Friday, August 30, 2013

Kajtazovic A Millenial Trend And Counter-Trend

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen 
- US Constitution
Happy birthday to Anesa Kajtazovic, who turns 27 today. She earned her American citizenship nine years ago, just before turning 18 and just in time to vote for John Kerry for president. And of course she lives in Iowa so despite the archaic "he," she's got all the Constitutional qualifications to represent Iowa's 1st district in Congress.

The northeast part of Iowa has elected the youngest member of Congress before, and not so long ago: Jim Nussle was 30 when he won his first term in 1990. The youngest member at present is a 30 year old from Florida named - get this - Pat Murphy. So electing Iowa's Pat Murphy would just be too confusing.

Objective demographic facts are something a candidate can't change. She's young? OK, well, she's young. The rap, of course, is that Kajtazovic is supposedly "too young" and "inexperienced" compared to her opponents, all roughly twice her age.

"Experience" is a vague word. There's many kinds of "experience."  Leaving aside Kajtazovic's journey from refugee camp to Iowa, an experience I can't begin to imagine, her three legislative sessions mean she's been an elected official nearly as long as primary rival Monica Vernon has been a Democrat.

“A few will still say I should wait my turn, but women have always been told to wait their turn," Kajtazovic said in her announcement tour last week. "Working people have been told to wait their turn, immigrants, African-Americans and our gay and lesbian friends have been told to wait their turn. Our future is now.”

Kajtazovic represents both a trend and a counter-trend, at least according to a lengthy Atlantic take this week on the millennial generation, the 95 million Americans born roughly 1982 to 2003:
“The Millennials have arrived, and they could rescue the civic health of our nation after decades of decline,” says John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises, a national-service think tank. One of the nation’s foremost authorities on civic engagement, Bridgeland believes Millennials will be the next Greatest Generation, because, like the generation anointed by Tom Brokaw, they are products of an era of economic crisis and war, and are committed to community service.
So far so good. But:
The Harvard IOP study, “Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes Toward Politics and Public Service,” published on April 30, suggests Millennials are increasingly negative and cynical about the political process.
  • Nearly three in five young Americans agree that elected officials seem motivated by “selfish reasons,” an increase of 5 points since 2010.
  • Fifty-six percent agree that “elected officials don’t have the same priorities that I have,” a 5-point increase.
  • Nearly half agree that “politics has become too partisan,” up 2 points.
  • Nearly one-third agree that “political involvement rarely has any tangible results,” up 5 points.
More to the point, 47 percent of young Americans agree that “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges out country is facing.” Only 16 percent disagree.
So in Kajtazovic, an unusual combination: Millennial drive to serve, millennial style of service in the non-profit sector, combined with traditional route of service via government.

Kajtazovic isn't the only young Iowa Democrat in a top tier race. Fellow 27 year old Jim Mowrer is challenging Steve King in the 4th District. Gabriel De La Cerda, who turned 35 this week, is one of two Democrats in the 3rd CD. And the ticket could be topped by gubernatorial candidate Tyler Olson, who's 37 but looks younger (however, contrary to rumour this photo was NOT taken last week).

A Democratic ticket with any or many of these people would be a sharp contrast to a Republican Party increasingly defined by aging attitudes, especially on social issues, and headed by a governor seeking a sixth term.

As for me, I certainly don't have the energy at my age for a 24/7 job like member of Congress. I may even have to retire the "Too old to be cool, too young not to care" slogan when I turn 50 later this year.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

No Iowa City Primary

For the first time since 1991, Iowa City will not have a city primary.

As expected, just four candidates filed for the two at large seats, and two candidates for the District B race, through today's 5 PM filing deadline. One more in either would have meant an October 8 primary. Instead the candidates go directly to the ballot for the November 5 election.

University Heights, the other Johnson County city with a primary provision, has also avoided a primary. They haven't seen one since at least 1977 and some sources believe it's never happened.

All six Iowa City candidates, interestingly, are registered Democrats. As we all know from Johnson County politics, some Democrats are more Democrats than others, but official registration is just an Objective Fact.

The at large candidates:
  • Kingsley Botchway, 27, west side. Attorney by training, county employee by profession, and Prime Time Leauger by recreation.
  • Catherine Champion, 47, Longfellow area. Downtown retailer and daughter of current District B incumbent Connie Champion who is not running.
  • Rockne Cole, 38, near east side. Attorney; identified with the "stop the shadow" coalition opposing Marc Moen's latest high-rise proposal.
  • Susan Mims, 56, far north side. Incumbent finishing first term. Financial planner by employment, long list of chamber of commercy community servicey organizationy stuff.
In District B, can you imagine a bigger contrast between:
  • Terry Dickens, 58, far north side. Incumbent in at large seat switching to the District B race. (The whole city votes on the district race; I explain the now-moot complexities of the district and primary system here.) Owner of Herteen and Stocker jewelers, where he's been the front line man on the effort to crack down on homelessness on the Ped Mall.
  • Royceann Porter, 47, southeast side. Case manager at Shelter House and community civil rights activist.
case manager at Shelter House
case manager at Shelter House
case manager at Shelter House
case manager at Shelter House
It's the first re-election and in some ways the first real election for Dickens and Mims. They got a de facto walkover in record low turnout 2009 over student candidates Dan Tallon and Jeff Shipley (both of whom have since left town and both of whom I voted for).

This race should be nearly as polarized but more competitive, and with much higher turnout. That little 21 Bar question, technically over the post-10 PM bar admission age but also sort of a Whose City Is This Anyway town-gown Rorschach test, is making its third appearance. Why don't they ever get the student candidates and the bar issue on the ballot in the same year? Three or even four students might have won in 2007 when the 19 side won the bar war 57-43%. It was closer, with 21 winning just 52-48, in the rematch during the 2010 general election.

The council race has a clear insider vs. outsider dimension between incumbents Dickens and Mims and pseudo-incumbent Champion the Younger, vs. outsiders Botchway, Cole and Porter. Also noteworthy, given the racial arrest disparity debate that helped defeat the county justice center twice: Botchway and Porter are both black. That wouldn't be a first; Ross Wilburn served 12 years including two as mayor, and George Strait won two terms in the 80s. But Botchway at 28 (on swearing-in) would be the youngest member since David Perret, the last student elected to the council in 1979.

The lack of a primary affects fund faising. Iowa City has a donation limit: $100 per person per election. Per election, which means one $100 check for a primary and one for November. No primary means only one $100 max donation.

So a primary with a weak fifth wheel might have actually helped a candidate who could raise money, since there's no rule that you have to spend it all on the election you supposedly raised it for; you can keep it banked for later. That's what happened in 2009, when a third student candidate forced a low-turnout primary, thus allowing the heavily favored townie candidates to double-dip their donors. Dickens started calendar 2013 with $8133 left over from 2009, while Mims had $1550.

Labor Day suddenly controversial?

Despite a unanimous vote, there was a little argument over a symbolic Labor Day resolution passed by the Johnson County supervisors today.

Before the vote, Republican John Etheredge said he would vote for the resolution despite disagreeing with parts of it.

Following the vote Etheredge said the specific language that concerned him was: "unions continue to fuel the growth of our economy and a strng middle class,"

"If you go to a livable wage it doesn't facilitate a persons ability to afford items. In the end the consumer always pays," said Etheredge. "That burden is actually on the taxpayers. We should focus on quality rather than whether it's union or not. I just don't like pitting people against each other, union vs. non-union. It's the person and the people and the work ethic, not whether it's union or not."

"Living wage should not be a controversial issue," said Board chair Janelle Rettig. "You should be able to work 40 hours a week and pay your bills."

"I don't see the things that the clerks and ambulance drivers and sheriff's deputies do as a burden," said Rod Sullivan; "I see it as a benefit."

We went with the cheaper labor at HHS," said Pat Harney, discussing the county building opened in 2008 and built by a non-union firm, "and now we're paying the price for it."

City Federation of Labor President Pat Hughes, accepting the proclamation, said "Because a non-union contractor knows how much union workers earn, they can just care enough off a bid to just slip in. The savings are insignificant and the money goes to the boss."

"We think it's our mission to represent all workers, not just union members," said Jesse Case of the Teamsters, noting that union contracts set the wage and benefit standards for non-union labor as well.

Hughes also said wage theft, especially of last checks for a job, is common in Johnson County. "Workers still have to fight for their own justice and dignity."

