Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Third Day of Filing

Well, uh, we didn't see any incumbent House Democrats file today, but despite the sudden departure of McCarthy and crew, a few folks turned their papers in on the third day of filing for the state legislature.

In Polk-Dallas Senate District 22, moving-in incumbent Republican Pat Ward turned in her papers. As regular readers know, Ward was paired up a district to the east with Democrat Matt McCoy on unfriendly turf, and announced on Map Day that she was moving west. The new seat has maybe half her old constituents.

Ward faces a primary from minister Rick Mullen, who filed yesterday. The winner sees Democrat Desmund Adams, who also filed today and who on the January 19 money report outraised both Republicans.

Three candidates who lost tough 2010 races are trying again. Democratic senator Bill Heckroth got knocked off by Bill Dix in 2010, but new House District 63 looks tailor-made for him. Still leaning red, sure, but all familiar and better than the seat he won in 2006.

Clinton County Republican Andrew Naeve lost an open seat Senate race to Democrat Tod Bowman by just 71 votes in 2010. Naeve announced for Senate District 49 early, even before Bowman's plans were clear. Under redistricting law Bowman could have moved in and held over till 2014, keeping the seat off the 2012 ballot. But Bowman stayed with Jackson County, leaving Clinton-based 49 empty. Naeve filed today for the only odd-number senate seat with no incumbent, which makes it the only two year senate term on the ballot.

Another candidate making a second try is Sioux City Democrat David Dawson, who filed in open House 14. He lost to Republican Jeremy Taylor in 2010 and gets almost the same district but without Taylor's house. Taylor filed yesterday in House 13 where he'll likely face Democrat Chris Hall in the only two House incumbent general election matchup.

Cara Kennedy-Ode is the first Democrat to file in what will be a crowded House District 36 field. Several other candidates have announced, enough where this one could see a convention, with no one getting the required 35%. Janet Petersen is leaving this solid blue Des Moines seat for the overlapping open Senate District 18.

New to Me: Dunlap mayor Bernard Murphy flew under my radar a couple months back when he announced in House District 18. He's the second announced Democrat along with Kasey Friedrichsen of Denison. The incumbent is Republican Jason Schultz.

Carol Miller of rural Ankeny showed up at a bipartisan training for women candidates back in January, but from the article her party and district weren't clear. Now she's official: a Republican in open House District 30, the Kim Pearson seat where tea partier Jim Carley filed yesterday.

And finally, in a semi-routine incumbent filing, Council Bluffs Republican Mary Ann Hanusa filed for a second term in House 16. She was paired up with fellow GOP freshman Mark Brandenburg, but she called first dibs on staying put and he agreed, late, to move into the less appealing but open House 15.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day 2 of Filing

The festival of filing continued today at the Secretary of State's office, with a few more names that I'd somehow missed:

Davenport tea partier Mark Nelson, who was the 2006 Libertarian nominee for lieutenant governor. He's now on the ballot as a Republican in House District 93, a swing seat held by two term Democrat Phyllis Thede.

In another new-to-me filing, Imogene farmer Mark Costello filed in empty House District 23 in the state's southwest corner.

Republican Dean Fisher of Garwin is the first name to surface in Tama-based House District 72, where GOP incumbent Lance Horbach announced his retirement before the map even came out.

Larry Sheets of Moulton filed in House District 80, centered in Monroe County with no incumbent. Democrat Joe Judge is running here.

Bloomfield's James Johnson, last spotted on Team Bachmann, is on the ballot for House 82, now held by Fairfield Democrat Curt Hanson.

Two Republicans who lost 2010 primaries are making another try. Waterloo Republican Lyn Tackett in House District 61 lost to former mayor John Rooff, who in turn lost to Anesa Kajtazovic in November. Home schooler Sandy Salmon filed in Bremer based no-incumbent House 63, where Dems have recruited former senator Bill Heckroth.

In stuff I already expected:

Knoxville Democrat Dick Schrad filed in open Senate District 14, the seat ex-Republican leader Paul McKinley is vacating.

Clive minister Jeff Mullen filed today to challenge GOP incumbent* Pat Ward in Senate District 22. * = Ward moved into the seat to avoid a pair-up with Democrat Matt McCoy. About half of the district was her turf in the old map.

The first of FOUR expected Democrats in Senate District 42, Rich Taylor of Mt. Pleasant, has filed. That's the seat where longtime Democratic incumbent Gene Fraise is retiring.

Dan Zumbach of Ryan is the first Republican in for empty Senate District 48. This seat is also home to failed Battle of Marion Senate candidate Cindy Golding -- will she follow through here? UPDATE: Guess not: at last week's Linn Co GOP meeting Golding announced she was NOT running and backed Zumbach (thanks: Don McDowell) Dems are running Lisbon Rep. Nate Willems.

In House District 8, which had THREE incimbents on Map Day, we have a primary challenger, as minister Bob Dishman files. Dishman's looking to knock off the Republican left in the district, Henry Rayhons.

Tea party-ish Jim Carley filed in Altoona-based House District 30, where conservative crusader Kim Pearson is stepping down after just one term.

Davenport city council member Bill Edmonds (R) filed to challenge Democrat Jim Lykam in House District 93.

Routine incumbent filing was led by Senate GOP leader Jerry Behn in Senate District 24. In not-so-routine incumbent filing, Sioux City freshman Republican Jeremy Taylor filed for House District 13. He's expected to face first-term Democrat Chris Hall in the only two-incumbent House general election matchup.

Other incumbents who stopped by:

  • Republican Randy Feenstra has the reddest seat in the Senate, District 2; went completely unopposed for his first term, both general AND primary, in 2008.

  • Half-term GOP Sen. Joni Ernst won a January 2011 special to replace Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. Now on significantly changed but still solidly red turf, she filed for a first full term in Senate District 12.

  • Fellow GOP Senator Tim Kapucian is also on significantly changed turf in Senate District 38, except his seat got a lot more Democratic.

  • Safe northwest Republican Chuck Soderberg is in for another term in House District 5

  • Stand your ground: Missouri Valley's Matt Windschitl constitutionally filed for a fourth term in House District 17

  • Osceola freshman Joel Fry for a second term in House District 27

  • Peter Cownie of West Des Moines in House District 42

  • First term Republican Bob Hager filed in Allamakee-Clayton based House 56.

  • Two freshman House Republicans avoid redistricting pair-ups. Guy Vander Linden filed in Pella-Oskaloosa House 79, where Jim Van Engelenhoeven retired. Lee Hein of Monticello moved back into his district, House 96; his house was in House 58 where Brian Moore is staying and running.

  • Dubuque's Pat Murphy, who as then-Speaker got a close call in 2010, is looking for another term in House 99.
  • Schwab Announces in House 73

    Solon school board member and former NCS executive Dick Schwab has jumped into the House District 73 race, which means Johnson County will see at least one Democratic primary contest this June.

    Schwab has a high philanthropy profile in Johnson County and was the Press-Citizen's Person Of The Year in 2001. He's also well known for hosting weddings at his "Celebration Barn," which has put him at the center of several hot county zoning fights.

    Schwab will face off in the primary with former West Branch city council member David Johnson, who announced soon after Map Day and filed yesterday, the first day candidates could turn in their papers to the Secretary of State. But the rumor mill says some local Democrats weren't optimistic about Johnson's chances.

    The June 5 primary winner will be trying to replace Republican Jeff Kaufmann, first elected in 2004 and now a top member of House GOP leadership. The district covers all of Cedar County, Scott Township and Greater Metro Solon in Johnson, and the GOP stronghold of Wilton in Muscatine County. Overall the seat leans slightly Democratic, in large part because of the larger chunk of Johnson County.

    As for the primary dynamic, the population breaks out about 60% Cedar County, 30 Johnson and 10 Muscatine. That's population, not Democratic primary turnout. Mileage may vary depending on what other contested races we see, if any.

    Monday, February 27, 2012

    First Day of Filing

    Locals Johnson, Sherman among first group

    Two local legislative candidates turned their paperwork in to the Secretary of State on today's first day of filing.

    West Branch Democrat David Johnson has filed in House District 73, now held by Republican Jeff Kaufmann. The seat covers all of Cedar County, Scott Township and Greater Metro Solon in Johnson, and the GOP stronghold of Wilton in Muscatine County. Overall the seat leans slightly Democratic.

    In no-incumbent House 77 in western and southern Johnson County, North Liberty Republican Steve Sherman is officially in. He's likely to face Democratic county supervisor Sally Stutsman in this strong Democratic seat.

