Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Nothing Happened Yesterday

Yesterday was an interesting day considering that, by the time it ended, nothing had happened.

For a couple hours, we thought something really big had happened.

At roughly 11:50 AM the national political press, ever eager for signs of life in the 2016 presidential campaign, had picked up on an obscure announcement on the University of Iowa's Welcome Back Week calendar: Newark NJ mayor Cory Booker was giving a lecture in Iowa City - IOWA! - on August 29.

Like an obscure Illinois state senator in 2004, Booker is being mentioned as a potential presidential candidate even before his extremely likely election to the US Senate in an October special election.

That time frame is important to our non-story here. Booker announced his run earlier this year, as a primary challenge to ailing nonagenarian incumbent Frank Lautenberg, who soon after announced his retirement. But then Lautenberg died moving Booker's campaign time frame up a year as even the most casual political news observer would know.

By 12:33 PM, a Booker campaign spokesman was saying the Iowa speech was not on Booker's schedule. UIowa stuck by its schedule and left the speech announcement on its web site till at least 1:30 PM, but by 1:37 the Booker announcement quietly vanished. Later in the afternoon the university offered the weak excuse that Booker's people had never told them of the cancellation.

Likely scenario: the University scheduled Booker early in the year, before Lautenberg's death, then never followed up when the New Jersey political situation changed. Now, I know everyone's not a political junkie like me (or you, because you're reading me). But you mean no one in the University's PR or lecture teams was following the news about the prominent national figure who was supposed to be the keynote speaker for the entire first week of school? No one stopped to think, "mayyyybe we should check in and see if this is still a go?"

It's another biiiiig win in media relations for the Sally Mason administration - perhaps the most derpy moment since December when the University president told a room full of reporters, "Don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.”

The botched Booker announcement  would be a national embarrassment -- IF the political press didn't have a gnat-like attention span. Right now they're focused on Hillary Clinton's eating schedule: lunch with Obama yesterday, breakfast with Biden today. What next? they ask. Well, there's an open speaking date in Iowa on August 29...

The other nothing that happened didn't happen late last night in Council Bluffs. Mike "Governor" Gronstal announced to a crowd of hometown Democrats that he was NOT going to seek the demotion from Senate majority leader to actual governor. He probably heard the sighs of relief from the two declared candidates who were in the room, Tyler Olson and Bob "Also Running" Krause.

This particular nothing is not a huge surprise. But the non-announcement was a necessary pre-condition for movement in the governor's race. My bet is more than a few prominent names were waiting on an official No from Gronstal before making a commitment to either Olson or Jack Hatch. With the field now set, look for those endorsements to start.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Porter Announces For City Council

The Iowa City Council District B race won't go uncontested after all. Community activist Royceanne Porter announced yesterday she's seeking the open but not really open seat:

It's official! After consideration of the request to run for City Council for Iowa City, Iowa I have decided to move forward and launch my campaign!!! I will be a candidate for District B and I am looking forward to a positive and successful outcome! I will be seeking your support as I endeavor to represent our community on City Council.

Porter is opposing Terry Dickens, currently serving in an at-large seat but running this year in District B. Seat switches like that have been rumored in the past, but my research tells me this is the first time it's actually happened since the present district system was established in 1975. The current District B incumbent, Connie Champion, is retiring. Her daughter Catherine Champion is running in the at large race.

Still with me? Hang on, it gets weirder. Iowa City's hybrid district/at large system is almost as confusing to new voters as the Iowa Caucuses. 
  • The city elects seven council members: three in this year's cycle, four in 2015. 
  • Two at large members are up each cycle. You can vote for two and top two win each time. This year, Dickens and Susan Mims (seeking re-election) are up, but as noted Dickens is trying to swap seats. In 2015, it's Matt Hayek and Michelle Payne. 
  • The District B seat, roughly the east side, is also up this year. In 2015, Rick Dobyn's District A seat (roughly the west side) and Jim Throgmorton's District C (north side and downtown) are up. 
  • The city also has a primary system. It's not a partisan primary so you don't have to declare a party. 
  • A primary happens on October 8 if five or more people run at large. Right now we're at four announced candidates at large: Mims, Champion the younger, Kingsley Botchway and Rockne Cole. 
  • A primary also happens if three or more candidates run in a district seat. As noted we're now at two in District B: Dickens and Porter. If there aren't enough candidates, the primary doesn't happen. This is also different than a partisan primary, which has to happen whether or not there are contested races. 
  • Iowa City hasn't avoided a primary since 1991. For some reason, the city council race has historically been more attractive to, um, unusual candidates than, say, a legislative race. We've had several primaries with five at large candidates, one of whom is clearly very weak or sometimes not even actively campaigning. It's a free country. 
  • If there's a primary, you can only vote for two at large and one in the district. You're not picking which four (or two) go on, your picking which two (or one) you want. 
  • Now THIS is the most confusing part. If there is a primary in a district seat, only voters in the district vote in the primary. The WHOLE city votes on both the at large AND the District B in the November 5 election.
  • And oh, yeah, there's that little bar issue, too. This week the council voted to put 21 Bar on the ballot for the third time rather than repealing it themselves. They also, the same night, voted to ease the 500 foot distance requirement for new bars EXCEPT in downtown. One standard for old people, another for young people. 
  • The 19 Bar guys clearly aren't interested in my help. (Maybe I have an ego, but I like getting called. Even if I won't be with you, I might be less against you.) They must expect young voters to just magically appear. I'll still vote to repeal 21, sure, and probably write something, and take a yard sign if one is offered. But this isn't really my fight. If they can't get their 21 and 22 year old friends to support them - and the prevailing attitude among the juniors and seniors has been: I got mine, screw the freshmen - then they don't need a grandpa on board. I have better things to do in support of young people, and probably with a better chance at success.
  • Theoretically, University Heights could also have a primary, but this hasn't happened since at least 1977 (as far back as I've seen records) and may never have happened. Almost happened in 2009; one more candidate for mayor or council would have done it. 
So, back to the District B race. Porter has been active in southeast side community organizations and the Police Citizen Review Board, where she's been a frequent critic of ICPD. Looks like that cluster of racial disparity issues is carrying forward from the No Jail campaigns. She's also the second African American candidate, along with Botchway in the at-large race.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why State Troopers Drive The Governor