Full audio of the discussion will be available later in the day. Full text of the proclamation:
WHEREAS, hard-working men and women across Johnson County prove that we are home to the most creative, dynamic, and talented workers in the world, on Labor Day and throughout the year, we celebrate our County's workers; and

WHEREAS, the right to organize and collectively bargain is a fundamental American value.  Since its beginnings, organized labor has raised our living standards and built our middle class.  It is the reason we have child labor laws, 40-hour weeks, weekends, overtime, vacations, the minimum wage, sick leave, parental leave, OSHA, employment nondiscrimination, pensions, Social Security, health insurance, and so much more.  Many Americans today are given opportunities because their parents and grandparents fought for these basic rights and values.  The principles upheld by the honorable laborers of generations past and their unions continue to fuel the growth of our economy and a strong middle class; and

WHEREAS, there is a vigorous fight to protect these rights and values, and on this Labor Day, we reaffirm that collective bargaining is a cornerstone of the American dream.  From public employees -- including SEATS Drivers, Social Workers, Ambulance employees, Clerks, Plow Drivers, Sheriff’s Deputies, and others who perform public services -- to workers in private industries, these men and women hold the power of our Nation in their hands.

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that we, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, do hereby proclaim Monday, September 2, 2013, as:


and call upon all people of Johnson County to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that acknowledge the tremendous contributions of working Americans and their families.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Labor Backs Tate, Cook

The Iowa City Federation of Labor has made two endorsements in a vote for three race for Iowa City school board: incumbent Karla Cook and second-time candidate Jim Tate.

Both are union members. Tate is an IBT 238 member at United Natural Foods, and Cook, a former teacher, is an NEA retiree.

In other school news, there are rumors of geographic coalitions: east siders seem to be centering around Cook and new candidate Brian Kirschling, while to the west there's a lot of common support for incumbent Tuyet Dorau and new candidate Chris Lynch, both of Coralville. But these aren't universal and leave room for a third vote - an opportunity for a candidate with district-wide appeal if there even is such a thing in the Don't Close My School dynamic. (As a Roosevelt parent I have a certain... detachment from Don't Close My School.)

And A Blog About School has kindly assembled a "One Stop Shop" with lots of links.

Feel free to spread more rumors in the comments.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The politics of pinto beans

Steve King's nightmare, in the grocery aisle: The Washington Post looks at the growing success of ethnic food company Goya:
Joe Perez takes Progresso Soup -- now owned by General Mills -- as a cautionary tale. "Progresso in its day, the 1950s and 1960s, was the Goya of Italian food. And now what is Progresso? It's a soup company," Perez says. "They were lulled into believing 'yes, go through the major chains, don't have a single focus, we'll take these items only.' For two or three years, sales were booming, and after that, they started to decline. Then it became a question of the chain saying, 'We don't need all these items, let's get rid of them.' You lose your authenticity. It becomes, 'Well, we don't really need you anymore, there's all these other lines. You're not that special. You've lost your reason for being.' "

America already has a Sysco foods, after all, which supplies general staples in bulk. What Goya is becoming is a Sysco for the new America, where chipotle is as common as ketchup.

At the end of the day, what's good for immigrant America is good for Goya. "We are a country of immigrants, and thank goodness," he says. "Because that way, we can tailor our product lines to all those who are coming in."
The reason the ethnic food aisle is Steve King's nightmare is that Goya, and by "Goya" I mean the entire shifting marketplace, is making the multicultural into the normal. It humanizes the alien. It rejects King's premise that "American" = native born and English Only.

America's vision of immigration has historically been the "melting pot" where distinctions eventually blur into the surrounding Progresso Soup. Canadians, in contrast, have defined themselves as a "mosaic" culture, where each sub-culture remains distinct yet contributes to one big picture. It helps that Canada was founded as and remains a bilingual nation - which America is rapidly becoming.

The economic vitality in places like West Liberty and Columbus Junction - and increasingly my own Iowa City - is in the growing Hispanic community. Republicans could easily choose to make that part of an enterprising vision. Instead, they're fixated on Know-Nothing monoculturalism, on Enforce The Law. You will be assimilated (or deported). Resistance Is Futile.

The smart ones get it. The national big thinkers get it, which helped land King's Democratic opponent Jim Mowrer on the front page of Roll Call yesterday. But too often they're drowned out by the reactionaries, the Republicans thinking in the short run, the ones who want to retreat to an imaginary processes cheese America that never really was. Me? I like things a little more spicy.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Will Iowans Be Able To Caucus Twice?

John Deeth Blog Exclusive

For the first time ever, individual Iowans may be able to caucus twice, with both the Democrats and the Republicans, next January. If the current schedule holds, the two parties will meet on different dates.

The scheduling conflict between Democrats and Republicans is yet another difficulty for Iowa's effort to keep its first in the nation status for 2016.

Since May 18, Democrats and Republicans have both had official, and different, caucus dates for 2014. True, the presidential race isn't at stake. But in all other previous off-years, the two parties have carefully coordinated the same date, and only the simultaneous scheduling has stood in the way of people attending both caucuses.

In addition to the dangerous precedent, a lot is at stake just in 2014. Both parties are looking at major races - the Republican Senate race and the Democratic race in the 1st Congressional District - that could be decided at conventions. The delegates to those conventions are chosen in a process that begins at the caucuses, currently scheduled for Tuesday, January 21 for Democrats and Saturday, January 25 for Republicans. And control of the Republican party structure itself, which went to a Ron Paul dominated faction after the 2012 caucuses, is also at stake.

That change in Republican control is what has led to the present scheduling conflict. On April 6, the Republican state central committee met and scheduled their 2014 caucuses for Saturday, January 25. This was news to the Democrats. Traditionally, the two party chairs have coordinated their caucus date efforts, as Democrat Sue Dvorsky and Republican Matt Strawn did multiple times during 2011 as other states tried to leapfrog earlier in the process.

But new Republican chair A.J. Spiker, who took over after Strawn was booted following the caucus night counting controversy, made no such effort to check in with then-Democratic chair Tyler Olson (who has since resigned to run for governor) before rapidly making the date official. This left Democrats in a jam.

The two parties, in part responding to Hillary Clinton's 2007 criticism of the weeknight caucus tradition, experimented with a weekend caucus for the 2010 off-year cycle. On the Democratic side, this drew complaints from the Jewish community.

"Saturday caucuses are bad for organizing since they have such poor attendance and as you know it disenfranchises folks from the Jewish community," said IDP executive director Troy Price. "These are lessons we learned in 2010, and at that time both parties said we would not do a Saturday again."  But that prior informal commitment was apparently non-binding on the new Republican leadership.

The Democratic state central committee next met on May 18 in Ft. Dodge, and scheduled the 2014 caucuses for Tuesday, January 21. The traditional caucus night had been Monday. But that tradition was broken in 2008 when, to stay ahead of New Hampshire and in calendar 2008, both parties met on Thursday, January 3. In addition, Monday, January 20, 2014 is the Martin Luther King holiday. African-Americans and other civil rights activists were unhappy that the caucuses landed on MLK Day in 2004 and again in the 2006 off-year cycle.

As of now, Democratic staff, at least, appear committed to a non-Saturday date. "It is unfortunate the Republicans put us in this position," said Price. "The Saturday caucus date is all about their internal politics.  Quite frankly, I hope this is not a problem and we will continue to reach out to them to try and get them to move."

But those hopes may be misplaced. Saturday, the Republican state central committee met again and moved their convention date back a month to July 12, in anticipation of an inconclusive Senate primary. If no candidate wins over 35%, this convention will choose the nominee.

"Since when does the state party gear its convention around a possible nominating battle, 10 months before the primary?" wrote Kevin Hall of TheIowaRepublican:
This is a terrible decision … For one, since newly elected (state central committee) members take control after the state convention, this decision gives the current regime another month in power.

More significantly, it could extend the Republican U.S. Senate primary race an extra month. Not only would this delay give the Golden Child Bruce Braley an easier path to victory. It would also give campaigns, and certain groups, more time to organize their delegates. 
"Yes, Big Liberty, I’m looking at you," Hall concludes, using the label he and many non-Paul Republicans apply to Spiker and the current party structure.

But Spiker appears deaf to the criticism of the convention move that has come from the state's highest ranking Republican officials, Governor Terry Branstad and Senator Chuck Grassley.
Spiker is referring to a 27 day window for the Secretary of State to complete the canvass (official result certification) of the June 3 primary.

So that's how Spiker deals with his fellow Republicans. How is he likely to respond to pleas from Democrats about moving off the caucus date he prefers?

After a long absence, I started attending Republican events again in mid-2007 and have been to many since. Invariably there's a prayer near the beginning, and almost invariably it concludes with the Christian-specific "in Jesus' Name." So Democrats are expecting Republicans to move their date out of Jewish religious concerns. Good luck with that.

So what happens if the two parties stay with their different dates?

Caucus 101 time. The caucuses are not elections run by county auditors and staffed by paid poll workers. They are party meetings run by the parties and staffed by volunteers. There aren't the same checks and balances there are in an election. The plain, simple, historic way to keep people from going to both caucuses was making it physically impossible by holding them at the same time.

