Friday, March 31, 2006

Somebody Please Primary Steve King

Somebody Please Primary Steve King

Yes, I know it's too late for 2006. But please, some Republican, gear up for `08. This man is an embarrassment.

"Have we lost our minds?" asked King, quoting a sign that he said he saw during televised protest marches in Los Angeles. The sign was held by a man with an American flag, surrounded by demonstrators carrying Mexican flags. "That struck me as the question we haven't been asking Â? have we lost our minds?" King said.

King and about a dozen other Republicans who back tougher enforcement of laws said at a press conference that they won't accept a guest-worker program, which they regard as 'amnesty,' adding that they intend to send a signal to GOP leadership. An immigration bill approved by the Senate would be negotiated in a conference committee with the House.

Anybody that votes for an amnesty bill deserves to be branded with a scarlet letter 'A' for amnesty and they need to pay for it at the ballot box in November,' King said."

Local Primaries: Bloggers Get An Incomplete

Local Primaries: Bloggers Get An Incomplete

My full report yesterday on Johnson County's contested courthouse primaries appears to be the only one in the state. Newspaper web sites, fellow bloggers, even auditor's sites, give few clues.

The only thing I was able to nail down: Story County has no contested courthouse primaries. That from the auditor's site.

I'll extend the homework deadline just this once.

All this after I updated the blogroll...


  • From the comments: Iowans for Feingold reports "In Marshall Co. there are 4 Democrats and a few Republicans running for 2 open County Supervisor seats."
  • Linn County has nothing.
  • Scott County has no courthouse races. Two GOP legislative contests centered on Bettendorf. David Hartsuch challenging Maggie Tinsman from the right in Senate 41. The House 82 half of that district also has Linda Miller challenging incumbent Joe Hutter. Of course, they're also in the 1st CD which will be hot on both sides.
  • Thursday, March 30, 2006

    Iowa Focus Group: Vilsack an Also-Ran?

    Iowa Focus Group: Vilsack an Also-Ran?

    Luntz Maslansky Strategic Research presented its findings on the '08 Dem field this a.m. to reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. Their focus groups tested Dem primary voters in NH and IA.

    Whole thing's worth a read, but this is telling:

    "Gov. Tom Vilsack 'is too focused on religion and spirituality for New Hampshire Democrats, and his home state doesn't take him seriously. The Iowa reaction was particularly telling. He should have a hometown advantage, but he doesn't. In fact, after viewing and discussing a Vilsack National Press Club speech, almost all the participants expressed surprise about his humor, intensity and passion. Apparently they don't see it at home.'"

    Confirms what I keep hearing in my ongoing focus group (daily schmoozing with Iowa Democratic activists). Vilsack does not have the universal love that Tom Harkin did 15 years ago. Iowa Democrats love The Caucuses more than they love Vilsack, and they're afraid that a Vilsack candidacy will be the death blow.

    The great miscalculation: GOP and Immigration

    The great miscalculation: GOP and Immigration

    A couple good posts about how the Republicans have made a huge long term mistake on immigration.

    Steve Gilliard:

    Latinos had been slightly more receptive to GOP pitches, but like Katrina with blacks, this is about family. This isn't some abstract debate, this is about cousins, friends, even kids. And when you do that, people take it personally. Blacks took Bush's failure in Katrina personally.

    Latinos take this personally.

    Once again, the GOP's base kills the GOP's future. The GOP needs some black voters. They need lots of Latino voters to keep any viability as a party. If Melhman didn't like Katrina, this has him puking. Because to two generation of young Latino voters, the GOP has said they are not welcome.

    And Robert Scheer:

    Because employers are not trained to play cop, they will simply be driven to discriminate against job applicants based on “foreignness” determined by ethnicity or accent. The more reasonable alternative shuns the criminalization of the undocumented, instead offering paths — albeit long, arduous and uncertain ones — to legal status for undocumented workers already here.

    Wednesday, March 29, 2006

    Johnson County Filing Deadline

    Johnson County Filing Deadline

    Here's the courthouse races in Johnson County.

    County Attorney: Open seat after 24 years of an unopposed Pat White. Two way Democratic race between Nick Maybanks and Janet Lyness. Both are running hard; read the back pages of this blog and you'll note their mutual omnipresence at events.

    Treasurer, Recorder: Tom Kriz, Kim Painter respectively; unopposed. Both had hot primaries when first elected in 1998; both have settled in.

    Board of Supervisors: Two seats. Incumbents Mike Lehman and Sally Stutsman are looking to stay on.

    Newport Road resident Larry Meyers is challenging, and identifying strongly on that issue (campaign materials feature the "Don't Tread On Me" flag that's become the meme of the fight). Will the road opponents be able to come up with numbers to match their intensity?

    Also in the running is John Schneider of rural Lone Tree. He ran in 2004 and came in 6th out of 8, doing well in the southern part of the county. But this year the dynamic is a bit different. In `04 the leading candidates were from the north (Harney, Dvorak) or Iowa City (Neuzil, Sullivan, O'Donnell), with Schneider the only one from the south. This time, Schneider competes for that base with Stutsman and Lehman.

    This is the only race where the Republicans are making an effort, with two candidates: newcomer Alan Curry and `04 contender Rich Benn. But that's not a factor in June. In November? Depends on who the Democrats (and crossovers) nominate.

    Bottom line: two hot courthouse races means high turnout in Johnson County. But don't get the formula wrong. High turnout in the most lefty county does not necessarily mean high turnout for the most lefty candidate. With the University just getting back into summer session on June 6, the students are a non-factor, and crossover voting means this electorate more closely resembles a city election crowd than a party caucus or convention crowd.

    Congressman Evans To Retire

    Congressman Evans To Retire

    Things just got hotter in the Quad Cities:

    Congressman Lane Evans, who has battled Parkinson's disease for more than a decade, announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election.

    Evans ran unopposed in last week's primary and was to face Republican Andrea Zinga, who captured 39 percent of the general vote in 2004. Now, local Democratic officials must decide who will replace Evans on the November ballot.

    Open seats on both sides of the river...

    Tuesday, March 28, 2006

    Israeli Exit Polls: Kadima Wins

    Israeli Exit Polls: Kadima Wins

    "According to the TV projections, Kadima would win 29-32 seats in the 120-member parliament, Labor 20-22 seats and Likud 11-12 seats.

    If confirmed by final results, the projections mean Olmert could likely form a center-left coalition to carry out his plan of drawing Israel's final borders by 2010.

    The hard-line Israel Beitenu Party of Avigdor Lieberman, who advocates redrawing Israel's borders to exclude Israeli Arabs, was expected to win 12-14 seats, making it the third-largest party in parliament.

    The Pensioners' Party, not represented in the last parliament, was expected to win 6-8 seats, and Kadima officials said the party was a natural coalition partner for Olmert..."

    June Primary: The Local Angle

    June Primary: The Local Angle

    Tomorrow's the deadline to file for county offices in the June primary.

    I've said it several times before but this is a big factor in the top of the ticket races. A lot of counties, like my own, are dominated by one party. In Johnson County the Democratic primary is the de facto general election for courthouse jobs. The last GOP county supervisor lost in 1962 and since then only two Republicans have won courthouse jobs:

  • In `72 the Democrats split in the sheriff's race; an unusually strong Republican won and kept the job till 1988.

  • In 1980 an employee of the Democratic Clerk of Court filed to run against her boss as a Republican - and was immediately fired. As a result of the ensuing hubbub she knocked off her boss. But that was a fluke and she lost in 1984 (the last year that job was an elected post).

    In counties like ours it's the local stuff, rather than the top of the ticket, that drives turnout in the primary. In 2004 Johnson County had had two hot courthouse races with open seats. This led to the highest turnout Democratic primary in the state. Not by percentage: by number of voters.

    There's some undervoting on top of the ticket contests, especially by crossover voters, but geographic variations in turnout will have a ripple effect on the top-ballot races. Conversely, the top of the ticket situation affects the local races. The Nussle-Vander Plaats deal means no significant GOP contests and frees local Republicans to interfere, er, cross over, to Democratic races here in the People's Republic.

    (Aside: This practice appalls me and I would prefer a truly closed primary without the "Democrat for a day" sham we see around here. I recognize that all trends are in the opposite direction - but it undercuts the integrity of a party.)

    I've seen some commentary on the variable turnout dynamic in the context of the 1st CD primary. Not sure how that cuts; Culver's father held the predecessor distict and was succeeded by Blouin. Republicans have a big contest so they'll stay in their own party; there's also a primary challenger in Maggie Tinsman's Scott County senate district.

    Near as I know nobody has looked at this on the courthouse level. Looks like a job for... the bloggers! Any co-conspirators out there know about any hot local races? And how does high vs. low turnout cut in your county in the governor's race? Looking forwards to your updates after 5 tomorrow, and I'll fill you in on ours.
  • Vice-tax hikes may be going flat

    Vice-tax hikes may be going flat

    The DI points out a factoid I didn't know:

    Only eight states have lower taxes on cigarettes than Iowa's 36 cents.

    Monday, March 27, 2006

    Russ Never Sleeps

    Russ Never Sleeps

    A look at the junior senator from Wisconsin, Mr. Feingold. But you KNOW the link is mostly for the headline. Hey, hey, my, my. Sounds like a mashup idea...