Terry Branstad and his team have let SpeederGate drag on for three long weeks, in a classic example of bad messaging. The incident, involving a fired state trooper who reported the governor's van traveling at close to 90 MPH, brought with it a lot of face-palming, and we Democrats are reveling in the schadenfruede. When the other team makes an unforced error, you take the base.

But the controversy about why Terry Branstad's driver gets to speed when the governor is running late, while the rest of us get pulled over and ticketed, begs a question.

Why is it that state troopers drive the governor around, anyway? A lesson from Iowa history shows that the governor's safety on the road is a serious issue.

On the night of Sunday, November 21, 1954, Governor William Beardsley was driving from Ames to Des Moines. The governor and first lady Charlotte Beardsley had paid a weekend visit to their son, Dan, at Iowa State. This was pre-interstate, so they were on old Highway 60.

Beardsley was in his final weeks as governor. The former state legislator, who had defeated incumbent Robert Blue in the 1948 Republican primary, was voluntarily stepping down after three two-year terms, and getting ready to hand off to another Republican, Leo Hough. He was looking forward to returning to his farm and pharmacy back home in New Virginia. But he never had the chance.

That night, the governor, at the wheel, crashed into the back end of a truck. The first lady was seriously injured. Governor Beardsley was killed.

"The people of Iowa have lost a devoted public servant whom they elected three times as Chief Executive of their State," said President Eisenhower in an official condolence.

Ironically, Beardsley was known for roads and highway issues during his term:

Beardsley was an enthusiastic road builder and successfully persuaded the General Assembly to adopt a road-building program. In 1953 he reported that "there has been more construction of highways during the last twelve months than in any other given period in the history of our state."He was especially proud of the miles of farm-to-market roads that had been built. Highway safety was another keen concern of Beardsley's. The Iowa State Highway Patrol was expanded, and emphasized safety education as much as law enforcement. Driver training classes in the high schools turned out safe drivers.

Lt. Gov. Leo Elthon succeeded Beardsley as governor for a few weeks. Elthon had been re-elected - this was back before governor and lieutenant governor were a ticket - so he went back to being lieutenant governor once Hough was sworn in as scheduled.

After that, state troopers took over the job of driving the governor.

So SpeederGate isn't just a question of privilege for the powerful, though that's certainly an issue. This is a matter of the governor's safety, bigger than anyone's personal taste or distaste for the present occupant of the office, bigger than anyone's party agenda. The people have chosen the governor, any governor, to a position of great responsibility, and that power should be handled responsibly.

Monday, July 22, 2013

I was wrrrrrrrrrrr

Jim Mowrer gave me a call last week. As you know, and as he knew,  I was initially quite dismissive of his chances when he announced his candidacy against Steve King. But I'm willing to talk to just about anyone (though Pat Murphy still hasn't called).

And I'm even willing to reconsider sometimes.

Jim Mowrer's a serious guy. He had a serious enough military career, in war and in the Pentagon, that he didn't need to come home to run a hapless race. And he's looked at the numbers, daunting as they are in that red district, close enough to see a path to victory.

That path runs through his fellow veterans and through the independents and even Republicans who are tired of having a congressman who's all talk and no action.

(Speaking of which, King did some more talking this weekend on, of all places, Univision, where he came as close as ever to admitting that No Amnesty = Mass Deportation. “American citizens and legal Americans do not have a moral obligation to solve the problem of the 11 million people that are here unlawfully." See? Even on his signature issue, he is fighting to do nothing.)

Where I was wrrrrr was in my assumption that Democrats had made their strongest possible effort in 2012. And Christie Vilsack was, indeed, King's strongest challenger yet.

But strongest YET is different than strongest POSSIBLE. Vilsack ran a decent campaign, but it was a conventional campaign and in many ways she was a conventional candidate. 
Steve King is an unconventional politician, and it's hard to attack an unconventional target with conventional weapons. So... why not something different? You know I'm all about the young candidates.

