joke" Baudler that have leading Democrats acknowledging that no bill can pass this year...'s a local Democrat who's in the hot spot.
Johnson County district attorney candidate Zimmerman says he wants to end prosecution of marijuana use, stop racial profiling if he wins election over incumbent Janet Lyness.
 Interesting spring ahead.

Matt Schultz, Call Your Office

A couple bumps today for the soon to launch Matt Schultz For Congress crew.

First bump comes from a predictable source, my team:
Without Congressional action, Matt Schultz ‘is free to thumb his nose at taxpayers’
“Iowa Secretary of State Schultz is setting a terrible example by misusing federal dollars intended to help voters vote,” said Senator Tom Courtney (D-Burlington)

 Last month, the office of Iowa State Auditor Mary Mosiman released the results of a six-month investigation of the possible misuse of almost $300,000 in federal Help America Vote Act funds by Secretary Schultz.  The federal dollars, intended for “educating voters concerning voting procedures, voting rights and voting technology” were used instead for nearly fruitless criminal investigations.

The report by Iowa’s State Auditor concluded that Secretary Schultz should be prepared to repay the federal dollars in the event that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission finds against him.

Hiring a criminal investigator does not fall under prescribed uses of HAVA funds (Section 101 of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 states that funds may be used for ‘educating voters concerning voting procedures, voting rights and voting technology...

All familiar yet still interesting stuff.

But even more interesting, Craig Robinson at The Iowa Republican notes "Schultz’s decision to run for Congress means that Republicans are now scrambling to find a Secretary of State candidate. "
Had State Auditor Dave Vaudt not resigned his position this spring, Mary Mosiman, the former Story County Auditor and Deputy Secretary of State under Schultz, would have been an obvious successor.  With Mosiman seeking election as Iowa’s State Auditor, Republicans must now get a littler creative in finding a candidate.

A number of legislators have indicated interest in running for the open U.S. Senate and congressional seats, but when the rubber meets the road, most of them have opted against seeking higher office.
And Civic Skinny picks up on my meme from last week:
“Can’t wait for the debates [if Secretary of State Matt Schultz decides to run for Congress]: ‘Mr. Schultz, explain your position on the farm bill.’ ‘Voter ID.’ ‘Should we intervene in Syria?’ ‘Voter ID.’"
The headline proclaims, "John Deeth is funny." I don't quite understand.

The classics never gets old.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Kinney Announces in Senate 39

A new entry in a key open seat race today: Democrat Kevin Kinney, a Johnson County sheriff's deputy who's served three terms on the Clear Creek Amana school board, is announcing his candidacy in Senate District 39.
“My experiences during the farm crisis of the eighties and investigating crimes for the sheriff’s office have served as stark reminders of what happens in economic downturns: families get hurt and people get desperate. A supportive community can do wonders.”

Kinney said the focus of his campaign for State Senate will be to strengthen Iowa communities by helping workers get the skills they need to succeed, helping Main Street businesses grow and thrive, and create new opportunities for Iowa students.

“Iowa’s elected officials – Republicans and Democrats -- need to be working harder on creating those jobs we need, boosting education standards for our kids and establishing a fair property tax system for homeowners, farmers and small businesses. That’s what I want to work on as the next Senator from District 39,” Kinney said.
The swing seat is open on the retirement of Republican Sandy Greiner, and will be a key battleground for control of the state senate.

On Map Day Senate 39 was exactly half in Johnson County, but that was based on the 2010 census numbers. The Johnson County half (House 77 held by Democrat Sally Stutsman) is centered on North Liberty and Tiffin, the fastest growing towns in eastern Iowa, so that's definitely more than half now. The Johnson County part also wraps around the west and south part of the county from Swisher-Shueyville to Lone Tree.

The other half of the district is Keokuk County and most of Washington County. House 78 is Greiner's old base, held by Republican Jarad Klein. Klein and Stutsman both took a pass on the Senate race.