    Ballot Access News on Loebsack

    Ballot Access News on Loebsack

    There's no need, because the convention process is easier. But Richard Winger of Ballot Access News, the leading site on such issues, writes:

    Iowa ballot access for U.S. House candidates in primaries is severe. (Loebsack) could probably have won a lawsuit against the county distribution requirement. All county distribution requirements that have been tested in court, for candidate or party ballot access, have been eliminated (except in Pennsylvania). In 1969 the U.S. Supreme Court said county distribution requirements are unconstitutional for statewide petitions, since they give more power to residents of low-population counties than high-population counties. The 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision Bush v Gore reinforced the old 1969 decision. Since Bush v Gore came out, several courts have even invalidated county distribution requirements for initiatives.

    In fact, it's easier in Iowa for third parties and independents to get on the ballot for US House: 300 signatures from the district, no county requirement. Loebsack needed to get a total of 1716 AND meet county requirements.

    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    Register: Loebsack on the map

    Register: Loebsack on the map:

    Jane Norman of the Register says the 2nd CD is on the map:

    "Democrat David Loebsack in the 2nd District isn't on the National Journal top 50 list, but supporters are putting on a hard push, picking up union endorsements last week from the Communication Workers of America Iowa State Council, the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building & Construction Trades Council, and the Hawkeye Labor Council.

    Leach enjoys popularity in the district as the most liberal Republican in the House but still might have to break a sweat by October."

    Saturday, March 25, 2006

    Legislative Forum Live

    Legislative Forum Live

    9:33. A little connection problem but now we're live. Joe Bolkcom is already speaking but I lost the thread; also here are Bob Dvorsky, Mary Mascher, and Dave Jacoby. Vicki Lensing had work obligations. The GOP delegation is again absent.

    So Joe talked education. Mental health funding, Senate looking for more funding and levy rates for counties for MH/DD.

    Predatory lending: bill died in House, hoping to amend to an appropriations bill.

    Environment: Passed bill increasing littering fines. Water quality: addressing point source pollution from sewer plants. Concern from small cities on affordability of standards. Looking to double renewable energy credits. Looking at sales tax exemption for solar. Dead: septic system sale regulation.

    Environmental Advocates and Sierra Club are cosponsors.

    9:37: Bob Dvorsky. Education - meeting with Vilsack on K12 education comprehensive plan. Reform and resources. Looking at allowable growth, teacher quality, and early childhood. Vilsack wants something done this year... (well, of course)

    Regents bill "abysmal" 6 million when regents asked for 40 million. Presidential search: meeting with regents, he wants faculty to have involvement. Want a search everyone can buy into.

    Sex offenders: House stopped bill. Monday will work on compromise, looking for a good workable policy, not a political thing.

    Appropriations: trying to get bills out of committee, looking for global solution. Looking to adjourn week of April 13-18.

    9:41 Mary Mascher. We banned Touch Play (crowd says yay). Another bill would try to help businesses who bought into it. Vilsack meeting with Tom Miller to discuss prospects of lawsuits. Mascher - it needed to be done, people were offended by the rapid expansion.

    Education - will dominate next three weeks. Ed and human services funding is very low and we won't allow that to happen. House passed 4% allowable growth, Senate wants larger number. Dems will want to see that happen.

    School days vs. hours bill: Intent is to look at instructional time. Does not include recess, lunch, early or weather dismissal, and professional development. For 30 years Iowa City has had Thursday early release for professional development. Bill did not make it through funnel, but Vilsack is interested in this. May yet be negotiated.

    9:46 - Dave Jacoby. Commerce Committee did not kill predatory lending as much as Rants did. We discussed bill, but in the middle there were some "leadership problems" (i.e. Rants said kill it) but people in both parties are interested.

    I'm sorry for how low House education bill is; Mascher is leading charge on school funding.

    Hygienic Lab is looking promising for full funding on new lab (30-36 million). Human Services House budget is not what we need, but better than education. Increases in childcare, Medicare reimbursement. More dental and mental health.

    Fire training money, hoping to get some.

    Touch play got a little too much attention, wanted more on education. I did not vote for immediate ban, I prefer phase out. We needed to negotiate in better faith, hope we can work with these small businesses.

    9:51. Other co sponsor is Sierra Club.

    First question from League of Women Voters. Criminal Justice and mental health budgets.

    Dvorsky: House sent over inadequate budget. Underfunded some Oakdale programs too. Met with Corrections and AFSCME to get unified approach. I will tour Ft Madison next week. House bill looked suspicious, maybe they think I'll get the money back in (laughs). Larry McKibben is also supportive.

    9:54. They're cracking down on time limits ("no speeches"). Here's Nick Maybanks, Sierra Club Chair (and county attorney candidate). Sierra gave Steve Fugate (Hamburg Inn guy) a biodiesel grant. Some local coops can't sell biodiesel, fed regs. What can Iowa do to promote?

    Bolkcom: I've worked with Fugate on small producer sales tax exemption. Road Lobby doesn't like it; I don't think it will advance. Looking for more tax credit legislation. Biodiesel has a lot of legislative support.

    Dvorsky: We haven't done much with ethanol in last several years.

    Jacoby: Just started discussion in house on ethanol mandates. We have a clean cheap product, how do we make it accessible for consumer. Always comes down to $.

    Mascher: House bill schedules by 1/1/2025 ethanol should replace 25% of petroleum in Iowa. We get conflicting info on E85.

    10:00 Environmental Advocates looking at water quality. Watershed Improvement Review Board funding and REAP.

    Bolkcom: We need to extend REAP. Big challenge is fully funding; program is successful. Leg. not focused on water quality and we struggle. House did not take up septic sale. Sandy Greiner has blocked water quality issues for a long time (hey, where is she?) We need change in leadership!

    Jacoby: "We do have beaches in Iowa - we just can't swim in them" because of water quality. Fishing is a great tourism opportunity - but "don't eat the fish" is a poor message! We need to look at tourism and quality of life.

    Mascher: Ask these questions at campaign time and get very specific. Until we get Democratic control I don't see this changing.

    Dvorsky: Someone should talk about DNR funding. GOP has been trying to gut for ten years. GOP hates them because "they actually have regulations" and we're losing the battle. Smacks down Greiner again. (Where is she?)

    10:05 - open the mike.

    Bolkcom thanks EA for supporting Iowa City Bike Library.

    Janelle Rettig. Where are we really at on the budget?

    Bolkcom: We started year -500 million, probably down t0 450. We have 186 million new $$$.

    Rettig - are we repaying at all?

    Dvorsky - not much. Bolkcom: Looking at "austere" budget.

    10:08 - Supervisor Sally Stutsman on mental health funding. We expect fund balance to be gone, still no waiting list. What is short term fix and long term? Please give counties flexibility to address local needs. The cap gives us a real dilemma.

    Bolkcom: Some counties have big ending balances, some don't. Hoping to give counties with the most need more $. But that’s a band-aid. Either state has to pay more or give counties more authority. I favor the latter. Pennies on assessed value; state won't have resources.

    Stutsman: Changes must be sent in next month and will be immediate. What will you base fund balance decision on?

    Bolkcom: If under 10% state $, otherwise not? We're looking at 10, 15%

    Stutsman - Hard to plan.

    Bolkcom: What we did 10 years ago has worked but now it's time to make adjustments.

    Jacoby: there's stubbornness - if state would allow levy increases it's seen as "tax increase" but it's really just giving counties flexibility. We need to stop fussing with local budgets every year, local govts. should have flexibility.

    Mascher - what are we looking at for local cuts?

    Stutsman: possible end of brain injury services. Some services for children. That could prevent more costly services...

    Jacoby: How many people?

    Stutsman: 300-400 families. Also, we may have to look at all non-mandated services. We can't run at a deficit, and that means service cuts.

    Bolkcom - this is a statewide problem.

    Dvorsky - I've been hearing from families in Scott County too. We came up with $2 million more. House Dems tried to make it $10 million - maybe we needed a more bipartisan approach. Senate Dems have half the say, but GOP has full control of House. Some chuckles, exchanged looks between Reps and Senators.

    Mascher: In the House we often get more $ and try to make the case to increase Senate money. Our only chance to put these issues before the public, we were not trying to sabotage Senate funding.

    Stutsman: Biggest cut will be medications. These drugs are expensive but keep people out of institutions and jail.

    10:19 - Barb Hinke, Iowa City teacher. How can we dissuade Vilsack on hours not days bill? Divisive, and we lose professional development and prep time.

    Mascher: Senators???

    Dvorsky: Keep contacting governor. Do we have data on this? Don't think so.

    Mascher: Recess was a big topic. There is data on the importance of activity especially for K-3 kids. Huge concern that districts would even eliminate it if it did not count as instructional time. I guarantee districts will do that and it's a bad message. Kids need activity and exercise. Also: pep rallies, they really targeted that.

    Hinke: How do we enforce. Mascher: Minutes Police (ha ha ha)

    Hinke: Also concerned we will lose focus on arts because of emphasis on math and reading.

    Mascher: Was looking at exemptions for districts that do well - Jodi Tymeson (House Ed chair) uninterested.

    Local Control: "We like local control until we don't, then we won't/"

    Jacoby: We need to focus on teacher quality and salary, and allowable growth. You better let kids have recess; it's socialization and fitness. We met with education students - many schools in western US have given up arts and phy ed to focus on reading and math. Never let that happen here.