    Matt Schultz is continuing the tradition that dates back to the dawn of the net in the Paul Pate administration: daily candidate lists (pdf, bookmark-n-save). I'm more OCD (Obsessively Compulsive about Districts) more than anyone, but dang it if there STILL weren't a couple new (to me) legislative candidates whose names I hadn't seen before who filed on Day One.

  • Republican Steven Everly of Knoxville is running in open Senate District 14, the Paul McKinley seat. He works for a lighting company and his biggest internet footprint is a lawsuit the company filed against the Knoxville school district. He'll have a primary against Wayne County Supervisor Amy Sinclair. Democrat Dick Schrad, the former Knoxville City Manager, will face the winner.

  • Rick McClure of Ottumwa is again trying to challenge Democrat Mary Gaskill in House 81. He ran as an independent in 2008; now he's filed on the GOP line. He'll have to get through a primary with Blake Smith, who also filed.

    Another now-official primary is in House District 7, where Republicans Mark Frakes and Tedd Gassman will face off for the right to challenge freshman Democrat John Wittneben, a narrow winner last time.

    The early birds included a trio of youthful Republicans who'd already announced:

  • Megan Hess of Spencer, a former Steve King intern, in open House District 2
  • Maison Bleam of Rockwall City, the former UI student government president, filed in House 10, where he's primary-ing GOP freshman Tom Shaw.
  • And Dane Nealson in Ames-based House 45 (Beth Wessel-Kroeschell's seat).

    Other expected early birds included:
  • Adel Republican Jake Chapman in open Senate District 10
  • Attorney Jeff Wright in the Ankeny This Is Where Your District Went seat, open House 37
  • Cedar Rapids Democrat Art Staed won one House term in 2006, then lost a 13 vote squeaker to Renee Schulte. He's now trying to knock her off in House 66, and the turf looks better for him than it did last time.

    In routine incumbent filing:
  • In the safest red seat in the state, Sioux County's House 4, Republican Dwayne Alons files for another term.
  • We also have the Republican incumbent with the bluest seat, Zwingle's Brian Moore in House 58. He's looking at a rematch with the Democrat he upset, Tom Schueller.
  • Marshalltown Democrat Mark Smith in House 71
  • GOP freshman Jarad Klein of Keota in Washington-Keokuk county based House 78, where he dodged a redistricting pair-up when fellow GOPer Betty DeBoef retired
  • Republican Steve Olson of DeWitt in House 97
  • And we three Scott County House incumbents: Democrat Jim Lykam in House 89, Republican Ross Paustian in House 92, and Republican Linda Miller in 94.

    And this one is an announcement but NOT a filing: Republican Greg Grupp, a Sioux City banker, in open House District 14. That's fellow Republican Jeremy Taylor's district without his house; Taylor is staying put in House 13 where he faces the state's only two incumbent House general election matchup against Democrat Chris Hall.

    Oh, yeah. Almost forgot. A couple of dudes named Boswell and Latham filed.

    The pattern is pretty consistent in this filing thing: A flurry of activity on Day One, then very little action the rest of the week and through Week Two. The filingy starts to pick up again at the beginning of Week 3, the surprises start on about Wednesday, and all hell breaks loose Friday afternoon.

    My goal the next three weeks is a daily update, though I may skip a day if it's really dead. If you file on a slow day, you might get a bigger Deeth Blog writeup. And my usual griping about You Only Get One Announcement doesn't apply: a filing is a filing. But you get no story for an announcement "announce" AFTER you file.

    I'm simultaneously working on the District Of The Day reboot. Hoping to hit with that ASAP after the March 16 filing deadline. I haven't decided on format and frequency yet; if I actually did a district a DAY the primary would be over well before I reached Chuck Isenhart and Pat Murphy in Dubuque's House 99 and 100. House Seat of the Hour, maybe? Senator of the Second?
  • Michigan Cheating More Ways Than One

    The last of the calendar cheaters will vote tomorrow. As I note every chance I get, both parties agreed to a set of rules that barred any contestst before Tuesday, March 6, except for four designated February states, in this order: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina.

    So tomorrow is really supposed to be South Carolina's day. That Newt Gingrich win seems like ancient history now, doesn't it? Instead, the voting will be in chronic calendar cheating Michigan, and in Arizona, which shares much of the blame for yet another insanely early calendar this cycle. (Florida used Arizona as an excuse to move their date into January, and thus the dominoes fell with us landing yet again on January 3.)

    I was going to give Muchigan Democrats just the slightest bit of credit. They had no say over the primary date, as state government is completely in Republican hands. They're even paying lip service to the calenday; the Democratic primary is a beauty contest and delegates will be chosen in May caucuses instead.

    But no, the Michigan Democrats had to go and screw up again. This fascinating Slate article, which explains some of the complications of list management and get out the vote in a state without party registration, notes that Michigan Democrats are playing fast and loose with some other rules:
    Some Obama supporters will choose to cast a ballot in the other party’s primary, perhaps with the goal of humiliating erstwhile favorite son Mitt Romney—much as Rush Limbaugh did in 2008 when he encouraged his listeners in Ohio to take advantage of open primaries by supporting Hillary Clinton to derail Obama’s march to the nomination, a project Limbaugh called Operation Chaos. Such efforts last week received the blessing of Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer, who sent an email to his party list letting Democrats know they were eligible to participate in the opposition’s nominating contest.
    Regular readers are well familiar with my periodic rants about the ethics of messing with another party's nomination process. I think it's wrong, but you've got the right to do the wrong thing.


    Michigan Democratic chair Mark Brewer -- NOT the guy from Flint's Grand Funk Railroad, that was Mark FARNER and DON Brewer -- asserts: "Any Democrat who takes Senators Jones and Meekhof up on their offer will still be able to participate in the Michigan Democratic Party’s presidential caucuses on May 5, 2012." (The cite is from notorious Iowa hater Markos Moulitas himself; he's encouraging crossovers as "Operation Hilarity.")

    Let's look at what the national party rules actually say:
    Rule 2.E

    No person shall participate or vote in the nominating process for a Democratic presidential candidate who also participates in the nominating processes of any other party for the corresponding election.
    Hmm. Maybe Michigan wouldn't find so much "hilarity" in crossover voting if its entire national convention delegation was challenged... Sure, Carl Levin and Debbie Dingell, we'll seat you. You just have to say "Iowa first forever!" I didn't hear you. Louder! Now say "New Hampshire Rules, Michigan Drools." Then write 50 times on the blackboard: "I will not vote before the first week of March. I will not vote before the first week of March. I will not vote before the first week of March..."

    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    Democrat Routh Running in House 25

    By now the sorts of people who read Iowa political blogs are all cued in to the fact that new Democratic House candidate Katie Routh has a famous son, right? Since that's taken care of let's look at the district.

    House 25 keeps Madison County intact, and that's just over 50% of the population. The other half is two separate chunks of Warren County. The biggest change is the addition of a northern piece that includes Routh's base in Norwalk. There's also a reconfigured a southern rural piece that skirts south of Indianola. That's where first term GOP incumbent Julian Garrett lives.

    Garrett lost a close 2006 Senate race to Democrat Staci Appel, then came back in 2010 to take this House seat over a late-starting Democrat when longtime Republican Rep. Jodi Tymeson retired.

    The new turf has a post-caucus GOP registration edge of about 1500, up about 500 from the Map Day numbers. (The GOP registration totals are puffed about as high as they're going to get right now; insert my standard disclaimers that the trend simply indicate which party has had the most interesting recent internal contest.) So, uphill for Democrats, but worth a serious effort.

    Other legislative contest news:

  • Bleeding Heartland looks at the House 56 contest in the northeast corner between GOP freshman Bob Hager and Democrat Patti Ruff.

  • Now THIS is how re-election announcements should be done:
    State Rep. Mark Lofgren said he doesn’t need to call a press conference to announce he’s running for re-election this fall.

    “Consider this my formal announcement,” the freshman legislator said by telephone from the state Capitol late Wednesday afternoon.

    Lofgren, R-Muscatine, has so far drawn one opponent for the November election — Democrat John Dabeet, a professor of economics and statistics at Muscatine Community College.
    None of this announcing that I'm going to announce dog and pony show, no Formal Announcement several months after the first story or, even worse, after the candidate has filed to get on the ballot.
  • Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    The Bob Dole Scenario

    Journalists and political junkies, quit fantasizing. Your dream of a contested Republican convention won't happen. None of the four surviving candidates is going to stand down for a Mighty Mouse Here I Come To Save The Day candidate.