Insert megabytes of arguments here about where Christie Vilsack should have run (but remember that Boswell lost). And several high-level Iowa politicos have successfully moved, as long as there was some plausible overlap of territory. But even Vilsack's biggest supporters will concede that her ties to the 4th District really just her ties to the state as a whole rather than anything specifically northwest.

Mowrer is genuinely rooted in the district, on a family farm in Boone. His military veteran background (and, sadly, his gender) can reach voters Vilsack couldn't.

Sure it's a tough fight. But King is about to take center stage in a way he hasn't before. If he fails to kill immigration reform, it's a sign of a shifting mood even among Republicans. And if he succeeds, it just underscores that he's all about nothing getting done.

And in a seeming paradox, the off-year may actually help Democrats; unlike the rest of the state the district is so red that the big presidential year turnout helps the GOP more. And Democrats? In Steve King's district, Democrats will be ready to vote.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kajtazovic Explores Candidacy in Cedar Rapids

Anesa Kajtazovic took her brand new exploratory campaign into the 1st District's biggest county Wednesday, meeting potential supporters for coffee and speaking to a Hawkeye Labor Council meeting.

The two term Waterloo legislator is in the first week of a 20 county in 20 day listening tour  and what she's hearing so far seemed positive. Two dozen people showed up for a mid-afternoon event, many staying the full two hours. Most were new faces, but longtime Linn County activists Harvey Ross and Norm Sterzenbach Sr. were also on hand.

Linn County is home to three potential Democratic primary rivals: former legislator Swati Dandekar, attorney Dave O'Brien, and city council member Monica Vernon. Rep. Pat Murphy is the lone Dubuque candidate, and Kajtazovic would be the only candidate from Black Hawk. Those three counties together make up about two-thirds of the district's vote.

At 26 Kajtazovic is half the age of her potential opponents, yet comes to politics with a compelling story and experience beyond her years. "With hard work you can make your dreams come true in America," she says; "I'm very lucky to get a second chance at life." And that resonates with a deeper meaning once you know Kajtazovic arrived in Waterloo at age 10 in 1997 from a refugee camp in Bosnia.

"Coming here as a refugee wasn't easy, but it was probably harder for my parents. When you're a kid you adjust. But when you arrive with limited English skills, and your diploma isn't worth anything, you take any job you can." Her parents took factory jobs, her father working two at times. Anesa's first involvement in policy was helping her mother navigate the health care system after a workplace injury.

Kajtazovic worked her way through UNI in three years with a double major. While there, she began her political involvement, interning for fellow Black Hawk County legislator Bob Kressig in 2006, and also helping the man she hopes to replace in Congress, Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

An unusual combination of circumstances led Kajtazovic to become a candidate herself in 2010. She didn't discuss the details, but I remember the back story well.

Republican Tami Weincek had upset longtime legislator Don Shoultz in the Democratic banner year of 2006, for one of the few GOP gains anywhere in the nation. Democrat Kerry Burt regained it in 2008, but quickly got mired in ethical issues. Privately Democrats unsuccessfully pushed Burt to step down. Republicans had recruited former Waterloo mayor John Rooff in anticipation of an easy pickup.

Kajtazovic was the only Democrat with the nerve to step in for a primary challenge to Burt. She quickly rallied support, and Burt bailed after the formal withdrawal deadline. Kajtazovic then went on to beat Rooff by almost 20 points in the worst Democratic year in two decades.

So, attn: anyone dismissing Kajtazovic's chances? She's heard it before. 

"I was told it was not possible for someone my age," said Kajtazovic, who at 23 became the youngest woman ever elected to the Iowa legislature. "There were a lot of doubts - 'can you handle that job?' I think I've more than handled it."

At the coffee shop, Kajtazovic and questioners focused on lunchbucket issues: jobs, education, and health care. "With Republicans, all they want to talk about is taxes," she said of her experience in the legislature. But a lot of the business community I've talked to, they want skilled workers."

One exception was the Edward Snowden/NSA issue, raised by a questioner. "It's obviously damaging and a concern," said Kajtazovic, adding that Congress should play a greater NSA oversight role. 

Kajtazovic plans a grass-roots campaign like the ones that have succeeded for her in Waterloo. "Some people in Washington DC and Des Moines think it's all about getting the right consultants. Give me a break. I completely disagree. It should all be about hard work, the person and their values."

Kajtazovic sees her age and atypical background as a strength. "A lot of people are looking for a new vision and new ideas. More and more people are feeling disenfranchised and disappointed. We're becoming more and more diverse and Washington needs to be more representative." These themes seem similar to the framework Cedar Rapids Rep. Tyler Olson is using is his campaign for governor, so it's likely that youth vs. experience, and the definition of "experience," will be on the minds of voters in both races.

"Diversity makes us stronger," Anesa Kajtazovic says, "but we have a long way to go." Hey, Iowa? Here's a good start.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

He said WHAT?!?