    10:27 Supervisor Rod Sullivan. State needs to set a "floor" of minimum standards - but now local govt. being told we can't do better than that floor level. State is saying "you may NOT succeed."

    Dvorsky: GOP leadership doesn't really believe in government, they wanted to keep it as tight as possible.

    Jacoby: We need to be efficient in government and our local folks do that well. But in Des Moines they think there's a lot of fat in government - I think that comes from inexperience in local govt. When I was on Coralville city council, we had to cut bus service. Open government - we want to make sure locals get that info out, but we don't do as well at state. We need more of that.

    10:31 Les Weber, retired MD. Anti smoking. He's giving the speech and gets cut off. Gets to the point: any way to bring it up this session?

    Bolkcom: It's viable to draft an amendment... but we don't have the votes. Nothing moves in Senate without bipartisanship, and we don't have agreement.

    Mascher: 13 Republican reps support tobacco tax increase. Rants is the big barrier.

    Weber: Asks for definition of "non-germane."

    Jacoby: Seeing so many people is having an impact. It's bipartisan; we just need to get one person out of the way.

    Weber: Giving speeches again...

    Dvorsky: If we get cig tax, we'll have to give up something. If we had 51 Dems, Rants wouldn't be a barrier. Bashes Greiner again... and Dave Miller too. Bob's partisanship is shining. Partisanship is underrated.

    10:37. I missed this guy's name but he's a teacher. Allowable growth.

    Mascher: House Dems supported 6%. Failed on party lines.

    Dvorsky: Some Senate Republicans wanted 6%, but leadership demanded 4. Senate Dems want 6. Bolkcom: "I agree with Bob."

    10:39. Water quality. 81 houses flushing directly into Clear Creek near Conroy. (Eew!) Iowa County refusing to act even though $ available. His visual aid is shaking and he makes a nervousness joke.

    Bolkcom: Small towns with septics or old plants need help. State should help. Cities say, "we don't want this."

    Questioner: "Does a kid have to get sick and die?"

    Bolkcom: We need a comprehensive approach, but there's not the leadership right now for that.

    Mascher: Iowa County needs to pressure their Supervisors to approve it.

    Dvorsky: You need someone who actually wants to take charge and do this. We passed a lot of protection with Dems in legislative control - and Branstad signed.

    10:44: Supervisor Pat Harney. Corrections cuts.

    Dvorsky: Trying to get bill up to adequate levels. We have good people running our operations. But it goes to Rod Sullivan's "floor" comments, ratcheting everyone down. Looking at a transitional facility in CR for mentally ill offenders, innovative program. 18% of offenders and growing.

    10:4 - Patti Fields, Iowa City school board. HF2733 - replacing school local option tax with statewide 1 cent.

    Bolkcom - I know school boards support. But not on ways and means radar screen for this session.

    Mascher: "If you're planning on doing anything wait till we adjourn." State is watching. I proposed local option income tax, more progressive.

    Jacoby: If it's statewide is it really local option? (chuckles) Linn and Johnson last holdouts, but have passed bonds. Would we be supporting schools that should be closed? Here in Johnson schools are packed. Concern about regressivity and "tax stacking."

    Bolkcom: Local option school tax was bad idea when it passed. But here were are where two counties haven't done it. Biggest problem here: we've already funded, with bonds. Must be careful not to look greedy, Johnson get hundreds of millions for University. Whole state thinks we live "high on the hog."

    Dvorsky: Whole idea was started because Sioux City wanted it, it spread. Should also change school aid formula. Some districts are property-poor unlike Iowa City. Why does Linn-Johnson have to be sales tax cash cow for rest of state? School funding should be considered separately from other kinds of funding.

    Mascher: I opposed setting up "haves and have nots." We should have focused on teachers.

    10:58. Nancy Porter, teacher. What will happen to starting age?

    Mascher: 4 year old kindergarten is dead in House. Was an option. K is not mandatory in Iowa. Vilsack wants quality 4 yr old programs for all.

    Dvorsky: Education Department has 4 yr old proposal.

    11:00. Here come the kids! Not as many this month: only 4 kids and only 2 questions.

    "What do you plan to do about women's rights in Iowa?" (spoken in unison)
    Homeless veterans. They're over the time limit but they got some slack.

    Dvorsky: We've never adequately funded Legal Services and domestic violence shelters/programs. Some shelters have closed. Homelessness - housing trust fund bill is stalled in House. "It *will* be passed."

    There seems to be a little House-Senate tension today, but in a friendly serious way as it's all Dems here.

    Jacoby: We need a comprehensive program to address needs of homeless. We've been dealing in short term "demonstration grants". We got one focused on Vietnam vets. But funding went away. We had 5-6 Johnson Co. vets left hanging. Program was paying 50% of wages and job coaching. If we're serious we need long term funding.

    Mascher: Marshalltown Vets Home needs additional program dollars. Domestic violence: need to intervene early and break the cycle.

    My connection is being stupid!

    Mascher: one of the girl questioners job shadowed me at the Capitol (applause) Please come visit us in Des Moines.

    Bolkcom: We'll pass a human trafficking bill this year. More allowable $ for nursing homes. I'm concerned about homelessness and adjustment for returning Iraq vets.

    11:13: For once we're out of questions. EA is making announcements. One more: Open enrollment and classroom quality. "It's not the hours, it's the quality."

    Mascher: it's a good issue to bring to school boards.

    Questioner: Some districts unwilling to change.

    Dvorsky: Many of those decisions driven by $$$$.

    11:17 and that's a wrap. See you all next month.

    (Maybe not: next forum is scheduled for same date as Dems district convention. Maybe they'll juggle the schedule?)

    Friday, March 24, 2006

    Blouin followup and a little Loebsack

    Blouin followup and a little Loebsack

    Just back home from event 2.

    A scrum descended on me very shortly after the Blouin speech and worked on tag team persuading me. Blouin picked up on this and joined in. A nice look me in the eye conversation, he repeated the veto line, I repeated the "I don't want a freeze I want to move forward" line. (Note to Drew in the comments: Sure, let's repeal parental notification. And I'm the dad of a 16 year old girl.)

    I asked about Rep. Carmine Boal's comments that he might be persuadable on anti choice bills, he dismissed that saying something to the effect of "let her try, won't happen." I should have walked right over and typed this up as soon as we were done...

    I'm still struggling and I'm not on board. But clearly Blouin has struggled with this too. And as I discussed this with folks at the next event I sai "We're going to be having this same conversation - what's perfect vs. what's possible, principle vs. pragmatism, in the Mill for the rest of our lives."

    That's politics.

    Also worth noting, and this is as close to objective journalism as I will ever get on this site. Maybe I got an unrepresentative sample because the Blouin troups were fired up with their candidate in town. But at the Loebsack event I saw a lot of Blouin stickers, and a fair number of Fallon buttons. But there was no visible Culver presence at all, and even when I asked, those in the know could only point to one known Culver supporter present. Locally, the Fallon camp is assuming issues will win out, and the Culver camp is doing... what? The Blouin camp is working.

    All the attempted persuasion made me late to Loebsack's event and I only caught the Dumbledore conclusion of the speech: "As your representative, I will lead when it matters, not when it's safe. I will do what's right, not what is easy." But I did get a lot of good fellowship and music and even a bit of pizza.

    Tomorrow is the last Saturday of the month, and that means liveblogging the legislator's forum. Will we see a Republican legislator this month? Tune in at 9:30 to get the scoop from Emma Harvat Hall...

    Bloggin' with... Blouin?

    Bloggin' with... Blouin?

    Who would have thought: Here I am liveblogging at a Mike Blouin event. Figured I should at least listen. And I've repeated the line "I'm just here to listen" a dozen times to friends of mine who really really wnat me on board.

    5:52. Andi McGuire is speaking, just finishing up the bio stuff.

    "Share Mike's priorities and values..." She's hitting health care, health care, health care.

    Lots of key party players here: two supervisors, the sheriff, couple legislators, past party chairs... TEAM player. I keep hearing that.

    5:55. Mike's up. Joking about the Hawkeye's lack of success to mixed response: the crowd loves Mike but they love their Hawkeyes... hey, Duke lost!

    Touting labor endorsements, other endorsements. And they say "Blouin, we know you can win." "And we know you can walk in and do the job without basic training." (ooh!)

    5:59 Education - "We've been living on reputation a little too long." He's hitting the plan points but that's not what I'm here to take in. What I am taking in is that word I used in the mashup: gravitas.

    There's just that one, big, problem with this guy.

    Education moves from K12 to the university. A couple challenger candidates have arrived.

    6:03 Human rights and government as a good. Does it come here? Yes it does. "No reason for you to be concerned where I stand. Declare an absolute truce on our present laws. Our fight will be on creating options..."

    Well, that's a better answer than last summer. But I don't WANT an absolute truce on choice, I want to move forward.

    More later...

    A Visit With Jim Leach: Why we Need Dave Loebsack to Win

    A Visit With Jim Leach: Why we Need Dave Loebsack to Win

    Guest post from Garry Klein:

    Yesterday a group of people including Mike Carberry and myself protested the federal budget the US Senate passed in front of Jim Leach's office. Because we were lucky enough to catch the Congressman in, we personally delivered over 90 letters from concerned District #2 voters who see the cuts to education, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor as antithetical to the values many in our area hold.