    But that leaves the GOP with a serious dilemma. They're stuck with the unlovable Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, and the extremist Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Well, Newt and Mitt have been sounding pretty extreme lately, too. Every indication is that these four will keep battering each other throughthe nomination process.

    But from there things look more familiar. One of these guys, other than Paul, will end up with the devalued prize of the Republican nomination. What does the party do then?

    The answer is both remarkably cynical, realpolitik practical, and very familiar. The sports analogies are over-used, but Hunter Thompson used them where applicable so I will too. Fourth down and long? You punt and play for field position. Call it the Bob Dole Scenario.

    I was a downballot candidate in 1996 and I felt the wind go out of the Republican sails the minute Bill Clinton signed welfare reform. As a Johnson County lefty I cringed, but in the places I was running they loved it.

    This left Republicans with one of their biggest issues off the table. They were already saddled with a candidate who was respected but not loved in Bob Dole.

    One upside of the post-1960s polarization of the parties is that there are fewer and fewer independent voters left. The independents who lean one way or the other may still CALL themselves "independent" because journalists teach them that's a good thing to call yourself, but functionally they vote as partisans. In modern terms, 2008 was a landslide. Barack Obama's 53% and John McCain's 46% probably represent the high and low marks for a major party. That is, 92% of the electorate already has their mind made up to vote for Obama or the Republican nominee in a two way race.

    (And it IS going to be a two way race. The much-ballyhooed Americans Elect project, in which the raging moderates are supposed to save us from ourselves, is doomed to failure without a prominent, Perot-like candidate. One guess who's leading their online nomination poll? That's right, Ron Paul of course. And he's not going to defect and damage the future prospect of his son. How libertarian can you get -- you name your son Rand?)

    Let me tell you the dirty little secret about "independents." By and large they're not the thoughtful and serious type who "study the candidates." They're usually the least likely and least informed voters who are the most susceptible to the weakest arguments. They say they hate negative ads... but they're persuaded by them. They're the Which Candidate Would I Want To Have A Beer With vote.

    And they're the most likely to buy into the American fallacy of split ticket voting, then complain afterwards when the two parties -- who fundamentally disagree on almost all important issues -- can't "work together" and "compromise."

    This, the likely Republican strategy for the fall.

    Along about August 1996, the GOP realized that Bob Dole wasn't going to happen. So they pretty much openly scuttled him. This was just two years after the 1994 congressional takeover, and Republican control of Congress was still in doubt. Sound familiar?

    The Republicans of 1996, saddled with a weak nominee, tacitly acknowledged Dole's likely defeat. They scuttled their own candidate and instead made the case that continued control of Congress was needed as a check and balance on Bill Clinton.

    The independents, whose understanding of the presidential race was roughly "Bob Dole too old," bought it. We got continued divided government, and impeachment along with it.

    The Bob Dole scenario is the next the Republicans can do this year. But the raging moderates and the low-information independents should learn from the lessons of the last year that Working Together and Compromise are no longer possible. Make a real choice, give one party or the other a mandate, and live with the consequences.

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Democrat Dabeet Announces in House 91

    See, when your candidate is not Some Dude, this is how you do it. Step 1: Big press release from party.
    MCC Business Department Chair Dabeet to Run for State Representative in Muscatine

    Muscatine, Iowa – The Chair of the Business Department at Muscatine Community College John Dabeet today announced that he will run for state representative in District 91, which includes the city of Muscatine and eastern Muscatine County.
    Step 2: It gets picked up by the Register right away, not just by a goofy blogger with a goofy hat and a case of OCD (Obsessively Compulsive about Districts).

    The press release gets demographically interesting further down:
    Dabeet, a Christian, is currently serving as President of the national Americans & Palestinians for Peace organization and has been involved in a host of other activities and organizations in Muscatine. He is Past President of Muscatine Sister City Association and former Chair of the Diversity Service Center of Iowa, which is based in Muscatine. For eight years, he served on the Board of Directors for the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
    Apparantly, even in the post long form birth certificate era, and even with all sorts of Chamber of Commercy credentials, there's still a need for that "a Christian" emphasis.
    “As state representative, I will put aside the partisanship and listen to the people of our community. I look forward to engaging the citizens of Muscatine just like I engage my students in the classroom and seek their input on the critical issues our state faces. It’s a humbling experience to run for state representative and I’m excited to meet Muscatine residents at their doorstep,” said Dabeet, who received the Excellency in Volunteerism Award from the Greater Muscatine
    Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2002-2003.
    This seat had been ancestrally Republican for about forever until Democrat Nathan Reichert foiled the comeback attempt of my former opponent, Barry Brauns, in 2004 when Jim Hahn moved over to the Senate. Reichert had a target on his back every cycle, but held on till Mark Lofgren knocked him off in 2010.

    This is a District Draws Itself seat, as the city of Muscatine is 75% of ideal district size. It also keeps suburban Bloomington Township (a GOP stronghold) and the same three townships in eastern Muscatine County including Stockton. It adds the Fruitland area, which adds a little population and makes a swing seat even closer, with just a slight GOP edge. Definitely winnable for a Democrat in a good year, but it'll take some work as Muscatine is historically low turnout.

    Sherman running in House 77

    Some Dude: Some candidates start out with certain built-in advantages: They already hold office, they have personal wealth, or they have a prominent public profile. Some Dude has none of these. If you Google Some Dude's name, you'll find very little information-probably just the news article or blog post where they were first mentioned as a possible candidate. A good hint you're dealing with a Some Dude is that they're described as an "activist" or "Tea Party member" in press accounts. Note: Some Dudes sometimes win! -- Glossary, Swing State Project (now Daily Kos Elections)

    Steve Sherman of North Liberty looks pretty close to the profile. A tweet from a fellow Johnson County GOP activist pointed to a Facebook page about his candidacy in House District 77.

    The Googling shows that he's a Christian author who's also done a few guest editorials that reveal an... interesting rhetorical style. He also hosted a house party for Rick Santorum back before the caucuses. The next Google search will probably include this post, so hey. The Deeth Blog, your free advertising source for Republican candidates.

    Contrast that profile with the Democrat: five term county supervisor Sally Stutsman. Or even with former Tiffin mayor Royce Phillips, who said in August that House Republicans were trying to recruit him. (That effort seemed to fizzle, then Phillips lost his re-election bid in November.)

    Still, it's the first time the GOP has run a candidate -- or rather, the first time a GOP candidate has run, since I'm sensing self-starter here -- in an all-Johnson seat since the 2003 Dave Jacoby special election. This is a new all-Johnson seat with a Democratic advantage of a couple thousand voters. The various pieces used to belong mostly to Jacoby, Nate Willems, and Jarad Klein. On the Senate side, it's half of Sandy Greiner's new seat, which oughta be way fun for her in 2014.

    North Liberty anchors 77, which covers the whole west and south border of Johnson. It starts with Swisher and Shueyville, picks up Tiffin and Oxford, and ends up in Lone Tree, wrapping around and not including the city of Hills.

    Take no offense; I was a Some Dude when I ran. And every race should be taken seriously; Brian Moore sitting in the legislature is proof enough of that.

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    Reisetter to Challenge Danielson in Senate 30

    Urbandale Council Member John Forbes in Open House 40

    Senate Republicans have snagged a big name for one of their top targeted seats, as GOP rising star Matt Reisetter has announced against Democrat Jeff Danielson in Senate District 30.

    Reisetter, who's been working for BVP over at the famIly leader, fell just 98 votes short of knocking off House Democrat Bob Kressig in the bad GOP cycle of 2006.

    Danielson survived 2008 by a recount-close 22 votes over Walt Rogers, who went on to knock off Doris Kelley in a 2010 House race. The turf, which tilts just slightly Republican, doesn't change much. Two-thirds of the district is the complete city of Cedar Falls. Danielson's kept a high profile and plays up his firefighter day job, but the GOP's high-profile roll-out, and the 2008 margin, makes it look like this seat is high on the target list.

    House Democrats had an announcement of their own this morning: Urbandale City Council member John Forbes, in open House District 40.

    This seat, which shrinks entirely into the Polk County part of Urbandale, is where Scott Raecker is retiring. On paper it should favor the GOP, but of curse Forbes has proven himself able to win a city council race. The only announced Republican thus far is fitness club owner Mike Brown.