Though Kinney comes from the Johnson County half of the district, he's a good match for the rural and small town seat:  family farm, Johnson County Cattlemen’s Association, Knights of Columbus. His announcement sets up primaries in both parties. Rich Gilmore, a Washington County Democratic activist who's lost a couple local races, had previously announced, but Kinney probably has the insider track.

On the Republican Side Michael Moore ow Washington, a nursing home director who's served in city and school offices, faces ex-Tiffin mayor Royce Phillips and GOP state central committee member Bob Anderson, a former county chair.

Courthouse dynamics could ripple into both primaries. On the Democratic side, turnout will be high in Johnson County, with primaries for supervisor and county attorney that will likely be decisive. That higher turnout likely helps Kinney.

We saw that dynamic in 2012. High turnout for the auditor primary, where Travis Weipert knocked off incumbent Tom Slockett, boosted the numbers in Johnson County. That rippled into the House 73 race and helped Solon's Dick Schwab defeat David Johnson of West Branch; Johnson carried Cedar County, and Cedar County was about 60% of the census population of the district, but there were more Democratic primary voters in Johnson County.

The flip side may be true in the GOP primary. I'm not as familiar with courthouse politics in Keokuk and Washington counties, but I know enough to know that any Tantamount To Election local races will likely be on the Republican side. That might give Moore an extra boost, but the Washington County GOP has a tea partyish faction that's won some local primaries and run some long-shot legislative candidates in recent years.

Upcoming Events: January 6-13

Johnson County Republicans have postponed night's central committee meeting till a week from tonight. They'll make it up some time soon because their agenda is no doubt a lot like ours...

The Democrats meet Thursday at the Iowa City school district office, and the main topic is prep for the January 21 caucuses. Prior to the actual meeting we'll be preparing caucus packets, starting at 6. Candidates who want materials and/or nomination papers in the packets should arrive for that or make arrangements.

The meeting proper starts at 7. Also at this meeting: chair Mike Carberry is stepping down to focus on his supervisor campaign. Vice chair Gerene Denning will take over as interim chair until a special election on March 6.

Iowa Democrats begin on-line caucus training on Tuesday. Local Dems, contact me for details.

Tuesday is the special election in House 25 in Madison and Warren counties. The seat opened up when Republican incumbent Julian Garrett moved to the Senate to replace the resigned in disgrace Kent Sorenson.

What's worse for GOP candidate Stan Gustafson? 1) He was an elected official in California as late as 2005. Or 2) He was recalled from that job. I say the latter; it was well known at the nominating convention that Stan was a relatively new Iowan, but the recall angle is new.. (Me, I'm all for people moving to Iowa and running, as long as it's from Bosnia rather than Texas.) Nevertheless, Gustafson is a heavy favorite in the GOP leaning district over Democrat Pam Deichmann. The winner should get seated in time to start the session, a week from today.

Joni Ernst passes through for coffee on Wednesday, 830-930 AM at Press Coffee, 2201 E Grantview, Coralville.

It's starting to look like kickoff week for the June 3 county primary this week - and in Johnson County it really is a COUNTY primary with state house offices traditionally taking a back seat to courthouse jobs. With the governor primary seemingly settled in Jack Hatch's favor last week, it looks like another local-focused primary this year. Favorite historic stat: 1000 more votes for recorder than governor in the 1998 primary.

John Zimmerman has planned an "Announcement Regarding Johnson County Attorney Campaign" for Wednesday at 12:30. "Regarding" is an inexact word but it's followed by "Open House -- Zimmerman for County Attorney" at 6. No formal announcement yet from two term incumbent Janet Lyness but she's presumed to be a go. Lyness won the primary by more than two to one in 2006 when the job opened upon Pat White's retirement.

Incumbent supervisor Janelle Rettig is rolling out listening post events as she gears up to run for a second full term:  "I’ve already scheduled five starting on January 11 in Solon and Iowa City. The details on the rest of the cities will be coming soon." The Iowa City event is also at ICPL, from 2 to 3 p.m. In addition to Rettig and Carberry, Lisa Green-Douglass has also announced in the race for two seats. The second is held by Republican John Etheredge, who won the low turnout March 2013 special but faces an uphill fight for re-election in a general election year.