    These programs such as elimination of funding for the TRIO program--which helps minority/first-generation students to college, substantial cuts to Community Development Block Grants--which helps to fund affordable housing, and nutrition and Medicaid programs for Seniors to fund $238 billion dollars in tax cuts (which will mean $136,000 to a person earning a million dollars and $650 to the middle fifth (the 20% where the median national income falls).

    During the thirty minutes he spent with us, he shared a story of a conversation he had with Henry Kissenger (Kissinger wrote in his memoirs that he and then President Nixon had discussed ending the Vietnam War within a month of Nixon taking office). Leach said, when he said to Kissinger that he wondered what would have happened if they had followed through, Kissinger said that Leach didn't 'get it'--the reason it didn't happen was that the condition was to withdraw with to leave with dignity.

    The same could be said of Jim Leach--his voting record for budgets that are in line with the needs of constituents in District #2 show that he doesn't 'get it' and may be time for him 'to leave with dignity'.

    Congressman Leach restated his his long held concerns that the defense budget eats up a disproportionate share of funding from other programs, but also stated he would not commit to vote against the budget and specifically not, if he were the position to be the tie-breaking vote. He told us he would consider our concerns, but will he make his voice heard?

    We need a voice in Congress that will not "wonder what would happen"--but will take action to protect the interests of people in our district. Go, Dave Loebsack, Go!

    Meet Loebsack and visit with other Democratic Party activists (including me) tonight at The Mill. 5:30-8:00 pm. Dave Moore and Nikki Lunden will perform; free pizza and dollar draws will also be available. Suggested donation $20.

    The Invisible Primary Returns

    The Invisible Primary Returns

    ABC News relaunches its periodic conventional wisdom watch, The Invisible Primary, for 2008. One of the ranking points is Iowa:


    Mike Huckabee 1
    George Allen 2
    John McCain 3
    George Pataki 3
    Newt Gingrich 5
    Mitt Romney 5
    Sam Brownback 7
    Bill Frist 8
    Chuck Hagel 8
    Rudy Giuliani 10
    Tom Tancredo 11


    Tom Vilsack 1
    Hillary Clinton 2
    John Edwards 3
    Tom Daschle 4
    John Kerry 5
    Evan Bayh 6
    Joe Biden 7
    Russ Feingold 8
    Mark Warner 9
    Wesley Clark 10
    Bill Richardson 11

    Hotline On Call asks:

    Huckabee wins Iowa. Is it because he's the only credible totally pro-life Protestant in the race?

    I think it has more to do with his repetitive trips here. And I think ABC has Daschle way overrated for Iowa. I know it worked for Abe Lincoln, but losing your Senate race is an, er, unconventional road to the White House.

    SurveyUSA - 100 US Senator Approval Ratings

    SurveyUSA - 100 US Senator Approval Ratings

    Numbers, we got numbers, we got lots and lots of numbers...

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    New KCCI poll puts Culver in the lead at Political Forecast

    New KCCI poll puts Culver in the lead
    Chris at Political Forecast points us to a rare substantial primary poll:

    Culver 33%
    Blouin 16%
    Fallon 13%
    Undecided 38%

    What does this tell us? For Culver it indicates name ID, either on his own, from Dad or from people who are hungry for a butter burger and malt. For Blouin and Fallon, it indicates core support because few outside the core activists are tuned in yet. Despite the resume and endorsements Mike Blouin hasn't made an impact on the average primary voter yet. Both Blouin and Fallon need to break through that barrier.

    With four out of ten undecided, everyone has nowhere to go but up.

    The past goes up in smoke

    The past goes up in smoke

    An obscure junk store find last night, and a sign of the times: I uncovered an ashtray dated 1973-74 showing the Democratic members of the Iowa congressional delegation.

    First off, in the era when the smoke-filled room has been replaced by the smoke-free room, an ashtray as political chum would be way politically incorrect anywhere outside the North Carolina GOP.

    The faces on the ashtray include some of the giants who brought the Iowa Democrats from historic also-ran status to the modern, caucus-driven era. We held both Senate seats: Harold Hughes was at the end of his one term and Dick Clark was at the start of his. Another future Senator, John Culver, was in his last House term.

    Then there was Neal Smith. First elected in the 1958 landslide, the only Iowa Dem to hold on in 1960, and mentor to a young Tom Harkin. I always felt bad about the way Smith's career ended. He'd waited over a decade for Appropriations Chair Bill Natcher to leave. Then when Natcher died in the spring of 1994, he was interim chair for a couple weeks, but he lost the race for permanent chair to Dave Obey of Wisconsin. The Iowa filing deadline fell before the House Democratic Caucus vote. So instead of running as Iowa's powerful Appropriations Chair, he was the guy who was passed over - and he was a sure thing retirement for 1996. But his heart was never in that last campaign, and Greg Ganske blindsided him.

    As bad as that was, it's still better than the fate of the last face on the ashtray, Ed Mezvinsky. Things looked bright in that first term: knocked off longtime incumbent Fred Schwengel, a seat on the Watergate committee. But he had a tough race in `74, almost lost to some young diplomat named Leach. That GOP whiz kid from the staff of Don Rumsfeld and George Bush Sr. is still with us since taking out Mezvinsky in `76, and Ed went on to a sad end of mental health issues and indictment.

    Today's ashtray - maybe a coffee cup, or perhaps a commemorative plate without the offending rim and cigarette notches - would have a lot more black space between the gold-leafed portraits of Tom Harkin and Leonard Boswell. So this little receptacle is a fascinating time capsule of a glorious era in Iowa Democratic politics.

    Disney Must Have Bought The Rights

    Disney Must Have Bought The Rights

    "'Things are getting weird around Jupiter's new red spot--Red Jr.,' says astrophotographer Christopher Go. 'A ring inside the spot is now more prominent, and there are 2 big white ovals just above it.' Red Jr., in short, is looking a bit like Mickey Mouse"

    "I'm Sorry" legislation, an alternative to medical malpractice damage award caps?

    "I'm Sorry" legislation, an alternative to medical malpractice damage award caps?

    Law Librarian Blog looks at proposed legislation allowing MDs to offoer apologies to patients without triggering malpractice liability.

    Papers, Please

    Papers, Please

    The GOP-controlled House passed legislation late Wednesday requiring people to show identification before voting, an issue strongly opposed by Democrats. House File 2597, approved 51-48, moves to the Senate, where it will probably face opposition.

    "Probably face opposition" meaning "Mike Gronstal will kill this deader than a Chicago voter."

    Rumor is this is what the Republicans want as tradeoff for paper trail.

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Bad Cats

    Bad Cats

    The Furry Four get a public scolding for:

  • Knocking the rented movie I thought I had returned undet the refrigerator and costing me a late fee.

  • Knocking the bucket of food over, even though the food dish was full, and landing it just right on the full water bowl so that it flipped up, with precision worthy of Wile E. Coyote, and spilled itself all over the spilled cat food.
  • SurveyUSA - 50 State Governor Approval Ratings

    SurveyUSA - Governor Approval Ratings

    Vilsack at net +23%. He'd mop the floor with Nussle...

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    Candidate Mashup

    Candidate Mashup

    Iowa Democrats need a candidate mashup:

    Blouin's gravitas, Culver's money, and Fallon's platform. Throw in a dash of Sal Mohamed's innocent enthusiasm. Patty Judge's gender would have been nice too.

    You know who I wish was in the ball game? Dave Nagle.

    Political Wire: What to Watch Tonight in Illinois

    Political Wire: What to Watch Tonight in Illinois

    Illinois primary today. I should see if the rabbit ears can get Quad Cities TV...

    IC peace march: old media

    IC peace march: old media

    Gazette has pics including this one of Nick Maybanks (without IDing him as a county attorney candidate).

    DI has coverage including video

    P-C has a decent writeup and a list of upcoming events:

  • An anti-war teach-in from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday at the Iowa Memorial Union Northwestern Room.

  • A free concert featuring Charlie King and Rebel Voices at 7 p.m. Sunday at Tippie Auditorium in the Pappajohn Business Building. King also will host a music workshop from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday in room E146 in the Adler Journalism Building.

  • A lecture and discussion led by activist and media analyst Edmund Hanauer at 7:30 p.m. March 29 at Shambaugh Auditorium in the UI Main Library.

  • An international conference titled "Medical Consequences of War: Health Challenges Beyond the Battlefield" sponsored by the Iowa chapter of Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility. The conference starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the hotelVetro Conference Center, 201 S. Linn St.
  • Monday, March 20, 2006

    IC to mark war's 3rd year

    IC to mark war's 3rd year

    "Today, as part of the National Week of Action, the UI Antiwar Committee and Iowans for Peace will sponsor a peace gathering and silent walk for peace in downtown Iowa City. The demonstration - "Not one more Death. Not one more Dollar. Walk Against War." - will begin at 5 p.m. on the Pedestrian Mall."

    Post event update:

    We had about 200 people. I always wonder how to feel about that. It's a mixed emotion: the solidarity is great but we shouldn't need to be there in the first place.

    Despite the equinox on the calendar, winter visited us and the howling wind sounds in the late afternoon were almost haunting. Plus we froze our fingers off. Lots of positive horn honking. The only heckler? In an SUV.

    I've taken it on myself to report the presence of "politicians" at such events. Of course, everyone there is engaging in politics, but I'm using the traditional definition of "holder or seeker of elected office." So here's the honor roll: Dave Loebsack, plus both candidates for county attorney, Nick Maybanks and Jane for being in session.)