    Second GOP Student Candidate in Ames

    Starting to look like a trend: 20-something Iowa House GOP candidates.

    Iowa State's College Republican chair Stephen Quist announced last night in House District 46, now held by Ames Democrat Lisa Heddens. The announcement came at a party co-hosted with Dane Nealson, whose name surfaced yesterday in the other Ames seat, Beth Wessel-Kroeschell's House 45.

    House 46 is the northern part of Ames and includes most of the campus area. It's also the slightly less Democratic of the two seats. Heddens had a fairly easy 2000 vote win over Republican Chad Steenhoek last cycle; a Libertarian was in the race too. The district shrinks into the city proper (which meant a move for Heddens in a My District Just Not My House situation).

    Quist and Nealson join at least three other young Republican candidates. Two are primary challengers: Maison Bleam against Tom Shaw in House 10 and Jake Highfill against Erik Helland in House 39. There's also Megan Hess in open House District 2, where she's likely to face Democrat Steve Bomgaars. As I've said before, Republicans are much much more likely to track their young talent to candidate status than Democrats.

    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    Spillville Mayor Announces in House 55

    Democrat Ruff in House 56

    Two announcements, one on each team, from the state's northeast corner:

  • Spillville Mayor Michael Klimesh is making a second run for the Iowa House. The Republican has announced in House District 55 against Democratic incumbent Roger Thomas.

    The second run is on very different turf. Klimesh fell more than 900 votes short of Brian Quirk, the only Six Pack conservaDem to survive 2010. That seat covered all of Chickasaw and Howard counties, where Quirk won his margin, plus southern and western Winneshiek, which Klimesh carried.

    The new seat has little overlap outside of Spillville. It covers more of Winneshiek, including Decorah, the northern half of Fayette, and a small part of western Clayton that includes Elkader, where Thomas lives. It leans a bit Republican. Thomas survived in 2010 by just 122 votes over Michael Brietbach, who's running this cycle in the overlapping, open seat Senate 28 race.

    This seat was a Democratic pair-up on Map Day; in December Fayette-based Andrew Wenthe announced his retirement. It would have been a Democratic triple-up if John Beard of Decorah hadn't lost in 2010. Beard is making a comeback attempt in the Senate 28 race.

  • The other half of Senate 28 is House 56, where MFL Mar-Mac School Board President Patti Ruff of McGregor has just announced on the Democratic side. She'll face Bob Hager, the Republican who knocked off Beard.

    Hager's old district had all of Allamakee County and the larger part of Winneshiek. This map the Allamakee seat goes south to take in almost all of Clayton except Elkader. This seat also leans a bit Republican. But Hager won, in part, on a friends and neighbors dynamic, winning Allamakee by just a bit more than Beard's margi in Winneshiek. This time, Hager has to share his base with Ruff.
  • Operation Hilarity not funny

    Have to call foul on my own team here: Überblogger Markos "Kos" Moulitsas is pulling an Ed Fallon and urging Democrats to mess with the other party's nomination process:
    It's time for those of us who live in open primary and caucus states—Michigan, North Dakota, Vermont and Tennessee in the next three weeks—to head out and cast a vote for Rick Santorum.

    The longer this thing drags out, the more unpopular the Republican presidential pretenders become. Just look at Mitt Romney's trajectory, which followed Herman Cain's trajectory, and Newt Gingrich's trajectory, and Michelle Bachmann's trajectory, and so on.

    Rick Santorum will inevitably follow the same path once he gets properly vetted.
    He calls it "Operation Hilarity" and rationalizes: "Rush Limbaugh and his ilk have had no problem meddling in our own contests. And if there's one thing Daily Kos is about, it's about fighting fire with fire."

    But I'm not finding his two wrongs make a right excuse funny. There's a time for fighting fire with fire, as President Obama acknowledged when he reluctantly agreed to accept SuperPAC help to battle the post-Citizen United corporate millions.

    There's also a time to be better than that. It's not the place of Democrats to define the Republican Party by choosing its nominee. Such efforts escalate the monkeywrenching to the point where parties are emaningless, and I believe that one of the few positives of the polarization of recent years is that it's made parties more cohesive and meaningful. The species canis cyaneus and Lymantria dispar are nearly extinct.

    Kos has done great things for the left end of the spectrum, as one of the key founders of the blogosphere as we know it. But he gets it wrong sometimes; his bitterness over Howard Dean's disappointing showing has made him the left's leading Iowa basher.

    And he's wrong here. Besides, as the Republicans have shown us thus far. they don't need our help. They are capable of screwing up this race all by themselves.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Nealson Announces in House 45

    A brief announcement via Twitter from former College Republicans chair Dane Nealson in House District 45 in Ames.

    The race against Democrat Beth Wessel-Kroeschell looks to be an uphill one. 45, the southern half of town, is the more Democratic of the two Ames districts. And, significant for a young candidate, redistricting moves the bulk of the Iowa State campus from 45 into the other Ames district, Lisa Heddens' House 46.

    BW-K won by 1000 votes over a relatively high profile Republican, Karin Sevde, in the awful 2010 cycle, and by 2400 over the then-youthful Ryan Rhodes in 2008.

    Bob The Big Bully

    All you need is love? Bob Vander Plaats of the famIly leader -- note the punctuation with the I in upper case, to show that it's not about the self, it's all about Bob -- chose Valentine's Day to send Terry Branstad a bouquet of hate.

    Branstad, whose crime is holding the job that Bob lusts after and is incapable of winning, lent his name to Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) Youth. He's not attending, but just the use of his name is a hint that maybe, just maybe, Terry doesn't hate Teh Gay as much as Bob thinks he should.

    Oh, it's couched in BVP's usual passive aggressive religious language, sure. “Our goal at The famIly leader is to speak the truth in love.” A dozen roses, with thorns. BVP says the conference "is exchanging truth for acceptance and tolerance of harmful behavior.”

    Interesting words. Acceptance and tolerance. You say that like it's a bad thing, Bob.

    Decades ago, cultural pressure kept almost everyone in the closet, and it's still a powerful force. You don't even have to be gay to suffer from homophobic bullying. I got it in my youth despite my over-obvious and awkward efforts to attract female affection, and little has changed in the last 30 years. "Gay" is still used as a negative synonym and "fag" is still the strongest hate word you can throw at an adolescent male.

    What BVP is explicitly saying here is that he wants to strengthen the force of bullying, to use social pressure to make people feel shame about who and what they are. A bully pulpit, indeed.

    All these cultural questions -- marriage, military, the name on a stillborn death certificate -- really come down to one. Is being gay a way people are, or is it a sin? This is about your "right" to be a bigot.

    Give him credit, though: Bob just comes right out and says it.

    Bob Vander Plaats and his ilk have been bullying the Republican Party on this issue, to the party's own detriment. Poll after poll shows that anti-gay sentiment is linked to age. As the pre-boomer generation dies off and is replaced by Generation Gaga, homophobia increasingly becomes a losing political stance.

    Terry Branstad, to some small degree, recognizes this, and his timid steps in the right direction are to be welcomed. I'd like more, sure. But I won't pester Branstad about it until I hear Barack Obama say out loud he supports marriage equality. Preferably before the election, Mr. President.

    Update: BVP doubles down today.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Democrat Brenneman in Open House 44

    The first Democrat has announced in one of those This Is Where Your District Went seats, open House 44 in Dallas County.
    West Des Moines Fire Fighter Eric Brenneman announced today that he is running for State Representative in the newly created House District 44; a district that includes the Dallas County portions of the Cities of West Des Moines, Clive and Waukee.

    Brenneman, who is running as a Democrat, states “I believe the next generation of leaders must put the future well being of the State of Iowa above partisan politics, I feel this can be accomplished through actively listening to the public and working with conviction to find solutions for our difficult problems. I believe these results will create a solid foundation for continued growth and success for the State of Iowa.”
    Waukee grew from just over 5,000 people in the 2000 census to nearly 14,000 in 2010, and becomes the anchor of this seat, which also includes the Dallas County parts of Clive and West Des Moines. That was all in the old Ralph Watts district 47, which doubled in population. Watts sheds all this and stays with western Dallas in House District 19.

    This turf is fairly solid for the GOP, but Democrats are making a serious effort in the corresponding Senate 22 race with Desmund Adams. The GOP primary in that race, between mobile incumbent Pat Ward and minister Jeff Mullen, should be nasty, but the GOP seems to have settled on Dallas County GOP chair Rob Taylor right away in the House race.