"(Democratic chair Scott Brennan) and I are researching the law around this and we will work with the Republicans to put rules in place to stop people from participating in both," says Price. But the Democrats are in the weaker position because under the present schedule they go first.

I've been co-chairing my county's credentials committee since 1996. Producing the list of delegates, let alone all attendees, is time consuming tedious work. I'm usually rushed to get just the delegates together in two weeks. The only sure-fire way to keep people from going to two caucuses, given the present schedule, is to 1) complete the work of checking off all the attendees between Tuesday late night and early Saturday; 2) give your valuable proprietary caucus attendance data to the other party and 3) trust the other party on Saturday to exclude people who'd attended your caucus on Tuesday.

And what happens if you, in "good conscience," change your mind after your platform resolution fails Tuesday night? It's up to the Republicans to seat you or not, and the Democrats can't un-seat you after the fact.

This is bad for First In The Nation. Really bad. And understand that it's entirely the Republican Party's fault, for not honoring the great tradition of bipartisanship that surrounds the caucuses and Iowa's special role.

Perhaps next year a more reasonable, cooperative group of Republicans will take the party reins. But that's too late for 2014, and there's no reason to expect the Spiker-led, Paul-dominated party to change their date. Even though they should. The Democrats will ask, as they should, but will likely get turned down. 

That leaves two bad choices. The Saturday date creates an appearance of insensitivity, and the Jewish community will rightly deserve an apology since the current batch of Iowa Republicans are not honoring a promise their predecessors made.

But the possibility that people can vote twice cuts at the very integrity of the caucus process. If the Republicans refuse to move dates, perhaps Democrats can fall back to a compromise on time: a post-sunset start that does not break the Sabbath. However, if that fails, the only option that protects the caucuses' integrity is for Democrats to accept, with reluctance, the Republican-imposed schedule.

Events This Week: August 26-September 2

I'm changing the format a bit for an eight-day week; will send the Beatles their royalties later.

Impossible to keep up with the candidate coffees anymore, as forum season starts:
The Friends of Community Inclusion would like to invite you to attend a forum with all nine candidates

The forum will take place on Monday, August 26th at 6pm at the Iowa City Public Library in Meeting Room A.

The moderated panel discussion will focus on the school district’s special education programs and issues related to our students working, living and learning in our community.

The intended audience includes families and teachers of special education students, disability-oriented service agencies and staff, and all community members invested in diversity and integration. The forum is open to the public.
Another forum: Thursday 7-9 pm by DPO and the Gazette at the School Board offices on North Dodge. Next week: Tuesday 9/3 6:30-8 by ICEA and Press Citizen at Coralville Library; Thursday 9/5 6:30 -8:30 at Hills Community Center.

Don't forget the other districts: Clear Creek Amana School Board Forum Monday, August 26th at 7 pm at the Oxford School Library; Solon School Board Forum Wednesday, August 28th at 6:30 at the Solon Public Library

Today's the Official announcement tour by GOP Senate 39 candidate Royce Phillips; stops in Sigourney, Washington and North Liberty.

Thursday the JCDems are having a little busier executive board meeting than usual, as we're combining it with a mail stickering party. 6 PM, ICPL.

Monday of course is Labor Day (celebrated in May 1 in the rest of the civilized world) so you know what that means:
The Iowa City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, will host its annual Labor Day picnic on Monday, September 2, starting at noon at Upper City Park, shelter 2. Burgers, brats, veggie options and beverages provided. Please bring a dish to share. Political speeches and a good time guaranteed. Free to all Friends of Labor. For more information call Patrick Hughes, President, Iowa City Federation of Labor, 319-828-4541.
The Labor Day picnic is a good place to spot candidates. Always interesting to see who does and doesn't show. (I take roll.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Week In Review: August 19-25

My top story of the week, of course, was Anesa Kajtazovic making her formal congressional announcement. My unrestrained glee was enough to earn me a .Gif-t Shop mention, but I'm not the one who said “We just need to get her a constitutional amendment so she can be president.”

Meanwhile her primary rival Swati Dandekar picked up a key legislative endorsemenet - from a Republican.

The Kajtazovic announcement is a narrow winner for story of the week over Ben Affleck as Batman. But everyone knows the REAL Batman is Adam West.

Terry Branstad and his omnipresent junior partner ("Rising Star") Kim Reynolds rolled out The Worlds Biggest County Chair List. Bleeding Heartland caught the omissions. A few names missing from our county: Supervisor John Etheredge, Senate candidate Royce Phillips, 2012 House candidate Steve Sherman.
Speaking of Reynolds, what's the word on that rumour that Branstad 6.0 is only going to be Branstad 5.5?

Speaking of chairs, one county chair quit the GOP entirely. Oops, that's a co-chair. I've long been puzzled by Iowa Republican habit of calling heir number two officer a "co" chair rather that a "vice" chair. Finally someone made a pilot/co-pilot analogy and it made sense.

The Iowa Republican was the top story on Politico... Maybe KCRG & KWWL should read some blogs, as they seemed to think Kraig Paulsen was still "considering" a 1st CD run two weeks after he's said no and announced for re-election instead.

Fast developments in the House 33 special where Des Moines City Council member Brian Meyer drops in (after getting squeezed out of his legislative job by new Democratic leader Mark Smith) and all the other Democrats drop out. And Republicans called a convention presumably so they can nominate a dude from the audience again. Still funny.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dandekar Gets Odd Quasi-endorsement

Swati Dandekar just picked up what looks a lot like a legislative endorsement from the northern tier of the 1st CD, from State Rep. Josh Byrnes of Osage.

Just to clarify: Byrnes is a Republican. Dandekar, at least according to the Federal Elections Commission report, is a Democrat.

Via Facebook, Byrnes:
So I have been watching the race for the 1st Congressional District unfold and I just wanted to share some insight to my Democratic friends. Of the Democratic candidates who have announced, Swati is the best choice. When I was a freshman legislator, one of Senator Dandekar's bills was sent over to House and assigned to me. She treated me with respect and was nothing but great to work with. I have nothing but utmost respect for Senator Dandekar. I have been told she has a tough road ahead of her in the primary because Democrats see her as being too moderate and not liberal enough. Swati is pro-business and pro-economic growth. We need to send more moderates to Washington D.C. as its the only way we can begin to fix the disaster we call the federal government.
Byrnes is correct in that Dandekar "has a tough road ahead of her in the primary." Perhaps he thinks this helps. Perhaps, no probably, Dandekar thinks it helps, because her whole pitch is that she's an "electable" moderate (in a district with a good on-paper Democratic lean).

But you have to get a nomination first, and Byrnes is also correct that "Democrats see her as being too moderate and not liberal enough." And he left out the I ♥ Nukes part and the Voting Against Marriage Equality part and the Risked Senate Control By Resigning And Taking A Six Figure Job From Terry Branstad part.

Republicans have a field of past losers in this race, and their preferred candidate, Speaker Kraig Paulsen, opted out. (Not that you would know from watching KWWL and KCRG yesterday; they still had Paulsen as "considering" the race even though he announced otherwise a couple weeks ago.) So maybe this is the Republican strategy in the 1st CD: nominate the most conservative Democrat? Sounds like a supervisor primary in Johnson County.

Or maybe, as even objective journalist James Lynch said, Dandekar's best option is to cross over?
And you thought he was joking. As for me, Swati remains my sixth choice out of five, just below Sharp Sticks In Eyes.

House 33: Game Over

The House 33 special election moved quickly to the clerk hiring stage as Des Moines City Council member Brian Meyer announced his candidacy.

Two declared candidates, Karl Schilling (who announced within the hour of Kevin McCarthy's resignation) and Joe Henry, dropped out and endorsed Meyer. A third possible contender, Felix Gallagher, had not formally announced.

UPDATE: This Civic Skinny item explains everything:
Word is that Marshalltown’s Mark Smith, who bested Des Moines’ Rick Olson, 24-20, in the caucus vote to succeed Kevin McCarthy as head of the Democrats in the Iowa House, has let go McCarthy’s key aide, Des Moines City Councilman Brian Meyer. The move has surprised — and upset — some Democrats. …
In a footnote to the race in this solid Democratic district, the Republicans announced their nominating convention for September 4, same date as the Democrats. The Republicans also had a convention in this seat last year. In one of the wackiest moments in a very wacky year for Iowa Republicans, they literally nominated an audience member - and he was actually a better choice than the announced contenders. Story never gets old.

The election proper is set for October 22. Still wondering why, in a seat that's entirely in the Des Moines city limits, Terry Branstad didn't just combine it with the November 5 city election. That worked in 2001 in a Cedar Rapids seat.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Kajtazovic Official Today

Today is the Official® rollout of the Anesa Kajtazovic congressional campaign, with a four stop announcement tour of the 1st CD. It's still a milestone, even though it had been pretty clear since very early in the three week 20 county "listening tour" of the district that this was going to happen.