    Prez `08 Poll at DKos

    Prez `08 Poll up at DKos

    "Vote often and early for James Michael Curley" - old Boston slogan

    Also up for voting:

    Russ Feingold is holding a competition to determine which of ten Congressional candidates his PAC will support with a $5,000 donation. While all ten are deserving of course, none is more deserving than our own Dave Loebsack.

    You can help. Right now. Immediately! Go to Feingold's PAC website

    Time short for death penalty, bully bills

    Time short for death penalty, bully bills

    Second funnel week. Good things, bad things.

    The likely victims include legislation sitting in the House that would reinstate the death penalty for certain crimes, a Senate committee bill requiring school districts to have anti-bullying policies for their students, and a stalled proposal in the Senate to seek voter approval of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

    Other casualties are expected to include a proposed interest cap on car title loans, legislation fixing the start of the school year on Aug. 25, and a proposed ban on children younger than 15 from using commercial tanning beds.

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    Hemmingsen gets involved to make changes

    Hemmingsen gets involved to make changes

    Press-Citizen profiles the new chair of the Johnson County Dems.

    An In Spite On Myself Moment

    An In Spite On Myself Moment

    Last ten minutes of the drive back from a weekend in Wisconsin with my daughter. She's already dropped off. I'm on a two lane road stuck behind a driver doing 34 in a zone posted at 55. I rudely lean on the horn.

    So what song comes on the radio?

    "Life In The Fast Lane."

    All I can do is laugh and back off.

    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    Loebsack and the ballot

    Loebsack and the ballot

    It's a bump in the road, sure. But Dave Loebsack gets on the ballot through a convention.

    The ballot access standard for congressional candidates is based on top of the ticket votes the previous cycle. In a presidential year, it's easy: the numbers are based on the lower-turnout gubernatorial race, and the higher-turnout presidential caucuses usually take care of it. But in the off-year, the bar is based on presidential votes and thus is higher, and caucus turnout is much, much lower.

    The Register has a roundup of other contested races, too.

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    SurveyUSA - 50 State Bush Approval

    SurveyUSA - 50 State Bush Approval

    And it just gets bluer.

    Allison Seeks to Makes Sec of State Job Easier - By Keeping People From Voting

    Allison Seeks to Makes Sec of State Job Easier - By Keeping People From Voting

    On the occasion of the foot doctor's filing, here's a look at Chuck Allison's election priorities:

    "Allowing voters to vote without showing proper ID, expanded use of Absentee ballots and satellite polling have reduced accountability making it difficult to validate the authenticity of the votes being cast. I want to work with the legislature and the Governor to increase accountability and safeguard the election process."

    Now look at this excerpt from Mike Mauro's site:

    During his time in office, he has focused on streamlining services and making the office more user-friendly for the residents of Polk County.

    He believes in making government work for citizens and using technology to simplify services, cut costs and eliminate red tape for people seeking assistance from his office. He was one of the first Auditor’s in the nation to make voter registration and absentee ballot request forms available online.

    Mauro's front page has links to voter registration forms in four languages; Allison has a press release attacking Vilsack's restoration of rights order.

    Meanwhile, the other GOP candidate, Bob Dopf, boasts of his experience as the Bush 2 administration's "U.S. attorney responsible for monitoring election-related activities in the south half of Iowa for any signs of fraud or abuse."

    Obviously fraud is bad. But contrasting these candidates and their diametrically opposed priorities, I'm left with one inescapable conclusion: Democrats want to help people vote. Republicans want to keep people from voting.

    Are national Democrats punishing NH?

    Are national Democrats punishing NH?

    The Union-Leader's perspective on the DNC calendar:

    The national Dems seem determined to punish New Hampshire, apparently for being too white.

    Influential national Dem Donna Brazile's message on race was only thinly veiled at the session: She said talk of delay "reminds me of those days when people had to wait for their right to vote because everybody said, 'Wait. The time is never right.'

    "I'm not about waiting anymore," Brazile said. "Justice has to roll sometime, somewhere, in some way, and it starts now. I'm off the privilege notion now. I'm now onto fairness and what's right and what's good for our party."

    State Democratic leaders, who last fall were 'ready to do battle,' as Gov. John Lynch put it, now appear unsure of what to do next to try to change their national party's collective mind.

    For now, at least, NH Democratic leaders are leaning on Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who this week repeated what he first told this newspaper last November: "I'm going to set the date of the primary and do it in late 2007."

    So how does Iowa get way with being, er, "too white"? New Hampshire's being whacked. But we are commiting suicide - in the form of the Vilsack `08 bandwagon (a little red Radio Flyer last we checked). 2008 will be the last time we are first. The sad thing is, it's a no-win for Vilsack. He wins the caucuses, it's expected. But if he loses? He's dead and he kills the caucuses with him. And the governor is by no means as universally loved by state Democratic actvists as Tom Harkin was in 1991-92.

    So New Hampshire will break the rules and leapfrog. The DNC unseats the delegates. But that doesn't matter. The REAL question, as I've noted before, is whether or not the candidates show up. If the candidates stay away, like most did in the nonbinding 2004 DC Democratic preference vote or the 1996 Louisiana Republican caucus, then New Hampshire loses. But if they treat it like a real primary, even if the delegates are denied, then the DNC loses.

    Prediction: Iowa gets a final, meaningless fling in 2008, and 2012 leads off with a Michigan "firehouse caucus" (functions like an election but run by the party).

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    The Cost Of Incompetence

    The Cost Of Incompetence

    "There's a realization going around Washington these days. It goes something like this: If an administration gets elected by saying government is bad, it follows that they will appoint people who don't care about governing."

    Gay marriage opponents, supporters rally at Capitol

    Gay marriage opponents, supporters rally at Capitol

    Said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, an Iowa City Democrat: "Let's not use our constitution to institutionalize intolerance and bigotry."

    Harkin Backs Feingold's Censure Effort

    Harkin Backs Feingold's Censure Effort

    As we said in 1991, give `em hell, Harkin:

    Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) "has become the first co-sponsor to Sen. Russ Feingold’s (D-WI) controversial resolution to censure President Bush for authorizing an allegedly illegal domestic surveillance program," Roll Call reports.

    Said Harkin: "I think it makes sense. ... Quite frankly, I think we ought to have a full-fledged debate on this."

    Reminds me of my radio days: "Quite frankly" is Tom Harrkin's vocalized pause. Sounds better than "um..." or the "er" that Grassley uses. Once when I was editing down an interview I took all the Quite Franklys that I cut for time and spliced them - physically, with razor blases and tape, no digital editing way back then - into one long quote:

    Quite frankly, and again, as I said before, quite frankly...

    Anyway, at the moment I'm really proud of my senior senator.

    He Did It

    He Did It

    Sal actually got enough signatures to make the ballot.

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Punching the Hot Buttons

    Punching the Hot Buttons

    Looks like the session is heating up this week:

  • Chris Rants is facing a back bench revolt on the cigarette tax. Smokers are about as popular as sex offenders these days, but is Rants more beholden to his caucus, or his donors?

  • Touch play is doomed. There will be much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments but I expect the convenience stores and bars of Iowa will survive.

    Speaking of bars. It took me a few years in Iowa to notice a big cultural difference from Wisconsin: there are far far fewer neighborhood taverns here. There's downtown and college strip bars, sure. But Iowa doesn't seem to have the kind of corner bars in residential neighborhoods that are ubiquitous in Wisconsin.
  • Happy Pi Day

    Happy Pi Day

    Don't forget to celebrate at 1:59 and 26.5 seconds.

    Or for even greater precision:

    Also today: Monmouth and Hampton are the center of the basketball universe. I love the #64 vs. #65 game. The two weakest schools in the bracket face off for the right to lose to Villanova.

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    Just for fun

    Just for fun:

  • Bugs Bunny, greatest banned player ever: The classic game when the wascally wabbit takes on the Gashouse Gorillas.

  • Ruling Antarctica: "We've been conditioned by National Geographic and the Discovery channel to speak of Antarctica in hushed superlatives and treat it as an awesome spectacle of God's Creation. But it is worth pointing out that Antarctica is an armpit. By any objective standard, the place is cold, sterile, windy, dry, and has no night life to speak of. The nearest land mass is remote and windy Tierra del Fuego, which nevertheless comes out looking like Las Vegas by comparison."

    Oh my God, they killed Chef! You bastards!
  • Loebsack Supports Feingold Censure Move

    Loebsack Supports Feingold Censure Move


    Feingold’s resolution may be getting a warmer reception from grass-roots Democrats than it is from Reid and Lieberman.

    In Iowa, Democratic congressional candidate David Loebsack said he supported Feingold’s resolution.

    “In my district, there is considerable discontent with the Bush administration on almost all fronts, including the Iraq war, the NSA surveillance, and many other issues,” Loebsack. “When the NSA story broke, many were appalled that Bush would do what he did. There is a clear consensus here that he broke the law and that there has to be an accounting for what he did.”