Craig Robinson at The Iowa Republican buries the lede in literally the last sentence of a piece on a Monday candidate forum with the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition in Cedar Rapids:
(US Senate candidate David) Young said as a Senator, he would invite New York Senator Chuck Schumer to lunch so that he could share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Umm... what? He does know Schumer is Jewish, right? And he does know there's a long and somewhat unpleasant history surrounding such efforts at conversion, right?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Schools Out? (For Voting)

Twin articles in twin newspapers - the Iowa City Press-Citizen and the Des Moines Register - raise a question I hear often: Should schools be polling places?

For the few who don't know, I work for the Johnson County Auditor, so here's a little inside perspective the articles left out.

Under present law, schools and other public buildings are required to allow polling places. Laws can change. Laws can change so much that you don't even HAVE polling places. In Oregon, they just mail everyone a ballot. In other states voting is consolidated into a few large "vote centers."

The law also says schools and other public buildings are required to allow caucuses. Caucuses are not elections, they are meetings run by political parties. They also don't have the same child safety concerns, because they're held outside school hours. Caucus sites change a lot from year to year, depending on which party expects to have a busy season. Historically the parties work together well on this. In 2004, the Republicans were largely content to give Democrats the bigger rooms; Dems returned the favor in 2012.

Relatively few buildings are suitable to be polling places. They need to be in or at the worst very very near to the residential areas where the voters are. They need long-term stability, so Random Retail Space is a problem if the business closes or opens. They need parking. The hardest part, they need accessibility even above and beyond Americans with Disability Act standards.The hardest one, and the one that led to polling place changes in 2006, is parking. There has to be a van accessible handicapped space that - this is the tough part - does not require the voter to exit the vehicle into traffic.

That's why, despite a major remodeling to improve accessibility within the hall, we had to move Iowa City Precinct 5 from Burge Residence Hall to the UI Library. Yes, even though almost no voters in the precinct would drive to the polls, and even though the precinct's largest group of population is inside the building.

The other buildings that are most likely to have the combination of space, parking, handicapped accessibility, and location in or near residential areas are churches. In the People's Republic Of Johnson County at least that draws more complaints than schools. A church can't leave electioneering materials up, same as any other polling place. But if the pastor is loudly saying your marriage is a sin and an abomination on Sunday, do you really want to vote there Tuesday?

The polling place issue goes hand in hand with the precinct boundary issue. Precinct lines are done every 10 years and now can't be changed until the 2020 census. Legally, city councils and the county board of supervisors are in charge of their lines. As a practical matter, auditors are deeply involved.

I was on the reprecincting team in 2001 and 2011. Most of our precinct lines this decade are better than last decade, except on the far west side of Iowa City where a fourth precinct should have been added. (Important to remember: since reprecincting and the present discussion, Johnson County has had a change in auditors.)

The law has some exacting standards here, too. Precincts can't exceed 3500 in census population. That 3500 includes non-citizens and children. Below that 3500 the population standards are less exact than for legislative districts. We're allowed, for example, to look at growth and voter turnout patterns. By the end of the 2000s decade Johnson County's largest precinct in North Liberty had 34 times the voters of the smallest rural precinct. In 2011 we closed that gap by splitting the largest precincts, as required, and consolidating some of the smallest (over the objection of the former auditor). The largest precinct, Iowa City 19, is now just seven times the size of the smallest, rural Graham Township.

Sometimes the precinct lines lead to polling place decisions that don't seem to make sense. Why, for example, are there two polling places in the lovely but small city of Hills? Because a legislative district line chopped Hills off from the surrounding townships. That's another requirement of the law - we can't cross district lines. So that required a separate precinct for the city of Hills and another for rural Liberty and Pleasant Valley (one of the small rurals we consolidated). It's possible to have two precincts vote in one building, which we're considering in Hills and which we already do in North Liberty.

The precinct lines also cause issues when picking new polling places - because in many cases we worked around the existing long standing polling places. We had a lot of trouble in the 2000s decade in one precinct - which in 2007 became MY precinct - due to different facilities tossing us out. By decade's end we were in a far corner and would have been happier with very different lines.

Superintendent Steve Murley made it fairly clear in the Press-Citizen that the two main targets for moving are Lincoln (Iowa City 4) and Shimek (Iowa City 22). Those two happen to border each other on the Peninsula. They also happen to be the two where it's hardest to explain to a voter how to get there. Also note: the decision to move a polling place has nothing to do with the decision to keep a school open. If we wind up moving voting out of Lincoln or Hills it does not not NOT mean those schools are getting closed!

One more thing: Every election day I'm answering the Where Do I Vote question all day. A lot of people have a concept that you vote one place for "big" elections and another for "small" ones. Not quite. Assuming you don't move, you keep voting at the same place for all elections except school elections. The school districts get billed for their elections so they have the choice to combine precincts. Since the single biggest expense of elections is paying workers (no, they're not "volunteers," the law actually says you HAVE to pay them) the districts usually combine sites. As for the rest, you vote the same place for a low turnout city primary as you do for president.