    In other announcement news, Democratic Sen. Brian Schoenjahn announces for a third term in Senate 32. Bleeding Heartland wrote this one up so I'll spare the redundancy. No GOP names yet.

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Pacino award part of debt plan?

    I knew it was you Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!"

    Al Pacino got a hug and a medal from President Obama on Monday.

    The actor was honored at the White House, where the president presented him with a National Medal of Arts for his contributions to American culture.

    “Recognized around the world for his signature intensity on the silver screen, Mr. Pacino stands among America’s most accomplished artists,” an announcer said as Obama, smiling broadly, gave "The Godfather" star his prize.

    The Pope - the Holy Father himself - has this very day blessed Michael Corleone; and you think you know better than the Pope?

    What wasn't announced: Pacino later met with Timothy Geithner to discuss plans to bail us out of the national debt.

    Unfortunately the event was marred by a breach in White House security. Rather than letting the Secret Service handle it, Pacino took matters into his own hands:

    Congrats to one of America's greatest actors and it's a damn shame they didn't do this before Rahm Emanuel left.

    Linux Monday: Starting Over

    I switched Linux distributions over the weekend. Most of you have no idea what that means.

    Long-term readers may remember my "Linux Monday" series, back in early 2009, when I proselytized for my operating system preference like a Ron Paul supporter on Ibogaine. After a while I said what I had to say, political events picked up again, and I put it n the back burner. But I'm feeling the need to share again. Sorry.

    First off, what's an "operating system"? It's the basic bundle of programs that make your computer work. Not your browser or your office apps: the stuff that tell it "you're a computer" and boots it up to an interface where you, the human, can actually do stuff.

    Most folks know two operating systems: Windows and Mac. The third party alternative is Linus (purists will call it "GNU/Linux" but that's a holy war best ignored.) It's a bigger deal than you think. Your Android phone? That's Linux, they just don't call it that. It's hiding lots of other places, too.

    Linux is free software, in two senses of the word. The underlying source code is readily available for anyone with the skills to modify (we call this "free s in freedom") and the cost is zero dollars. Some of us, like me, will argue for its technical superiority as well. In my experience it's less inclined to get nastyware.

    Because anyone can modify and redistribute the software, there are many different versions of Linux out there,called "distributions." Different versions have different purposes: some are designed for ease of use and installations, others are meant for maximum flexibilty and system control if you put the work in. Some are meant for multimedia, others are tweaked to use on old, low resource machines.

    Distributions are loosely associated into families which resemble either different branches of the evolutionary tree or, if you're a creationist, different branches of the church. Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant roughly equals Slackware, Red Hat, Debian. All mammals are more similar to each other than birds, all apes are more similar to each other than they are to cats, and all of them are more like each other than they are like plants. Every so often a branch will "fork" into a new distribution.

    For several years, the Ubuntu distribution, part of the Debian family, has been number one in the world. They launched in 2004 with the slogan "Linux for human beings" and I was curious enough to try it on an old machine in 2005. The experience was good and eventually I got serious about it. In mid-2008 I began using it as my main system, and when I got my next new laptop in late 2010 I ordered it without Windows.

    Ubuntu issues a new release every six months, with a year.month designation and an alliterative animal nickname (11.04 "Natty Narwhal" etc.) Your system kindly notifies you when the upgrade is available, and an Upgrade option lets you get the latest without wiping out your system and settings. But some folks argue -- we Linux geeks like to argue -- that a complete new installation is the better way to go.

    I'd been continually upgrading, rather than re-installing, since version 8.04 ("Hardy Heron"). This included a computer transition (I backed up my /home directory, which stores your settings and your stuff).

    There have been a lot of changes in Ubuntu in the past four years. The biggest came in version 11.04 when they changed "desktops." Necessary tangent: the "desktop" in this context is the program that manages the graphic user interface or "GUI." If you look in Windows Task Manager and see Explorer, that's the desktop program, Explorer (not to be confused with the Windows Explorer that you can run from the start menu, which is a file manager, or with the browser Internet Explorer). In Windows World and MacWorld, you only have one option. In Linux Land, there are bunches. Some are deigned for ease, others for efficiency.

    Ubuntu had started with the GNOME desktop. It's one of the more user-friendly interfaces: uses a fair amount of resources but it's an easy migration for a Windows XP refugee. In 2011, I forget which, the GNOME folks "upgraded" their program from version 2 point something to version 3, and lots of folks were unhappy with the "improvements."

    Over at Ubuntu, with the launch of 11.04 they changed the default desktop to a new interface called Unity, which seemed more... netbook-y? Mac-y? Anyway,it's kind of like a Mac dock only on the left side, rather than a start-button type interface. You could stick with Gnome 2 if you wanted, but with version 11.10, the current release, Ubuntu "upgraded" to Gnome 3.

    I dodged the issue by switching to Fluxbox, a desktop designed for simplicity and low resource use. (You start with a blank screen, then right click and see a menu.) Fluxbox was OK, but lacked some functionality that I liked. For example, I couldn't set my SETI@Home software to automatically pause when I was active on the computer, and had to manually pause it. There were little things, too, like the occasional missing icon in a program.

    With the 11.10 release of Ubuntu, I started noticing some issues, both in Fluxbox and in GNOME 3 (I'd continued to avoid Unity) and I suspected I had an issue with cruft.

    "Cruft" describes the gradual decline of a computer's efficiency the longer you use it. Verity Stob has the best description of cruft; the Windows 2000 references are dated but the concepts are eternal.

    And cross-platform, as it turns out. Linux users like to brag that your install will be running as smoothly after a couple years as it did the day you installed it.

    Ubuntu update cycles, I was having some doubts. Sure, I was still doing better way than I would be on a four year old Windows install. But it wasn't perfect.

    My two biggest frustrations were multimedia. My DVD drive wasn't recognizing disks. I couldn't burn, rip, or watch until I got an external DVD drive. The other problem was with Rhythmbox, the audio player that was long the default in Ubuntu. The program would lock up after about six tracks.

    I thought both of these problems were Just Me. I suspected a hardware issue on the disk drive. As for music, I tried three other player programs which all had the same problem, and believed that the sheer size of my music library made it unworkable. But I had enough doubt, and enough curiosity, to test the hypothesis that my Ubuntu install was the problem.

    This is where Linux Mint comes in. Mint is a fork of the Ubuntu project, which itself is a Debian fork. Mint is designed to be more multimedia friendly out of the box. (There's no actual "box," just a download.) The Mint folks also decided to stick with Gnome as the default desktop. They added added some "Mint Gnome Shell Extensions" to make Gnome 3 act more like Gnome 2, and an interface called MATE, a fork of Gnome 2 which is compatible with Gnome 3.

    This was a breakthrough, and in the last few months Mint has quickly risen to become the number two distribution, behind Ubuntu, and it may well be ahead of Ubuntu among new users.

    I installed Mint on a backup machine out of curiosity a while back and when my main laptop was in the shop for a hardware problem, I used that backup as my main machine for a couple weeks, which served the purpose of a Linux Mint test drive. It was a nice drive and when the main machine came back I started thinking about switching. And Friday night, when the music locked up yet again, I made the decision.

    While I was at it, I decided to upgrade from a 32 bit OS to a 64 bit. There's simply not a way in the Ubuntu upgrade process to do that without a full reformat, so I'd been using less than the full capability of my machine.

    Step one, of course, was a full backup of the /home folder.

    And my first suspicion was confirmed when I was able to boot my system from the supposedly broken internal CD drive with my Linux Mint install disk. That was the clincher, so I went ahead and installed.

    I've installed Ubuntu literally dozens of times on assorted machines, and the Mint install was almost identical. Don't know exactly how long it took, because I took a break and when I got back a half hour later it was ready to reboot.

    I logged in, choosing the MATE option instead of the GNOME option, and I had usable panels on both the top and bottom of my screen. (The bottom panel is one of the features GMOME 3 killed off.) My Libre Office suite (the most popular Linux alternative to Microsoft Office, and also available for Windows) was ready to go. I needed to re-install a couple of my quirkier non-standard programs (SETI@home, of course) and restore my /home files. That was actually the slowest part -- 300 gig of music doesn't move fast -- but after a little visit with my congressman I was ready. (Congressional intervention isn't needed for a Linux install.)

    Sunday I test-drove a DVD, then played three hours of music while I re-arranged the basement. I had some time budgeted for settling in, but haven't needed it.