    Poweshiek County and Writer's Block

    Poweshiek County and Writer's Block

    I have had the worst case of writer's block the past couple days. Spent yesterday in domestic world and reshuffling the parts on the junk computers. Now running:

  • The Linux Clock is now a Pentium 3/800 with 512 of memory
  • Also a P3 450 with 512 and XP
  • Another Pentiun 3/450 with Linux, some weird amount of memory like 360, and a dinky 4 meg hard drive is sitting idle

    The new blog Iowa Progress has a Poweshiek update: "Fallon and uncommitted each received 3 delegates. Blouin and Culver each got 2."
  • Saturday, March 11, 2006

    Convention Week 2 Roundup

    Convention Week 2 Roundup

    I took most of the day for a human being break that included a nice hike with my daughter. So I'm going to crib the work of others, with duly delegated link love:

  • The Woodbury Democrat reports
    * 15 Blouin delegates
    * 13 Culver delegates
    * 13 Undeclared delegates
    * Fallon was a couple of delegates short of being viable

  • Dien Judge also took some human time today but only after stopping by Wapello County. Nice write up, no numbers.

  • Bacon reports a Fallon win in Dallas:

    Here’s the breakdown for 53 delegates: Fallon, 23; Undecided 20; Chet Culver, 10; Mike Blouin.

    I think there's a zero missing after Blouin?

    Update: Register writeup.
  • Friday, March 10, 2006

    From the inbox: Mike and Andy!

    From the inbox: Mike and Andy!

    I'm sure most of the folks who readme me got this too, but for those who didn't the Blouin camp says:

    A month ago, there appeared to be some chance the nomination for Governor could be decided at the State Convention. But in the past few weeks, two Democratic candidates have dropped out of the race, bringing the likelihood of a nominating convention down to zero. Fewer candidates in the race for the nomination will mean that the Democratic Party can be far less divided during this Primary Election, which is what we need in order to wage a strong and united campaign against Jim Nussle in the fall.

    The Blouin/McGuire ticket wishes to build upon the unity of our Democratic Party, not to further divide it by splitting up our caucus to convention process with candidate preference groups. Preference groups are of course the hallmark of our Presidential-year Caucus to Convention process, but for decades the tradition during mid-term gubernatorial elections has been to remain united as one group of Democrats during this important process...

    Carter: Colonization of Palestine Precludes Peace

    Carter: Colonization of Palestine Precludes Peace

    Thoughtful piece from our Nobel laureate:

    The preeminent obstacle to peace is Israel’s colonization of Palestine...

    Especially troublesome is Israel’s construction of huge concrete dividing walls in populated areas and high fences in rural areas—located entirely on Palestinian territory and often with deep intrusions to encompass more land and settlements. The wall is designed to surround a truncated Palestine completely, and a network of exclusive highways will cut across what is left of Palestine to connect Israel with the Jordan River Valley.

    This will never be acceptable either to Palestinians or to the international community, and will inevitably precipitate increased tension and violence within Palestine and stronger resentment and animosity from the Arab world against America, which will be held accountable for the plight of the Palestinians.

    Pro-choice Iowans rally on Capitol steps

    Pro-choice Iowans rally on Capitol steps

    The politicos didn't turn out in Iowa City (with the exception of Dave Loebsack), but in Des Moines,

    Chet Culver and Ed Fallon, Democratic candidates for Iowa governor, joined the rally.

    Blouin was unable to attend the rally because of a previous commitment...

    Hmm, I think he made that commitment at least 30 years ago...

    Thursday, March 09, 2006

    Abortion issue heats up Democratic primary

    Abortion issue heats up Democratic primary

    Charlotte Eby of the Waterloo Courier plays the Iowa angle of the South Dakota story. The bluster from Culver is predictable but on target.

    But the killer quotes come from Carmine Boal, the wingnut state rep who carried the ball on the anti-choice bills Vilsack vetoed:

    Boal believes a new governor would give that bill another chance, and is optimistic Blouin might consider signing it if lawmakers pass it again.

    "There may be an opportunity, no matter who wins the governorship on this particular topic," she said.

    Does that, uhm, translate into crossover primary votes?

    So next time they ask me "Why don't you believe Blouin on choice," I can say "because the anti-choicers don't believe it either."

    Pro-Choice Rallies Today: Sioux City, Des Moines, and Iowa City

    Pro-Choice Rallies Today: Sioux City, Des Moines, and Iowa City

    Update with time change.

    The inbox has this from Karen Kubby at the Emma Goldman Clinic:

    Since the Governor of South Dakota signed a bill this week that outlaws abortion except to save the life of the woman, there are rallies planned in Sioux City, Des Moines, and Iowa City on Thursday, March 9 (that's tomorrow!!).

    The Iowa City gathering will be held at 12:30 at the Pentacrest. The rally's focus will be to show solidarity with the women of South Dakota. No Speeches are planned.

    Please come and show your support and pass this message on to friendly friends.

    Update: About 50 showed up on relatively short notice. Of the pols, only Dave Loebsack.

    Conventions, Fallon, and Parrotheads

    Conventions, Fallon, and Parrotheads

    I'm republishing some of my post-caucus analysis in this week between county conventions. I've rethought and come to the same conclusion, and my audience has expanded enough these past two months that some of you may have missed it. Just insert "convention" everywhere it says "caucus" and the analysis still holds.

    Ed Fallon is claiming "victory" but I suspect that's dubious at best...

    I think what's really happening is that Ed Fallon is a candidate who is attractive to issue-oriented party activists. That base is highly concentrated in a setting like an off-year caucus, and heavily diluted in a high-turnout primary.

    Let's say there's 15 of these folks in a precinct. Ten of them go to an off-year caucus, where a grand total of 20 people show up. That's 50%. That's great. So now it's June 6. All 15 go to vote in the primary - but 200 people vote in the precinct. That's 7.5%. A bigger shot of gin, but diluted with a lot more tonic.

    Let's switch analogies. Last year Jimmy Buffett released a new album. It hit the charts at Number One its first week - without making any impact on the contemporary music scene, and sank from sight like an old pirate boat the next week. And without a major hit in 25 years, Jimmy continues to sell out shows across the country. Why? Because of the Parrotheads. He has a devoted, loyal base that buys everything he puts out on release day (a cynic might say "that's because they're too old to grasp the concept of downloading"), that follows him on tour and goes to multiple shows.

    But in politics, you're not looking for the most LOYAL base of fans. You need the BIGGEST base of fans. And it's rare that the best is also the most popular. I could really stretch this analogy...

    Not saying any of this to diss Ed - I like him, and I may still go there. But I think we just need to be realistic about the relative insignificance of the caucuses as a show of support. It just mean Fallon has the most Parrotheads. But depth of support does not equal breadth of support.

    Pat Vunderink

    The Johnson County Dems lost one of the great ones this week.

    Pat Vunderink reached the end of a long battle with cancer Monday.

    Pat was one of the first true believers in Howard Dean and played a huge role in herding us Deaniac cats through 2003. I've been with her in primaries and against her, and it was always better to be with her. She spent years doing the behind the scenes work of organizing and fundraisers and a lot of what we did wouldn't have happened without her. I just looked through my old inbox and found dozens of do-this, do-that messages that are little reminders of all Pat's work.

    Here's an excerpt from one, sent two days after the 2004 caucuses:

    I am so proud of the Dean people. We worked so hard. If my Dean caucus reflected how other caucuses worked I am amazed. We had all kinds of people in our group: young, old, rich, poor, doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, mothers, disabled, gay, straight, etc. It didn't look like that in other groups so much. For the most part people were cheerful about being stuffed in a too small, too hot room with lots of organized chaos. So many people had never, ever participated in a political event.

    We all made so many amazing new friends. The staff in Johnson County was remarkable. We all became very close. I'd recommend all of them in a minute. I am so thankful for this past year. I think we even made a remarkable new friend--Howard Dean. It was a genuine tribute to our efforts and he pretty much started in Iowa City, and he closed his Iowa campaign here. I am thankful for his courage and sacrifice in doing this. He speaks to our hearts.

    I look forward to continuing this journey. We are not done!

    Send the good wishes of your belief system to Pat and her husband Hy Joseph.

    2008 Watch

    2008 Watch

  • Register reports Edwards in state 3/18 and 4/8, McCain 4/13.

  • Washington Post says Russ is staffing up:

    Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) has recruited veteran party operative Paul Tewes to help him begin the long process of courting Iowa voters.

    Tewes, who served as the political director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the 2004 cycle, is on a trip to the Hawkeye state right now as he seeks to develop a plan for Feingold to help candidates in the upcoming 2006 election.

    Tewes is an experienced Democratic strategist with ties to Iowa -- he ran Al Gore's field operations in the state during the 2000 presidential caucus...
  • Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    Johnson school districts gauging support for sales tax

    Johnson school districts gauging support for sales tax

    Big meeting in Solon last night. The ball is in Iowa City's court and there's a "good neighbor" mood about. covers the relevant history:

    Iowa City School District officials considered a local option sales tax in 2002, but decided to opt for a bond referendum after organized labor and the Johnson County Democratic Party came out against it, calling it 'regressive' against low-income people, board president Pete Wallace said. The Democratic Party favored the $39.9 million bond, which passed with 70 percent of the vote in February 2003.

    'They worked very hard for that passage,' Wallace said.

    In the Gazette:

    Wallace suspects opposition to a sales tax may have lessened in recent years.

    Iowa City school board member Patti Fields said it is important to begin looking for allies in organized labor and the county Democrats — groups that urged the Iowa City district to pursue a bond referendum instead of a sales tax in 2003 — to build support for a countywide tax vote.