This by no means answers every question. Travis Weipert and the rest of us are more than happy to take suggestions or answer questions. The precinct maps and polling places are available here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Labor, Treasurer Set Up Recycling Box

Something cool and useful to look at on your next trip to the county administration building: this box for recycling your old license plates.

It's modeled on a mail box, and located where the mail box used to be (that's been moved around the corner). You can drop your old plates off 24/7. You don't really need them in the garage, and if they get in the wrong hands they might be used for Bad Things.

Patrick Hughes, president of the Iowa City Federation of Labor, had been coming to the Admin Building for years to help recycle the old plates. He and Royce Peterson of the Carpenters union installed the box, which is decorated with some of the more colorful plates collected over the years. "Idaho - Famous Potatoes" is my favorite. Royce and Pat, and Treasurer Tom Kriz, deserve a hand for this.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ernst, Old White Guy Announce

Joni Ernst's long rumored now official entry into the US Senate race probably completes the field of serious Republican contenders in that race. (Of course, it's possible to win a GOP primary - or convention? - without being serious.)

It also puts more pressure on Democrats to nominate a female candidate for one of the top-tier congressional races. It's impossible to overstate just how big a deal it is to Democratic activists that Iowa is alone with Mississippi - MISSISSIPPI! - in having never elected a female governor or member of Congress. And it would make us absolutely bonkers if Iowa finally broke that barrier with a Republican. And the best bet for a Democratic woman is in the 1st CD, and of the three women in that race you know which one I'd like to see get it.

In response, another old white guy, Cedar Rapids attorney Dave O’Brien, got into the Democratic race in the 1st CD. He ran a long-ago race in the 6th CD - yes, two more districts than we have now - losing to Gopher Grandy in `88. The press release email came to me from a Link Strategies email address, usually a sign that the campaign won't be a shoestring operation.

Anyone else notice how Bruce Braley instantly and effectively united the party and cleared the field? Compared to, pic a name at random Pat Murphy, who's seen FOUR rivals jump in now since he announced?

Also note that if everyone follows through in the 1st, you're looking at three Linn County candidates, one from Dubuque, and one from Black Hawk.

While we're at it with the Ernst announcement, there was kvetching in the Twittersphere and what's left of the blogosphere about the Democratic Party being "too negative" toward the GOP candidates when a press release labeled her "establishment approved." Complaints about negative campaigning have existed since Ogg and Ugg ran against each other for chief of the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer tribe in One Million BC: "Ugg? More like Ugg-Ly. Me Ogg, me approve this message."

You know what would stop negativity? If it stopped working.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

First candidate in Senate 39

I knew Michael Moore had crossed over to the GOP to endorse Alan Keyes in the mosh pit, but what's this I hear about him running for the Iowa Senate as a Republican?

What? Wrong guy?

A very different Michael Moore is the first Republican candidate in open, evenly split Senate District 39, where GOP incumbent Sandy Greiner announced her retirement recently.

This Michael Moore, 66, doesn't have an Oscar but he IS the CEO of the United Presbyterian Home in Washington and a former Washington city council and school board member.

Moore's campaigning in the northern, Johnson County half of the district Sunday at a birthday fundraiser for supervisor John Etheredge. (The birthday is number 29; in my shock at John's partisan breakthrough in the March election I forgot to note his other achievement: he broke the record for our youngest supervisor. Terrence Neuzil was 30 when he won his first term in 2000.) Also expected: congressional candidate Mark Lofgren and Senate candidate David Young. That's the Grassley staffer guy, not the radio guy or the football guy or the other guy.

Senate 39 is exactly half in Johnson County, covering the west and south part of the county and including North Liberty and Tiffin. Democrat Sally Stutsman has that House seat. The south half of the district is most of Washington County and all of Keokuk County. Republican Jarad Klein holds that house seat and has announced he is not seeking the Senate seat.

The party registration is close but there's no electoral track record yet for this new district. The old district, where Greiner beat Democrat Becky Schmitz in 2010, went further south and included a smaller part of Johnson. Greiner then held over in 2012.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Generational Theme Developing For Primary

A generational theme is emerging in more than one Iowa Democratic primary next year as state Rep. Tyler Olson, in his fourth legislative term at age 37, announced for governor today, first in his native Cedar Rapids followed by Des Moines and Mason City stops.

His "new generation of leaders" theme and references at looking to the next 30 years rather than the last 30, is a contrast to Republican Terry Branstad, first elected in 1982 at roughly Olson's current age, now serving a fifth non-consecutive term, and hoping to break the all-time national record with a sixth next year.

But Olson's new leadership theme also has a primary election meaning against his main rival, Jack Hatch. The Des Moines state senator has been a fixture of state politics for a quarter century in two stints in the legislature, an unsuccessful congressional campaign, and service on Tom Harkin's staff. (For fairness and completeness: former legislator Bob Krause, who ran way back in the 2010 Senate primary, is also running; he's also in his 60s.)