The launch got a head start Sunday morning with a half hour KWWL interview.  With some obligatory "When?/Soon" out of the way, longtime anchor Ron Steele got Kajtazovic to open up more than usual about her personal history:


(The photo above is from the day the Kajtazovic family, including a then 10 year old Anesa, left a Bosnian refugee camp for Waterloo.) The interview also focused on health care and immigration reform.

This marks five Democratic candidates now Officially® in for the open 1st District, prompting speculation that no one will hit the required 35% in a primary and the nomination will be settled at a convention.

I'm not as convinced of that. Three of the five share the same geographic base in Linn County. After her Senate control risking resignation in 2011, Swati Dandekar is toxic to the Democratic base, and she has to compete for the "moderate" support she claims as a strength with compelling Republican contests: the GOP's one congressional primary and the Senate race. And her immigrant/American Dream story is neutralized, or more likely trumped, by Kajtazovic's more compelling version of the story.

Unlike Dandekar, who took a high dollar job from Terry Branstad when she resigned her seat, Monica Vernon is at least moving in the right direction. But her relatively recent (2009) switch from the GOP to the Democrats still has activists wondering. And Attorney Dave O'Brien offers little compelling reason for his run.

Between them, the three Linn candidates splinter their geographic base. That leaves the lone candidate from Dubuque - Pat Murphy - and Kajtazovic, the only Black Hawk contender.

Last time the seat was open in 2006, Bruce Braley won the Democratic primary with just 36% in a field with three serious contenders and one Some Dude. It was largely a "friends and neighbors" contest, where candidates rolled up big margins on their home turf. Rick Dickinson won 61% in Dubuque and an amazing 80% in Jackson, while Braley scored 68% in Black Hawk.

Scott County, no longer in the district, was largely neutralized. Davenport's Bill Gluba won, but Braley held his own while Dickinson was wiped out. Linn County plays that role this time.

The gender factor is in play here. Iowa Democrats are desperate to break out of the never elected a woman status we share with only Mississippi, and they don't want the Republicans to do it first with Joni Ernst in the Senate race. Democratic women serious about this are worried about the three women splitting the vote. My suggestion: look to the geography and look to the woman who doesn't have to share a large home county.

So I see someone coming out of this primary with more than the 35%, and I say this race comes down to Murphy and Kajtazovic. And you know where I am on that.

UPDATE: While I missed the events (a full day of Human Being stuff for me) I caught up with Kajtazavic by phone on the road from Cedar Rapids to Dubuque for the fourth press event. (There's a fifth stop tonight, at Jackson County's central committee meeting; one of the 1st CDs medium size counties.)She said attendance from the public, including voters from neighboring counties, was good at the first three events.

"I bring a perfect mix of experience and a fresh outlook," she said in distinguishing herself from the rest of the crowded field. That crowd has led to a lot of speculation about a nominating convention, but Kajtazovic sees a path to an outright primary win with both first place and the required 35%.

"I'm from the second largest county, and we have tremendous support there, overwhelming support," she said. "This campaign will be grassroots, one voter at a time." She said she's also heard positive feedback on her "Steele Report" comments on campaign finance reform.

Full statement from Kajtazovic campaign:
State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic (D-61) announced today that she will be running for the open 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by Bruce Braley. She is currently serving her second term in the Iowa House representing part of Waterloo, Gilbertville, Washburn, parts of Jesup and La Porte City in Black Hawk County.

In 2010, Rep. Kajtazovic became the youngest woman elected to the Iowa legislature at the age of 24. She said she knocked on over 7,000 doors and made over 2,000 phone calls to receive 59% of the vote over longtime Waterloo mayor, John Rooff. In the legislature, she currently serves on Appropriations, Commerce, State Government, Veteran Affairs and Economic Development Budget-Sub committees. She previously served on Ways and Means and Local Government. She's part of American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) and NewDeal Leaders.

She's been part of bi-partisan international delegations to China and Taiwan. Last year, she was named one of Courier's 20 under 40 award recipients and one of three legislators awarded to be part of the Council of State Governments BILLD program. During her time in the legislature, Rep. Kajtazovic championed for education, access to quality and affordable health care for all Iowans, renewable energy, preserving our natural resources, growing jobs in Iowa, and campaign finance reform laws.

“I am running for Congress in Iowa’s 1st district because I believe that government should make people’s lives better. Washington needs transformational leadership and I will bring a fresh perspective to solve the gridlock and bring about meaningful reform for the middle class,” Kajtazovic said. “I live and breathe those middle class values and you can count on me to work tirelessly to ensure all Iowans get the opportunities they deserve.”

Rep. Kajtazovic, said her listening tour reinforced that Iowans are ready for a new generation of leaders to step up to solve the challenges and strengthen the declining middle class.“Through my listening tour of the 1st Congressional District, many expressed a need for a new generation of leadership. Leadership in the mold of Tom Harkin and Bruce Braley that makes economic security and a growing middle class our number one priority.”

Kajtazovic wrapped up her listening tour on August 5th in Waterloo during which she visited all 20 counties in the district. She used the tour as a chance to talk to voters to assess her potential run and to gauge their most pressing issues. “This process should be about the people and for me the people were the most important metric in deciding to run,” Kajtazovic said. “The support and encouragement from people across the district is absolutely there. I’m here today because I believe Iowans are looking for new leaders—leaders with new ideas and vision; leaders with records of success and innovation; leaders who will stand on principle yet compromise to get things done for the common good.”

“I've seen the challenges and opportunities. I'm an example of the American Dream. Only in America could a 10-year old refugee rise up, graduate from college with a double major in 3 years and then be elected to a state legislature at the age of 24.”

Kajtazovic graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a double major in Business and Public Administration. “Education has provided me with opportunities that I would have never had otherwise. I credit a great deal of my success to the exceptional education I have had through the public education system, so I understand the vital need education plays in a thriving economy in the 21st century. We must invest in education and make quality education an affordable option for our people.”

Kajtazovic and her family immigrated to Waterloo in 1997 from war-torn Bosnia. She describes their coming as a second chance at life and a shot at the American Dream, which she exemplifies. She attributes her success to her parents instilling in her that with hard work anything is possible in this country, but she is aware that attaining the American Dream is becoming increasingly difficult for middle class Americans. “We must keep the American Dream alive and we can do that by providing all Iowans and all Americans with a fair shot,” Kajtazovic said. “Working families are struggling and I will make it my priority to give them a voice.”

“At the end of the day I am a Bruce Braley Democrat and when elected I will grow on his progressive legacy. Bruce has been a great champion of Democratic values and middle class ideals and you can expect the same commitment from me.”

Monday, August 19, 2013

Events This Week: August 19-25

Back to school, as Iowa City district students return Wednesday. In the Deeth-Steele-Cox home this means our guys are the Big Kids at their respective schools: sixth grade at Horn and eighth grade at Northwest. Double school transition next year.

Back to school week also means the school board election kicks up a notch. Candidate Jim Tate is hosting an event Thursday 5-7 at the Wildwood Smokehouse and Saloon. Donations not required but welcome.

Karla Cook is hosting a pair of listening posts: 4 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday A at the Coralville Library and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Iowa City Public Library. Brian Kirschling has three: From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday, at the Shimek Ice Cream Social; 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the North Liberty Rec Center, and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, at Coaches Corner.

Three more justice center forums this week:
Monday, August 19, 2013, 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM
Coralville Public Library
1401 Fifth Street, Coralville
Supervisors Neuzil and Etheredge 

Friday, August 23, 2013, 9:00 – 10:30 AM
Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center, Assembly Room
28 South Linn Street, Iowa City
Supervisors Rettig and Harney 

Sunday, August 25, 2013, 4:00 – 5:30 PM
Johnson County Administration Building, lower level conference room
913 South Dubuque Street, Iowa City
Supervisors Harney and Sullivan
Friday night Terry Branstad makes a fundraising stop in Solon for Bobby Kaufmann.  Also on hand: State Rep. Guy Vander Linden.

2nd CD Democrats are hosting a day-long workshop in Oskaloosa Saturday.

State labor activists get to see Howard Dean in Des Moines Wednesday.

And look for an Official announcement out of Waterloo soon...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Week In Review: August 12-18

The State fair led off the week with a bloody Butter Cow and ended up with Scott Brown, so from bad to worse.  But in between Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar stepped just far enough over our northern border to get CSPAN interested.