    Judging from the heated debate at Saturday's convention, I'd say there's still significant opposition out there... it would be a lot easier to get the 60% for a bond than to get the 50% for a regressive tax.

    Patriot Act Reauthorization

    Patriot Act Reauthorization

    The key vote, the rules. 2/3 required. Passes by two votes.

    LEACH: YES. When it matters, GOP leadership can always count on Jim.

    Unfortunately, Leonard Boswell once again undercuts the partisan case. Wish he had stayed home sick.

    From the inbox, Dave Loebsack:

    You know what I would have done. There is no doubt I would have joined those who rightly opposed this legislation. I think we can all agree that we need to protect ourselves from those who intend to harm us. However, we always need to keep in mind that eroding our liberties at home does not make us stronger at home or abroad.

    (thanks to Garry Klein for the tip)

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    Blouin Bandwagon - Who's NOT on board

    Blouin Bandwagon - Who's NOT on board

    We all know Mike Blouin is the king of the endorsements this year, with roughly 80% of the legislature lined up.

    So who ISN'T on board? (Grabs legislator list, cross-references...)

  • Five Senate Dems including my senator Joe Bolkcom. The others are two from Des Moines - Dick Dearden and Jack Hatch, Daryll Beall of Webster Co. and lookee here, Amanda Ragan of Mason City.

  • On the house side there's the obvious exclusion of Rep. Fallon. Also missing from Polk are Janet Petersen, Kevin McCarthy and Wayne Ford. From the rest of the state:

    Dick Taylor, Cedar Rapids
    Dolores Mertz, Kossuth Co.
    Mark Davitt, Warren Co. (possibly Culver?)
    Mark Kuhn, Floyd Co.
    Paul Shomshor, Council Bluffs UPDATE: Des Moines Democrat commenting at Chris's site says Shomshor is with Culver
    and Beth Wessel-Kroeschell of Ames UPDATE: Drew says she's leaning Blouin

    Anyone know the story with any of these?

    A few notes to Blouin's webmaster:
  • I know the running mate is big news, but the front page makes it look like the candidate is surprisingly feminine looking for someone named "Mike." Also, Sally Pederson might take issue with all the references to "Lt. Gov." McGuire.
  • Your issues poll is missing one biggie.
  • My friend Bob Dvorsky (I don't always agree with my friends on every candidate) likes his two Iowa City precincts, but I don't know anyone who's prouder to be from Coralville. He'd certainly prefer that your site indicate so. (Update: they've corrected it. Maybe I've had some influence? Now, about that choice thing...)

    Of course, Chet's site is still advising us to caucus for him.

    Then there's Chet's other site. A cheap shot but I laugh in spite of myself. It's a meme - THE meme - that's out there on him, and he needs to defuse it.

    Clarification. I don’t know if these legislators have endorsed no one. They’re just the ones not listed as endorsing Blouin. Couldn’t find any endorsement info on Chet’s page, but I’m sure he’ll update it if he gets an endorsement. Presumably Fallon likes himself; I keep hearing that about him. Commentators have offered a couple more insights.
  • Tuesday short orders

    Tuesday short orders

    From the breakfast news buffet line:

    The Overrated One offers perhaps the Register's first convention mention and a mixed take on the Fallon showing.

    His idiosyncrasies rankled some. Such things are not as important as the Great Issues of Our Times, but over the years they irritated many key players in the political community. Today, they do not see him as gubernatorial material. Or electable in November. A good protest candidate? Yes. Iowa's Dennis Kucinich? Perhaps. Governor? No.

    Yet those same idiosyncrasies make him attractive to many of the true believers and left-of-center zealots who themselves often feel like misfits in a political system they believe has gone askew.

    Anyway, Yepsen is worth the read today and gets the reluctant link love.

    The Biggest Loser, Mike Huckabee, is back in Iowa and needs to update his pop culture references:

    "'In our lifetimes, we've seen our country go from 'Leave it to Beaver' to 'Beavis and Butt-head,' from Barney Fife to Barney Frank, from 'Father Knows Best' to television shows where father knows nothing.'"

    Huh huh, huh, we've been off the air eight years, you dumbass, huh huh, huh. He could have at least found an alliteration for South Park... But it could have been worse, he could have called them "Buffcoat and Beaver" like Fritz Hollings did.

    LiberalOasis has a straight out of 1996 layout but sometimes some good content. Take on South Dakota:

    Roe still has five votes on the Supreme Court (Anthony Kennedy is a weak Roe supporter. He has backed significant restrictions, but has refused to overturn.)

    The name of the conservative game is still to chip away at Roe (a strategy designed by now-Justice Sam Alito), gutting it gradually, because the Republican Party still fears the aforementioned backlash.

    The right-wing in South Dakota is freelancing, most likely to the chagrin of national Republicans...

    Looks like they're "freelancing" in Mississippi too.

    First primary of the season tonight in Texas. Key contests:

  • The rematch between real Democrat Ciro Rodriguez and the guy who barely knocked him off in the `04 primary, fake Democrat Henry Cuellar
  • Tom DeLay's first electoral test; here's hoping he barely beats his no-name primary challenges and goes on to the November race against TWO former US Reps: gerrymander victim Nick Lampson and party bolting ex-GOP one term wingnut Steve Stockman running as a vote splitting independent
  • The Democratic governor contest for the right to come in third or even fourth in November.
  • Monday, March 06, 2006

    Drew Says I'm Delusional

    Drew Says I'm Delusional

    You all knew I wan't REALLY demanding intervention from the Pope to convince me Blouin's changing on choice, right? But my fellow blogger Drew Miller, in critiquing my stand, actually goes a long way toward making my point:

    Blouin is pro-life. Not in the "personally pro-life" way like a lot of Democrats who still believe in abortion rights for other people - Blouin thinks that there should be laws against abortion.

    That, precisely, is my problem. Which is why, when I hear

    Despite this, he has committed to maintaining the status quo

    I have difficulty trusting him. I'm more inclined to believe his first reaction, back last summer, that can be fairly summed up as "I'm sorry we disagree, but this is a matter of conscience for me, now let's talk about other issues."

    But his analysis last summer, pre-Sam Alito, was "there's no way Roe-Wade is going to be overturned."

    Drew continues:

    Blouin can't just change his mind once in office. If he did, it wouldn't be a "flip-flop." A flip-flop is when your beliefs ostensibly change. Blouin's beliefs are clear already. If he changed his mind in office, it would mean he was just straight up lying throughout his entire primary campaign.

    Fair enough. So why not do that flip-flop now?

    Anyway. This is a good dialogue. Let's keep it going. Especially the part where Drew says

    Blouin is pro-life. Not in the "personally pro-life" way like a lot of Democrats who still believe in abortion rights for other people - Blouin thinks that there should be laws against abortion.

    From the inbox, the Culver camp pumps out a press release on the South Dakota bill...

    Setting the Bar on Blouin and Choice

    Setting the Bar on Blouin and Choice

    So I get asked, what will it take to convince me that Blouin is truly moderating his position on choice?

    Something like this, maybe:

    July 7, 2004: In a private memorandum, top Vatican prelate Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told American bishops that Communion must be denied to Catholic politicians who support legal abortion.

    While never mentioning Sen. John Kerry by name, the memo implicitly aims at the pro-choice Catholic Massachusetts senator and presidential candidate...

    Perhaps such a highly placed source is unnecessary. Though the pro-Blouin pragmatists would probably note that Ratzinger's last campaign was more successful that Kerry's.

    Don't get me wrong; I despise this sort of Spanish Inquisition attack...

    but it sure leaves you with no doubt about Kerry's position.

    Blouin is the one who sets the bar so high, not me. Because it was Blouin who revealed his true thoughts on the issue last summer, saying the issue was a matter of conscience for him. Now he's backpedaling a bit, realizing that his seamless garment stance is unpopular in a Democratic primary.

    But still, he gets to have it both ways: telling liberals he's shifting while allowing a nudge and wink, he's one of us to the other side. And because of that, the bar is higher. He's the one who chose to play that game, and in order to convince me, he needs to take a strong enough pro-choice political stance that it costs him something on the other side.

    Some bills survive 'funnel,' others do not

    Some bills survive 'funnel,' others do not

    The Daily Iowan, of all papers, seems to have the best funnel summary.

    The Gazette looks toward a more productive second half of the session:

    Rants said Republicans, who hold a 51-49 edge in the House, are ‘‘frustrated’ with the Senate, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

    Yeah, well, we're frustrated with the House, Chris. Pat Murphy just might have had an interesting opinion but the Gazette doesn't ask. The only Dem quoted is Gronstal, while both Iverson and Lamberti are quoted from the GOP Senate side.

    One of my undergrad professors compared legislators unfavorably to students: putting off homework till the last minute then cramming everything into an all-nighter.

    Meanwhile the Overrated One (no link love) writes one of his periodic eat your peas, let's be bipartisan columns, a quaint relic of a bygone era.

    What Does a Chinese Keyboard Look Like? - How they type in the PRC. By Daniel Engber

    What Does a Chinese Keyboard Look Like?

    I always wondered, and I envisioned a monstrosity the size of a kitchen table.

    And I was completely wrong:

    You use a piece of software called an "input method editor," which allows conventional-looking keyboards to produce the thousands of characters used in written Chinese, using the standard Roman alphabet keys on a QWERTY keyboard. The computer automatically converts the Pinyin spelling to the correct Chinese characters on the screen.