The generational theme can't help but ripple into the 1st Congressional District race. Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo, in her second legislative term at just 26, announced over the weekend she's exploring a run. The other Democrats are all twice her age: Pat Murphy is 53, Monica Vernon 55, and Swati Dandekar 61.
Tangent: While Sarah Palin is hinting at a Senate run - because unless she's hinting at running for something people lose interest - Swati Dandekar took a page from the Palin playbook by, for the second time, quitting her job mid-term.
And likewise the Congressional primary ripples into the gubernatorial primary. While the 1st CD, which includes Olson's Cedar Rapids base, looks to be hot in both parties, the 3rd CD race is less exciting. Former Sen. Staci Appel is clearly the insider pick over Some Dude Gabriel De La Cerda, who offered this late last night:

O-kay. Speaking of the Screwy Some Dude Department, a new entry on the Republican Senate race gets an awkward start. Doug Burns:
Scott Schaben of Ames says he plans to run for the U.S. Senate in the November 2014 election.

He would join a developing field of Republicans seeking to take on U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo.

"I'm going to set this race on fire," Schaben said in an interview.

"They're going to know Scott Schaben."

Schaben's own family would bring racial diversity to the GOP, he said, noting that his wife, Latoja, an assistant coach for the Iowa State University women's basketball team, is African American.

"Let's see Bruce Braley paint me as a racist with a black wife," Schaben said.
Not the first Republican leader to make the same argument recently. Still, both better than Rand Paul's neo-Confederate staffer.

Anyway, tangent over. Point is the 1st CD primary will help turnout in Olson's turf more than the 3rd District primary will help Hatch.

Social media, home of the young and to those too old to be cool but to young not to care, seems more excited about Kajtazovic and Olson than the other candidates. (For the record I was more all like this.) But a fair warning to both candidates: the timing of a June primary makes a student/youth turnout effort, always challenging, even harder.

If either or both Olson or Kajtazovic pull off a win next November, it's a big change of image for Iowa, which is demographically one of the oldest states. And, it's been noted: since Iowa's national profile is too often defined by Steve King's anti-immigrant rhetoric, Anesa Kajtazovic would be a nice rebuttal from our side of the state.

Olson pick up some quick endorsements from leading Democrats. Ex-Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky said she was "enthusiastically and all in." Senator Rob Hogg is to be understood; Olson took over his House seat in `06 when Hogg moved to the Senate.

But most interesting was Senator Janet Peterson: not just a Senate colleague of Hatch, but a fellow Polk County legislator. (Though she served much longer with Olson in the House.)

Hatch quickly countered with actual issues, in this case his signature health care issue. He's calling on Wellmark to return money from $1.3 billion in reserves. But when steered toward the Olson announcement, he said "it’s Democrats’ job to choose the most experienced and 'articulate' candidate."

"I think in order to be a CEO of a state, experience helps," he said. It's the card he has to play in a primary against Olson, but you could easily hear Branstad repeating that line back in the fall.

With Olson in, the only real heavyweight yet to be heard from is Mike Gronstal. Word is and odds the Senate majority leader stays out. The joke is why would "Governor Gronstal" take the step down, but as with many jokes there's a lot of truth there.

So, Democrats. For the governor's race, two good candidates. For the 1st CD: one awful candidate trying to cross back over a bridge she just burned, one OK candidate who we just picked up on waivers from the other team, one more Old White Guy Like Me... and a chance to do something really special.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Losing Your Shirts

It's the right thing to do but still funny in a schadenfruede way: They literally sent the surplus Romney-Ryan shirts to children in Africa since they're worth about as much as the Zimbabwe dollar. It seems they do the same for the team that loses the championship, too. I'm not sure which pic warms my heart more:

This one...

or this one.

In all my excitement over Anesa Kajtazovic, I failed to note another congressional development: Democrat Staci Appel is taking another look at challenging Tom Latham, after exploring and then declining this spring. Republicans are bashing her already for changing her mind, but she's a better get for the Dems than the only other announced candidate, Some Dude Gabriel De La Cerda. Appel served one Senate term before losing to Kent Sorenson in 2010, but the way things are going for Sorenson, voters likely have some regrets...

In the No Surprise department:
Just as I predicted as soon as her dad, HD91 incumbent Mark Lofgren, announced his challenge to Dave Loebsack. In retrospect, the speedy announcement by Muscatine city council member Mark LeRette that HE was seeking the GOP nod in 91 looks like a failed attempt at a pre-emptive strike. So voters can either keep the Mark or keep the Lofgren. OR they can do what they should have done last time, because Democrat John "We Got" Dabeet is running again.

Daughter's candidacy puts Dad in a bit of a bind. Obviously no one would fault Mark Lofgren for supporting Emily; it was even rumored that he was not happy in the legislature and was considering a last-minute switcheroo in 2012. And Emily certainly has party credentials of her own; you know I'm all about those young candidates.

But if the elder Lofgren comes on too strong he risks alienating the LeRette supporters he'll need in the fall. And if LeRette wins, it's kind of a no-confidence vote in the Lofgren brand by his core constituents. My bet is LeRette is getting maneuvered out even now; newly elected Democratic senator Chris Brase will be high on the target list in 2016.