Contrary to rumor I was NOT at the Republican fundraiser Friday. That was an imposter. But there IS some news from the Local GOP: Tiffin's Royce Phillips pre-announced his candidacy for open Senate District 39 Friday. Formal events are planned for 8/26 in Sigourney, Washington and North Liberty. Congrats to a stand-up guy and good luck but not TOO much good luck (offer expires June 3, 2014). I'm willing to endorse Royce's primary opponents if it helps.

Other legislative races:
  • Looked like a smooth Republican transition in House 18: Nancy Boettger announced her Senate 9 retirement, Rep. Jason Schultz promptly announced for Senate, and Holt simultaneously announced for the House seat. But there will be a primary; Dillon Malone of Dow City, who's 21 and clerked last session, is in.
  • There's now a THIRD candidate in open House 91, where Mark Lofgren is leaving to challenge Dave Loebsack. Mark Cisneros announced this week, joining Mark LeRette and Emily (daighter of) Lofgren. Two Marks and a Lofgren. That's going to cause a little confusion, mind if we call you Bruce? It also increases the odds of Emily Lofgren not getting through the primary, which would be a serious ding for Dad going into the congressional race.
  • Democrat Liz Bennett is in for open House District 65 in Cedar Rapids, the Tyler Olson seat.
Tweet Of The Month:

The Read Of The Week (Over 140 Character Division) comes from ThinkProgress:
We progressives can talk about global warming as much as we want as long as we don’t propose anything that might actually solve the problem in a timely fashion. In this view, any climate proposal other than long-long-long-term research and development is automatically just a big government power grab.

That’s it. That is the logic behind the pervasive view on climate change on the right: We don’t like the solutions to this problem, so we officially declare this not to be a problem. 
Because housing jobs & health care would make too much sense, the Iowa City Council is working on a new anti-homeless ordinance. Can't let human misery get in the way of selling diamonds on the Ped Mall, can we.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

And then he's going to California! And Texas! And Oregon! And Michigan!

"4. No politician goes to Iowa by accident. NONE." That's one of Chris Cillizza's "5 immutable rules of politics" posted just this past Monday, after a weekend of especially intense Republican activism in Iowa.

Now the Democrats are laying down their Just In Case Hillary Doesn't Run markers in Iowa. Amy Klobuchar hops across the Minnesota border to Mason City Friday, and Joe Biden is lined up for the Harkin Steak Fry next month.

But today, a news flash out of 2003:
Howard Dean is returning to Iowa, the birthplace of his innovative 2004 presidential campaign — and the site of his amplified death wail.

Mr. Dean’s main topic will not be the White House, but rather the state house, according to an aide at Democracy for America, the group the former Vermont governor founded after his failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Mr. Dean plans to speak at the Iowa Federation of Labor convention in Altoona on Aug. 21 about his group’s effort to elect more Democrats to state legislatures.

The group’s “Purple to Blue” campaign has focused on five races in Virginia this year, but will expand to other states in 2014.

“This isn’t the last you’ll be hearing of Dean and Democracy for America in Iowa leading up to 2016,” the aide said.
And then he's going to California! And Texas! And Oregon! And Michigan!

Kidding aside, Dean is still a popular figure with the left of the party, and not only for his peaked too soon presidential campaign. Dean led the Democratic National Committee for four years, with a successful 50 State Strategy that led the party back to congressional control. And let's be honest, in 2008 Barack Obama debugged a campaign plan that Howard Dean beta-tested.

That was Howard Dean: just a little ahead of his time. The Scream Speech - artificially filtered audio to begin with (the infamous sound bite starts at 0:55) - took on a life of its own as an Internet meme, as shorthand for Dean supposedly being too "radical," too "dangerous," too... "crazy" to be trusted with the presidency.

Those themes were in the air here in Iowa in the last weeks before the 2004 caucuses. Remember, The Scream was after the Much More Important Third Place Finish. Pile-on attacks from other candidates, combined with strategic Anyone But Dean alliances among the other contenders (anyone else remember the Kucinich-Edwards pact? We Deanics do) scared just enough people into playing it safe. We have to nominate the electable candidate! They can't attack John Kerry, he's a war hero! Dean's too... risky.  If you know what I mean.

Those "risky" ideas, like getting out of Iraq, are mainstream now. Indeed, Dean's cutting edge 2003 support of civil unions for gay/lesbian couples would now be seen as unacceptably conservative in a Democratic primary contest.

In a country that honored Richard Nixon as an elder statesman, no one is beyond redemption, except John Edwards. What did Howard Dean really do, anyway? He got excited in front of a crowd and tried to be heard. Dean Sixteen might be redemptive for more than just the candidate. There's a heavy faction of Iowa caucus haters on the left of the Democratic Party, like Markos Moulitsas and Rachel Maddow. And the roots of that hate stem back to caucus night 2004, when Iowa scuttled Dean, the most viable anti-war candidate. 

Despite Rule 4, sometimes a trip to Iowa is just a trip to Iowa. And a labor conference focused on state legislative races is pure 50 State Strategy. I don't actually expect Dean to get into the race. What I expect to see is a bipolar race along the lines of 2000, with Clinton as the Gore-like prohibitive favorite with solid establishment support. Someone get to play Bill Bradley in this scenario, and Dean would be well positioned for that role.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Polk's Fitzgerald Out for Secretary of State

Via Facebook, Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald announces he's NOT running for Secretary of State:
Today, I am formally announcing my decision to not run for Iowa Secretary of State in 2014.

My decision comes after countless discussions with my family, friends, colleagues and other supporters. Timing was one of the biggest factors to my decision. My wife and I will have all four of our children in high school this year, including two seniors! Our children (like most) are involved in many activities - both academic and athletic - and like all parents, I want to be as involved as much as possible including attending all of their events.

I am deeply humbled by the many phone calls, texts and emails encouraging me to pursue the office over the past few months.

It is an honor and privilege to lead a great staff in the Auditor’s office and to serve all voters of Polk County. I love my job as Auditor and look forward to continuing to work hard for our taxpayers.
Brad Anderson remains the only announced Democrat, and has strong support from party leaders.

Fitzgerald stepped up to auditor in 2007 by appointment when his predecessor Mike Mauro was sworn in as Secretary of State. Fitzgerald has won two terms in his own right since.

Mauro, who lost to Matt Schultz in 2010, has not ruled out trying to get his prior job back but is reported leaning against.

North Carolina Nudges Caucus Date

It's hardly the most important thing in North Carolina's new vote suppression law. And it's definitely not the biggest problem the Iowa Caucuses have had lately. We may well find ourselves voting in a June primary between Hillary and That Dude In Federal Prison Who Got 41% Against Obama In West Virginia. (Shout out to blogger/operative Shane Vander Hart, who goes where few other Iowa Republicans are going and calls for a Kent Sorenson resignation).

I feel a little bit "How will this affect me, Al Franken" bringing it up. But buried in the new North Carolina election bill, outlined very well here, is an effort to move the state earlier in the presidential primary process.

The new law ties the primary date to its neighbor South Carolina, which has established itself as First In The South and has been a critical state, especially on the Republican side, back to about 1980. Current protocol, agreed to by both parties, sets South Carolina as the fourth and last "early carveout" state, following Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.

Despite our recent problems, potential candidates (with one very notable exception) and the national political media are still proceeding on the premise that Iowa is first. Last weekend of course was Vander Plaalooza. And while Hillary has things frozen on our side, Amy Klobuchar is coming to the Wing Ding Friday, and Joe Biden is literally - LITERALLY! -speaking at the Harkin Steak Fry next month. (We need to keep the Steak Fry or something like it going post-retirement.)

So the caucuses are coming Soon. How soon? Josh Putnam at Frontloading HQ does a better job than anyone at tracking the maneuvering and scheduling. He's assembled a calendar for 2016.

It's extremely tentative, like the extended weather forecast or your flight departure time. Putnam's good but he's not Nate Silver good. He's got Iowa tentatively slotted in for the evening of Monday, January 18, 2016.

That's Martin Luther King Day. We caucused on MLK Day in 2004, and again in the off year cycle in 2006. There was some grouching from the African American and civil rights communities about having to choose between the caucuses and MLK events. The Democrats tried to paint a happy face on it with an approximate spin of: participating in the caucuses is a great way to honor Dr. King. Whole thing is kind of ironic when you remember that one of the raps against the caucuses is that Iowa is Too White.

Right now the Democratic higher-ups seem more concerned about landing on a Saturday instead. Again the nationals, armed with Stephen Bloom's notoriously anti-Iowa article from late 2011, will wonder why Too Christian Iowa is worried about the Jewish Sabbath. I doubt the Republicans are; most GOP events I've attended in the last few years include a prayer that's specifically "in Jesus' name."

Personally, I'd rather go on MLK Day or a Saturday than on the insanely early January 3 as we did in 2008 and 2012. I live in a college town and the students have been a non-factor those two cycles, scattered and unlikely to attend. But we rank and file activists really have little say in the power struggle to Stay First.