    At this point, if you're a new user I'd recommend Mint over Ubuntu, and so far it's been a good experience for my intermediate skills.

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    DCCC Head Israel visits for Loebsack

    "I'm not just interested in re-electing Dave Loebsack, to the House of Representatives -- I'm interested in electing him to a Democratic majority" -- Steve Israel

    Iowa is one of just two states where the battle for the White House and the battle for the House of Representatives coincide, said the Democratic congressman whose job it is to elect and re-elect other Democrats to the House.

    New York's Steve Israel, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC in acronym format or "D-Trip" in DCspeak) visited the UI campus Saturday night for a "strategy session" with Dave Loebsack and local Democrats. His Iowa visit also included a Des Moines stop with Leonard Boswell.

    "Our battle space is almost completely different," he said of the 2012 elections. House Democrats have their biggest opportunities to make gains in large states where redistricting has shuffled the desk: California and Illinois, which are safe on the presidential level, and Texas, which is much more difficult statewide but where Hispanic population growth has given Democrats the chance to gain two to four seats.

    "There are two exceptions" where presidential battlegrounds are also congressional battlegrounds, said Isreal: Florida and Iowa. "I can't figure out how to get to 25 (seats gained to retake control of the House) and lose a seat in Iowa," he said.

    The Iowa effort is mostly defensive. Loebsack's new district is slightly less Democratic than his previous seat, Bruce Braley had an unexpectedly close 2010 race, and Leonard Boswell is paired in redistricting with Republican Tom Latham.

    The one chance to play offense is Christie Vilsack's challenge to Steve King. "We can go four for four," said Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky. "The four congressionals are our statewide race." With no senate or gubernatorial race, the congressional seats are next on the ballot after the presidency, and one of the party's goals is to make sure Democrats vote all the way down the ballot.

    Professor Loebsack lectures the class on the new district lines. Take notes, this will be on the test.

    "It's a more competitive district, no doubt about it," said Loebsack. "But I AM going to win." The biggest changes are losing Linn County, where Loebsack lived, and adding Scott County. Loebsack has relocated to Iowa City and says his new east Iowa City home is less than an hour from downtown Davenport.

    Gaining the Iowa half of the Quad Cities, plus his position on the Armed Services committee, has led Loebsack to a focus on the Rock Island Arsenal. "We need our organic manufacturing base to back our troops, whatever we think of the specific mission," he said.

    "I think we need to get our troops home from Afghanistan sooner rather than later," he added to applause from the crowd of 50 or so that was heavy on students.

    Loebsack also serves on the Education And The Workforce committee (he used the Democratic name "Education and Labor" which the Republicans pointedly changed when they took over the House in January 2011) and noted that Republicans tried to cut Pell Grant funding in mid-academic year.

    Israel said House Republicans are like "the Stepford Caucus" in their lock-step behavior. That was prompted by an audience question, which I'll paraphrase as: why should we give money to a national committee when you use it to support candidates who are weak on Democratic issues.

    "We're a more diverse caucus," said Israel. "We have a Congressional Black Caucus, a Hispanic Caucus, a Jewish caucus... our caucus looks like America." He added that Democratic control means that the Republican Party's most damaging legislation won't get to the House floor, even if individual Democrats stray on specific issues.

    Three Republicans are lined up for the June primary for the right to take on Loebsack: John Deere attorney John Archer and real estate developer Dan Dolan are the main chance contenders, and tea partier Richard Gates is also in the mix. Loebsack thinks the primary helps him.

    "There will be a clear choice; Whoever that person is will be so far to the right, the district won't accept it."

    Caucus Night 1996

    We're six weeks and eight contests into the nomination contests. But just four cycles ago, today was our starting date: February 12, 1996, the last time the Iowa Caucuses were outside of January.

    It was a Republican-only race that cycle, too. Bob Dole was the first two-time caucus winner, and remains the only Republican to pull it off twice (caveat: Iowa Republicans don't vote in re-election cycles).

    What might have been: Pat Buchanan was within 3% of Dole, but the fundamentalists in Cedar Rapids backed Alan Keyes instead; Keyes thus won the second biggest county. One minister at one mega-church makes a different choice, and we’d have had a major upset.

    Other than that, Iowa winnowed out Dick Lugar and helped scuttle Phil Gramm. Steve Forbes made his first run, but the best part was Morrie Taylor, the tire magnate who literally tried to buy a win one vote at a time. He failed miserably but looked like he had more fun than the rest put together.

    So, how many more times would the lead have flipped if Iowans had gotten another six weeks? And what did the national parties do that cycle to keep the calendar sane?

    Saturday, February 11, 2012

    Two GOP House Announcements

    Just two weeks now till filing starts for legislative candidates. Ye Olde Deeth Blog will do a District Of The Day update of some sort soon after the March 16 filing deadline, but for now, two more announcements on the House GOP side:

  • Johnson County folks will recognize the name Maison Bleam, the former UI student government leader who made a brief stab at the Johnson County Board of Supervisors during the 2009 appointment process. He's now making the Back Home run in House District 10. That seat already has TWO incumbents: five-termer Dave Tjepkes is stepping down and freshman Tom Shaw is running.
    "(Bleam) said that compared to Shaw he is a ''different style of principled constitutional conservative".'' His different style, he said, is a result of his state, national and international experience...
    That's a polite way of saying that Shaw has aligned himself with the tea partiest of the tea partiest during his first term.

    Bleam is also playing the age card; it's interesting to me that conservatives, at this level of office, have generally been more willing to vote for young people and that they generally do a far better job of subsidizing their young ones -- check those resume bullet points on Bleam -- than my team. And it's places like this (Pocahontas, Humboldt, and Calhoun counties, with part of Kossuth) that will elect the recent grad, as opposed to youthful "progressive" Iowa City. (Yeah, still mad Raj Patel lost.)

    Still, this race seems like a heavy lift given Shaw's proven strength as a candidate in two 2010 races, a tough primary and a general election gain of a "Democratic" open seat (OK, Delores Mertz barely counts).

  • In Marshalltown, GOP farmer and ex-school board member Allen Burt is in the House 71 race against the man who loads my mailbox daily with false Google News alerts on his name, Democrat Mark Smith.

    (And don't even get me started on the two David Johnsons... speaking of which, Democratic activists aren't exactly thrilled about the West Branch Johnson's chances against the GOP's Jeff Kaufmann in now-D leaning House 73, is anyone else going to get in?)

    The city of Marshalltown is 90% of this seat. Smith has beaten the GOP's Jane Jech twice in a row; by a lot in 2008 and by a little in 2010. Jech has migrated to the Senate race instead, where she's an underdog to former senator Larry McKibben for the right to take on Democrat Steve Sodders this fall.
  • Friday, February 10, 2012

    Fourth Candidate in Senate 42 Dem Primary

    A crowded field in Iowa's southeast corner just got more crowded, as a fourth Democrat joins the race to succeed the retiring Gene Fraise in Senate District 42.

    Donna Amandus of Fort Madison is described as "Democratic activist" in the Keokuk Gate City article, which lists other c.v. data as:
    She has led or worked on Lee County's reprecincting committee, the county's compensation board and Latino outreach at the Mexican Fiesta. She's also involved with planning and preparing for the county and district conventions coming to Fort Madison.
    Both the Keokuk piece and the Burlington Hawkeye lead with gender:
    Despite the fact that women make up the majority of Iowa’s population (1,435,515, or 49.1 of Iowans are male, according to the 2010 census), only seven women serve in Iowa’s 50-seat Senate.
    Donna Amandus, 48, of Fort Madison hopes to make it eight...
    The vote for the woman vote is significant in some places, like here in Iowa City. But more significant may be the fact that Amandus is the third Fort Madison candidate in the field, joining Mayor Steve Ireland and electrician and party activist Bob Morawitz. The fourth contender, Rich Taylor, is from Mt. Pleasant. With the Ft. Madison vote splitting three ways, someone from Keokuk is missing an opportunity...

    Lee and Henry Counties are the bulk of this district, indeed were the old distrrict. The new turf adda a few rural Washington County townships.

    The primary winner -- or, if no one gets 35%, the convention winner -- will likely face the only announced Republican, Lee County supervisor Larry Kruse, in November.

    Steve Israel to UI for Loebsack

    A little leadership support for Dave Loebsack:
    Congressman Dave Loebsack and the University Democrats invite you to an event with Rep. Steve Israel, the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Rep. Israel will be discussing the importance of Congressman Loebsack's race on both a local and national level.