And space geeks: Want to see a real spaceship? There's good pre-dawn chances all week to view the International Space Station over Iowa. The best view from Iowa City is on Thursday from 6:49 to 7:00. It will be almost straight overhead at 6:55, moving fast and as bright as the brightest stats or planets. Don't worry, they won't flush. Details will vary with your exact location. If you're looking at the right time and spot you can't miss it. You can sign up at for email updates on space station passes.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Week In Review: December 29 - January 5

With some shameless self-promotion I got over the bar of 1000 Twitter followers just hours before the new year. The friendly competition with Jack Hatch, also shooting for 1000 by New Year's, may have helped. (Same day: Pat Murphy was bragging about 500.)

Hatch lost some competition on Thursday. In the morning Bob Krause dropped out and endorsed him, simultaneously announcing a US Senate bid for 2016. That afternoon Janet Petersen, a fellow Polk County senator who had endorsed Tyler Olson over Hatch, squashed the speculation that she might get into the race.

Time is ticking, and for now it looks like January 2 is the day that the Democratic establishment more or less accepted Hatch as a consensus nominee. The current list of potential primary rivals has narrowed to Jonathan Narcisse, an ex-Des Moines School board member with some unorthodox ideas who ran a third party race in 2010, and Paul Dahl, a semi-employed bus driver who makes vague statements about "skeletons" in Hatch's closet.

Last week also saw movement in the 3rd CD race with Whitver and Cownie out, Zaun and Schultz probably in, and David Young dropping in from the Senate race. Still no activity on the Democratic side.

Here in The People's Republic, Mid-American Energy had to pay Iowa City back $531,000 for overcharges dating back 10 years. We tried to tell ya so back in 2005 with the Public Power campaign. That campaign was the most miserable, knew we were gonna lose death march I've ever worked on... until 21 Bar Round 3 last fall. That half million bucks Mid-American overcharged is pretty close to what they spent on that 2005 NO campaign against us and our puny 20 grand. Maybe they can cut their losses and take it out of Michelle Payne's paycheck?

My head is on football today and a couple non-Packer items: The Cowboys hired 41 year old journeyman Jon Kitna, two years out of the league and last seen teaching high school, as a one-game backup for the regular season finale. They lost, he saw no action, he gave his $53,000 one day paycheck to his school. Meanwhile, 2007 Heisman winner Tim Tebow, last seen on the Patriots' practice squad, was hired as an analyst for ESPN. And the 37 year old guy who took Tebow's starting job in Denver threw 55 TDs this season.

And a friendly note to my readers:

Most people's hobbies are invisible. Mine is visible by design. I write for my own reasons, on my terms, on my own time, with my own motivations, but it's not a private journal to be burned on my death. It's meant to be read. I've done this a long time - by coincidence I see this is my 6000th post in 11 years

For about a year and a half of that, I got paid. I don't anymore. That gain, and more importantly that loss, had an effect on my writing and my attitude. I was good enough, then suddenly I wasn't good enough anymore.

One of the other writers I worked with is just now resuming her writing after a long hiatus. She writes:
When everything came apart, I had no ability to separate myself from the work … and couldn’t chart a clear path back to that same work. It was as if I’d lost an arm or a leg and the only thing I had left within me was to grieve the lost limb. The woman who’d once toured the Midwest speaking on the need for more female voices in the public square was unable to follow her own advice. I lost my voice; lost my way. On top of all the grief, I felt ashamed.

What I’ve come to realize during the past six months or so is that I spent enough time mourning what was lost and it’s time to focus on what remains. I am no longer in a position that allows unfettered focus on what brings me bliss, but I should not deny myself the pleasure still available. It can’t ever be the same, but maybe it can actually be a different kind of better.
Barring that outside motivation of a paycheck, creativity happens when and how it happens. And - this is the point here - I'm not always able to make myself follow through on good intentions or write everything I'd like to write or attend every event I'd like to attend.

Sometimes, especially since I stuck my neck out so far on one in particular, people say I care "too much" about the "wrong" issues. Maybe so. I have more personality quirks than most folks. 