The Republican National Committee meets this weekend and will no doubt have an opinion on North Carolina. Not the vote suppression part, of course, but the primary calendar part will come up.

The most important things Iowa can do at this point are 1) denounce Sorenson loudly and firmly while making the case for what the caucuses really are and should be. Sue Dvorsky does this well here. 2) The Democrats and Republicans need to keep each other in the loop and keep their efforts and scheduling coordinated. Attn A.J. Spiker: First In The Nation is more important that How will this affect me, Rand Paul.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tech Tuesday: August 13

In my quest for more regular features, I'm dusting off the old Linux Monday and reviving it as Tech Tuesday. Not quite Twofer Tuesday or even Taco Tuesday but still useful.

The must read of the week for anyone even remotely connected to technology, which means all of us, is Kids Can't Use Computers... And This Is Why It Should Worry You by Marc Scott. And by "kids" he means Most Grownups Too. Read the whole thing but here's a taste:
There’s a narrow range of individuals whom, at school, I consider technically savvy. These are roughly the thirty to fifty year-olds that have owned a computer for much of their adult lives. There are of course exceptions amongst the staff and students. There are always one or two kids in every cohort that have already picked up programming or web development or can strip a computer down to the bare bones, replace a motherboard, and reinstall an operating system. There are usually a couple of tech-savvy teachers outside the age range I’ve stated, often from the Maths and Science departments who are only ever defeated by their school laptops because they don’t have administrator privileges, but these individuals are rare.

Not really knowing how to use a computer is deemed acceptable if you’re twenty-five or over. It’s something that some people are even perversely proud of, but the prevailing wisdom is that all under eighteens are technical wizards, and this is simply not true. They can use some software, particularly web-apps. They know how to use Facebook and Twitter. They can use YouTube and Pinterest. They even know how to use Word and PowerPoint and Excel. Ask them to reinstall an operating system and they’re lost. Ask them to upgrade their hard-drive or their RAM and they break out in a cold sweat. Ask them what https means and why it is important and they’ll look at you as if you’re speaking Klingon.
Here's one my sons could have told me: Gamers will save the PC. "A growing number of users are migrating to tablets and smartphones as the specs of these devices continue to mature. With that shift, the remaining PC users are going considerably high-end."

And from PC "Mag" (Remember PCMag? Online only for several years) one thing you should know how to do - How to Clone a Hard Drive - and one thing you maybe shouldn't do unless you have some spare liquid nitrogen - How to Overclock Your CPU.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Worse Things Than Partisanship

I usually get some criticism for my Objective Voters Guide to school and city elections. They're supposed to be non-partisan, so even mentioning the party IDs of candidates is supposed to be taboo.

But there's worse stuff in this race than partisanship.

Johnson County Republican chair Deb Thornton took a shot at candidate Sara Barron, an out lesbian, via Facebook yesterday.

Thornton writes:
Sara, and I'm sure as an open and inclusive person who welcomes all views and believes everyone has a right to their own opinion, to not only have the right to a difference of opinion - but to state it freely - under the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States - that you'll respect my right to believe homosexuality and homosexual marriage is wrong. No, I won't be voting for you - for a wide variety of reasons.
I'm all for free speech, and for taking responsibility for what you say. Barron replied:
Yes, and as someone who calls for unity and working together through our differences, I have to admit that my patience for intolerance goes away when it hurts my children or tries to come through my front door.
Thornton herself ran for school board in 2007, finishing a distant last place.

Since partisanship's not so bad compared to that, let's take an Objective look at the other three Johnson County districts.

My wife Koni's alma mater Clear Creek Amana has four separate candidate races, along with a levy renewal. Their system is a little complicated. They have four district seats and three at large seats. Everyone in the whole school district votes on the district races, but candidates have to live in the district.

That prompted a seat switch for incumbent Eileen Schmidt; the line changes were minor but just enough to draw her out of her district. She filed at-large instead and is unopposed; incumbent Aimee Pitlick filed but then dropped out. Schmidt is registered as a Republican. I'm supposed to say the races are non-partisan. But this is the Objective Information people ask for.

The District 3 seat is for a two year term, because it's where Schmidt was paired up with fellow incumbent Steve Swenka. He's running again and facing Lisa Beckmann. Both candidates are registered Democrats.

In District 4, former board member Jim Seelman (registered Republican) and new candidate Malinda Lamb (a Democrat) are facing off. The District 2 seat drew no candidates at all, and the winner will be determined by write-ins.

Three seats are up for grabs in Solon, and two are vacant as incumbents David Asprey and Lianne Westcot step down. Dick Schwab, the unsuccessful Democratic candidate in House 73 last year, is running for re-election. The other registered Dem on the ballot is former Solon mayor Rick Jedlicka. Timothy Brown, Amber Marty and Doug Vislisel are all Republicans; Steve Duncan is an independent.

Lone Tree looks like the quietest race as incumbents Gary Feldman (a Democrat), James Loan and appointee Christina Magruder (both independents) are unopposed for the three seats. But there's a history of write-ins in this district and some have beaten ballot-listed candidates. The Tree also has a revenue purpose statement on the ballot.

And last but not least, all four districts are voting on renewal of the Kirkwood levy. Parts of the county also vote in Kirkwood director district 3 where longtime incumbent Lois Bartelme (a D) is unopposed. Johnson County hasn't seen a contested Kirkwood director race in decades, though Linn County sometimes has contests. There's one up there this year in District 9; Kevin King is challenging incumbent John Swanson.

Smokey and the Bran-Dit

Jack Hatch is on the air insanely early with the first ad in next year's gubernatorial race. It's fish in a barrel, poking fun at Terry Branstad's, um, rate of progress:

This ad is running in the right month, but the wrong year.

The odds are that Branstad's speeding incident - yep, we know HE wasn't driving but people tend to do what the boss tells them - is the only thing happening right now that weak voters will remember, even with a prompt like this ad, in a year. There's an abuse of privilege, rules don't apply to me angle that irks Regular People. And the ongoing lawsuit will keep it in the headlines.

This is a general election negative spot. But you have to get to the finals first. Democratic activists will chuckle at this, because they loathe Branstad. But you could just as easily slap five seconds of Tyler Olson on the end of this ad. I see nothing in here that would make a Democratic primary voter choose Hatch over Olson. The race is still at the young guy from Linn, old guy from Polk stage.

Events This Week: August 12-18

Today's the first day for candidates to file for city council in Iowa City and University Heights. Will we avoid an Iowa City primary for the first time since 1991? The Rumour Mill only tells me about six candidates. I spell Rumour Fleetwood Mac style.

District B has at large incumbent Terry Dickens vs. Royceanne Porter. In the at large race it's incumbent Susan Mims, pseudo-incumbent Catherine Champion, Kingsley Botchway and Rockne Cole (Cole signs already spotted on the north side). If that field holds, no primary. Too late to launch a serious campaign, but still plenty of time for Some Dude to get the signatures and force an extra election.

The UH has not had a primary in living memory, but expect hotly contested polarized races there until St. Andrew Church is bulldozed and something, big or small, is built on the city's one vacant lot.

Iowa City's hottest club is Bob's Your Uncle on North Dodge, where Janelle Rettig is hosting a campaign event Tuesday from 5 to 7. According to Rettig, this place has everything:
I've heard from 5 of the 9 Iowa City School Board Candidates that they will be attending the Rettig for Supervisor Gathering on Tuesday. They all seem like really decent caring folks and are interested in talking with you and other people. Those I've heard from are James Tate Sara Barron Tuyet Dorau Jason T. Lewis and Chris Lynch. I also know that Kingsley Botchway running for Iowa City Council will be attending. Representative Tyler Olson will be there to talk about his race for Governor. Add in the elected officials expected to stop by Rod Sullivan Terrence Neuzil and you will have plenty of people to lobby and twist their arms. If you know other candidates, please invite them. All are welcome, so please bring friends. Having this event is all about building community and finding common goals to work on. I hope you can make it to visit with some of these candidates in person.
Wearing her work hat, Rettig, and the other supervisors, are hosting a series of listening posts on What To Do Next after the two Justice Center defeats. The first in a series of seven meetings was held Saturday and two more are scheduled this week:
Tuesday, August 13, 2013, 7:00 – 8:30 PM
North Liberty Community Center, Classroom C
520 West Cherry Street, North Liberty
Supervisors Neuzil and Sullivan

Wednesday, August 14, 2013, 10:00 – 11:30 AM
Solon Public Library
320 West Main Street, Solon
Supervisors Neuzil and Rettig
Summer parade season ends Saturday in Lone Tree (Baja Johnson County). That's in open Senate District 39 so maybe we'll get some hints on who's running.

Summer's almost over: in the Iowa City district new teachers report Wednesday  and returning teachers are back by the end of the week.