    Sunday, March 05, 2006

    County Conventions: Old Media

    County Conventions: Old Media

    Looks like I'm quotable, but only in the last paragraph:

    John Deeth, a county Democratic Party executive board member, said he was trying to decide between Fallon and Culver, both pro-choice candidates.

    "I like both of them," he said, sporting campaign stickers for both on his shirt. "My priority is to nominate a pro-choice candidate. It's a core value of the Democratic Party."

    He could have thrown in the url...

    Also Gazette coverage. And Brandon has another set of impressions from yesterday.

    Sure. Yesterday, I'm inside literally dawn to dusk, beautiful weather. Today, a full human being day, snow and slop.

    Saturday, March 04, 2006

    The after party: back in the real world

    The after party: back in the real world

    The perfect antidote and dose of reality: we all forgot that there was a basketball game and convened post-convention in a sports bar right by Carver-Hawkeye where we joined in a loud chorus of the Iowa Fight Song... hey, did we win? (yes; will have to remember to call my dad tomorrow: "Hey, Dad, how `bout that Badger game yesterday?")

    Last update from home. Funny side effect of a convention: I only got two emails all day. Because literally everyone I know was at the convention.

    Also: there was a shortage of non-caffeinated beverages during the day so I'm really jumpy.

    Slogging through platform

    Slogging through platform

    Typical of these events: the same six people value their own opinions highly and speak on every issue. Thus making things last that much longer. Nearly audible groans emerge as these people approach the mike.

    So many competing needs at a convention: nuts and bolts, issue discussion, positioning and persuading. And paliamentary procedure makes everything take longer than is natural (see my rant on life in the Culver group). "Gotta follow the rules" is a sure way to irritate me.

    I'm hitting the burnout point here; the worst of my work is done and I'm more watching than anything. I'm planning on being at district and hope to blog speeches there, but the late morning stretch when the top tier candidates were speaking was the peak of the credentials crunch.

    Polk County Convention and some results at Political Forecast

    IA-Gov: Polk County Convention and some results at Political Forecast

    Sharing the link love with Chris: Seems Blouin is nonviable in Polk:

    432 total ballots cast (as of speaking to my friend, there were still 18 outstanding ballots)

    * 163 votes for Ed Fallon
    * 149 votes for Uncommitted
    * 120 votes for Chet Culver

    UPDATE: Drew was at Story:

    1st Round:

    Fallon - 70
    Culver - 48
    Undeclared - 30 (me)
    Blouin - 18

    2nd Round:

    Fallon - 78
    Culver - 54
    Blouin - 34 (me)

    And by the time I got home, Ed had an email in my inbox trumpeting these very results. (I did hear a report that Linn did NOT have preference groups.)

    Killing time in the Culver group

    Killing time in the Culver group

    3:34. We agreed on our Culver delegates by the lower your hand method, but some young folks are insisting we follow the IDP rules. They didn't even want to honor my motion to suspend the rules, but they humored me and then voted me down.

  • Young self important person: "It's against IDP rules, we have to elect 50% plus one on the first ballot."
  • Me: "I don't care. This is the JOHNSON COUNTY convention."

    So I handed in a blank ballot. Then they acted like I made I mistake. "No, that's what I wanted to do. We agreed on our slate and we're wasting time."

    Anyway. About that strategic decision. I wanted to make sure Chet was viable.

    Annnnd.. They get the numbers wrong. How the heck do you screw up an uncontested election?

    So we get it done and start naming alternates. I'm on the put my hand down list.

    Guess I was wrong about Fallon getting more people without groups, huh... I heard reports that they had succeeded in the put your hand down method. (UPDATE: Apparantly they did but one person insisted on balloting. So they went through the same dance we did.)

    Now we're duking it out over a platform committee seat. The Johnson County platform always gets tossed at the district and state because we ignore the length rules. The length rules limit us to platitudes and that's not how we do things in Johnson County.

    I'm voting for the new guy over the woman who's been around a long time who is one of the only anti-choicers left. Ballots aren't secret so what the hell I'll blog it.

    "It seems as if they're trying to make this as tough as humanly possible. Why does this have to be so hard? 14 people, 14 spots. Seems simple enough, eh? Oh, NOOOOOO -- these girls are so anal that they have to stretch two minutes of work into a half-hour. I'm missing a perfectly good basketball game due to this." -- Josh Murphy

    The new guy lost.

    3:54 Now we're voting on all the uncontested committee seats. (yawn) I saw the Blouin group walk by maybe 10 minutes ago. "We've NEVER had to do this and it's my sixth convention" - overheard. Anyway a lot of good organizers are Blouin folks. Which, as a decidedly NON Blouin folk, is unnerving.

    Folks are now blatantly getting up walking out and ignoring the committee chairs.
  • Final Alignment

    Final Alignment

    Fallon 62 bodies, 28 delegates
    Blouin 39 bodies, 18 delegates
    Uncom 38 bodies, 17 delegates
    Culver 30 bodies, 14 delegates

    And 6 people who never did pick and are just out.

    It keeps going and going and going...

    It keeps going and going and going...

    2:20. After lengthy debate, endorsements in nonpartisan races OK'd. A carefully crafted purpose statement was shot down beause too many people said they "hadn't seen it." We took the cost-saving step of having people print out their own booklets for the first time. It flopped not because of the computer illiterate, but because people just didn't do it. I didn't either but I have the laptop handy.

    Been busy explaining the fine distinction between Uncommitted and Not Aligned.

    Discussion of platform is JUST beginning.

    First Alignment

    First Alignment

    1:45 and I've been busy.

    Fallon 60
    Uncom 43
    Blouin 36
    Culver 28
    Judge 1

    Plus seven people who probably think they're Uncommitted but are, in fact, No Preference. There's a difference.

    I made a strategic decision. Tell ya later.

    Lunch and Alignment

    Lunch and Alignment

    12:32. Still breaking out.

    Wonder what the Fallon strategy is here. They would likely have gotten more delegates WITHOUT preference groups, the way Kucinich did in `04: Wait it out, be the last ones there, don't put your hand up when the inevitable "who wants to be an alternate" question is asked.


    Most people seem to be drifting to Uncommitted. If either Blouin or Culver is non-viable, does that mean anything? Is the strategy to zing the frontrunners?

    Stay tuned.

    I'm in the calm before the storm here: I'm going to get hit with about 160 preference cards all at once.

    JC Dems Convention Continued

    JC Dems Convention Continued

    11:27 - of all things, the ATTENDANCE policy appears to be controversial. We just passed all the changes except that and endorsements so I am now officially Database Manager.

    11:30 - WE HAVE PREFERENCE GROUPS. Looks like more work for me...

    Culver's here.

    11:40. Mauro and Terry are here. One of the local legislators speaking but the buzz is the preference groups. Much cussing and "we'll be here till midnight."

    Completely missed Culver's speech. He's in interview land now.

    Loneliest person in town: the Rules Committee member who's in charge of taking preference cards for Mohamed and Yackle...

    JC Dems Convention Update

    JC Dems Convention Update

    10:14 - Very little time for blogging so far. I've been data entering delegates all morning so far.

    Completely missed Fallon's speech but I did say hi. Seems he enjoys my blog - thanks for reading, Ed!

    Caught one line of Blouin's speech, referencing Jim Nussle's bag on the head from 1991: "He still has the bag but his head's too big for it now." Overheard "he's got his Republican running mate up there with him." Had to get a ruling on whether lt. gov. candidates get to speak. Guess they do.

    Dusky Terry, Chet Culver and Dave Loebsack are all due soon. Every single county official and candidate are hare and so's the whole legislative delegation.

    10:35 - interesting: Andy McGuire appears to have been left behind to work us Johnson County folks.

    10:25 - Fallon left quietly, Blouin did a couple print press interviews. Chatted briefly with a staffer; still not hearing what I need. "He's got to choose between me and the right to lifers, and I need to hear something strong enough to piss off the right to lifers."

    11:02. Speeches are winding down. Getting to the point when we get to do some business. Platform resolutions bussing around: no local option sales tax, raise minumum wage, close Gitmo. McGuire just leaving, we chatted. I was right: it is her job to work us types.

    11:17. Discussing party consittution changes. An impeach Bush platform item is going around.

    The big constitution item is allowing endorsements for nonpartisan office. I'm for it. Also, my job title may change to Database Manager.

    Still to come: preference groups, yes or no?

    Friday, March 03, 2006

    Rants puts end to death penalty debate in House

    Rants puts end to death penalty debate in House

    Rants said he made the decision because Democrats appear to be unified in opposition to the death penalty, which means every Republican would need to support it for it to pass. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority. But Republicans are not unified. A small number in both houses say they will not support the death penalty because it would go against their religious beliefs.

    True, but a little disingenuous. If it weren't for the tied Senate, Rants would have cracked the whip and tried to shove it through, even in the face of defeat, to get that roll call vote.

    Feel free to scoop me today

    Feel free to scoop me today

    Gonna be off the grid a few hours here helping a friend move, so any big breaking stuff will be late today.

    Couldn't figure out which bills got funneled in and what got funneled out. Legislative candidate filing is likely to be slow today with the incumbents all back home.

    You may see a little live blogging from the Johnson County Dems convention tomorrow, depending on how busy Credentials keeps me.