    What: Campaign Strategy Discussion
    When: Saturday, February 11, 2012 5:45 - 7:00 PM
    Where: Indiana Room (# 346) of the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City
    I don't know how much "campaign strategy" can get discussed in a public meeting but it's still nice for the D Trip to stop by.

    It's also nice to have a student-oriented event since, thanks to Florida, they missed out on the caucuses. These events with a chance to meet a big-name -- OK, mid-name -- national figure are especially important to young activists.

    The Right To Be Wrong?

    Never talk about politics and religion, they say... There's a forgotten facet in the fight over contraceptive funding that Catholic leaders, and their uneasy fundamentalist allies, are waging on the Obama administration.

    The churches are framing this as a "religious liberty" battle. But inevitably, their feelings about the contraception "issue" - issue? A half century after Griswold v. Connecticut and contraception is an issue?!? Inevitably, their feelings about the contraception "issue" are coming out, let by Rick Santorum, boasting of his eight kids and openly saying contraception is wrong. Not funding of contraception -- contraception itself:
    “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country,” the former Pennsylvania senator explained. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be...

    [Sex] is supposed to be within marriage. It’s supposed to be for purposes that are yes, conjugal…but also procreative.
    That's a statement by a candidate, not a papal encyclical, but it pretty closely sums up the position. When we talk about this issue, we're not just talking about funding or religious freedom, we're talking about contraception itself.

    And what the pundits of a prior generation (Chris Matthews has ranted on this three nights running) aren't getting is: An overwhelming majority of people, even within the church structure, disagree with the policy itself.

    It's just one of a whole cluster of sex and gender related issues on which official Catholic policy is out of step with the larger society and even with their own membership. Abortion, certainly, but also same sex marriage equality, the restriction of the priesthood to men, and priestly celibacy. Not to mention handling horrible child sex abuse scandals so badly that it makes make Joe Paterno look like a whistle-blower.

    This single cluster of issues, on which the Catholic Church is losing ground with each passing year, has led to an unnatural alliance with Protestant fundamentalists who just half a century ago were damning -- literally -- the first and only Catholic president as a "Papist." (You can still find the occasional ultra-fundamentalist Chick comic that condemns Catholics.) It undercuts the peace, education, and social justice efforts the Catholic Church has made on so many other fronts.

    I'm a weak practicing Protestant, so I have no place telling the Catholic Church what its positions should be. But I will anyway. Enough of the polite indulgence of the aged male hierarchy: the Catholic Church's official policy on contraception is morally wrong. How much Third World overpopulation and poverty has it caused? How much has it facilitated the spread of HIV?

    So I overstep my bounds. But as a political analyst I'll say this: The anti-contraception policy, and the rest of the gender inequality group of positions, only have political power to the extent that parishioners believe them and see them as voting issues.

    So defend your rights, bishops. But understand that an American majority believes you're defending your right to be wrong.

    Thursday, February 09, 2012

    Barack's Got A New Playlist

    "Signed Sealed, Delivered" is officially gone, as Team Obama 2.0 releases the new playlist. Here it is in handy YouTube playable format. And of course, such an occasion requires a Deeth rally music review.

    I could offer an alternate list, sure, but perfecting that would probably take me past the actual election so I won't attempt. Let's just work with the material the president gives us.

    The most interesting item is a brand new Bruce Springsteen song, “We Take Care of Our Own.” It's the first track on the new album Wrecking Ball that's due out March 6. The Boss, of course, famously objected to Ronald Reagan's misappropriation of "Born In The USA" in 1984, but did shows for John Kerry in 2004 and officially endorsed Obama in `08. So you can be sure this has been thoroughly vetted and OK'd on both ends. Some darkness in the verses but a call to arms in the chorus:
    Where the eyes, the eyes with the will to see
    Where the hearts, that run over with mercy
    Where's the love that has not forsaken me
    Where's the work that set my hands, my soul free
    Where's the spirit that'll reign, reign over me
    Where's the promise, from sea to shining sea
    Where's the promise, from sea to shining sea
    Wherever this flag is flown
    Wherever this flag is flown
    Wherever this flag is flown

    We take care of our own

    It's not the president pretending that he's Al Green, Al Green, but “Let’s Stay Together” makes the list. The new set is lighter on the Motown/Stax material, though we do get some: “Green Onions” by Booker T & The MG’s (no chance of a lyric controversy with an instrumental) “Keep on Pushing” by Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions, and Aretha's cover of The Band's “The Weight.” Put the load right on me, indeed. We get a little 70s R & B too with the Earth, Wind & Fire take on the Beatles' “Got to Get You in My Life” (the best thing to come out of the godawful Bee Gees-Peter Frampton Sgt. Pepper movie.)

    "Beautiful Day" and "City of Blinding Lights" are FINALLY retired, but we're reaching even further back into U2's discography on the 20th anniversary of Achtung Baby with “Even Better Than The Real Thing.” (Check out From The Sky Down, the new Achtung Baby documentary; my brother Jeff did sound work on the film)

    The Irishmen are ringers, but it's mainly a domestic list, save for Canadians Arcade Fire with “We Used To Wait” from last year's Grammy album of the year, The Suburbs. That's part of an "adult alternative" block: “You are the Best Thing” (Ray Lamontagne), “Keep Marchin'” (Raphael Saadiq), "Tonight's The Kind of Night” (Noah and the Whale), “No Nostalgia” (AgesAndAges), “Raise Up” (Ledisi),. “I Got You” (Wilco) and “You've Got the Love” by Florence and the Machine. I'm more a Rage Against The Machine guy myself.

    North Carolina must still be in play because country pops up: the only acts with two tracks are both country. Sugarland's “Stand Up” and “Everyday America” are titles that just beg for a rally. Darius Rucker (who doesn't like it when you call him Hootie!) has “This” and “Learn to Live.” There's also “My Town” (Montgomery Gentry) “Keep Me In Mind” (Zac Brown Band) and “Home” (Dierks Bentley). For the Hispanic vote we get Rrrrricky! Martin and “The Best Thing about Me Is You.”

    No Doubt makes an appearance with “Different People,” one of the lesser known tracks from the mid-90's blockbuster Tragic Kingdom. A little contemp R & B “Keep Reachin' Up” (Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators) and “Love You I Do?” (Jennifer Hudson). Yoda wrote this song he did?

    A couple of middle of the road duds: “Your Smiling Face” (James Taylor) and
    “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO. I still can't figure out why they let Jeff Lynne be a Wilbury.

    But the biggest surprise: they threw one in for the bald middle age Midwest guys! REO Speedwagon's “Roll with the Changes” ! Downstate Illinois is all set now.

    Wednesday, February 08, 2012

    Tuesday, February 07, 2012

    Tuesday Clip Show

  • Fun factoids about today's primary and caucus states, including a reference to the Hunter Thompson Freak Power Campaign!

  • Smart Politics reports that Walker Fatigue in Wisconsin may be a factor in Packerland having the lowest per capita donations to the 2012 GOP field.

  • First GOP candidate emerges in open Urbandale House 40 where Scott Racker is retiring: fitness club owner Mike Brown.

    (Note to candidates: if your candidacy was made public weeks or months ago, the Deeth Blog ain't running the "announcement" press release. Brown isn't guilty, but there have been a rash of these in the past week. Nor will I run any "announcements" made after candidate filing, except to deride the practice. Don't worry, you'll get your second mentions in the comprehensive roundup.)

  • Finally, Kevin Hall at The Iowa Republican has a must-read on post-caucus fallout at the Lee County GOP central committee. That's the county where four of the eight "missing" precincts were from.
  • Monday, February 06, 2012

    Iowa Caucuses Scheduled For Tonight!

    That's right. Once upon a time the Iowa caucuses were scheduled for tonight. In an ideal world, the Super Bowl would be in January and the Iowa Caucuses would be in February. The NFL didn't oblige, but both parties agreed to a rational 2012 schedule that started a month later than last cycle's insanely early January 3 kickoff. Both parties agreed to the same batting order: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina.

    But then Florida had to throw a tantrum again and break the rules. As a result, Nevada got bumped from third back to fifth, and we Iowans had to meet, once again, two days after New Year's. We had to, for the first time ever in a presidential year, meet in the old precincts instead of the new, with ripple effects across every county central committee in the state. (I wound up with three precinct captains in my new precinct, one elected in each of three old precincts, so I need to resign the seat I just won on caucus night.)