From: Terry Branstad
To: Kim Reynolds
Re: You're Not Helping
Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds today said she and Governor Branstad have an “ambitious schedule” and the state troopers who drive them around the state sometimes have to speed to make up time.

“Even…with this great job our scheduler does, it’s sometimes hard to leave these events and you run behind,” Reynolds said during a statehouse news conference.

Last week, the Iowa Department of Public Safety released the details of an incident in late April in which Branstad and Reynolds were in a vehicle being driven by a state trooper that was clocked going 84 miles an hour on Highway 20...
And on today of all days, when Terry announced that he was... not yet announcing but that he would be announcing. Only thing I hate worse is when they "announce" after they've filed.

Tyler Olson announced that he would be announcing... something... tomorrow. One look at the itinerary - Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Mason City - and it's clearly governor rather than 2nd CD.

And with Steve King continuing to rant No Amnesty on a near hourly basis it's important to remember that the left can push back on immigration, too. How about No Berlin Wall?

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Run Anesa Run

Now THIS was what I was looking for in the 1st District. The most exciting news since the Tom Harkin retirement:
State Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo has joined the field, announcing Sunday that she’s forming an exploratory committee. She plans to tour the 20-county 1st District to meet with voters before deciding whether to enter the June 2014 Democratic primary election.
The hints were there. The necessary precondition of Sen. Jeff Danielson opting out had happened. Then on Wednesday, this tweet:
No guts no glory? Worked for Kajtazovic before. Don't forget she got into her 2010 race as a primary challenger. Everyone was privately hoping and praying the scandal-hobbled Kerry Burt would go quietly, but only Anesa had the nerve to get into the race.  (Burt later quit after the dropout deadline and Kajtazovic crushed him 91% - 9%.)

Kajtazovic also showed up last week at a parade in Toledo - well outside her Waterloo House seat.
Two candidates — Rep. Pat Murphy of Dubuque and Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon – already are running for the nomination to the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, who is running for the Senate.

Another two Democrats – former state lawmaker Swati Dandekar of Marion, now a member of the Iowa Utilities Board, and Cedar Rapids attorney Dave O’Brien – are considering the race.
I want to get Iowa out of the no-women club with Mississippi, so I crossed Murphy off right away. Even leaving that out, failing to control the Six Pack of conservaDems in 2007-2010, leaving 30 seats without candidates and losing control of the House in `10,  and almost losing his own safe Democratic seat are all weak recommendations.

Dandekar burned all her bridges by quitting her seat and risking Senate control in 2011 to take a six figure job with Terry Branstad. Unless she raises big non-Iowa money, I can see her not even getting in.

Vernon seemed OK as a fallback female candidate, but that relatively recent (2009) change from the GOP bothers some activists. Kajtazovic has been a legislator longer than Vernon has been a Democrat. Welcome aboard, Monica, but have you earned a shot straight to the top?

Compared to these folks, Kajtazovic is a rock star. She was on the ground floor with Bruce Braley in his first race. She's the only Waterloo candidate. She's got a great story. She'll be exciting to young voters. The ethnic factor helps - Wateloo's Bosnian community is a bigger deal politically than Dandekar's south Asian community.

If Anesa Kajtazovic follows through, and I really really hope she does, Iowa's 1st CD will be one of the most watched races in the country.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Here's how yesterday REALLY went

Based on my traffic count and Reddit karma I should switch this blog away from politics and toward Hollywood gossip. But since I've already snapped the one actual Iowa celebrity, I'll stick to what I know.

The A list stars of Iowa politics were in Coralville for the July 4 parade. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack shook hands most of the route yet managed to keep up with the parade crew of over 150. (Usually we develop an unseemly gap in mid-parade that stretched to about a block by the end.)

Also on hand, Iowa's next governor, pictured above at the post-parade party at Casa Dvorsky. The dual appearance of Tyler Olson, set to announce soon, and the already in Jack Hatch underscores Johnson County's importance in next year's primary. 

Secretary of State candidate Brad Anderson was also with us for Coralville, along with a loooong list of local candidates and electeds. Many more pix via Facebook; if you were there and want a particular shot let me know.

Rod Sullivan and Joe Bolkcom at the end of a very long day. After Coralville, the die-hards went to Oxford - which you all heard about - and Hills. The three parade honor roll (I think I have everyone): Janelle Rettig & Robin Butler, Rod Sullivan & Melissa Fath, John Stimmel,
Mary Mascher, Sally Stutsman (who covered Sharon Center while the rest of us were at Coralville), and Mike Carberry.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

A Kutcher-Kunis Homecoming

I am now officially Hollywood paparrazi and I didn't even have to leave the county.

Hometown boy Ashton Kutcher and fiancee/former co-star Mila Kunis were in a monster truck at the Oxford Parade today. Kutcher threw candy while Kunis drove.

Kutcher exchanged some brief hellos with the local Democrats, as we happened to line up just in front of him.

And here I though our big celebrity of the day was gonna be Bruce Braley. (Those are next)

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


Anybody want to do some walking tomorrow?