School board voting also starts Wednesday. The Dvorskys have weighed in on the school board race, as Sue Dvorsky posts:
Bob and I have decided to cast our 3 votes for incumbent Tuyet Dorau, and newcomers Chris Lynch and Sara Barron. We will be hosting coffees for each of them, to give our friends and neighbors a chance to meet them, and hear their ideas. Mark your calendars for 8/14 6:00 p.m. for Sara Barron. That one will be hosted by my sister Melissa Anne Mandernach (509 5th Ave Coralville), then meet Chris Lynch 8/17 9:30 a.m. here at our house. Bring a friend, and get involved in the conversation!
The Dorau event was this past Saturday. Interestingly, Dorau and Lynch are the two candidates registered No Party. They're also the two candidates from Coralville. East sider Phil Hemingway is a Republican; the other six including Barron are Democrats. Non-partisan race but objective information.

In other candidate coffees, Jason Lewis Thursday from 6 to 7:30 PM at the North Liberty rec center. Lewis gets an endorsement from Jim Throgmorton of the city council, who's also backing incumbent Karla Cook; "Not yet sure about the 3rd position. Need to learn more."

Since Ashton Kutcher gets me record traffic, I need to mention his big premiere Friday as the title character in "Jobs."Or if you're into more local films, it's Landlocked week.

Planning to make this a regular feature, too, in fact I already started on next week. (Now that I'm taking ads I'm obsessing about traffic.) I'm happy to add your events if I've missed any; comment and I'll update. Inclusion isn't endorsement. Example: The Johnson County GOP's Reagan Society dinner this Friday night with speakers Mary Mosiman and - interesting - Mariannette Miller-Meeks... I may editorialize, approximately as I have above.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Week In Review

Best news of the week: The dean of Iowa journalists, retired AP reporter Mike Glover, is back in the ball game at  One more site to visit first thing every morning.

Good news for the many Democrats running in the 1st CD: House speaker Kraig Paulsen, the GOP's most viable candidate, is out. Multiple reports that Black Hawk County's Walt Rogers is interested. Second term legislator, exactly the same length of service as Anesa Kajtazovic. Though the Gazette's James Lynch joked:
The author of the faux "Vonica Mernon" account found this funny.

Mernon, I mean Vernon, Dandekar and Kajtazovic were all on hand for the EMILY's list Madame President forum Friday in Des Moines. This led to another round of Hillary 2016 speculation, and navel gazing from state and national media, about Clinton's problems in the 2007-08 caucuses. I took a look at Clinton's caucus failures the day before her third place finish. Hoping she fixes those failings before the 2016 caucuses…

…if there even ARE 2016 caucuses. We may well be choosing between Hillary and That Dude In Federal Prison in a June primary. Thanks, Kent. To the national folks it's not the Iowa Republicans who screwed up 2012; it's IOWA. Rachel Maddow bashed us three nights running. Don't forget, the Daily Kos wing of the party is still mad that Iowa scuttled Howard Dean in 2004. The Scream, which I still occasionally use as a ringtone, happened AFTER the Much More Important Third Place.

Mark Smith is the new House Democratic leader, winning what looks like it was a contested fight with Rick Olson of Des Moines. That common name will likely cause as much clutter in my Goodgle News Alerts as his predecessor, Kevin McCathy, did; there's a California congressman in the House GOP leadership who share's McCarthy's name. (I also learned there is another Steve King, from Colorado, who is an awful lot like our own Steve King who is NOT running for president. And there's always New York's Peter King, who is also capable of calculated outrageousness.) But near as I can tell Kajtazovic is unique.

The convention for McCarthy's House seat is now contested. Latino activist Joe Henry has jumped in alongside Karl Schilling who based on his announcement minutes after McCarthy's resignation appears to be the pre-selected successor.

Terry Branstad set the date for the McCarthy special for October 23. That's just two weeks before the November 5 city election. The district is entirely in the city of Des Moines. Why not just combine the legislative special with the city election? That's what Tom Vilsack did in 2001 for a Cedar Rapids legislative vacancy. It meant keeping the polls open till 9 across Cedar Rapids, rather than the usual 8 PM city election close. But that's still cheaper than a whole additional election. Since Polk County has cities with both primary and runoff provisions, this could mean the auditor has to manage five separate elections, some overlapping, between September and December.

Other legislative races:
  • Council Bluffs Finance Director Art Hill (R) announces in Senate District 11.I My bet is this means retirement for GOP incumbent Hubert Houser, though I've seen no announcement.
  • Rob Hogg announced for re-election in his Cedar Rapids Senate seat.
  • Bob Anderson, state central committee member and former Johnson County Republican chair, is now being openly called a candidate in Senate District 39, where Sandy Greiner is retiring. Anderson will face Michael Moore of Washington in a primary. The name Royce Phillips, Tiffin city council member and former mayor, is also being tossed about…
Won't be long till I have to dust off spreadsheets and start keeping track of this. Who wants District Of The Day 4?

In the governor's race Jack Hatch will be up on TV soon, and he picked up an endorsement from fellow Des Moines Senator Matt McCoy. So how much of the primary with Tyler Olson of Cedar Rapids split out - on East vs. Central lines? Hint to all candidates: Johnson County outperforms in contested Democratic primaries, because our courthouse races are a big draw. In both 1998 (Vilsack-McCormick) and 2006 (Culver-Blouin-Fallon) Johnson was the number two county in the state, ahead of larger Scott and Linn.

Locally: Sign wars are heating up in the Iowa City school board race.  Of the nine candidates, Phil Hemingway is the only one not to form a campaign finance committee, required after $750 of fundraising or spending. But he's got plenty of home-painted signs on the east side. Also noted in school races: Former Iowa House candidate Dick Schwab is seeking re-election to his Solon school board seat.

The "21 makes Sense" (sic) committee reorganized this week. Not only are the supporters of lowering the bar admission age back to 19 incapable of returning phone calls to reporters; the previous committee, Yes for Entertaining Students Safely (YESS, not nearly as good a name as 2007's Student Health Initiative Taskforce) just closed its accounts last month. The previous campaign leader, bar owner Mike Porter, has moved out of state, successfully driven out of business by the city and University. "All it took for Iowa to become the top party school in the country was for me to leave town," he posted on Facebook. "I guess i was holding the party scene down too much. Hahaha"

I guess so, Mike: “Of course I’m drunk, it’s Thursday night in Iowa City.” (In what may be an effort to keep up, Iowa State is offering students $1000 to NOT live in the dorms.)  

Site notes:

1. I may start doing a post like this regularly.

2. Blogs are pretty old school in the Twitter Era, but before that we geezers used to have these things called "personal home pages." I hosted mine with my Internet service provider. They followed in the footsteps of GeoCities and pulled the plug on this service on August 1, with enough notice that I was able to save what I needed. I used this space to host some photos back in the Iowa Independent era (2007-08) and I haven't and probably won't take time to update those links. So some of my archives will have little red Xs where there should be pics.

3. Also, after the Ashton Kutcher traffic spike, I decided after a lot of thought to host ads. These are not necessarily endorsements.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Steve King Wants You To Break The Law

There was too much crazy at the famIly leader summit today for me to even scratch teh surface. But even above that din, one speech stood out to me. You guessed it, Iowa's Own Steve #NoAmnesty King.

See, the man who wants "Enforce The Law" to be immigration policy, today said that churches should violate the tax code and politicize the pulpit:
“And when we lean across our backyard fence, or when you step up to the pulpit or when you sit in the pew, when you profess the things that we believe in, and you’re a 501(c)3 and you’re afraid of the IRS, just go ahead and defy the IRS on that,” he said to cheers and applause.

So, does that same logic apply to sanctuary cities, or churches aiding the undocumented community? Oh, forgot. We have "no moral obligation" there.

Friday, August 09, 2013

A 21 Side Bar

Lost in the coverage of the Iowa City council's vote to put 21 Bar back on the ballot for a third time: a concurrent vote to reaffirm the council's support of 21, and how that illustrates the dysfunction of Iowa City's electoral system.

Putting the issue on the ballot is kind of a neutral thing. Sure, the council could have seen the error of its ways and repealed 21, but deferring the question to the voters is fair enough. But then immediately re-affirming support for the ordinance? Unanimously?!?

To the untrained eye this contest looks one-sided.  The Yes/19 campaign is inept and invisible, unable to even return reporters' calls. "21 Makes Sense" (sic) has the same all star names it got in 2010 and blanketed the news with its rollout Wedneasday. But this isn't a landslide issue. Don't forget that in 2010, 21 barely survived, just 52-48% (scroll all the way to right).