    With the date not finalized till late fall, we had one month less to prepare. How many counting glitches could have been prevented with five more weeks to recruit and train precinct chairs?

    Worst of all, our youngest voters were shut out of the caucus process again. The last presidential cycle we had a caucus on a student-friendly date, January 19, 2004, the Iowa Memorial Union was so full that the University threatened to call the fire marshal. This year, and granted my team was uncontested, we had exactly ONE Democrat show up in dorm-dominated Iowa City Precinct 5--the head resident at one of the halls.

    Tonight, with the dorms full and the Christmas vacationers back at work, we are supposed to be meeting for our caucuses. Remember that now. Remember that in August when the state that forced a January date on us hosts the Republican convention.

    Saturday, February 04, 2012

    Quick Thoughts on Komen

    Others have talked at much more length and much more eloquently on the Komen for the Cure controversy: the caving, the botched PR, all of it. I've just got a couple tangents to add.

    Part of this fight is about the "politicization" of a charity that had been seen as neutral. No more. This fight proves that in a hyper-polarized political climate, a neutral stance is impossible. The moment the right targeted Komen, they had to choose. Pro-choice? Anti-choice? See, even choosing language to discuss this takes a side, because I didn't say "pro-life" and "pro-abortion."

    The only good thing about this is that the majority rose up and vetoed the quarter or so of America that makes up the religious extremist subculture. Look for more of these fights as the hard right retreats further and further from the mainstream, into their separatist bookstores and schools and channels and megachurches.

    Thursday, February 02, 2012

    Brandenburg Moves Across Town

    State Rep. Mark Brandenburg looks to have drawn the short straw in Council Bluffs. The GOP freshman will move across town and run for re-election in House District 15. This avoids a pair-up with fellow first term Republican Mary Ann Hanusa, who called dibs on House 16 months ago.

    The new line across Council Bluffs puts all of the city's best Democratic precincts into 15, on the northern and western part of town and including that wonderful geographic quirk Carter Lake. It had a map day registration edge of 2100, as opposed to a narrow GOP edge in 16.
    Tangent: The Secretary of State now has Feb. 1 voter registration stats posted for the new districts. But an important caveat: Except for the county numbers, the stats are for ALL registrations, not just the Active status registrations. This isn't a Schultz thing; the same thing happened in the Mauro Administration.

    People really, really misunderstand Inactive voter status. It's NOT what a phonebanker would call "a weak voting Dem" who votes in presidential years only. It's a person who's had mail returned to sender to the auditor because they've moved. That is: it's people who are GONE. But under Motor Voter it takes two general election cycles to fully cancel them.

    Including Inactives in the stats in general 1) overstates the size of urban and college districts. Note that Joe Bolkcom's Senate District 43, which includes the entire UI campus, has by far the highest registration, because of the inactives. 2) It also overstates the no-party percentage. That's because those voters are statistically the most likely to move and the least likely to promptly re-register.)

    The other caveat is that counties by law have 45 days to get voter registrations from the caucuses entered, though I suspect most of it is done. There's also going to be a lot of voter card mailing in the next few weeks to inform voters of new districts and precincts, and that usually triggers a lot of registration changes and activity. People who crossed over for a sheriff primary eight years ago find out they're still Democrats, more cards get returned to sender meaning more inactivations, stuff like that.

    At some point before legislative filing starts I'm going to try to figure out what numbers to use for the rest of the year and stick with them.
    There's some overlap with the old Brandenburg turf, and he has city-wide name ID. He served on the school board, challenged Mike Gronstal in 2008, and knocked off Democrat Paul Shomshor in 2010. I still see this as a priority race for both sides, if only because of its neighbors on the ballot: the Gronstal senate race and Latham-Boswell.

    Brandenburg's move appears to resolve the last House pair-up in the state. We started on Map Day with 27 House members in 13 districts (there was one triple-up). With four moves and eight retirements (I've yet to see a Stew Iverson retirement statement but that seems to be the consensus) we're left with just two pairs: The bi-partisan cross-town Sioux City slugfest between Democrat Chris Hall and Republican Jeremy Taylor, and the even more epic Pat Grassley-Annette Sweeney GOP primary.

    McKibben Makes Comeback

    Dem Bruner announces in Senate 26

    Republicans just picked up as high profile a challenger as they can get for Democratic Sen. Steve Sodders of Marshalltown: his predecessor.

    Former three-term senator and one time congressional candidate Larry McKibben announced this week against Sodders in Senate District 36. There was already a Republican in the race, two-time House loser Jane Jech, but she's a Some Dude compared to McKibben.

    But Sodders still has an edge here: the deputy sheriff has cut a moderate image and is currently raffling off guns as a fund raiser. And the new district has a better partisan margin (Map Day: R+ 264) than the one he took over from McKibben, who retired in 2008 after a near-loss (51%) in the good GOP cycle of 2004. The new seat keeps the mutual McKibben-Sodders base of Marshall County, which is 2/3 of the turf. It sheds Hardin County and moves east to take in all of Tama County and a small piece of southern Black Hawk.

    Look for this race to quickly jump to the top of the charts in the all-important battle for the Senate, right below Mike Gronstal and Tom Rielly.

    Also announcing: Democrat Mary Bruner of Carroll in open Senate District 6, where Republican Steve Kettering is standing down after a decade. This sprawling seat has four whole counties -- Buena Vista, Sac, Carroll and Audubon -- along with eastern Crawford. Republicans had a Map Day registration edge of 2187, but no GOP names are on my radar. That said, I'm not the greatest expert on Republican internal politics in western Iowa.

    Update from yesterday: It'll be 26 Senate races after all. Retiring Democrat Jack Kibbie is "resigning" the end of his term, which expires this year anyway. This lets Republican David Johnson hold over until 2014 in new District 1. Likewise (quid pro quo, Clarice?) Republican Pat Ward vacated her seat after all, letting Democrat Matt McCoy hold over till 2014. Ward is moving one district to the west, where she has a primary challenge from minister Jeff Mullen. Mullen has out-fundraised Ward, and Democrat Desmund Adams has outraised both.

    But in the Davenport-Muscatine Senate 46, both incumbent Republicans Shawn Hamerlinck and Jim Hahn are staying put for a fratricidal primary. The winner will face Muscatine Democrat Chris Brase.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2012

    28 Senate Races Likely This Fall

    UPDATE: Never mind, make that 26. Ward and Kibbie resigned on the last day, so Johnson and McCoy don't have to run. But the Hamerlinck-Hahn primary is happening...

    All that District of The Day work and I still got one facet wrong: Apparently, a paired-up senator can announce a move or retirement, yet not let your district-mate off the hook and still force them to run for a two-year term. The Gazette gets it right:
    So Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, who has announced his retirement, doesn’t plan to resign to let Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, off the re-election hook. Johnson will have to stand for election just two years after being re-elected, but in a heavily GOP district.

    Sens. Pat Ward, R-West Des Moines, and Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, now are in the same district as a result of redistricting. Neither plans to resign. Ward has announced plans to run in a new Clive district but said she won’t resign, which will force McCoy to run for re-election in November.
    These two races, which serve little purpose beyond screwing the other team (and both parties are guilty), bring our total to 28 Senate races out of 50 total seats: the 25 even number seats which are up anyway in a presidential year, these two, and no-incumbent Senate 49 in the Clinton area.

    I'll use my error to reiterate a minor repair I'd make in the system. I'm make the 25 odd seats up in the zero year all two year terms, then have the entire Senate run in the redistricting year, half for two year terms, half for four. So each senate seat would get two four year terms and a two year term in a decade.

    It looks like we'll have two senator vs. senator battles this year: Dem Mary Jo Wilhelm vs. the GOP's Merlin Bartz in District 26, and a GOP primary cage match in 46 between Jim Hahn and Shawn Hamerlinck.

    I've still got a question mark by Hamerlinck so watch him today, which is the deadline for senators to declare residence. He lives right on the line with empty 49 and works in Clinton. But fellow GOPer Andrew Naeve (who lost by just 71 votes in 2010) called dibs on that seat even before it was clear if the seat would be on the 2012 ballot. Tod Bowman could have moved in to avoid a pairup with Tom Hancock, but Hancock retired and Bowman stayed where he was in Maquoketa.

    So it might be easier for Hamerlinck to primary a non-incumbent than a fellow senator... or maybe he'll just Go Home.