That's not to say your issue is less important. It's just that I have unique things to say about my issues in my relatively narrow niche, while I may have little to contribute to yours. But don't use yours to trivialize mine. If we apply that standard, that by writing you declare "this is THE most important thing," then no one has the right to discuss anything short of World Peace.

When I was a professional there was one story I intended and committed to write, a good idea that I just couldn't make work the way I'd imagined. My editors didn't berate or mock me, but they had that special paycheck motivational power and they pushed and nagged and finally dragged it out. It wasn't as good as the initial idea and I would have rather written something else. 

Readers, I appreciate you and I listen to you. But you aren't my editors. See ya when I see ya.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Dueling Caucus Messages from Branstad, Spiker

Dueling caucus messages from the Iowa Republican chair AJ Spiker and the Branstad-Reynolds (emphasis on hyphen Reynolds) came out Friday, emphasizing the deep split between the Ron Paul dominated formal structure and the separate structure of the governor's campaign.

A lot is at stake on caucus night. Branstad's campaign has long been organizing, handing out presidential style "pledge cards" at events last fall. It's an unusual effort for an off-year, but it's been a couple unusual years for the Republican Party of Iowa, and the roots go back to caucus night 2012.

Paul's supporters figured out that the presidential "straw poll" was meaningless except to the media and focused its efforts on winning central committee and delegate seats. Those are chosen after the presidential vote so simply staying late after most people went home was enough to win. That put Spiker in the party chair, gave Paul most of the national delegates despite a third place finish in the "vote," and dug a deep rift between the party structure and the donor/elected official structure.

That fight gets re-fought on January 21, but this time the element of surprise is lost. There are also electoral implications, as Spiker explained in his Friday night email.
Don't forget, delegates to the district and state convention, (who started out from their precinct caucuses), are the same people who nominated Steve King for Congress in 2002 and Kim Reynolds for Lt. Governor in 2010.

In 2014 these delegates will be nominating the Lt. Governor once again. And should a candidate for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, or other statewide offices not receive at least 35%, these delegates will be nominating the Republican candidate at convention as well.
Team Branstad-Reynolds, for their part, hit mailboxes Friday with a comic book-styled postcard (via Dom McDowell) with Branstad as "The Hero!" and Reynolds as "The Heroine!" "The Villain!" is, ostensibly, "big-spending big-debt Democrats..." but we'll be down the hall at our own caucuses. Maybe Branstad has another villain in mind?

The emphasis on lieutenant governor is... interesting. From 1990, when governor and lieutenant governor were first a ticket in Iowa, through 2006, state conventions just rubber-stamped running mates. But in 2010, primary loser Bob Vander Plaats tried to force himself onto the ticket and challenged Reynolds, Branstad's hand-picked choice, at the convention. And Bob made a race of it at the convention, an unheard of rebuke to a just-nominated candidate and four-term governor.

(Democrats also had a brief feint at a lieutenant governor challenge in 2010, as CCI's Barb Kalbach argued that incumbent Patty Judge was "too corporate," but the Democratic convention/leadership shut that down cold.)

So my read on this, and I'm not privy to GOP insider thinking, is that the various anti-Branstad forces, both the "Big Liberty" Paul-Spiker wing and the Vander Plaats social conservatives, either want to force Reynolds off the ticket or, more likely, take her and Branstad down several notches.

Terry Branstad has always been about Doing Business. He wants to cut corporate taxes, he wants to ger revenge on AFSCME if he ever gets a chance, and when the legislature's per diems run out he'll cut the deal on the most favorable terms he can get. He'd sign social conservative legislation, sure, but it's not at the top of his priority lists. The minimalist government Spiker group and the Fags and Fetuses Vander Plaats crowds are about purism and principle, not Business As Usual.

Reynolds, for whatever reason, is clearly Branstad's heir apparent. All of the re-election campaign's branding is "Branstad-Reynolds." In both official and campaign appearances, the two are almost inseparable. There's even widespread speculation that Branstad plans to either step down mid-term or, maybe even, abandon re-election at the last minute and try to hand Reynolds and uncontested nomination.