Please Join the JCDems and our very SPECIAL guests on July 4th at 10 AM (parade starts at 11) for the Freedom Fest Parade in Coralville.  We will be meeting in the Geico parking lot.  We will be towards the beginning - Congressman Braley is 22A, JC Dems is 22B and Janelle Rettig is 22C
But really just one big bunch of Dems.
Special Guest Marchers include U.S. Congressman Dave Loebsack, U.S. Congressman Bruce Braley candidate for U.S. Senate, State Senator Jack Hatch, State Representative Tyler Olson
that should be interesting slash awkward...
and Candidate Brad Anderson candidate for Iowa Secretary of State.  There will also be our JCDems Elected Officials.
If you are unable to march in the parade we will have a float that you can ride on - so no excuses if you are in town!
    Wear your favorite Democrat shirt or Blue to show your JC Dem Pride!
    Electeds will bring signs but if you have them you can bring your own as well as flags to march with.
    IF YOU NEED A RIDE - please send an email to info@jcdems.org and we will work to get you one. 
 And after and only after you walk:
Join Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, Brad Anderson, Tyler Olson and Jack Hatch at Senator Bob (and Sue's) Dvorsky's for lunch, a cold beverage, and great political conversation at 412 6th St Coralville! Invite your friends, but your "ticket" to get in is to join us at 10:00 AM to march in the Coralville FourthFest Parade.
So lunch but not a free lunch.

We're just getting warmed up:

Oxford, IA
2 PM Line-up at Lions Park
3 PM Parade starts

Hills, IA
Line-up at 4 PM
Parade at 5:30 PM

Hmm. Both in or near the newly open Senate District 39... will a Mystery CandiDate appear???

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Steve King vs. Some Dude

As a good little donkey I should be more excited that Boone veteran and ex-Pentagon official Jim Mowrer has just Officially announced that he's challenging Steve King next year.

But after having my hopes falsely raised and then dashed by Christie Vilsack's failure last year, I just can't get into this announcement, conveniently timed just AFTER the campaign finance report filing deadline.

Don't get me wrong. If I lived in the 4th District I'd happily vote for Jim. He looks like a guy who can hold the party's base vote and, against the extremist King, win over some independents. There's something to be said for the ole Howard Dean 50 State Strategy of running everywhere to build the party. Mowrer will be an asset to the Democratic ticket in a quarter of the state where the game isn't about winning as much as it's about cutting your losses.

But don't anyone pretend, as Jim Mowrer says in the inevitable fund raising email, "that we are going to stand united and strong to win next November."

I'll just let Steve say it himself:  “I faced $7 million, the best of everything Democrats can throw at me, their dream candidate and everything that can come from the Obama machine, and prevailed through all of that with 55 percent of my district that was new.” If Christie Vilsack, in the Democrat friendly cycle of 2012, couldn't beat King, it won't happen.

It won't happen in a primary either. King was even paired up in redistricting, but it was Tom Latham who moved rather than King. There's no room on King's right for a primary challenge and no critical mass in any Republican primary anymore for a challenge from the center.

Steve King was recently voted by Democrats the "most clueless member of Congress." As the great philosopher Alicia Silverstone once said, WhatEVer. King's smart enough to stay put in a safe red House seat, smart enough to resist the begging of the Republican base to run for Senate.

King says a lot of things that are extreme, sure, but that's different than "clueless" statements, like the Texas legislator who seems to believe a "rape kit" is emergency contraception rather than evidence collection, or Alaska's Don Young dropping a "wetback" bomb. Somehow Steve never quite makes that kind of error. He makes you fill in the gaps yourself.

It's bloody clear that King's "Rule Of Law" and "No Amnesty" rhetoric on immigration reform is dog whistle code for the mass deportation of 11 million undocumented Americans, as a means to the end of a mono-cultural mono-lingual Don't Make Me Press 1 For English America. But he never quite says it. He's smart enough not to unleash the shitstorm of politically correct righteous indignation that would descend on him.

His supporters know what he really means. They're not dumb, either. Narrow-minded in many cases, perhaps even bigoted, but smart enough to know what you're not supposed to say, and maybe a little more cautious post-Paula Deen. Indeed, King's elliptical strategy probably makes them feel smarter just because they're left to figure it out themselves.

In both his decision to stay put and his ability to keep his rhetoric close to but not quite outside the limits, King has proven himself smarter than the Todd Akins and Richard Mourdocks and Sharron Angles, Republicans  who have lost races their parties should have won, the kinds of races Democrats need to have a Jim Mowrer type ready for just in case someone says or does something stupid.

Sure, lefties, you hate Steve King so much that you want to put your money into it. That instinct funded the lost causes of Rob Hubler in 2008 and Matt Campbell in 2010. The triage of politics is cruel. Even in the post Citizens United era, resources are finite. Every dollar given to a great guy running against an evil SOB in an unwinnable district is a dollar that doesn't go to a close legislative race.

As a young candidate taking on a big task, and as this post proves a thankless task, Mowrer may have a good future ahead. Paul Shomshor went on to four legislative terms after losing to King in 2002. So go ahead and send that money if you want, but understand that it's a long-range investment that won't pay off in 2014.