We're in a town-gown polarized community, so polarized it's unhealthy. There was only one precinct in town that had anything resembling that citywide 52-48 margin - an area that transitioned from student to townie housing. Other than that, the student precincts voted overwhelmingly for 19 and the townies nearly as strongly for 21. The net result: a close race.

Yet the council is governing like it has landslide support on this issue. Which, regardless of what you think of the bar issue itself, is my point.

Set aside the bar admission age issue for a moment. I'd like to; I'm a little too... passionate about it, and I'd really rather someone else, someone with hair and without grandchildren, made the case for my side. For the sake of argument, go to Your Special Place and insert any other bipolar question. Packers-Bears. Mary Anne or Ginger. Cats or dogs. All issues with strong feelings and substantial support on both sides.

To get elected to the city council in Iowa City, you have to win a city-wide election. I'm not going to try to explain the screwy pseudo-district and primary system here; I did so elsewhere recently. Point is, to get a seat you have to win city-wide. And townies flatly refuse to vote for student candidates. In 2011 Raj Patel ran a serious well-funded campaign at age 20 with significant townie support, and he still couldn't get votes east of Governor or west of Sunset.

There's loads of research and history showing that at-large electoral systems have long been used as a tool to dilute minority votes. And Iowa City has not elected a student to the city council since 1979. (No, middle-aged Michelle Payne taking a class doesn't count.) 48 percent of the votes for 19 bar? Zero percent of the votes when the city council reaffirms it.

I'm not asking for a forfeit-style win. A majority, however slim, supported 21 last time. But in a fair system that more accurately reflected voter sentiment, that council vote would have 4-3 or 5-2, not 7-0.

The other communities I've lived in were all college towns in Wisconsin, of similar size to Iowa City. Their city councils were a larger body, a couple dozen members each, elected from wards about the size of our precincts. Each town had two or three students on the council. They didn't run the show, but they had a seat - a VOTING seat - at the table, and from time to time their concerns were addressed or at least heard.

That's the model I'd like to see here.

The city charter is up for review next year. I'm planning to apply for the Charter Review Commission. And without too much bragging, I think I'm highly qualified. What do you think my chances are?

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Why Sorenson Matters

If you haven't read it yet, I want you to leave this page right now and read Craig Robinson's piece from yesterday in TheIowaRepublican, "The Payoff - Details Revealed on Sorenson's Deal With Ron Paul." Get another cup of coffee, it's a long read. But do it.

You're back. All done? You didn't? Do what I told you.

Still didn't? OK, the tl;dr version for those with short attention spans.
Documents obtained by suggest that State Senator Kent Sorenson sought and likely received financial compensation from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign before he ditched Michele Bachmann just days before the Iowa caucuses.

To date, only Sorenson’s dealings with the Bachmann campaign have been made public. New information has been provided to that details the courting of Sorenson by the Paul campaign, which began in October 2011, long before his public endorsement of Congressman Ron Paul on December 28, 2011.

In total, the asking price for Sorenson’s defection was $208,000. That’s $88,000 for Sorenson, $20,000 for (Sorenson’s clerk and right-hand man) Chris Dorr, and $100,000 for (a) newly created state PAC.
The allegations are documented in meticulous, mind-numbing detail.

It's no secret that TheIowaRepublican and the current state party leadership have a relationship of mutual loathing. And someone with an axe to grind against Sorenson and the state party was obviously a great deal of help to Robinson. But Craig's point of view and his long standing as a top level party activist takes nothing away from this solid work of journalism. My beret is tipped in salute.

This is not how we play in Iowa. This is something out of Boss Hogg or Boss Tweed.
You're not supposed to be able to buy an Iowa state senator under the table. And you still can't. That is, unless the state senator is as shameless and self-centered as Kent Sorenson. He's a disgrace even to those who share his hard-right views. He permanently damaged the standing and reputation of one of the state's leading home-school activists, letting her take the fall for the improper use of the group's email list that was not for sale at any price. And how much of Michele Bachmann's fall from favor, while certainly deserved, between October and December was because her state chair was secretly looking for a sweeter deal?

This is important to Democrats, too. It's important to all Iowans.

Iowa's special first in the nation place in the presidential nominating process is already in serious danger. The too close to call, flip-flopped 2012 Republican caucus result was just bad luck. But the aftermath - the removal of the competent Matt Strawn as party chair and his replacement by A.J. Spiker and the Ron Paul faction, the Paul-dominated national delegation that bore no resemblance to the results, the end of the long-standing courtesy of talking to the other party before setting caucus/convention dates, the Iowa GOP's recent ranking as one of the most disfunctional state parties in the country - has been a disaster.

Sorenson's aberrant behavior - the list stealing ("alleged"), the last-minute disloyalty, and now the FOR SALE sign - has made it worse. He has soiled the work of generations of sincere, hard-working Iowa activists of both parties, paid staff and volunteers, who have poured their essence into making the Iowa caucuses what they were supposed to be: a national version of the town meeting, with Iowans standing in as trusted, lucky, and fair surrogates for the entire nation, sizing up would-be presidents on the merits, one to one.

Sure, there were occasional shenanigans from out of staters, and some body-checking by the locals. But by and large we played fair. National operatives, even presidents, come and go. But the Iowa political activists of both parties knew we had to stay here and work with our neighbors.

And that was what we had going for us. Sure, we were a long way from the beltway, too old, too cold, too white, too ethanol and notch-baby obsessed. Our process was too weird. But we played fair.

We were seen as honest brokers. And most of us still are. But Kent Sorenson has damaged that reputation, and in doing so has damaged every Iowan: every Republican, every Democrat, and every independent who's crossed over or even thought about going to a caucus.

And of COURSE the official Iowa Republican Party leadership has been silent since the story broke in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. Nothing from the party, nothing from Spiker. That's because Sorenson can do no wrong now that he's part of what TIR's Kevin Hall calls "Big Liberty," the Ron/Rand Paul faction in control of the party apparatus.

Something has to happen. Sorenson's legislative colleagues need to make sure this can't happen again. The Republican PARTY won't do anything, but there are enough fair-minded legislative Republicans outside the Spiker faction who, alongside Democrats, can take action.  We have a tradition of working together for the caucuses, and it's time to revive that tradition.

As for Sorenson? Silence from him as well. At a minimum, he needs to stand down from his re-election race next year. If not, a primary challenge is in order.

An immediate resignation would be more appropriate.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

King For President? Ha!

Let's discard THIS little rumour promptly:

Iowa Rep. Steve King, whose hard line immigration rhetoric has angered some of his fellow Republicans and delighted Democrats eager to keep Hispanic voters in their fold, is quietly planning meetings with political activists in the early presidential primary state of South Carolina, CNN has learned.

If these meetings are so quiet, why am I hearing about them on CNN?

If King is curious about seeking the Republican nomination in 2016, as his visit to South Carolina suggests, he would certainly face difficult odds.

King, though, would have a national platform to discuss his policy ideas and might appeal to elements of the Republican base that remain firmly opposed to the immigration reform bill – "amnesty," in his words - that recently passed the Senate.

Which he already has.

Let me tell you something, national media. We've just seen this here in Iowa. Only it wasn't with the presidency. It was with the US Senate race.

King hemmed and hawed and hinted, but probably never had any intention of giving up his House seat for the Senate race. But while that possibility was still out there, the checks rolled in and the spotlight stayed on Steve.

Because that's what it's about. It's about Steve.

So what if his song and dance froze the Republican Senate field for months, helping push top tier candidates out and giving Bruce Braley a head start. It was good for Steve King.

Donald Trump has to visit Iowa whenever The Apprentice is getting ready to announce another season. Sarah Palin hints that she may run for this office or that right when it's time for a TV deal or when she's finished coloring another book.

And Steve King has to say something "crazy" and/or hint at higher ambitions to stay in the spotlight. With the Senate race and governorship off the list, a "presidential bid" is the next logical move.

King isn't crazy. He's very calculating. I can guarantee that King will make some "controversial" statement when he's in South Carolina. He's probably already perfected the sound bite.

Don't get me wrong. I think his xenophobia, his loathing of Hispanic America, his "no moral responsibility" attitude, those are all real. I think his preferred "No Amnesty" solution to immigration is the mass deportation of 11 million undocumented Americans. And then he won't have to Press One For English anymore.

But the "outrageous" statements are part of the act. King knows he's addressing a niche in America, a sad, sick niche that shares his views, and he gives them just enough meat to keep them coming back, without an honest, straightforward detailing of his policies. He can't just come out and say "Round `em up and ship `em back to Mexico." That would cross lines of political correctness that even conservatives have been forced to reluctantly accept. But that niche audience can read King's intent between the lines.

The exit strategy for Steve King isn't a Tom Tancredo style presidential run. It's Fox News. It's talk radio.

Which, if Democrat Jim Mowrer has his way, will be coming to a station near you in January 2015.