Just in case, Republicans: check your caucus packets for any mystery nomination papers. Remember, it's the Spiker-led party structure that's putting those together. And Democrats, don't forget we got caucuses too.

UPDATE: A public response from Spiker:

Wait: so I just got called a tin foil hatter by AJ Spiker?!? A couple hours after he retweets "I don't believe anything the government tells me"? 

Election Day in Iowa City

Most of the civilized world, other than America, votes on the weekend. The good news is Iowa City made an exception today and had an election. The bad news is only seven people got to vote for mayor - because Iowa City, perhaps unique in the state, has the council and not the voters choose the mayor. The worse news is Matt Hayek got re-elected.

And only six voters actually voted because Jim Throgmorton, bless him, abstained and said the voters should choose the mayor instead. Iowa City is getting ready for its every ten years charter review and I am absolutely serious about applying for the charter review commission. If appointed, at the first meeting I pledge to tear up a copy of the old charter.

So how do we increase voter turnout, other than letting voters actually vote? The Brennan Center For Justice has a long read, a 44 pager, on improving the voting system. For the record, I REALLY hate reading documents in little Scribd windows. especially pdfs. At least this one isn't scanned. In my perfect universe everything's in plain ASCII text. Anyway, the tl'dr version:
  • Modernizing voter registration;
  • Expanding early voting;
  • Improving management of polling place resources; and
  • Improving the simplicity and usability of ballots and voting machines, and publishing data on machine performance.
Of course, all these assume that your goal is increasing turnout and participation - and in this political climate, that's not a given. Mr. Schultz, should we increase the debt ceiling? "Voter ID."

Brian Beutler has the most important take yet on the Duck Dynasty flap:
Robertson isn’t a politician. He’s not a mouthpiece for a political party that needs to maintain a national brand identity. Rather, his remarks reflect the views of an American cultural subset the GOP depends on for its survival.

You won’t hear a lot of Republicans saying these things so plainly. But a lot of Republicans believe them. The GOP’s key dilemma right now is that it has to be a party for people like Robertson without letting people like Robertson speak for them.
And Which President Had the Worst Year 5? Tough call but I'd have to say Lincoln and McKinley.

Friday, January 03, 2014

No Colorado confrontation - yet.

The New Years' excitement over Colorado's voter-passed full legalization - "recreational," too many are calling it - of marijuana was tempted slightly by a warning from the next state:
Which raises some troubling questions.

The Obama-Holder Justice Department has taken a hands-off approach to legalization, both the civil unions of medical marijuana and the full marij equality (heh) of complete legalization. Not gonna say it's OK, not gonna say it's not, not gonna push the issue.

But this administration only has three years and three weeks left, no matter what. what happens next?

I'm just a clerk, not a lawyer. But even I know that if a confrontation between the states and the feds goes to court, either the federal law will have to get tossed...

...on what grounds? "It's a stupid and increasingly unpopular law" isn't good enough. Is it unconstitutional in some way? Does it discriminate against some people more than others? Is there no legislative remedy?

More likely than that, it becomes a question of the primacy of state vs. federal law which, under the legal principle of lorem ipsum dolor sit amet as established by Oliver Marshall Brandies in the Dread Zeppelin case, the Feds pretty much always win.

While that works through the courts, can you tell me that President Chris Christie's Justice Department wouldn't swoop down on Colorado and Washington and the California dispensaries the minute they could muster enough U.S. Marshals?

For that matter: Can you tell me that President Hillary Clinton's Justice Department wouldn't do exactly the same?
(Tangent: It seems Christie sent "holiday" greeting cards to Iowa Republican activists. The friendly reminder may help come caucus time, but the Santorum/Huckabee camp probably focused on "holiday" vs. "Christmas," in much the same way that labor folks look for the union printing bug before they even read the flyer.

I, on the other hand, did not get a Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hannukah or Solstice card from Hillary Clinton. Is that a lump of coal for the Iowa caucuses? Not to overstate my own importance... but if one "potential" candidate's doing it and another isn't, there's significance in the absence.)
You can't, because it's yet to become a live issue that national candidates not named Paul have taken seriously. Not anymore. Now we have, not a constitutional crisis, but a live and very serious legal question. You all know MY platform but I'm not the one you need to ask. This Colorado voter, a nearly successful candidate for county sheriff and a Doctor of Journalism, wants answers.
All the more reason for an open nomination cycle and process in both parties. State legalization vs. federal prohibition is a question that's going to get fought out in some campaigns between now and January 20, 2017, nationally...

and maybe locally. Via Facebook, John Zimmerman:
Anyone interested in replacing the current overprosecution (of people of color, of those who are poor, and of petty victimless offenses) with a truly progressive approach?

Zimmerman Announcement Regarding Johnson County Attorney Campaign
Wednesday, January 8 at 12:30pm Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A
"Announcement Regarding" not necessarily "announcing," but stay tuned.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Who's in, Who's Out

A fast moving news morning on the first business day of the election year. Must have been a lot of those heart to heart talks with families over the holidays like I expected.

Bob Krause is OUT for governor and IN for US Senate... US Senate 2016, that is. Krause endorsed Jack Hatch at a joint appearance and urged other potential candidates to steer clear of a primary. Hatch still faces opposition from Some Dude Paul Dahl, who in October told Johnson County Democrats that there were unspecified "skeletons" in Hatch's closet.

Krause only drew 13% in the 2010 Senate primary, a distant second to Roxanne Conlin, but has a high profile and decent credibility with party activists. As for the 2016 Senate races, Krause says if Chuck Grassley can announce this early, he may as well, too.

Republican David Young is OUT of the US Senate race and IN for the 3rd CD.

Ankeny Senator Jack Whitver is OUT for the 3rd CD, and IN for the Senate whip GOP post that Rick Bertrand vacated to focus on a possibly challenging re-election race in Sioux City.

Chris Hagenow is also OUT for the congressional race and probably IN for a future bid for House speaker - or maybe minority leader...

Most interesting, Matt Schultz tells his friends:
I have received a lot of support and encouragement as I have considered becoming a candidate for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. Next week, I will be making an important and exciting announcement about this race and my future plans to fight for Iowa.
That sounds like either an IN or a really exploitive tease for a re-election (non)-announcement. Though GOP activist Vinita Smith quickly replied:  "Please stay right where you are--we need you there."

Which illustrates the issue going forward for Schultz. I've seen him at a few GOP events and he's clearly a hero to the base on his signature issue, photo ID and "ballot integrity" (sic). But he also focuses on ID to the exclusion of almost everything else. That's OK for a narrowly focused job like Secretary of State, but how does that translate to the national, even global scope of a congressional race? Can't wait for the debates. Mr. Schultz, explain your position on the farm bill. "Voter ID." Should we intervene in Syria? "Voter ID."

My take is Schultz deeply believes that voter ID is why he got elected. The more likely reality is that he rode the wave of the best Republican year in two decades to knock off an incumbent. Still: that's more than Brad Zaun accomplished...

The big winner if/when Schultz announces? Brad Anderson. The Democrat has been up and running for Scretary of State for months and anticipating a well-known opponent. Now it's an open seat.  Does the GOP have a bench in this race?

Speaking of people who should be on the bench, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is IN with a new seven year contract, which apparently you earn by being OUT of the playoffs.. The big winner? Us Packer fans.

Five Boring (?) Links

Taegan Goddard of Political Wire offers the best, most concise explanation yet for our era's political polarization. I should engage it point by point some time, but for now it's a good bullet-point primer on the problems.

So is a magic moderate third party the answer? Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Designee Krist Novoselic, who's actually quite the expert on such stuff, seems to think so. But while I like the name "Open Source Party" so far he's talking more process than platform.

Politico looks back to when conservatives though a third party was the answer, in the late 70s; instead, they took over one of the two parties. And that's more my approach which is why I've been in the trenches of the Democrats for 20+ years.

If you're marking your new calendars with key dates, here's some key astronomy events for the year. We'll plug those into Upcoming Events which I plan to revive next week.

And are you bored? Kill some time figuring out which one of the five kinds of bored you are.